The success of missions does not depend on how many may believe the gospel. If that were the case, most of the great missionaries – even Jesus and Paul – would have been failures, for they did not get a huge following from their message. But both were sure of one thing, those whom God had given to Jesus through His eternal election would surely be saved. Not one sheep will be lost in the end. The Apostle Paul says in II Cor. 4, “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake” (II Cor. 4:3-5).
The Apostle Paul is careful to give God all the glory in his work when he says, “So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (I Cor. 3:7).
We should note also how Jesus sees the “success” of the preaching of the Word in his parable of the Sower (Matthew 13). God is accomplishing His eternal purpose throughout this parable. It is not an error or lack of success in the sower of the Word. Much of the seed sown did not take root, but that which fell on good ground bore a crop. It is the Holy Spirit who prepares the hearts of God’s elect that the seed of the Word may have fertile ground and grow.
The work of missions does not ultimately depend on slick Madison Avenue methodology or the special wisdom of the preacher. Those who have departed from the Reformed doctrines of God’s sovereignty have, sadly, resorted to the same approach to missions as the Arminians – often “adding to the church those that are not saved” (cf. Acts 2:47) for the sake of the “growth” principle. Beware! says Paul in I Cor. 3:11-13, of the fire that will test the composition of all churches.
Rather than becoming lax in evangelism, the Reformed church should be in the forefront with gospel – gathering those whom God has given “ears to hear.” The biblical method of missions is simply the preaching of the gospel to all men that the elect may be called out and separated from the world unto Christ by the power of God. The response to the gospel in Acts 2 was noted as: “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47b).
The most common characterization of the Calvinist is that of “Hyper-Calvinist” (ie. beyond Calvinism). That is meant to infer that Calvinists do not preach the gospel sincerely, but only to those who they deem are the elect. This is ludicrous, yet admittedly there have been some who have characterized Calvinism in this way. We must reject that thinking since the number chosen by God is known only by Him. Further, it should be remembered that election is not salvation itself, but it is election unto salvation. God still uses His means of grace to bring about the fruits of election, namely, repentance and faith in Christ.
Likewise, we must avoid the error of presuming that all within the covenant (ie. children of believers) are elect unto salvation. One might just look at one such person – Esau – to see where this is not the case. On a larger scale we see that many of God’s covenant people – Israel – were not believers. As a matter of fact the true believers were described as a “remnant.” Paul addresses this matter in Romans 9:2-7.
Our covenant children are given the promises of the salvation if they repent and believe. And, should they die in infancy, or before making a confession of their faith, we have every reason to hope that they are saved. However, we should not be lax in the instruction or discipline of our children, with the presumption that they are elect unto salvation just because they have Christian parents.
Blog post content is taken from Rev. Paul Treick’s book, Faith of Our Fathers, Living Still: A Study of the Five Points of Calvinism, available for purchase. It is posted with the gracious permission of the author.
If you’d like to read the blog series from the beginning, start here.