Perhaps you, dear reader, are one who believes that it is only necessary to preach to the saved -- the sheep -- the elect. Not so, my brethren! The example given us by Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch, Paul and Silas, and Barnabas, Peter, Apollos,
Some have the idea that since God is absolutely sovereign, and in control of all of His affairs, that God doesn’t use men, or that He hasn’t used men since the apostles; that the great commission isn’t for us today, and it was fulfilled by the apostles. If the great commission was only for apostles, by the same logic “Feed my sheep---Feed my Lambs”(which some preachers claim is their only obligation), was also only for apostles. Who was told to feed the sheep? Wasn’t it Peter? (See John 21:15-17). What was he, if not an apostle? So, by the same logic, if you are not to preach to the lost today, you cannot feed the sheep either since the apostles are all gone! Think about it! This nonsense of “only apostles sent” is totally unscriptural! Timothy was a bishop (a pastor), not one of the apostles, yet he was told to “Do the work of an evangelist” (II Timothy 4:5), which is preaching to the lost! What we must see is that God still uses men. The true teaching of God's sovereignty shows God uses whom He chooses, when He chooses, and in what way He chooses! The false teaching of some extreme Calvinists generally teaches that God doesn’t use anybody, and nobody can really do anything in the service of God.
It is true no human can accomplish anything for God unless He divinely enables them, but it is evident from scripture that He has, and still does enable men to do His work. There is a great commission job for us today, just as there was a similar job for Moses in his day, for Elijah in his day, Peter and Paul in their day. It is still the job of men called of God to “Go ye therefore and teach all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Do you know how I know this (besides being called of God myself)? I know because the Lord Jesus in the same verse said “Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world”(Matthew 28:19-20). The part regarding “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” shows that Christ meant for His disciples (not just the twelve, but all His followers), to train others to do that which they were trained to do. Evangelism! This command has never been rescinded. We are to carry it out today, as in the first century! It is valid until the end of the world!
Those He addressed that day certainly did not live until the end of the world, and the commandment is in force until then. Who is going to obey it? Who is going to carry it out? The answer is: all those he has called through the ages. People like Polycarp, John Wycliffe, Hugh Latimer, William Tyndale, John Hus, Samuel Rutherford, John Bunyan, Thomas Watson, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Gill, John and Charles Wesley, Brownlow North, William Carey, Hudson Taylor, Adoniram Judson, Amy Carmichael, David Brainerd, Jonathon Edwards, George Whitefield, Charles Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, Arthur W. Pink, George Muller, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, A.W. Tozer, Vance Havner, Leonard Ravenhill and Jim Elliott. These are gone on, but the world is still here, and God still raises up men (and sometimes women), to do His bidding, i.e., His work, even today!
In Ezekiel God warned there would be blood on the hands of the watchman who failed to warn of impending doom. “When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul” (Ezekiel ,19).
Even though this is in the Old Testament, the principle has not been negated. There is blood on the hands of those who sit idly by and do not obey the great commission; because to not obey the great commission is not to obey the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He said “If you love me, keep my commandments”(John ). So, from scripture we can see that any man who claims he is called to preach, and will not preach indiscriminately to all that he can, is disobeying God and ought to shut up, or repent! It is the obligation of the preacher to --“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” ( Mark ).
If you are not interested in reaching sinners for Christ, you had better examine yourself to see if you are indeed in the faith (see II Corinthians 13:5). It is not enough to believe you are elect, or hope you are elect!. Remember He said "Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things that I say?" (Luke 6:46) I weep because of sinners in my own family and all around me. God wants us to have a heart of compassion for the lost. I also weep for some friends who do not see the truth of the necessity of preaching to the lost. They feel it is “Arminian” to advocate doing so. No it is just biblical! Jesus said “And ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in
In 1 Corinthians 1:21(b) "it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." Then in 1 Corinthians 3:4-6 " For while one saith I am of Paul: and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?" Both these verses show the design of God to use his ministers (yes, even unworthy men who have themselves been washed in the blood of the Lamb), preaching His Word, which God alone quickens to the saving of the soul. Listen to the word of God on the matter “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians -13).
Call it "gospel regeneration" if you will, but that is God's design to save His elect. He regenerates them and opens their understanding in conjunction with His word. "Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures" (James ). These are some of the "every creatures" that are talked about in Mark 16:15 who have been regenerated and converted. Since the word is said to be the instrument God uses in begetting (or birthing), it seems to violate scripture exegesis that one would be regenerated, and then days, months or even years might pass before he is converted and believes the gospel! Some even teach that you may be regenerated and remain an idol worshipping heathen all your life, never hearing of Jesus Christ! Away with such nonsense!
I want you to know that no one believes in the sovereignty of God any more than I do. But I also believe in the declaration of the gospel to all. The great commission was not just for the apostles, it was for all time until He comes again. God is absolute Sovereign in all of His doings. He does the saving. He sends revival when it pleases Him. Saying this, He didn't leave His preachers without tasks.
These are or tasks or obligations. First: glorify God. Think about it. As practically all the catechisms say "What is the chief end of man?" Reply "Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” The scripture says " Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31). That is first, above all else. Then comes teaching the saved, then reaching the lost, in that order of importance, the way I understand it.
Then you know about John 21:15-17, our obligation to feed the sheep (those in the churches who are revealed as elect, appear to be elect, or likely might be). So that is second of our duties as called men.
Then there is the obligation of reaching the lost, which is our third responsibility, and the one many don’t want to hear, but you had better hear, my friend! Paul says in Romans , "I am a debtor both to the Greeks and the barbarians: both to the wise and the unwise. So as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are in
2 Corinthians 5:18-20 "And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." He is both debtor to the lost, and an ambassador for Christ!
As J. I. Packer said in his classic book, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God , "When you pray for unconverted people, you do so on the assumption that it is in God's power to bring them to faith" (1) Thus, true believers are forced to believe in God's sovereignty, EVEN THOUGH THEY MAY PROTEST THAT THEY DO NOT!
Actually, I believe, deep inside, every real Christian realizes God is Sovereign, whether he can express it or not. As Mr. Packer said: "I do not intend to spend any time at all proving to you the general truth that God is sovereign in His world. There is no need; for I know that, if you are a Christian you believe this already."(2)At first, I thought maybe Bro. Packer had not met some of the Christians I had met! But he clarifies: "How do I know that? Because I know that, if you are a Christian, you pray; and the recognition of God's Sovereignty is the basis for your prayers."(3)
Then he makes this searching statement: "You would never dream of dividing the credit for salvation between God and yourself. You have never for one moment supposed that the decisive contribution to your salvation was yours and not God's. You have never told God that, while you are grateful for the means and opportunities of grace that He gave you, you realize you have to thank, not Him, but yourself, for the fact you responded to His call. Your heart revolts at the very thought of talking to God in such terms. In fact you thank Him no less for the gift of faith and repentance than for the gift of a Christ to trust and turn to” (4)
(1)Taken from Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J. I. Packer., page 15 ©1961 by Inter-Varsity Press,
Salvation is all of grace (see Ephesians 2:8-10), yet God uses those He has saved to reach those He will save. Are you usable?
“For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region“(Acts -49).