Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
-1 Corinthians 2:14
There is a serious problem presented to us in these verses. We are commanded to go and make disciples of all nations. But we are told that sinners will not submit to God, “indeed it (their minds) cannot.” Furthermore we learn that the natural person “is not able to understand…” the things of God. How can Christians possibly make disciples of all nations when sinful man will reject and ridicule the Gospel message? Is evangelism hopeless?
Evangelism is hopeless if God’s sovereign grace through predestination did not breathe life into the dead heart of the unbeliever. Scripture clearly states: “…you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…” -Ephesians 2:1-2. Can a corpse decide to live again? The obvious answer is NO, it cannot! So how can something dead live? “But God…because of the great love with which he loved us…made us alive together with Christ…” –Ephesians 2:4-5. Through sharing the gospel God creates life in the dead heart of the unbeliever and raises them to life.
Now some say that believing in God’s sovereign power to convert the lost kills evangelism. However the opposite is actually the case, belief in the all-powerful sovereign saving God gives the greatest motivation to do evangelism. If the conversion of the sinner is our job and relies on us then we will use methods that appeal to the sinner. We will give them a gospel that says: “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” And guess what; hundreds of God-hating sinners flock to our churches to hear that message.
Not trusting in the sovereignty of God in evangelism makes us man-pleasers not God-pleasers. J. I. Packer makes this excellent point: “Apart from it(the sovereign grace of God in conversion), there is not even a possibility of evangelism being fruitful. Were it not for the sovereign grace of God, evangelism would be the most futile and useless enterprise that the world has ever seen, and there would be no more complete waste of time under the sun than to preach the Christian gospel.”1
Belief in God’s sovereign grace to convert the sinner motivates and empowers us in four ways. First of all it gives us confidence to share the gospel because we know that when we share it God WILL save people. Second, it makes us bold because we know that God is in control and guides us in our evangelistic efforts. Third, it makes us patient because God could convert someone at any moment, so we do not lose hope. Last, it makes us more prayerful, since God is the one who converts the sinner we cry out to him day and night to save people. My prayer is that God opens your eyes to the beauty of His sovereign grace and the power it gives you in evangelism.
1 J. I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God(Downer Groves, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1961), 116.