Thursday, March 22, 2012

Invitation and Predestination

If God chooses who will be saved, can we invite people to accept the gospel? Now it needs to be understood, the invitation to do so is a legitimate invitation. Whoever believes on the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved (Acts 16:31; John 1:12; 6:29). But we are sinners and refuse to come to God on our own (Romans 3:23; 7:18; 8:8). We need a work of God in our lives (John 6:44; 1:13; Acts 13:48). But the problem is not in the offer, but in our being unable to receive it. We see a similar situation in regard to keeping God's Law. We are told that whoever keeps the Law will be saved (Luke 10:25-29; Matthew 19:16-26; Romans 2:6-11). The problem  is, we do not keep the Law (Romans 3:19,20; Galatians 3:10-12; Isaiah 64:6). Therefore, we needed God to become man, fulfill the Law, and pay the price for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 1:18;,19; Colossians 2:13,14). We need to understand that the problem in both these cases is our sinfulness, and we are responsible for our sin. (It is not my point here to reconcile divine sovereignty and human responsibility, the full explanation being beyond human understanding. But I am convinced both are Biblical.)

I therefore have have no problem with calling upon people to put their faith in Christ, following the Biblical pattern (John 3:16; Acts 10:43; 13:38,39). I also have no problem with stating that if they respond, it is because God chose them (John 10:26,27; Ephesians 1:4; Romans 8:29,30). But nowhere in Scripture does it call us to wait or to pray for faith, much less try to figure out if we are elect. It calls us to come (Revelation 22:17; Matthew 11:28,29; John 7:37,38); if we come we are elect, if we persist in not coming we are not elect.

But there is a concern that in following this pattern, we will make false converts. Now the Scripture makes it clear that false converts will always be with us (Matthew 13:24-30). But I see no basis for saying following the Biblical pattern for invitations will create more of them. The preventatives for this are the preservation of sound doctrine (Galatians 1:8; Romans 16:17; 2 Timothy 4:1-4), instructing new believers in the full content of the faith (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 20:27; 2 Timothy 2:2), and looking for a real change in the life of those who come to Christ (Titus 2:11-14; Ephesians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 3:18). Now Scripture does speak of a genuine assurance of salvation (1 John 5:11-13; Philippians 1:6; Romans 8:38,39). In this I find the example of Lot useful. While he exhibited a number of sinful choices (Genesis 13, 14, 19), we are told he was a believer (2 Peter 2:7,8). But we are also told his soul was tormented by the deeds of the people of Sodom. There needs to be some sign of the Spirit's work in an individual's life. But deviating from the straightforward Biblical invitation is no help in this regard.

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