Thursday, June 17, 2010

Invitation and Predestination

How does God's choosing people to be saved affect how we invite people to come to Christ? In Scripture, people are repeatedly invited to put their faith in Christ (Acts 16:31; 13:38,39; John 3:14-19; 6:40). But we are told their faith is the result of God's choosing them (Acts 13:48; Ephesians 1:4-6; Romans 9:14-18). How do these fit together?

The offer of salvation through faith is a legitimate invitation, but this faith is given by God (Ephesians 2:8,9; John 1:12,13). The reason is that we cannot of ourselves seek God (Romans 3:11), just as we cannot obey God's Law (Romans 7:12-14). Therefore, while from our perspective we are encouraged to come to Christ (Revelation 22:17), those who come are those God draws (John 6:44).

But Scripture tells unbelievers to have faith in Christ, not to pray or wait for faith. Nor should they try to figure out if they are elect. If we have faith in Christ we are elect; if we continuously refuse to believe, we are not. But waiting and praying for faith seems to imply God is sovereign over the moment of conversion but not the events leading up to it. It also seems to be looking for an experience of being drawn by God, but the issue is not what we feel, but the teaching of Scripture (Romans 8:29,30). Now I do not want to discourage people who are struggling to have faith from asking God for help (Mark 9:24) or to discourage praying for the salvation of others (Romans 10:1). The normal Biblical invitation, though, is to have faith in Christ (Romans 4:4,5). But what about the danger of a false faith? Scripture does warn against such a faith (James 2:26; 2 Corinthians 13:5). But this faith has a knowledge of God's truth (James 2:19) without a real trust in God's person and promises (Romans 4:17-22). Nowhere does Scripture say this can be avoided by praying or waiting rather than trusting Christ.

Does one have to believe in God's election to be saved? I am convinced that what is necessary for salvation is what Scripture states is necessary. For example, we must believe in the truth of the gospel (Galatians 1:8,9; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11). Nowhere are we told we must believe in election to be saved. I do not want to minimize the need to hold to all of God's truth, but part of this is understanding what is essential. There are dangers both ways. Some may trust in their faith or ability to chose rather than Christ. Others may trust in their election or the works they see as the evidence of it rather than Christ. Ultimately, whether a person is saved is a matter of the heart that only God knows. But we should not make distinctions not clearly put forth in Scripture (Romans 2:1; 14:4; 1 Corinthians 4:3-5). Therefore, while it is certainly proper to inform the unsaved of God's election (Jesus did; see John 6:44; 10:27-30), affirming election is not a requirement.

No comments:

Post a Comment