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The Providence of God in Evangelism

Posted On July 9, 2018

The sovereignty of God in grace gives us our only hope of ‘success’ and ‘effectiveness’ in our evangelism. Many Christians will conclude that the sovereign grace of God makes evangelism pointless. They will say: “if God has determined the precise number of those who shall be saved, then why should evangelize?” “Will not the doctrine of God’s sovereignty discourage evangelism?” People begin to have skepticism when they hear the sovereignty of God and evangelism tied together.[1] However, were it not for God’s providence in salvation, evangelism would be a futile and pointless activity.[2] The Bible makes it clear that fallen man is dead in sin and unable to grasp spiritual truth (1 Cor. 2:14). In Ephesians 2:1 we see that fallen man is “dead in the trespasses and sins,” making them wholly incapacitated for any positive reaction to God’s word. “When you talk to a dead man, there is no response; the man is dead. When God’s word is spoken to sinners, there is equally no response; they are “dead in the trespasses and sins.”[3]

After seeing the state of man, left to ourselves, can we give life to the spiritually dead? No. Can we have hope that we will convince sinners of the truth of the gospel? No. The commands in Scripture to preach the gospel are numerous. The Lord Jesus commands his followers in Mark 16:15 to “go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” What would be the reason for evangelism if we were left to ourselves without a sovereign God working through our means of evangelism? There would be zero motivation for us to press on in hard seasons if God were not sovereign over the results. We would be pressured to use an exhaustive list of pragmatic items to try and convince the lost to come to Christ. If God were not providential over our evangelism, it would be a hopeless task for the Christian.

Faith in the sovereignty of divine grace is the greatest motivation for evangelism since it assures us that God is the one who brings the results. The Christian’s calling is not to produce effective results, but to be faithful in our evangelistic efforts. We must learn to rest all our hopes of fruit in evangelism on the sovereign grace of God. For God does the impossible by his Spirit through the preaching of his Word in the hearts of sinful men, bringing them to repentance and faith in Christ.[4] It is clear then that the evangelist cannot make a sinner repent and believe in Christ by his or her words alone – it takes the sovereign working of God.

The motivation behind the Apostle Paul’s ministry was the sovereign grace of God. Since he knew that Christ has a people purchased by his blood, who will come to faith in due time, he pressed onward amidst suffering (Acts 18:10). The promise of God accompanying his preached word motivated Paul to evangelize in the hardest situations. Paul knew that God’s word never returns void, but always accomplishes its intended purpose (Is. 55:11). Therefore, the preaching of the gospel, in the long run, never proves fruitless. Paul understood that wherever the gospel went, God would save some who hear its message. This truth of God’s providence gave Paul confidence in his evangelism.

In the Christian life, it can seem very discouraging when we have witnessed for so long without seeing any visible fruit in their lives. If it were up to the earnestness of the Christian, we would have no hope in seeing conversions. However, it is clear that the providence of God gives hope for success in evangelism, assuring the Christian that God’s purposes cannot fail.[5] We are not responsible for the results, for God is the one who brings them. In 1 Corinthians 3:6 we see that some plant, some water, but God is the one who gives the growth. The business of the Christian is to obey Christ and preach the Gospel to every creature, and then commit it to prayer that the Holy Spirit would apply the word in power to the heart of the sinner.[6]

Since God is sovereign, we are not to panic or lose heart when we see little visible fruit. The business of the Christian is to be patient and faithful in spreading the good news till the time of harvest should come.”[7] On a final note, it is crucial for the Christian to see the providence of God in our conversion to Christ. The Puritan, John Flavel, observed that apparently random events had led individuals to faith. For example, the man from Ethiopia who meets an evangelist in the desert (Acts 8:26-39). Therefore, in our daily life, we should be aware of those whom God has placed around us – we may be the means used in their conversion.[8]

 

                [1] A. W., Pink. The Sovereignty of God. 1928. Reprint., 155.

                [2] J. I., Packer. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. 1961. Reprint. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2008), 104.

                [3] J. I., Packer. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. 1961. Reprint., 106.

                [4] J. I., Packer. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. 1961. Reprint., 110.

                [5] A. W., Pink. The Sovereignty of God. 1928. Reprint., 155.

                [6] Ibid, 156.

                [7] J. I., Packer. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. 1961. Reprint., 113.

                [8] Joel R., Beeke, and Mark Jones. A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life, 166.

 

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4 Ways Paul Encourages Us to Love the Church (Even When It’s Hard)

4 Ways Paul Encourages Us to Love the Church (Even When It’s Hard)

Beauty on the Inside Around the corner from where I live, a house is for sale. In bold green letters, the lawn sign reads: “I’m Gorgeous Inside!” The message is surprising. From the street, the house is thoroughly ordinary, even run-down. It’s a seventies-era raised...

A Christian Reading Manifesto

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Modern technology has launched us into the stratosphere of learning. With the click of a mouse or a few keystrokes, we can access information from around the world and gain a treasure chest of knowledge. Smartphones are at the forefront of the new technological...

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