A More Excellent Way
Biblical Purity in Evangelistic Motives
by Mitch Cervinka
2 Corinthians 2:14-17 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.
What should be the purpose which drives us in evangelism?
We are often told that evangelism should be fueled by a desire to see all men come to Christ and be saved. Even men who are otherwise solid Calvinists often teach this. I submit that such an answer is unscriptural and that it both dishonors Christ and undermines true evangelism.
In this treatise, I present and discuss what I understand to be the Scriptural motive for evangelism.
God's threefold purpose for evangelism.
The scriptural motive in evangelism is threefold:
to declare God's glory throughout all the earth,
to see His elect come to faith in Jesus Christ, and
to leave the non-elect without excuse for rejecting Christ.
This motive is God-centered rather than man-centered, and honors God's sovereign purpose to save an elect people. When the gospel is faithfully preached, this motive is always successful in achieving its goal.
On the other hand, the desire to see all men saved is inherently man-centered. It is focused upon the benefit that would come to men if they would trust in Christ, and only secondarily on the glory which God receives when men are saved.
This man-centered approach generally fails to achieve its goal, because its purposes strive against God's declared purpose to save only some, not all. This approach is based on an Arminian foundation; one which supposes that God loves all men and wants to save all men without exception.
Man-centered evangelism tempts us to modify our message or techniques to obtain a greater number of converts. How many books have been written on new techniques for reaching the lost! Only an arrogant unbelief would lead us to think that we can improve the message and techniques which God has given us in His holy Word.
Since God-centered evangelism leaves the results to God, it gives us no incentive to alter the pure message or the perfect methods set forth in God's holy Word, as if that could somehow enhance the results. God-centered evangelism assures us that preaching the Biblical gospel in all its clarity and fullness is the best way to achieve God's threefold purpose for evangelism.
The Main Purpose: To Proclaim God's Glory.
Our God-given purpose in evangelism is to proclaim Christ. It is to proclaim His excellencies as Creator, Sustainer, Judge and Savior. We are to overflow with praise and enthusiasm for our blessed Lord who created us and who has redeemed us with His own blood. Such enthusiasm is infectious when God is pleased to use it to bring His elect to Himself.
To evangelize in this way, we must have a burning passion for God. The Psalmist obviously had great admiration and love for his sovereign Lord;
Psalm 8:1 O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!
Psalm 102:25-27 "Of old You founded the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. "Even they will perish, but You endure; And all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. "But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end.
Psalm 103:8-11 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
Psalm 103:19-22 The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all. Bless the LORD, you His angels, Mighty in strength, who perform His word, Obeying the voice of His word! Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, You who serve Him, doing His will. Bless the LORD, all you works of His, In all places of His dominion; Bless the LORD, O my soul!
Likewise, the apostle Paul had great praise and admiration for Christ Jesus as the glorious Sovereign of the universe;
1 Timothy 6:14-16our Lord Jesus Christ, He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.
And so, when he preached to the Athenians on Mars' Hill, Paul began by proclaiming God's glory;
Acts 17:24-25"The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things."
We often view the gospel from a purely salvific standpoint, and so we rush to tell men about the cross and their need to believe in Christ. And, in our rush to the cross, we often say little about the inherent glory of God.
Yet, Scripture has a larger view of the gospel than this. The gospel is the message about the one true and living God who made all things for His own good pleasure, who daily supplies our needs, who will one day judge the world in righteousness, and who reconciles men to Himself through the redemptive death of His beloved Son.
Our modern man-centered evangelism seems mainly occupied with rescuing men from hell, as if men could be saved by some mechanical process of assenting to certain facts or repeating a prayer. In contrast, Biblical evangelism is concerned with introducing men to God, and helping them to appreciate His beauty and glory. The cross is the capstone and centerpiece in God's reconciliation of men to Himself, but men need to be told more about the God of the gospel.
We deceive ourselves if we think that men can be saved without a proper appreciation of God's glory. We suppose that they will see enough of God's glory in the cross alone, but it is important to realize that the glory of the cross shines best when seen in the light of all of God's attributes. Indeed, men have sometimes invented strange theories of the cross, based upon an inadequate appreciation of the character of God. Such distorted misunderstandings of the cross may not lead to salvation.
The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:17). And the cross is at the heart of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:2-3). Even so, the gospel is, first and foremost, about God. We must not detour around the person and character of God in our rush to the heart of the gospel.
We often assume that we have not preached the gospel unless we preach that Christ died for sinners. However, in one of the greatest evangelistic messages presented in Scripture (Acts 17:16-31), the apostle Paul did not once mention the substitutionary aspects of the cross. Indeed, his only mention of the death of Christ was to say that God raised Him from the dead (Acts 17:31).
Commentators are quick to suggest that Paul was interrupted mid-speech before he could proclaim the saving purpose of the cross. Perhaps this is true. But it is also possible that what is recorded in Scripture is all that Paul intended to say at the time. In either case, we see that Paul did not start off by proclaiming the saving merits of the cross, but instead proclaimed the excellencies of God, the foolishness of worshipping idols, and the inevitability of judgment to come.
I submit that Paul's message was very evangelistic, even without mention of Christ's death for sinners. Paul, after all, proclaimed God's glory and goodness in creating all things and providing all men with " ; life and breath and all things." He likewise proclaimed Him as " ; Lord of heaven and earth," thereby asserting His sovereign authority over all men. He concludes by calling them to repent, and proclaims the Lord Jesus as the resurrected Judge of all men.
The "eternal gospel" of Revelation is quite parallel;
Revelation 14:6-7 And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said with a loud voice, "Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters."
Again, nothing is said about the cross or our Lord's redemptive death for sinners. This time, it is simply a declaration that God is both Creator and Judge, with a call to "Fear God, and give Him glory worship Him" based upon His impending judgment. Yet, this is not merely a gospel, but an eternal gospel, or, as some translations put it, the eternal gospel.
We should not assume that this kind of preaching will not lead to salvation. As the Holy Spirit attends such preaching, He causes God's elect to love the glorious God we proclaim to them, and they want to know more.
We see this often in the book of Acts. After Paul came to a city and preached Christ, many rejected him, but some desired to hear more;
Acts 13:42 As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath.
And it is certain that Paul did indeed preach the work of Christ to these who wished to hear more.
Again, note how our Lord preached to the rich young ruler...
Luke 18:18-24 A ruler questioned Him, saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. "You know the commandments, 'DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.'" And he said, "All these things I have kept from my youth." When Jesus heard this, He said to him, "One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. And Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!
He impressed upon him that God alone is good, that God is holy and just (as evidenced by His commandments), that the young man had not kept God's law (as evidenced by his unwillingness to use his wealth to help the poor), and that he needed to forsake all else and follow Jesus. Again, not a word was uttered about the cross of Christ. Yet, this was surely an evangelistic encounter, recorded for our instruction and as an example for us to follow!
Our overriding concern in evangelism, then, is not merely that men might escape hell by some mechanical exercise of faith in Christ. Rather, our concern in evangelism should be to proclaim our blessed God, to declare His glorious attributes, qualities and works, and to call upon men to give Him the glory He deserves.
The saving purpose of evangelism is secondary to its primary purpose of bringing glory to God.
The Second Purpose: To Save God's Elect.
Paul did not labor under the belief that he was to try and save everyone. He declared;
2 Timothy 2:10 ; For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.
Paul understood that his ministry was for the sake of God's chosen people, that they may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus. This should be our emphasis in evangelism as well. It is our duty to proclaim Christ, and to leave the results to God.
It seems that many Calvinists acquired their theology of evangelism during their Arminian days and were never fully weaned from it. Even though they confess that God, from all eternity, was pleased to choose and predestine for Himself certain individuals unto salvation, yet, in their doctrine of evangelism they effectively deny it. They suppose that God, at heart, loves all men without exception and wants them all to be saved.
But our evangelistic purpose must not be divorced from the doctrine we confess. God's saving purpose in evangelism is to save the ones He has determined to save; namely, His elect. This is what the apostle confesses in 2 Timothy 2:10, and this should be our purpose as well. When we seek to save all without exception, we find ourselves in opposition to God's revealed purpose to save only His elect.
Our Lord, likewise, confined His saving ministry to the elect when He said...
Matthew 15:24 ... "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
Is every unsaved person one of Christ's "lost sheep"? Clearly not, for our Lord told the Pharisees that they were not of His sheep...
John 10:26 "But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.
The Pharisees were not His lost sheep, because they were not Christ's sheep at all!
In the parable of the good shepherd who left the ninety-nine sheep to find the one lost sheep (Matthew 18:12; Luke 15:4), the "lost sheep" was assuredly one of the shepherd's sheep... that is why the shepherd went looking for it. But the Pharisees were not of Christ's sheep.
I fully acknowledge that we have no way of knowing which unbelievers have been chosen by God and which ones have not. God's elective choice is a carefully hidden secret until the day that a person proves himself to be elect by trusting in Christ, or else proves himself to be reprobate by dying in unbelief.
I am not claiming that our approach toward the unbelieving elect should be any different than toward the unbelieving non-elect. How could it be, when we cannot tell them apart?
What I do claim, however, is that faithful evangelism does are not require us to believe that God would have all men to be saved. We can be enthusiastic, compassionate and caring without supposing that God's saving love and purpose is universal in scope.
There are several reasons why proper, Biblical evangelism cannot be motivated by a desire to see all men saved;
First of all, that would deny God's declared purpose to save some but not all.
Second, it would deny the Scriptural teaching of God's electing love. Those whom God loves, He chooses unto salvation (Ephesians 1:4-5; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). Those whom God loves, He redeems by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 5:25). Those whom God loves, He quickens by His Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:4-5). Those whom God loves will never be separated from God's love (Romans 8:35-39). Can any of these things be said of the non-elect?
Third, it would leave no room for imprecations against the wicked, and nullifies passages such as Revelation 6:10
Revelation 6:10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?"
Fourth, it would ultimately result in bitter disappointment, for God has not willed that all men be saved, and, in fact, many will be condemned to eternal hell. What will become of our love for those burning in hell? Will there be tears shed in heaven over them?
I realize that, humanly speaking, we do have loving concern for others, and, knowing the terror of hell (2 Corinthians 5:11), we would never want anyone to end up in hell. Also, we can never forget our own sinfulness and God's surpassing mercy to us. We must not be lifted up in pride as though we are any better than others, for we are not. Had God not freely chosen to save our own miserable souls, we would be justly sent to hell, just as others (Ephesians 2:3). So, we do, and should, feel a sense of compassion and terror for those who reject Christ to their ultimate ruin in eternal hell.
But we also need to have a proper sense of man's wickedness and of God's justice and sovereignty. We need to reconcile ourselves to the thought that God is perfectly within His rights to withhold His saving grace whenever and wherever He pleases. We must never take God's grace or mercy for granted, as though He was obligated to be merciful to men.
We need to reconcile ourselves to the thought that men really are wicked, and really do deserve eternal hell. We need to reconcile ourselves to the thought that God's justice really does demand satisfaction, and that He would be less than God if He were to overlook sin.
We also need to be submissive to God's sovereign decrees, and to trust His loving wisdom. When an unbeliever trusts in Christ, we should not view this merely as one more success for the gospel. Rather, we should view it as the outworking of God's elective purpose for that individual. We should rejoice to see that God has fulfilled His sovereign will for this elect person by bringing him to the Savior.
The Third Purpose: To Leave the Non-Elect without Excuse.
It is a basic principle of Scripture that all things exist for God's glory (Revelation 4:11). The elect exist for God's glory, because God demonstrates His glorious mercy and grace by saving His elect from their sins through the blood of Christ shed for them (Ephesians 1:5-6).
But the non-elect also exist for God's glory. On the last day, they will manifest His glorious justice when He judges them for their wicked works and stubborn unbelief (Revelation 20:11-15). Indeed, the saints will literally cheer when God judges His enemies!
Revelation 16:5-7 And I heard the angel of the waters saying, "Righteous are You, who are and who were, O Holy One, because You judged these things; for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it." And I heard the altar saying, "Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments."
Revelation 19:1-4 After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; BECAUSE HIS JUDGMENTS ARE TRUE AND RIGHTEOUS; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and HE HAS AVENGED THE BLOOD OF HIS BOND-SERVANTS ON HER." And a second time they said, "Hallelujah! HER SMOKE RISES UP FOREVER AND EVER." And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, "Amen. Hallelujah!"
Men are truly and genuinely wicked at heart. God allows men to prove this more fully by giving them the freedom to follow many of their desires, even allowing them to speak injuriously of His holy name. We sometimes wonder why God allows the wicked to continue on the earth, but Scripture tells us why;
Proverbs 16:4 ; The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, Even the wicked for the day of evil.
This passage has a twofold meaning;
First, it means that God uses wicked men to accomplish His purpose (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28; Luke 22:22; Isaiah 10:5-7; 1 Kings 11:14; 2 Kings 13:3).
Wicked men nailed our Lord to the cross. Wicked men carried out God's judgment when He allowed the Assyrians to carry Israel to captivity, and later, when He allowed Babylon to carry Judah away.
Second, it means that God has appointed a day when He will judge the wicked (Acts 17:31). Not only is the day appointed, but the wicked are appointed for that day (Proverbs 16:4).
In that day, God will vindicate His own holiness and justice. We hesitate to think that the final judgment would actually glorify God; we almost seem to think that it is a defect in God that He would actually sentence men to eternal hell. But such thinking shows how sin has distorted our judgment; nothing is more plainly declared in Scripture than the certainty of judgment to come.
Our blessed God will assuredly punish the wicked. This is not a blemish on God, but attests to His purity and fairness, and His jealous protection of all that is good and holy. We do no service to God by supposing that it would be evil for Him to punish the wicked. Indeed, such a thought is blasphemous!
The Bible tells us that the saints will rejoice when God judges the wicked (Revelation 16:5-7; 19:1-4). This should be proof enough that God's judgment of men will attest to His blessedness and glory.
How then does the gospel glorify God through the non-elect?
When the gospel is preached to the non-elect, they harden their own hearts against it.
Romans 11:7 ; What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened;
It is an interesting fact that the same glorious gospel which softens the hearts of the elect has just the opposite effect on the non-elect.
Luther compared this to the sun shining on two lumps; one of wax and the other of clay. As the wax sits in the warm sun, it becomes softer. As the clay sits in the sun, it grows harder and more brittle. Yet, it is the same sunshine in both cases. So also, the same gospel message melts the fleshy hearts of God's elect, while hardening the stony hearts of the non-elect (Ezekiel 36:26).
By sending His gospel to the non-elect, then, God gives them opportunity to harden their hearts. In their own depravity and corruption, they are quick to respond. Though they harden their hearts willingly, the outcome is nevertheless predictable and certain. This is why Scripture often says that God hardens men's hearts (Exodus 4:21; 7:3, 13; 9:12; 10:1, 20; 11:10; 14:4, 8, 17; Deuteronomy 2:30; Joshua 11:20; John 12:40; Romans 9:18; 11:7-8), while affirming also that men harden their own hearts (Exodus 8:15, 32; 9:34; 1 Samuel 6:6; 2 Kings 17:14; 2 Chronicles 36:13; Nehemiah 9:16, 17, 29; Job 9:4; etc.).
This doctrine of reprobation is hated by many, but it is clearly Biblical. Scripture speaks of the Canaanite kings which rose up against Israel;
Joshua 11:20 For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, to meet Israel in battle in order that he might utterly destroy them, that they might receive no mercy, but that he might destroy them, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.
Note that their hardness of heart was of the Lord, and that He did this " ; that he might utterly destroy them, that they might receive no mercy; ." Again, we affirm that God hardened them indirectly, by allowing them to harden their own hearts; but we also fully affirm that this hardening was the inevitable outcome, given man's utter depravity.
The Bible declares that this is even true of men's reaction to Christ;
John 12:37-41 ; But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: "LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT? AND TO WHOM HAS THE ARM OF THE LORD BEEN REVEALED?" For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, "HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM." These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him.
Here, it is plainly stated that God " ; blinded their eyes and hardened their heart." Why did He do this? " ; So that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them." It is clearly speaking of faith in Christ, for verse 37 says " ; yet they were not believing in Him," and verse 39 says "For this reason they could not believe."
Paul says the very same thing;
Romans 11:7-8 ; What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; just as it is written, "GOD GAVE THEM A SPIRIT OF STUPOR, EYES TO SEE NOT AND EARS TO HEAR NOT, DOWN TO THIS VERY DAY."
We see again in this passage that God chooses some and not others unto salvation. Yet, the gospel serves its God-ordained purpose in both cases. To the one, we are an aroma of death unto death, and to the other an aroma of life unto life. We ask, with Paul, "Who is adequate for these things?" (2 Corinthians 2:16).
Biblical Evangelism is Always Successful.
The apostle Paul declares that our evangelism is always victorious; whether men submit to Christ in faith, or whether they reject Him;
2 Corinthians 2:14-17 ; But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.
He says that we are the fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among the perishing as well; "to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life."
Paul says that God "always leads us in triumph in Christ ;." Do we really believe this? Or do we suppose instead that our evangelism is frustrated whenever men reject the gospel preached to them? Do we truly believe that God is sovereign, and that He always accomplishes His purpose? Can we honestly believe that our Sovereign Lord wants all men without exception to be saved? Could He not accomplish such a purpose?
God tells us that His Word will not return void, but will accomplish its intended purpose;
Isaiah 55:11 ; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
When God's Word goes forth, does it always result in salvation? Or does it sometimes accomplish a different purpose? We should not assume that God's purpose for sending His Word is always salvific.
Perhaps He instead wants to manifest His kindness, that unrepentant men may treasure up for themselves wrath against the day of wrath;
Romans 2:4-5 ; Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,
Scripture declares that there is no one who seeks God (Psalm 14:2-3; 53:2-3; Romans 3:10-11). Our Lord declares in John 6:44 that no one is able to come to Him unless the Father draws them (the Greek word for draw literally means drag, as in Acts 16:19 "they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place " Fallen man, by nature, will not come to Christ. It is only when God changes a man's sinful, rebellious heart that he will come to Christ (Acts 16:14), and God does not do this for everyone!
Look again at Paul's statement that God " always leads us in triumph" and notice how it is we triumph in Christ;
2 Corinthians 2:14 God ; always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.
We triumph as God manifests through us the knowledge of Christ in every place. This witness is a sweet aroma to God; regardless of how men respond to it!
The salvation of men by the gospel is only part of the equation. God is also victorious when the non-elect reject our witness. In either case, the overriding concern is that Christ be made known to all men.
Principles which should Govern our Evangelism.
Our evangelism, therefore, should be motivated by the following concerns;
A great passion for God, to make His name and glory known throughout the earth.
A great delight in Christ, our Savior, by which we joyfully overflow in words of praise and witness.
A deep concern for God's elect, that they too may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
The resolve to be so faithful, kind, clear and earnest in our presentation of the gospel that we leave non-elect people without excuse for their rejection of Christ.
The confidence that God is always triumphant in the preaching of the gospel; that the results (whether salvation or condemnation) are ordained by God, fulfilling the purpose which He has designed.
Of course, God must supply His gracious Spirit if we are to have this motivation with true sincerity and earnestness. We should continually pray to be filled with such a passion for God that evangelism is for us spontaneous and natural, and that it is accompanied by the fruit of the Spirit of God.
May our blessed God lead us forth in continual triumph as we proclaim His glory and grace. To Him be glory forevermore!
Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, devotion for the morning of December 4.
"I have much people in this city." --Acts 18:10
This should be a great encouragement to try to do good, since God has among the vilest of the vile, the most reprobate, the most debauched and drunken, an elect people who must be saved. When you take the Word to them, you do so because God has ordained you to be the messenger of life to their souls, and they must receive it, for so the decree of predestination runs. They are as much redeemed by blood as the saints before the eternal throne. They are Christ's property, and yet perhaps they are lovers of the ale-house, and haters of holiness; but if Jesus Christ purchased them He will have them. God is not unfaithful to forget the price which His Son has paid. He will not suffer His substitution to be in any case an ineffectual, dead thing. Tens of thousands of redeemed ones are not regenerated yet, but regenerated they must be; and this is our comfort when we go forth to them with the quickening Word of God.
Nay, more, these ungodly ones are prayed for by Christ before the throne. "Neither pray I for these alone," saith the great Intercessor, "but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word." Poor, ignorant souls, they know nothing about prayer for themselves, but Jesus prays for them. Their names are on His breastplate, and ere long they must bow their stubborn knee, breathing the penitential sigh before the throne of grace. "The time of figs is not yet." The predestinated moment has not struck; but, when it comes, they shall obey, for God will have His own; they must, for the Spirit is not to be withstood when He cometh forth with fulness of power--they must become the willing servants of the living God. "My people shall be willing in the day of my power." "He shall justify many." "He shall see of the travail of His soul." "I will divide him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong."
Walter Chantry, Today's Gospel - Authentic or Synthetic? (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1970), p. 23
However, concern for the nobleman's soul was not the supreme motive that moved Christ to witness to this sinner. Running even deeper within His breast was a love of God. Though induced by a desire to save men, Christ was primarily motivated by a longing to glorify His Father. You cannot carefully read the Gospels and fail to see that our Lord's chief aim in every act was to do the will of His Father and to make His glory known to men.
John Piper, Let the Nations be Glad! (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996), p. 11
Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn't. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. but worship abides forever.
Worship, therefore is the fuel and goal in missions. It's the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white-hot enjoyment of God's glory. The goal of missions is the gladness of the peoples in the greatness of God. "The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!" (Psalm 97:1). "Let the peoples praise thee, O God; let all the peoples praise thee! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy!" (Psalm 67:3-4).
But worship is also the fuel of missions. Passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching. You can't commend what you don't cherish. Missionaries will never call out, "Let the nations be glad!", who cannot say from the heart "I rejoice in the Lord. ; I will be glad and exult in thee, I will sing praise to thy name, O Most High" (Psalm 104:34; 9:2). Missions begins and ends in worship.
The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 3, section 7
The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extends or withholds mercy as he pleases, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice.
The Canons of Dort, Chapter 1, section 15
What peculiarly tends to illustrate and recommend to us the eternal and unmerited grace of election is the express testimony of sacred Scripture that not all, but some only, are elected, while others are passed by in the eternal decree; whom God, out of His sovereign, most just, irreprehensible, and unchangeable good pleasure, has decreed to leave in the common misery into which they have willfully plunged themselves, and not to bestow upon them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but, permitting them in His just judgment to follow their own ways, at last, for the declaration of His justice, to condemn and punish them forever, not only on account of their unbelief, but also for all their other sins. And this is the decree of reprobation, which by no means makes God the Author of sin (the very thought of which is blasphemy), but declares Him to be an awful, irreprehensible, and righteous Judge and Avenger thereof.
R. C. Sproul, Chosen by God
(Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1987), pp. 142-145.
To understand the Reformed view of the matter we must pay close attention to the crucial distinction between positive and negative decrees of God. Positive has to do with God's intervention in the hearts of the elect. Negative has to do with God's passing over the non-elect.
The Reformed view teaches that God positively or actively intervenes in the lives of the elect to insure their salvation. The rest of mankind God leaves to themselves. He does not create unbelief in their hearts. That unbelief is already there. He does not coerce them to sin. They sin by their own choices. In the Calvinist view the decree of election is positive; the decree of reprobation is negative.
Passive hardening involves a divine judgment upon sin that is already present. All that God needs to do to harden the heart of a person whose heart is already desperately wicked is to "give him over to his sin." We find this concept of divine judgment repeatedly in Scripture.
A. W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1975), pp. 100-101
Now all will acknowledge that from the foundation of the world God certainly fore-knew and fore-saw who would and who would not receive Christ as their Saviour, therefore in giving being and birth to those He knew would reject Christ, He necessarily created them unto damnation. All that can be said in reply to this is, No, while God did foreknow these ones would reject Christ, yet He did not decree that they should. But this is a begging of the real question at issue. God had a definite reason why He created men, a specific purpose why He created this and that individual, and in view of the eternal destination of His creatures, He purposed either that this one should spend eternity in Heaven or that this one should spend eternity in the Lake of Fire. If then He foresaw that in creating a certain person that person would despise and reject the Saviour, yet knowing this beforehand He, nevertheless, brought that person into existence, then it is clear He designed and ordained that person should be eternally lost. Again; faith is God's gift, and the purpose to give it only to some, involves the purpose not to give it too theirs.