Fishing Like a Calvinist (4)

While we experience the call of the gospel in history, we should recognize that something happened long ago to influence this calling unto salvation. We need to develop a prehistoric mindset when thinking about the path of salvation. You see, prior to heralding away, it’s good to come to a realization that there are things that happened prior to that moment, prior to the individual’s birth, prior to the fall of Adam and even prior to the founding of this world. Before all these things, God had a plan! We call this plan the decree of God and sharing the gospel is much easier if we remember this!

Before creating all things, the Great Potter had a strategy to bring about His glory, and He’s the One who put that plan in motion. God doesn’t simply decree a plan, He takes on the responsibility in the implementation in fulfilling that plan, to accomplish His purposes in the roadmap of future things. God affirmed His eternal decree in sending Christ into the world. We read that this was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ephesians 3:11), who was delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23) and that in His death, the men that committed the evil acts against Christ did whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. (Acts 4:28) John Gill’s comments on Acts 4:28 are worthy of mention:

God’s decrees are from eternity; there is nothing comes to pass in time but what he has beforetime determined should be done, either by effecting it himself, or doing it by others, or suffering it to be done, as in the case here. Whatever was done to Christ, either by Jews or Gentiles, by Herod or Pontius Pilate, was according to the secret will of God, the covenant he made with Christ, and the council of peace that was between them both: what they wickedly did, God designed for good, and hereby brought about the redemption and salvation of his people: this neither makes God the author of sin, nor excuses the sinful actions of men, or infringes the liberty of their wills in acting.

-John Gill

You will find that this truth really pushes you to think differently about evangelism since it now becomes an evangelism in light of His decree and His providence. When I use the term “Providence”, I’m referring to the actions associated with the Kingship of the Lord. God’s acting in governing all things to the accomplishment of His will and it’s an expression of His Freedom! Even doing as He will with human beings. I want to make it clear that when I say “The Providence of God” that I’m not saying that God can only act so long as we allow Him to do so. To do so, I’d need to argue that the Sovereignty of man trumps the Sovereignty of God and nobody wants to argue that! The bible says “The LORD nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the people; The counsel of the LORD stands forever (Isaiah 33:10-11).

God’s decree prior to creation demonstrates He did not create anything by mistake and in all outcomes, we can find comfort that they are all according to His purpose and decree. Let’s exclaim with joy in the words of the psalmist:

Let them praise the name of the LORD, For He commanded and they were created. He has also established them forever and ever; He has made a decree which will not pass away.

Psalm 148:5-6

But how does the Providence of God help in evangelism? It helps us understand that even when the message is rejected, through mockeries and embarrassing reactions, we can know that God’s purposes are being accomplished. It also provides the herald of the king the confidence that the pure message of the gospel doesn’t need to be watered down or altered. We can walk away knowing that whatever happens, we are a part of God’s will, and the proclamation of the gospel will either bring about faith or bring about a sinner’s rejection. We don’t need to walk away beating ourselves up that we couldn’t convince them since it is ultimately God’s work of regeneration that will move that person to believe.


Part of this decree which was issued before the foundation of the world included God’s choice of history. In that historical plan were people and their destinies, which brings us to an important element to the evangelistic approach, keeping in mind that God chose a people in that decree.  One would be hard pressed to read the bible cover to cover and not come face to face with the doctrine of election. How one interprets God’s choosing of people and what they are chosen for has created some heat in Christian circles.  Christians have various views on the biblical teaching of election. The reformed doctrine of unconditional election is defined in this way; that God, in eternity past and before the foundation of the world chose a specific people unto Himself whom He would save. We aren’t chosen merely to deeds, positions, or works, but unto salvation (2 Thessalonians 2:13) and that choice was made prior before the world began (Ephesians 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:9).  Paul made it clear that this is not based upon man influencing of God’s choice but depends exclusively upon His will and good pleasure (Romans 9:16).

The extension to God’s election is what we call “Predestination”. It’s the idea that God has predetermined the destiny of all people. There are those who are destined to obtain salvation (1 Thess. 5:9) and those who are destined to stumble and disobey God’s word (1 Peter 2:8-9). God has predestined a people who would be conformed to the image of Christ through God foreknowing them, predestining them, calling them, justifying them, and finally glorifying them (Romans 8:28-30) to demonstrate that salvation is all of God. The elect are those who have been given to the Son by the Father and they are those who are drawn by the Father (John 6:39,44). God has the right to choose for Himself a people who He will bless and pass over a people who are in rebellion against Him all for His eternal glory (Romans 9:10-24)[i].

In thinking about sharing the gospel, we recognize that the foundation behind a man’s coming to Christ is an established act of the Lord. When a man exercises faith in Jesus Christ, it is something that He expresses based upon the decree and election of God. Many object and argue that it is useless to preach the gospel. Well, no, the means by which God decreed that a man be saved, was through the preaching of the gospel and the sinner needs to receive the gospel through faith. That faith, however, is only exercised by those who are appointed to eternal life (Acts 13:48), to whom it was granted for them to believe (Philippians 1:29) and who were destined, not for wrath, but salvation in Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:13; 2 Peter 2:8-9). The roadmap of salvation is best expressed in the words of the apostle Paul:

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

Romans 8:29-30

God’s actions of foreknowing, predestining, calling, justifying, and glorifying on specific individuals in history show that truly Salvation is of the Lord and not of man. Remember, we don’t know who the elect are and it is important to treat all men as if they are.

[i] Romans 9 is a key text in the debate between the various views of predestination and election. For the best exegesis of the text of Romans 9, see John Piper’s “The Justification of God” Baker Book House.


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