Contend Earnestly: Why Do Calvinists Evangelize?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Why Do Calvinists Evangelize?

The question has been posed to a lot of us by our friends and brothers, Nate and Adam, so I figured I would take a short post to explain, "Why Calvinists Evangelize." Nate and Adam are not saying that Calvinists DON'T evangelize, but they are simply asking, "Why do we evangelize?" I will have to say that Dominic Bnonn Tennant had a great, succinct reason for the Calvinist evangelistic reasons. Here is his comment fully:

Calvinism does not contradict itself here; you have simply misunderstood the process of causation. God will save his elect; and evangelism is the means by which he will do this. To therefore say that evangelism is unnecessary to election in a Calvinistic framework is a contradiction in terms. The two are causally related by God's decree. No doubt God could save people apart from evangelism, but he does not. Your objection makes no more sense to the Calvinist than if you had proposed that we need not eat, since God will sustain our bodies. Of course, God does indeed sustain our bodies; but he uses food as the means to do this.

We learn that in Romans 10:17 the means by which people are saved:

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ

Just as Mr. Tennant has stated, God's elect will come to Christ and all of them will be saved. Not more, not less. We see this in many places but there is a great look at this in Revelation 13:8

All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.

Revelation 13:8

Notice when the book of life was written: before the foundation of the world. So how will these, who are written in the book of life, come to salvation? Again, John 6:44 tells us what happens that we don't see, and that is that God draws every one of His elect to His side, and Romans 10:17 tells us in what fashion this happens: through the preaching of the Gospel. There is no where in the rest of the Bible that is mentioned where someone comes to Christ by any other fashion, but by the drawing of God by the preaching of the Gospel.

We see this happening many times in the word of God. Whether it is with the apostles, especially Peter and his sermons, or Philip and the eunuch. But, the main way that we see both of these, the drawing and the Gospel preached, shown is in Lydia's conversion in Acts 16:14

A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.

This is very specific on how this took place. Paul preached, God drew or opened, and Lydia responded.

So, the point is that we find that just because we are told that God has determined His elect, that He does the drawing, does not mean that this excludes us from preaching the gospel.

But why does the Calvinist preach the Gospel? Is it just "empty lip service" that we do because we are supposed to? The answer is that we preach the same reason that an Arminian preaches or anyone who claims to be a follower preaches the Gospel: Because we love Jesus Christ who died for us.

We preach because, like the blind man that was made to see and went and proclaimed what Christ had done, we, yes even as Calvinists, cannot help but go and proclaim what God has done for us through Jesus, His Son. The blind man said exactly what should be said today:

He then answered, “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”
John 9:25

I do not know exactly how all this "goes down" but the one thing that I do know is that I was once dead but I am now alive. Praise God. I love my God and I want all to know about His forgiveness because I want to see them saved, that is WHY I preach. God has ordained the gospel to save and He uses us useless humans to do this. He uses my imperfect words to proclaim His perfect salvation, how could I keep my mouth shut about this?

I do feel as though the Calvinist has a huge advantage over the Arminian, or libertarian free will thinker. The Calvinist knows that there is no one in heaven and no one in hell because of what I have done. Now, will I have to pay for my disobedience? Yes, I do believe this. Will I be rewarded for my obedience? Yes. But, I also do not believe that if I run into an atheist apologist and I can't answer his questions appropriately that I am going to be the one sending him to hell. God is not in heaven thinking, "well, if you would have just said this, that atheist would have come to Me." Even more powerful? Look at Matthew 11:20-24

Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. "Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. "And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day."Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you."
Matthew 11:20-24

Simply notice that God DOES know what would have saved some of the people from going to hell, yet He withheld these miracles from them for His will. Just notice again: For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. So, God says that they would have repented had He shown them the same miracles, but chose not to. Interesting insight from Christ.

I know that if I preach the gospel exactly as it has been handed down then I do not have to worry about changing it to make it more appealing, nor do I have to worry that I did not give a full explanation that WOULD have turned that person to Christ. This is the reason why Calvinists have always been such great evangelists, because of their belief that the Gospel is the ONLY way that one will be saved, so there is no twisting it, there is no dressing it up, there is just the old fashioned preaching of it to the lost so that they will be saved, or so God's will is accomplished.

The Calvinist can also have full confidence that if he truly preaches the gospel and goes through his whole life with very little fruit of seeing people saved, his life is still a "success" because he lived out the calling that God called him to. So, no matter if he is a Peter or a Jeremiah, the Calvinist can rest that he has taken the word which was handed down once and for all, and contended for the faith. It is not about numbers, but it is about obedience to the calling. And the obedience flows from a love of our God, because He has saved us with His own blood.

Again, why do we preach the Gospel?

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

Soli Deo Gloria.


Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Seth, in a world of megachurches, health & wealth, and televangelists, the final section of your post contains a quintessentially important truth that is wonderful to read. All of the elect will be saved; not a one will be lost. If some are saved by our words, praise God! But if they are not—if nothing we say has the slightest effect on the entrenched unbelief around us; and if our most eloquent and lengthy efforts merely cause the skeptics to harden their hearts—then praise God! Let us be content knowing that success is measured by God in faithfulness to his word; not in converts. Our reward will not be determined by how many people we persuaded; but by how obedient we were. So let us be obedient, and trust God to work as he will.

Soli Deo gloria!


Joe Holland said...

Good job presenting the causal argument in defense of Cavlinistic evangelism. I also want to add to that the sense of the sheer privilege of evangelism. In saying God could do it all on his own leads me to ask, "Why would he want my meager help at all?" In seeing the clear invitation/command to evangelize our response should be one of sheer joy over the privilege of being instruments in God's grand work of redemption. In th end, the Arminian evangelizes out of anxious burden. The Calvinist evangelizes out of humble joy.

Seth McBee said...

Thanks Joe...been a while since we have interacted...

Hope all is well...

I do like your thoughts on the Arminian evangelizing out of anxious burden and the Calvinist out of humble joy.

I will say that I hope that I would be anxious about evangelism as well, knowing the importance of the Gospel call...

Joe Holland said...

Yeah, glad to be back at it. All is well. I absolutely agree with you and did not mean to imply any flippancy in gospel evangelism. I'll clarify by saying the Calvinist is not burdened by evangelism but evangelizes out of a burden for the lost. There is a big difference there. We look out upon the lost, seeing them as M'Cheyne saw them, as those who have written across their foreheads, "No one cares for my soul".

Seth McBee said... worries, I wasn't implying you were being flippant...just making a personal observation of myself and my need to evangelize

Joe Holland said...

I knew you weren't but figured somebody would if I didn't clarify. And I too share equal concern about my own frequent failures at telling others about our common Lord.

risen_soul said...

my immediate thought when I read the title of this post was "because the Bible says to."

Adiel said...

1. for the glory of God, because I love Him
2. for the love of men's souls

Anonymous said...

We should evangelize because, if we're faithful followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, He commands we do so.

David McCrory

Seth McBee said...

I don't think your comment is full. What if my kids only obeyed because "I said so"

That doesn't make me "happy"

Now, if they obey me because they love me, that is what I am looking for in a Father.

I believe that is the reason we evangelize, is because we love God. The other half is what you mentioned, because God says to.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

In fairness, Seth, surely it is true that obeying God's commands "because he says so" necessarily implies that we love him? It is not as if our unconditional submission to his authority can be separated from our love for him, since it in fact implies a recognition of the inherent value of his commands by merit of his being God. Would you not you agree that unconditional submission to God's authority is love (Matt 22:40)?

I proffer that it helps to always keep in mind the simplicity of God. It makes things more complicated, but it also makes things clearer when discussing some aspect of God, such as love and the law, and how they relate to us.


Seth McBee said...

Please always come along and give us your opinion, because that is usually where most of the learning happens, through discussing the things of God and the Scriptures...

As far as your comment, I would say that we obey because we love, not love because we obey. When someone simply obeys God does not necessarily mean that they love God. If this was the case we would promote legalism.

I do not believe that you can have one without the other, if you love you will obey. But to leaven out one, either one in this case, then you have either an antimonian or a legalist. Put them together, you have a Christian.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

I am very happy to join you in your discussions, Seth. And, as regards your reply above, I think you said it extremely well. If I may, I would supplement your point by remarking that, while we can leaven obedience out from love (ie, it is still right to obey God's commands even if we don't love him), we cannot leaven out love from obedience (ie, genuine love always entails obedience). Which is why I would consider antinomianism a more serious error than legalism: it actually changes what love is, instead of merely neglecting it. Not that legalism is not a serious error itself, of course.


Seth McBee said...

I don't want to get nit-picky about this but Paul calls out both antimonianism and legalism pretty harshly...


nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.

“For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

“I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

Galatians 2:16,19-21

So to say that legalism is a lesser of the two evils, just not sure if that is totally accurate...

God bless..

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Seth, my apologies; I should clarify. By legalism, are we referring to 1, the tendency in some churches to establish unnecessary and unbiblical rules which must be followed; 2, the tendency in some churches to so emphasize biblical moral law that they neglect (but still in principle believe) salvation by grace through faith; or 3, the heresy that works are necessary to salvation?

When I think of legalism, I think of the first two kinds of errors; basically, taking something intrinsically good too far. This is the sort of legalism I meant. If however, you were instead referring to works-salvation, then I must agree that it is by no means a lesser evil than antinomianism. I would be wary to say that salvation is impossible even in an antinomian church—but a church which preaches a gospel of works-salvation is really preaching no gospel at all.

In Christ,

Seth McBee said...

Thanks for the clarification...based on that I completely agree. I was looking at the literal antimonian and literal legalist, in the strictist form...

that is the hard thing without knowing each other...

Bob Hayton said...

Great post, Seth. I did a similar treatment of this issue before on my blog: Calvinism & Evangelism. I think something that helps is the fact that Calvinism really deals with what goes on behind the scenes, so to speak, with salvation. From a human perspective, we absolutely must believe Christ and repent of our sin. We absolutely need to hear the Gospel lest we perish. We absolutely need to go everywhere preaching the gospel, lest the regions beyond, not to mention the neighbors next door, do not hear the gospel and have a chance to believe.

Calvinism is merely owning up to all Scripture teaches us about salvation and the nature of fallen man, etc.

I'm enjoying this series, by the way. Keep up the good work.

As for love and obedience, don't forget that to the first command is to love, and we are commanded to rejoice always. So a heartless obedience is only obedience of a sort.

Spoken like a good Piper guy huh? I'm a member at John Piper's church... (And a former fightin' fundy.)

Blessings from the cross,

Bob Hayton

Anonymous said...


Christ said in John 14:15, "If you love me, keep my commandments". Our obeidence is directly proportional to our love of Christ. In fact, we are unable to respond faithfully to His commands apart from a love for Him.

Faith without works...

David McCrory

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