This question is a major one usually asked from one Christian to another when debating predestination vs. freewill. If God has predestined those who will be saved, why do we make alter calls? Why do we even need to evangelize?
Two previous articles dealt with the logical compatibility between God’s complete sovereignty and man’s freewill. The Bible teaches that God has foreordained all things, and it also teaches that man is responsible for his own actions.
GOD RAISES THEM UP AND HE TEARS THEM DOWN
This is rather clear, though it is difficult for unrepentant sinners to accept. The Bible teaches that God raises up wicked men, and then holds them morally responsible for being wicked. For example, through Habbakuk the Lord says that he specifically raised up the Babylonians (Chaldeans) to punish Israel for her disobedience:
Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously: for I will work a work in your days which ye will not believe, though it be told you. For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwellingplaces that are not their’s. They are terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves. (Habakkuk 1:5-7)
Later, through the prophet Jeremiah the Lord promises that he will punish the Babylonians for their wickedness:
Israel is a scattered sheep; the lions have driven him away: first the king of Assyria hath devoured him; and last this Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon hath broken his bones. Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria. (Jeremiah 50:17-18)
[So what’s the lesson here? First, Israel was smashed because of their disobedience and harlotry. God raised up the Babylonian nation to serve as his rod of discipline. Second, Babylon was later smashed because 1) Israel repented and prayed to God for deliverance and 2) because they invaded Israel, God’s people. This is perhaps a complex lesson, but its implications still apply today. Also, remember that God raises up the nations, but that doesn’t say much about what happens to the individuals within that nation. There were probably individual Babylonian families saved because they invaded Israel — just as there were individual Roman families saved when they heard the Gospel when spread by the Apostles (Acts 16:16-34).]
BECAUSE WE HAVE FREEWILL, WE REBEL
This does not make God the author of sin. Sin is man’s rebellion against God’s commandments. Man rebels of his own freewill. He is morally responsible for that sin. Satan tries to tempt men into sinning, as we see in Job:
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?
Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord. (Job 1:6-12)
So, it is evident that, even though God foreordains all things, men have freewill and are held morally responsible for their actions (click here to read the logical proof of this truth). But despite Satan’s best efforts at trying to rip Job away from God’s love, God let Satan know that it just doesn’t work that way. God gave Job the gift of His grace, and Job responded in faith and did not fall away.
But the question still arises: Why should we evangelize the unbelievers if God has already predestined their salvation?
TWO REASONS TO EVANGELIZE
Well, for one, we are commanded to:
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20)
Will you disobey your Lord?
Second, if you say something like “Since God has predestined those who will be saved, it doesn’t matter if we share the Gospel with them or not because they’ll be saved no matter what,” then you are being a fatalist.
You are assuming that God has foreordained the ends without also foreordaining the means. We play a part in the means, and we are commanded to do so. When we share the Gospel, we share God’s word:
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)
We don’t know the full extent of the impact of our sharing the Gospel, and we probably don’t know the half of how God will use our actions to spread his message of salvation to prompt the elect into responding with saving faith. But nevertheless we are to work to bring it to pass because God has commanded us to. Paul described the process of Christians utilizing the division of labor to gradually build God’s kingdom:
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. (1 Corinthians 3:6-8 ESV)
Go and do likewise.