Tomorrow I leave for a fortnight with a group of about 26 students for the Dutch Reformed Student Congregation’s (of Bloemfontein) annual evangelism trip to Phoenix, just north of Durban, South Africa. It will be my fourth time and I’m very much looking forward to it. Phoenix is possibly the largest concentration of Indian people in the world outside of India itself. Though there are many Christians in Phoenix (and also people of every sect and cult imaginable – from Mormons to Jehovah’s Witnesses to Branhamists to self-described “heathens”, you name it), the majority of the people are either Hindu or Muslim.
Sometimes people consider the doctrines of grace (what is commonly called “Calvinism”) as a hindrance to missions/evangelism. They argue that is doesn’t make sense to make the effort to share the gospel with people if they are non-elect. Hyper-Calvinist heretics would nod their heads to this. But those with a biblical Reformed view of the matter know that the doctrines of grace as expounded in the Canons of Dort are exactly the greatest impulse for evangelism we have. I remember a few years ago when I was in Phoenix for this outreach, I was having a chat with one of my friends while overlooking a large area of Phoenix (see photo below where we were chatting – the church where we stay, Jeshurun, a congregation of the Reformed Church in Africa, is on top of a hill which offers a great view of Phoenix), and as we looked at all the houses with Hindu prayer flags on them, with an adhan (Muslim call to prayer) sounding from a Mosque 400m away from us and mantras being chanted from the Hare Krishna temple right next to the church where we stay, I said to my friend: “If we had to go into those homes tomorrow and depend on the persuasive power of our own arguments and rhetoric, and expect Hindus and Muslims to come to Christ by their own power and will after having been avid devotees of their religions for decades, we might as well pack up our things and go home.”
With this in mind, James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) explains why the doctrines of grace gives us a firm motive for proclaiming the gospel. These quotes come from his book, co-authored by Philip Ryken, The Doctrines of Grace: Rediscovering the Evangelical Gospel, in Boice’s chapter on unconditional election:
“People suppose that if God is going to save certain individuals, then he will save them, and there is no point in our having anything to do with it. But it does not work that way. Election does not exclude the use of the means by which God works, and the proclamation of the gospel is one of those means (1 Cor. 1:21).”
“Moreover, it is only the truth of election that gives us any hope of success as we proclaim the gospel to unsaved men and women. If the heart of a sinner is as opposed to God as the Bible declares it to be, and if God does not elect people to salvation, then what hope of success could we possibly have in witnessing? If God does not call sinners to Christ effectively, it is certain that we cannot do so either. Even more, if the effective agent in salvation is not God’s choice and call – if the choice is up to the individual or to us, because of our powers to persuade people to accept Christ – how could we even dare to witness? For what if we make a mistake? What if we give a wrong answer? What if we are insensitive to the person’s real questions? In that case, people will fail to believe. They may eventually go to hell, and their eternal destiny will be partly our fault, and how could any thinking, feeling Christian live with that?”
“But on the other hand, if God has elected some to salvation and if he is calling those elected individuals to Christ, then we can go forth boldly, knowing that our witness does not have to be perfect, that God uses even weak and stuttering testimonies to his grace and, best of all, that all whom God has chosen for salvation will be saved. We can be fearless, knowing that all who are called by God will come to him.”