BY LAURYN CHAN
Sovereignty. It is an intimidating word, full of religious connotation. Humans are naturally independent, with a desire to exert self-autonomy. If their lives start to unravel like a loose thread on a worn-out sweater, they are pacified to let it fall apart, knowing that they will eventually be able to knit it back together with their own hands. But is this internal authority absolute? According to Christianity, decisions are made by the conscious self, but ordained by a higher power. It is clear that a Christian has the duty to evangelize for a lifetime. The future consists of the Christian becoming God’s herald and Christ’s ambassador. The gospel must be shared with clarity and a seriousness that urges people to respond to the good news. This is the Christian’s abiding responsibility and one that he/she must not neglect.
But how can the belief in divine sovereignty coincide peacefully with the responsibility of man to respond to the gospel message? In regards to evangelism, suppose God has already fixed the future by His decree and resolved whom He will save? If Christians give thanks to God for their salvation or pray for the conversion of others, they already believe that God is sovereign in salvation. In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul speaks of God as having chosen him and his fellow believers in Christ before the world began ‘according to the good pleasure of His will’ (Ephesians 1:5).
The belief in a sovereign God does not destroy the urgency, necessity or genuineness of the gospel message; rather, it gives us our only hope in the success of evangelism. It creates the certainty that evangelism will be fruitful. Christians can preach with eloquence and finesse and attractiveness. They can talk to individuals in pointed and challenging ways, organize special events and put up intriguing posters- and there is not a guarantee that it will bring a single soul home to God. “Regarded as a human enterprise, evangelism is a hopeless task” wrote J. I. Packer in The Call is God. It is only through God’s promise of “[choosing] us in him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4) that allows the future of evangelism to be successful. Due to the spiritual inability of man in sin, fallen man cannot grasp the gospel truth without God. Rather, the sovereign grace of God has given Christians a reason to be bold of the gospel message and patient if it is not met with immediate response.
Christians are sent to evangelize and to complete Christ’s mission “to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” God sends them to act as vital links in the chain of His purpose for the salvation of nonbelievers. It is a sovereign purpose that cannot be thwarted, but do not be discouraged to think believers’ evangelizing is not needed for its fulfillment. Believers in Christ are used as tools to bring to the elected people the salvation God has won for them. According to Packer; the mode of calling is by the gospel; and the issue of the call is a title to glory.
Evangelism is not a pastime squeezed in between classes, or an extracurricular activity that a Christian checks off his/her church list. Despite the total depravity of man, God’s truth and effectiveness will reign in the gospel message. The primary task at hand is to teach the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ, and to be content that “[God’s] ways are higher than [our] ways, and [His] thoughts than [our] thoughts” (Isaiah 55:1). Christians are to be stewards of the gospel, remaining faithful to what God has entrusted to them. It is a reason for existing, and it is inevitably in the future of every professed believer
Photo courtesy of Bon Jin Koo.