Separate names with a comma.
Discussion in '2006 Archive' started by JRG39402, Jul 31, 2006.
When a Calvinist fulfills the Great Commision by witnessing, how do you typically do that?
The first main area in which the Reformed missionary is equipped for his labors is the all-important one of perspective.
First, the truth of total depravity prepares the Reformed missionary for what he will face as he brings the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the unconverted in this "present evil world" (Gal. 1:4). He is not surprised that the truth is not understood and readily accepted. This truth spares him much personal frustration and disappointment. As he strives faithfully to obey his Lord's commission, he does not count success by the number of conversions, or by the size of his audience and of largess of the offering. He knows that his Lord knows personally the difficulty of the labors, and that in his Lord's judgment success is measured by faithfulness in labors rather than by the greatness of visible results.
Secondly, the Reformed missionary sees no need to be ashamed in the proclamation of the message of the Gospel when he faces those who consider it folly. He sees no need to be hesitant or afraid to bring the Gospel ' because his motivation to go and teach is derived not from seeing positive results on his work, but from gratitude for the gracious wonder of the salvation of rebellious sinners, of whom he is chief.
The second main area in which the truth of total depravity equips the Reformed missionary is that of methodology.
First, this truth teaches the Reformed church that conversions will not come because of the charisma of the missionary or because of the nature of the advertising used. The total depravity of those who are the objects of mission work is such an obstacle that it cannot be overcome by the wit or power of man. It can only be overcome by the power of the sovereign God. He alone can and does open hearts (Acts 16:14). Before the omnipotence of the almighty Spirit, the natural man's hatred of the truth is like wax before the sun. When God works in the elect true conversion, then He "powerfully illumines their minds by his Holy Spirit, that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God." It is the sovereign God who "by the efficacy of the same regenerating Spirit,pervades the inmost recesses of the man; he opens the closed, and softens the hardened heart, ... infuses new qualities into the will" (Canons of Dordrecht, III-IV, 11). The Reformed missionary may not have trust and confidence in himself and in his abilities, but he does have trust and confidence in the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth to be able to convert the most hardened sinner. There is no sinner that the Reformed missionary considers beyond hope.
Secondly, the Reformed and biblical truth of total depravity gives the Christian the tool to show the unconverted his need. The unsaved are of the opinion that the Gospel is foolishness. They are convinced that it is foolishness because they are of a superior mind. The reality of the matter is that they are blind. Total depravity shows them that their mind is darkened. This truth puts them on their knees and fills their mouth with the petition, "Lord, that I maybe able to see!"
Along with the apostle Paul, every sincere minister of the gospel must proclaim "the whole counsel of God." The book of Acts (which records the missionary labors of the church, including a record of many of the sermons first preached in various mission fields) does not use the word "love," while it proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures were used to speak of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. Paul called each of his audiences to repentance. The proclamation of man's natural depravity harmonizes with the gospel call, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Although many will hear the proclamation of the gospel, only those who are convicted of sin will "labor and be heavy laden." They will know the voice calling them and they will come to Jesus in sorrow and repentance seeking forgiveness and rest for their souls.
Finally, the truth of total depravity puts the Reformed missionary on his knees. The Reformed missionary is greatly aware of his dependence upon the work of the Holy Spirit. He prays that the sovereign Lord will use his efforts as instruments which God may be pleased to use for the conversion and edification of those for whom Christ died. His hope in preaching and witnessing is that as he does his work the Holy Spirit will change the natural heart into a spiritual heart. The emphasis of his labor is not on finding the most effective method, but on "simply" being faithful in his calling and in cultivating the spirit of prayer. A prayerful attitude is a monument to the truth of total depravity. Simply to say that one believes in the truth of total depravity is not sufficient unless one prays God to convert and edify. The consciousness that if God does not give a new heart it will never be done must live strongly in his heart. Then the Reformed missionary will preach and witness with the same disposition that framed his prayers. Then he is looking unto God, that God may be pleased to bless his preaching and witnessing and make it effectual in the hearts of men and women and children.
The preaching of election and reprobation puts God in His rightful place. Whether that preaching is in the established congregation or in the mission field, it gives the hearers the only proper view of God, namely, a high one. God must always be viewed as "high and lifted up" and as perfectly holy (Isa. 6). The proper preaching of election establishes God's sovereign right to do whatsoever He is pleased, without being arbitrary or wishy-washy. The proclamation of election manifests the glory of God, for it exalts and magnifies God's always effective grace in His undeserved favor toward His people in Jesus Christ.
The preaching of predestination also puts man in his proper place, namely, as undeserving of any good thing and worthy only of condemnation. Through his own fault man has fallen from his original state of righteousness, which makes every man "deserving of eternal death, so that God would have done no injustice by leaving them all to perish, and delivering them over to condemnation on account of sin" (Canons 1, 1). Before the holy God man is to reply only as did Isaiah, "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts" (Isa. 6:5). The preaching of predestination takes away all in which our flesh might glory, and leaves us only God. The apostle Paul concluded his presentation of predestination in Romans 9-11 with a doxology of praise to Him to whom is to be the glory for ever (Rom. 11:33-36).
The preaching of election on the mission field and in the established congregation is to be with the same care that one preaches any other doctrine of Scripture. No single truth must be taken out of its place in the "whole counsel of God." The Scriptures set the boundaries for all preaching, including that of the truth of predestination. We are warned not to pry inquisitively into this truth, lest ,men of perverse, impure and unstable minds wrest (distort) to their own destruction" (Canons 1, 6). The preaching may not present predestination as a "mystery" which contradicts God's love. The preaching of election may not take the place of, or weaken, the earnest call of the gospel to the sinner to repent and believe. The truth of election and reprobation does not give anyone the right to make judgments as to who is elect and who is reprobate. That is blasphemy. All the pastor and missionary must do is preach the whole counsel of God, resting in the fact that the Lord will use the means of the preaching to draw to Himself all He has chosen, and that God will use the means of the same preaching to be "justly terrible to those, who ... have wholly given themselves up to the cares of the world, and the pleasures of the flesh, so long as they are not seriously converted to God" (Canons 1, 16). The twofold test for proper preaching of predestination is whether it glorifies God and whether it comforts the believing sinner.
The preaching of election is a source of "unspeakable consolation" (Canons 1, 6) in the mission field as much as in the established congregation. The elect are taught they can gain the assurance of their " unchangeable election, not by inquisitively prying into the secret and deep things of God, but by observing in themselves the infallible fruits of election pointed out in the Word of God - such as a true faith in Christ, filial fear, a godly sorrow for sin, a hungering and thirsting after righteousness, etc. " (Canons 1, 12). This sense of election gives believers only more reason for humiliation before God, "for adoring the depth of his mercies, for cleansing themselves, and rendering grateful returns of ardent love to him, who first manifested so great love towards them" (Canons 1, 13). The proper preaching of election warns against carnal security and against any laziness toward responsibilities. The preaching of predestination does not prevent anyone from coming to Christ. Further, those who wish a greater assurance of election must not be alarmed at the mention of reprobation, but must persist in the use of the means which God has appointed for the working of this assurance and wait prayerfully for a season of richer grace.
The truth of election gives every preacher, whether pastor or missionary, the assurance that his efforts are not in vain. This assurance arises from believing that God has elected some and that it is His good pleasure to send others to hell in order to show "his wrath and to make his power known" (Rom. 11:22). We do not need to feel guilty if all do not respond favorably to the preaching. The assurance of the preacher that his efforts are not in vain arises from believing that the dispensing of salvation is in the hands of the Holy Spirit who calls, through the preaching, those whom God has predestinated. In God we cannot be defeated in all our labors. Over against the total depravity and corruption of natural man is the truth of God's sovereign, irresistible, and irreversible election of grace. The preaching of the truth of predestination frees the preacher from having to save. Faithfully preaching the whole counsel of God, the godly minister and missionary can rest in the Lord to save unto Himself those whom He has chosen.
The Definite Atonement
Concerning this substitutionary atonement made by God's Son, consider two thoughts. First, there is no injustice in the fact that Christ died for some and not for others. No one deserves from Christ a chance to be saved, for all are fallen and deserve only hell. It is only out of abounding grace that Christ died for any at all. And second, so perfect and so complete is His substitution that though all who will go to heaven are completely destitute of any merit of their own, they do go to heaven; and they do so only on the basis of their Substitute. "The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin: and is of infinite worth and value" (Canons of Dordt, 11, 3).
Before we defend our proposition that the only way to witness or to do the work of missions or evangelism is by proclaiming a definite atonement, consider the argument of the Puritan John Owen.
God the Father in His judgment and wrath punished His only begotten Son at the cross for either:
1. All the sins of all men;
2. All the sins of some men; or
3. Some of the sins of all men.
it must be one of the three, therefore we see:
1. If the third is true, all men still have some sins to answer for, and then none will be saved.
2. If the second is true, then Christ suffered for all the sins of the elect in the whole world, and these are truly delivered by what Christ finished in His death on the cross.
3. But if the first be the case, why are not all men freed from all their sins and saved from the punishment of hell?
My friends, there is no substitute for the time-honored, God-exalting truth of substitutionary atonement -that Christ our Lord actually bore the sins of those for whom He died specifically. He stood in the place of the "many" who would actually experience complete deliverance from all their sins. Read Isaiah 53:11; Matthew 20:28; Matthew 26:28; Mark 10:45; Hebrews 9:28; and John 10:11. My Lord Jesus Christ substituted for "sheep" given Him by the Father, and not for the devil's "goats!"
The impact that the truth of definite atonement has upon the work of evangelism and missions is immediate and great.
The doctrine of limited atonement puts no restrictions on the proclamation of the Gospel. Some say it does. But this objection does not arise from Scripture. Nowhere in the Word of God can it be found that to be able to preach the Gospel to all nations one must have the message that Christ died for all the sins of all men.
The church must proclaim the promise of the Gospel that "whosoever believeth in Christ crucified shall not perish but have everlasting life" to "all nations and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel." Therefore, those who do not repent and believe in Christ are themselves to be blamed, and it is not "any defect or insufficiency in the sacrifice offered by Christ upon the cross" (Canons 11 / 6, 7).
As we strive to be obedient to the command to teach all nations, we are sure that the sovereign God is using us and our preaching as His means to apply to the consciousness of the elect the atoning sacrifice of His Son. We obey by going forth, preaching and teaching. We do not have to tell our audiences that Christ died for them. Such a statement cannot be found anywhere in Acts, the "mission" book of the Bible. We do not find Christ and the apostles saying, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." They did not say, "Jesus died for you."
We are commanded to preach, not worrying about which ones are those for whom Jesus died, not worrying about who are the elect and who the reprobate. We preach His Gospel. God saves His people.
We do not have to use the trick of telling everybody in our audience that they should not leave the begging Christ, who died for them, outside of their heart and life. As a minister of the Gospel I do not have to labor under the burden of the impossible, namely persuading people to do for themselves what Jesus left undone.
Of this Gospel we are not ashamed, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes (Rom. 1:16). With the Bible we declare that all humans are sinners and that from their sinfulness and sins arise all their problems and difficulties, which are a partial expression of the wrath of God (Rom. 3:23; 2:5-9). We preach the biblical truth that no one is saved by works, that good deeds do not justify anyone in God's sight (Rom. 3:20). We preach that out of free grace God was pleased to send His own Son, Jesus Christ, to be the perfect Substitute and Redeemer (Rom. 3:24). Because the identity of those for whom Jesus is the Substitute is unknown, we proclaim to all the command to repent and believe the truth of the Bible concerning God's Son. We teach that God uses the instrumentality of faith in Christ's sacrifice to bring the consciousness of justification and salvation (Rom. 3:24, 25; 4:5). We preach that the ability to believe, to have faith, is a gift of God, and that it is no more a work than is circumcision (Rom. 4:11, 16). We preach the assurance of salvation and of peace with God to all who believe that salvation is only in Jesus (Rom. 4:24-5:1). This is the Gospel Paul was inspired to preach. And this is the Gospel we strive to be faithful to preach.
We rejoice to be able to preach the Gospel in such a way that men are called to a real and actual salvation. We preach an atonement full and free. We preach a powerful redemption.
On the contrary, the preaching which declares that Jesus died for all cheapens the Gospel and its proclamation. Such preaching cheapens the precious blood of the Son of God. Such preaching makes the value of His death to be little. It makes the Gospel and its preaching, not the power and wisdom of God unto salvation, but a possibility and potentiality.
It is the personal experience of the power of the atonement that constrains us to preach the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the mission field (II Cor. 5:14). The love of God, which freely gives to us forgiveness of all of our sins and the consciousness of a perfect righteousness constrains us to preach. That God reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation provides us with more than enough motivation to present the Gospel in missions and evangelism. If it is merely a potential atonement until my faith takes hold of it, then I will be motivated; but the motivation would be fear, not love. It would be the fear of not being strong enough in my faith, not good enough in my works.
It is the conviction that Christ's blood graciously atoned for all of the sins of wretched sinners that constrains us to go into all the world and to preach and witness to every creature.
Saving Grace is Irresistible
Calvinism rejoices in the truth that saving grace is irresistible!
It might be better to call it "effectual" or "efficacious" grace. These words would avoid the idea that grace forces or compels, a possible implication of "irresistible." God's grace does not force one to be saved against his will, but grace changes one's will.
Also, the use of "effectual" instead of "irresistible" avoids an apparent conflict. It would seem that "irresistible" conflicts with Acts 7:51, where Stephen said that the Israelites "always resist the Holy Ghost."
When we speak of efficacious or irresistible grace, then, we are speaking of the internal operation of grace, not of the external means grace uses. Acts 7:51 speaks of the refusal to comply with the demands of the gospel to repent and believe. Stephen does not say that they resisted what God wanted to give to them. But by killing the prophets they rejected and rebelled against God's Word to repent. In this connection, the Rev. Robert C. Harbach writes:
"God is always Almighty God! Therefore they who did resist the Spirit, did not resist the Spirit in them for they were devoid of the Spirit. That resistance is to the Spirit in the prophets and in the ministers of the Lord; it is resistance to the external calls and reproofs through the preaching of the Word. But when the Spirit is in men in His grace ... He thus makes them willing and turns them to Himself. "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power" (Ps. 110:3). (Calvinism, the Truth.)
It is a truism that God does not save any man against his will. However, "it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy" (Rom. 9:16).
Let every reader remember that all mankind is so totally depraved that there is not one that doeth good, no not one (Rom. 3:10-12). No human, of himself, has a desire for the true God (Job 21:14) or a desire to be saved. If God had left mankind in this terrible state to go to "everlasting punishment" (Matt. 25:46) it would have been most just and right. But God did not do so, for it pleased Him, before the foundation of the world, to choose in Jesus Christ some of mankind unto everlasting salvation to the praise of the glory of His grace (Eph. 1:4-6). The rest of mankind God chooses to leave in their sins to the praise of the glory of His power and wrath (Rom. 9:22). For those whom God chose from eternity to be in Christ, God sent His Son, who died for their sins (Rom. 5:8; 1 Cor. 15:3).
In the summary given in the previous paragraph everything follows an orderly fashion determined and controlled by an all-wise and all-powerful God. From this point forward do we stop with God's powerful work, and is everything left to the will and whim of sinful and fickle man? Can God elect some of mankind for nothing? Can God give His Son to die for nought, just because some are able to resist Him -resist Him whom the Scriptures call" the Almighty"? Are God's hands tied at this point? Is it possible that He could fail? Could it be that God is foolish enough not to have counted the cost before He started to build, so that He "is notable to finish it" (Luke 14:28, 29)?
Are not such questions blasphemy? The God who determined salvation for His elect and gave His own Son to die in their place will " save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). There is no reason to fear or doubt, for "He will save" (Zech. 3:17)!
Grace is the favor and love of God. The power of grace is the power of the favor and love of God Himself. Therefore, it is fitting to speak of "irresistible" grace, for God is an irresistible God. Does not the Holy Spirit inspire Paul to ask the rhetorical question, "Who hath resisted His will" (Rom. 9:19)? Therefore God has mercy "on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth" (Rom. 9:18). If God's grace can be resisted, then God can be overcome. If God's will and desires can be frustrated, then He is not God. Such a god is no greater than the idols of the nations.
The church father Augustine said, "The nature of the Divine goodness is not only to open to those that knock, but also to cause them to knock and ask."
Our Reformed fathers in the Canons of Dordt properly and beautifully reflect Scripture when they draw a parallel between election and this dispensing of God's grace. "As He has chosen His own from eternity in Christ, so He confers upon them faith and repentance, rescues them from the power of darkness and translates them into the kingdom of His own Son, that ... they may glory not in themselves, but in the Lord" (Ill/ IV, 10b). Note well that the result is, as it must be, that God receives all the glory.
In fact, earlier that same article speaks more clearly to this point. "But that others who are called by the gospel, obey the call, and are converted, is not to be ascribed to the proper exercise of freewill whereby one distinguishes himself above others,... as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains; but it must be wholly ascribed to God."
On the eve of the moment of His ascension to the right hand of power of the Almighty God, Jesus said, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matt. 28:18). Before His "all power" none can stand. Listen to the Scriptures. Of His sheep Jesus said, "Them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice" (John 10: 16). Notice that Jesus does not say He will try to bring them. After all, He suffered for sin, "that He might bring us to God" (I Pet. 3:18). "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:44). He said, "and I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32). He will do it! It is not that He will try to do it, but that He will accomplish it. Because not every man is drawn to the Lord, the obvious implication is that Jesus is speaking of all kinds of men, all men without distinction of race, class, or conditions. "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me" (John 6:37). Every one of them come to Him, and nothing and no one can stop them from coming to Him. The sheep do hear His voice (John 10:16, 27).
Another passage of God's Word which clearly implies efficacious or irresistible grace is Acts 13:48: "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed." God's ordination unto election was an effectual act, because all that were ordained believed. In addition, God calls everyone whom He predestinated, and every one of them He justifies (Rom. 8:29,30). Jesus said that He "gives eternal life to as many as" the Father gave Him (John 17:2).
Every man, by virtue of his relationship to Adam, is at enmity with God and "will not come to" Jesus (Rom. 8:7; John 6:40). If God's grace is not effectual or irresistible, how could any man be saved?
That someone believes is not because he wanted to believe. Nor is it because he began to strive to believe, and so God helped him. Nor is it because he cooperated with God's grace. Nor is it because he finally yielded to grace. But that anyone believes is because he has been regenerated by the sovereignly effectual, saving grace of God. The Spirit of God graciously gave faith and repentance.
That any one does not believe is because he has not been regenerated by this irresistible grace of God. The natural man does not receive the things of the Holy Spirit, " for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (I Cor. 2:14).
The Spirit's effectual work of grace upon someone does not destroy his person, nor any of his faculties. Rather, the Spirit works through each elect's faculties. Listen to the language of the Canons of Dordt.
"When God accomplishes his good pleasure in the elect, or works in them true conversion, he not only causes the gospel to be externally preached to them, and powerfully illuminates their minds by his Holy Spirit, that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God; but by the efficacy of the same regenerating Spirit, pervades the inmost recesses of the man; he opens the closed, and softens the hardened heart, infuses new qualities into the will, which though heretofore dead he quickens; from being evil, disobedient, and refractory (stubborn, resistent), he renders it good, obedient, and pliable; actuates and strengthens it, that like a good tree, it may bring forth the fruits of good actions" (III/IV, 11).
The irresistible, efficacious nature of God's grace in saving the elect does not diminish the responsibility to preach the gospel in the established congregation or in the mission field. Nor does it diminish the earnest and serious proclamation of the gospel call to faith and repentance, together with the promise of salvation to all who believe. We have every reason to be encouraged in our proclamation of the gospel, because it is the means God is pleased to use to bring sinners into His kingdom.
We can be confident that the Spirit will effectually use the gospel proclamation to bring to salvation and keep in salvation. We have no reason to wonder, doubt, or fear about God's use of that preaching which proclaims God's Word. He will use it. Our evangelism and mission work can be performed in the confidence and assurance that God can and will call unto Himself whomsoever He will, and that He will use our faithful efforts to proclaim His truth to accomplish that end.
God's salvation is not mere potential, but it is "the power of God" (Rom. 1:16). The gospel does not proclaim a Divine possibility of salvation, but it is Divine application of salvation. God will, without fail, use the means of faithful preaching to draw all of His people unto Himself.
Just as the five points of Calvinism stand or fall together, so also do the five Arminian positions stand or fall together.
God is Almighty. His power is the greatest. Therefore, those whom He is pleased to regenerate are regenerated unto "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation" (I Pet. 1:4, 5). All who are born into the family of God shall gain their inheritance because not only is it reserved for them, but also they are kept for it by the omnipotent power of the Almighty. God is the One who "is able to keep you from falling ,and to present you faultless" (Jude 24). This is His power. Also, to Christ was given "all power" in heaven and on earth to save. As the Captain of our salvation He has never suffered defeat. This is an integral part of the message of the Reformed missionary pastor.
The Reformed missionary will be teaching to fearful Christians the biblical truth of God's faithfulness. He who began a good work in them will not leave them until that work is fully done in the day of Christ's return (Phil. 1:6). "God is faithful" (I Cor. 1:9) to His own eternal decree of election. The eternally determined decree of election cannot be frustrated by any weak creature. God is faithful to those whom He has spiritually adopted to be His own children, though they may fall into sin, even deeply and bitterly Also, God is faithful to His just determination of righteousness when He declared them justified. So nothing will alter His judicial decree. God is faithful!
The Reformed preacher proclaims the good news of the Gospel that He who gave the Holy Spirit will never take Him away, even though the Spirit maybe grieved by the sins of those in whom He dwells. The Spirit's presence in a believer is the "earnest," or guarantee, that full redemption shall be given (II Cor. 5:5). Believers are "sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance" (Eph. 1:13, 14). After all, the work of the Spirit is sovereign, irresistible, and efficacious; so He and His work cannot be stymied or frustrated by any believer's fall into sin.
In addition, the Reformed missionary pastor will preach and teach that God and Christ would never leave those for whom Christ died. If Jesus gave Himself unto death for those who were ungodly and sinners, how much more will He not, by His life at God's right hand, ever work to save them to the uttermost (Rom. 5:10). He tells us that He gives "unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand" (John 10:28, 29). What a comfort this knowledge is to the believer. This knowledge calms his fears and assures him of the certainty of his salvation.
The Reformed missionary pastor also can comfort those who are converted, because he can proclaim the God who is " rich in mercy" (Eph. 2:4). There are no limits to God's riches. His riches are infinite. And so is His mercy. This mercy He extends to His people. And His mercy endures forever (Ps. 136).
God's mercy is accompanied by God's" great love" (Eph. 2:4), which never slackens, and is unchangeable, though the manifestations of this love may vary. The security of the saint does not depend on the state of his feelings, but on the great love of God. The Holy Spirit, through Paul in Romans 8, defies anything in heaven or on the earth to separate a single object from this love of God in Christ. Is there any passage of Scripture which states our assurance of salvation more powerfully?
And the Reformed missionary tells those converted to God that when they begin to wonder whether they might fall away from salvation, they need not fear, for the honor of Christ's name (Matt. 1:21) is at stake. His name declares that He saved from all their sins every one of those the Father gave to Him. The Savior will certainly preserve those for whom He came to earth in order to save from their sins!
This is the comfort the Reformed under-shepherd proclaims to the sheep of the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls.
It has been said that the Calvinistic doctrine is a dangerous doctrine. Some have made a caricature of this doctrine by re-defining it as "once saved, always saved." Then the beautiful doctrine of the preservation of the saints is presented as meaning that once someone makes a profession of faith, they can be assured of going to heaven regardless of how they live the rest of their life. It has been said that the preservation of the saints means that things are so settled that we can enjoy the pleasures of sin. It is good to remember that this caricature is not new, but was exactly the opposition the Arminians put up against the Reformed position at the Synod of Dordt. Note well that those who wrote the Canons of Dordt deliberately identify the Fifth Head of Doctrine, not as the preserving, but as the perseverance of the saints. The selection of this word was deliberate. And notice that this is called the perseverance of the saints, ie, the holy ones. Not everyone who professes to believe is a saint, for some deny their profession with a life and life-style which are contrary to it.
Those who are preserved by God in the faith do persevere in it. The true believer shows God's preservation by persevering. Those who sincerely profess a true faith, howbeit with weakness, will accept the responsibility of living a life of gratitude, a life worthy of his profession and of the God he professes to have saved him.
God preserves through the use of means. These means are the hearing and reading of God's Word, and meditation on the exhortations, threatenings, and promises of God's Word. Believers persevere by using these means. Saints are responsible to use the means that God has given to produce and to preserve faith. The saint will desire to use and will be diligent in using the means God has ordained for strengthening his faith and his walk of obedience.
The Reformed missionary will proclaim from the pulpit and in private conversation that anyone who would sincerely call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Rom. 10: 13), and all who come unto Him shall in no wise be cast out (John 6:37). The Reformed missionary declares that anyone who says it does not make any difference how a believer lives is either not regenerated or does not know God's Word. Those who have faith live for Him who saved them. They will not say that it does not make any difference how they live.
The Reformed missionary is quick to point out that this, in turn, does not mean that the believer does not sin. We sin, even terribly! But while a Christian maybe overtaken in sin, yet he mourns over it. He repeatedly repents and earnestly desires to flee from his sin. And he persists in using the means God is pleased to use for his perseverance.
The same way Christians have for 2000 years, I suppose (hope/pray).
I usually try to be in prayer for opportunities to proclaim Christ to people. I ask them where/if they go to church and what they believe about God and about religion and people in general. I may include a comment about basing what I believe on what God has revealed to His people through His Word.
I typically do not try to teach a lot of doctrine up front. I tell people the truth of who Jesus is (The Son of the Living God) and what He has done (His sacrifice on the cross and resurrection), and how that can effect their life (a transformed life, forgiveness for sinners in need of a Savior, the promise of indwelling Holy Spirit and the resurrection to eternal life). I don't think Christians emphasize the resurrection as much as we should, so I try to make a point to talk about the resurrection.
I will urge them to seek God through the study of His Word, and to be mindful of the presence of Holy Spirit in convicting them of the truth of the Gospel and the need to repent and believe/have faith in Jesus as the Son of God. I ask them to contact me if they have any other questions, and then I will pray for them without their knowledge, unless they ask me to pray for them.
I do not...
1. Ask them to "pray to receive Jesus into their hearts", because I find that practice to be non-biblical and prone to give false assurance.
2. Ask them to visit my church, unless they specifically ask me about my church, because "witnessing" and inviting people to church are two different activites that are often confused.
3. Proclaim them to be saved or unsaved based on any experience they have had in the past and present.
peace to youraying:
So where are the Reformed Baptist missionaries? I'm serious--not being flippant or critical. I've surfed the Internet some and can't find a Reformed Baptist mission board and only a couple of reformed Baptist missionaries.
There used to be a couple in Japan years ago, but judging from the JEMA Directory (of all Protestant missionaries in Japan), there are none here nowadays.
Well, JRG39402, you got a long lecture from Jarther001 that IMO didn't answer your question, one informative post from canadyjd, and nothing else. I got no answer to my question. One is forced to wonder if the rest of the BB Calvinists do anything but argue with Arminians! (Just kidding! :smilewinkgrin
There is hope, though. Check out this thread on the missions/evangelism forum.
I didn't think your question was addressed to me, but I am willing to offer an answer.
I am unfamiliar with any offical group named the "Reformed Baptist Missionary Board". Most of the "Reformed" minded folks I know are working within the SBC to bring the doctrines of Grace into greater prominence and appreciation.
You will find more "reformed Baptist missionaries" when these doctrines are taught in missions classes at SBC seminaries, and then those folks hit the mission fields. I am sure there are many already serving. As far as I know, the SBC does not make holding these doctrines mandatory nor do they disqualify someone for holding them.
One of the most passionate missionaries I knew was my Missions Prof in seminary. He was also "reformed minded". His heart was always in Brazil, and he eventually could no longer stand to be away from "his people", and so he resigned and returned with his wife.
peace to youraying:
I believe I had the very same missions prof. Did you go to Midwestern?
If one wants to see good examples of preaching that Calvinists would do well to emulate, see Peter's sermon on the Day of Pentecost and Paul's sermon on Mars Hill in Acts 17.
Much of what I believe about the Doctrines of Grace came from the writings of Peter and Paul. One may disagree with my view that their writings espoused all five points of the TULIP, but I think we can all agree that both sermons were evangelistic in nature, included the gospel and the call to repent--but no altar call.
Thanks for the info, canadyjd. Very interesting.
I'm probably thinking more on the lines of the independent Reformed Baptist churches. Most IFB mission boards have a doctrinal statement that would preclude a 5-point Calvinist. For example, ours says, "We believe the Lord Jesus Christ died as a substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of all men according to the Scriptures." (http://www.baptistworldmission.org/constitution.html)
So I've been wondering for a long time what IFB Reformed churches do about missions, since there seems to be a fairly recent growth in the number of such churches.
Concerning SBC Calvinist missionaries, I've just been reading the Baptist Faith and Message at http://www.sbc.net/bfm/bfm2000.asp#iv . It looks like the typical 5-pointer could sign it, but I wonder about a couple of points, such as under "Man" it says, "The sacredness of human personality is evident in that God created man in His own image, and in that Christ died for man; therefore, every person of every race possesses full dignity and is worthy of respect and Christian love."
Maybe you could elaborate on what exactly you are wondering about?
peace to youraying:
Oh, gosh. It looks like I would need a seminary degree to just scrape this issue. I'm only 17. Maybe I'll leave this one alone for a while.
I would first tell you that Eternal Life is not obtained by man but discovered. and in the early stages of a christians life, after they have been quickened by or brought to life by the Spirit, then the preaching has an effect on them. Never do I believe preaching is for giving eternal life but thats what Christ has done and is made vital by the Working of the Holy Spirit. Like in Philippians 2:12 where it says "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" We understand this was written to Christians in the Church who have already professed and experience in Christ. but that in the early stage of a christians experience it would apply as well, and their desire to do these things was not their depraved nature but the effect of God in them. As it says in following verse :13 "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. So to minister with evangelism to some that profess no hope in Christ then you would witness on peraventure that God would give repentance to the acknowlegdeing of the truth; as in 2tim:25 and the key would be the acknowlegdeing of , another that Paul said in 2tim2:10 Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. So you would witness truth to those that have Eternal Life whether they have the full assurance or not that they may come to the knowlegde of Christ for there Salvation here in this time world (as in Joy, Peace, and hope) but this may not be a true Calvinist position I am not sure of their stance on the gospel. ....BJS
I thought one of our board members here in Korea was/is a missionary. I can't imagine him not being evangelistic.I am at odds with him frequently but send up prayers for him daily.
Here in the UK we have Grace Baptist Mission. It is thoroughly reformed in its beliefs and practice. Its website at http://www.gbm.org.uk/ includes the following description:
"Beginning in India in 1861, Grace Baptist Mission is today helping churches to support and care for their missionaries 'All Over The World'.
Grace Baptist Mission exists to assist churches to express fellowship in World Mission by helping them to support and care for their missionaries worldwide in the following types of work:
Evangelism and church planting
We belong to and serve a group of churches with a common commitment to the 'doctrines of grace' and to Baptist church principles, and a common commitment to worldwide missionary outreach.
We are a church based Mission. All missionaries and home staff associated with GBM are set apart and sent into the work by local churches."
Possibly a reason why there are not many reformed baptist mission boards is that reformed baptists tend to view mission as a church-based activity.
David Lamb (Foxhole Grace Baptist Church, Paignton, Devon, England)