You know, Christians can be peculiar at times. Grace is a doctrine that gets twisted around more than any other in my opinion. You will more than likely never come into contact with a Christian who hates grace or is against grace or denies grace. Most, if not all, professing Christians have some idea of grace as they can at the bare minimum understand the surface level (yet vital) truth that we are not “good enough” to earn our salvation and right standing with God. I say all this and there may be some liberal theological teaching that grace is not necessary for salvation, however, I would not consider them to be Christian in the least and they would have a difficult time labeling themselves as Christ-followers. Nevertheless, if there is some teaching of this sort within Christianity out there in our crazy fallen world, I would love to know more about it. So, if you know of any sort of teaching, please inform me in a comment. Ok, enough side tracking. Grace. Right. People will ignore grace and abuse grace. However, there are many devoted Christians who will claim that they are saved by grace and they are fueled by amazing grace and they are grace-filled and since they have been given grace as a gift, they will extend grace to others. Here we have a lot of good, Christian, and biblical thoughts and actions by many, many people. However, when it comes to the idea of God’s grace in election, a great majority of those professing Christians will shout, “Calvinism, yuck!” Some people who profess Christ will even deny that election is biblical, and let’s just get real, that is ridiculous. As George Mueller once said, “To my great astonishment I found that the passages which speak decidedly for election and persevering grace, were about four times as many as those which speak apparentlyagainst these truths; and even those few, shortly after, when I had examined and understood them, served to confirm me in the above doctrines.” In other words, at first glance through the New Testament alone, Mueller found that the Scriptures “decidedly for election” outnumbered those “which speak apparently against” election 4:1. Wow. Then, upon further study, he realized that those Scriptures which were apparently against election indeed confirmed them. I mean, if you have ever read the book of Romans, it would be extremely difficult to avoid the truth of election and God’s free sovereignty in all things. I could attempt to go through the doctrine of election here, but this is a blog post and not a chapter in a book; plus I have a long way to go and a lot of studying to continue in order to more effectively, respectfully, and correctly defend the beloved doctrine of election. Nevertheless, once I rid myself of all preconceived notions about grace and God that I previously held and went to the Word, I saw a grace in God’s free sovereignty and election love that far exceeded any previous idea of grace I held. I am even more grateful, thankful, and joyful after seeing God as an electing God of grace. My worship of Him is fueled even more now by what I call biblical grace! If you are wanting to dive into the doctrine of election a little deeper, please heed this advice: Go purchase John Piper’s The Pleasures of God and read chapter five on election.
Now, what seems to shock and amaze me with all of this talk of election and grace is that most people celebrate grace and deny election or think of it as a cruel and evil act that God could never produce. Firstly, those who feel and think this way are only robbing themselves of true joy. Tony Reinke updated a blog post at Desiring God including a discussion of the Joy of Calvinism. Check it out here. But even more importantly, I believe that these men and women who are anti-calvinistic are misunderstanding grace to a point that they could end up having to limit God in some way. As a matter of fact, I have witnessed this for myself in classes I have been in. A misconstrued view of grace and election canlead to Open-Theism and ultimately, Universalism. They are also forced to ignore certain portions of Scripture. In the realm of evangelism, a proper idea of grace is very important to understand if we are to be faithful co-workers with God to reach the “sheep that are not of this fold” (John 10:16). The process in which someone is even able to place their trust in Christ is grace (John 6:44; Ephesians 2:5). God is the one who exhibits love and extends grace to awaken the sinner. Grace begins before the sinner even realizes it. God works and acts in the lives of every individual that comes to faith in Christ, before they come to faith in Christ. These are the ones we should focus the majority of our attention on: the spiritually receptive. As Christians, we are to follow the lead of God by His Spirit, and if He is the One who works in the heart of the lost sinner before they are able to receive the gospel and trust Christ as Lord, then we will inevitably be following Him to those He is working in (Acts 16:14). As a result, we must seek those who are spiritually receptive. If we are to do this, we must be committed daily to evangelism. It would be foolish to think that we as Christ-followers are anything more than tools and co-workers to a “Great Evangelist.” We must humble ourselves and get off of our “evangelistic high horse” and realize that we take the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost and God does the rest. But wait! There is much more to it than that! There is grace! When exactly does grace come into play in the life of a sinner? It is a continual process from the time before they trusted in Christ, declaring Him as Lord, at the point of their surrender, and throughout their Christian walk with Him. However, ignoring the initial gift of grace which God provides through His sovereign election would not be giving proper appreciation to God’s grace. It would also rob God of His deserved glory as well as limit Him in His sovereign freedom. Over the next five days, I would like to take time to examine five acts of God in evangelism that John Piper mentions in his book, “A Godward Life.” Hopefully, they will enlighten us on grace and what it truly means in the salvation of the lost and how these thoughts can fuel our zeal for evangelism in our local context as well as in all nations.
1. God Awakens Sinners (Ephesians 2:5)
2. God Opens Sinners’ Hearts (Acts 16:14)
3. God Draws Sinners to Himself (John 6:44)
4. God Empowers the Gospel (2 Thessalonians 3:1)
5. God Calls the Lost (1 Corinthians 1:24)
By His Grace — For His Glory — For our Joy