Monday, June 30, 2008

Contradictions?!

A friend wrote to me about a contradiction in my blog:
On June 20 You have:
One answer should certainly be that people's eternal lives depend on it!

On May 20 you have:
The clear teaching of the Bible is that God is sovereign in all things, including the salvation of the lost.

Please never make a statement that puts someone’s salvation dependant on what another person does. It makes a good appeal for canvassing but for the wrong reason.
I am very glad my friend wrote to me about this, because it is an issue that needs to be addressed. I hold that both statements are true according to the word of God and are not contradictory.

1) God is completely sovereign in all things, including the salvation of the lost.
(2Timothy 1:9) "who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,"
2) The eternal lives of lost people depend on hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
(Romans 1:16) "¶ For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek."
(Romans 10:17) "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
My answer to the supposed contradiction is that God has sovereignly ordained both the means and the results of salvation. Redeemed people are God's sovereignly ordained means of carrying the gospel to the lost. Apart from that means, people will not be saved. It is by that means people will be saved as God sovereignly works in their hearts.

I don't know who God will save, but I do know how God will save them - by the hearing of the Gospel.
(Romans 10:14-17) "¶ How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”
16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “LORD, who has believed our report?”
17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
We have the privilege and responsibility of presenting ourselves as instruments of righteousness to God.
(Romans 6:13) "And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God."
Jesus said that the greatest commandment of the law was to love God and that the second greatest commandment was to love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39) We should love God so much and love our neighbor so much that we are motivated to reach the lost with the gospel of grace. The gospel glorifies God, condemns sin, and is our neighbor's only hope of salvation.

Is concern that lost people need the gospel a wrong motivation for evangelistic efforts? My friend wrote: "Please never make a statement that puts someone’s salvation dependant on what another person does. It makes a good appeal for canvassing but for the wrong reason."

I would agree that concern for the lost should not be our ONLY motivation. I have often preached that our PRIMARY motivation should be our love for God and His glory. We should also be motivated by obedience, since God has given us the task. 2Corinthians 5:11 says that we are also motivated by the fact that we know we will face God's judgment.

But is it biblical for us to be motivated by the plight of the lost - knowing that apart from the communication of the gospel they cannot be saved? Should we ever say that whether we act or not, God will save His elect?

The apostle Paul wrote:
(Romans 9:2-3) "that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.
3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,"
And again:
(Romans 10:1) "Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved."
Paul knew that God was sovereign in salvation - that was what he was addressing in Romans 9. But he also loves the lost and is determined to do everything he can do for accomplishing the salvation of God's elect.
(2Timothy 2:9-10) "for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained.
10 Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory."
Even though Paul is under no illusion about God's sovereign place in the salvation of the lost, he speaks as if their salvation was something he personally accomplished through his efforts:
(1Corinthians 9:19-24) "¶ For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more;
20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law;
21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law;
22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.
24 ¶ Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it."
The salvation of the lost depends ultimately on the sovereign grace of God. But God, in His sovereignty has appointed us - by our prayers and by our witness - as the means to accomplish His purpose. Because of that, it is completely true and consistent to say, "God is sovereign in all things, including the salvation of the lost" AND that we should be motivated to share the gospel because "people's eternal lives depend on it."

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