Five motives for evangelism and missions found in Scripture

September 20, 2012

A Selective Review and Critique of Whomever He Wills – Part 3C

Dr. Tom Ascol’s chapter “Calvinism Foundational For Evangelism and Missions” by David L. Allen


Referring to my comments in Whosoever, Dr. Ascol states, “The fact that our Sovereign has commanded us to preach the gospel is reason enough to do the work of evangelism. David Allen, however, sees things differently” (275). Ascol then quotes me in Whosoever as saying “‘Some Calvinists today are engaged in evangelism for the simple reason that they do not know who the elect are, in addition to Christ’s missionary commands’ and asserts that ‘this motivation is insufficient” (Ibid.). He then writes in the next paragraph, “How that fact diminishes the sufficiency of our Lord’s command to serve as motivation for His disciples is beyond me and exceeds the bounds of Scripture” (275). Here Ascol has misconstrued my words. Here is the quotation in Whosoever as I wrote it, “Some Calvinists today are engaged in evangelism for the simple reason that they do not know who the elect are, in addition to Christ’s missionary commands. While we do not know who the unbelieving elect are, this motivation for evangelism is insufficient” (96). Ascol is attempting to read the antecedent of “this” to be “Christ’s missionary commands.” But the antecedent is “we do not know who the unbelieving elect are.” The sufficiency of Jesus’ command is not what is diminished or insufficient. My point is that the missionary command, while certainly sufficient in and of itself, is not the only motivation Scripture itself asserts should drive our evangelism and missions. Not knowing who the elect are is never a motivation given in Scripture for evangelism and missions.

In other words, even from a Calvinist perspective, it is not our ignorance of God’s secret will but our knowledge of God’s revealed will that should motivate evangelism.

Scripture does, however, present at least five motives for evangelism and missions in addition to the command to evangelize: 1) God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31); 2) God’s desire for the salvation of all men (John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9); 3) Christ’s saving love for all men (John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:14-21); 4) the fear of the Lord, as Paul stated in 2 Corinthians 5:11, which in context refers to the Judgment Seat of Christ; and 5) as moderate Calvinists and non-Calvinists believe, Jesus’ death for the sins of all men (John 3:16; Romans 5:18; 1 Timothy 2:4-6; 1 John 2:2). Clearly Ascol affirms the first and rejects the final motivation as he adheres to limited atonement. I presume he affirms the middle three since Reformed orthodoxy does so, though no statement in his chapter says as much. In fact, in my observation, it is characteristic of leaders of the Founders organization to make little or no mention of God’s desire for the salvation of all people. Ascol’s quotation of me above gives him abundant opportunity at the very least to affirm what I am saying with respect to God’s desire for the salvation of all people, and more importantly, what the Scripture is saying about it. Although Ascol’s silence here is not proof he does not affirm God’s universal saving will, this appears to be a telling omission.

Dr. Ascol continues to refer to the “Arminian complaint” with respect to limited atonement. The problem here is this is not only an “Arminian” complaint; it is also the complaint of many Calvinists past and present. Ascol states, “Nowhere in the Bible do we find such an evangelistic argument employed. Consequently, one is left wondering what canon of authority Allen is employing in his warnings of Calvinism’s ‘problems for evangelism’” (275). In a footnote to this last statement, Ascol queries “why is such language as ‘Christ died for your sins’ absent from Scripture. Allen’s criticism impresses only those whose consciences are bound by something other than the inerrant, infallible and sufficient Word of God” (275). First, I am somewhat surprised by Dr. Ascol’s unnecessarily disparaging comment concerning those who disagree with him as people whose “consciences are bound by something other than the inerrant, infallible and sufficient Word of God.” Such a statement is unworthy of theological discourse and needs no ink spilt in refutation. Second, it is true that one will not find any overt statement in Scripture such as “Christ died for your sins” in reference to the unsaved. Does this prove that such statements were never used by the apostles or other Christians? I think not. For starters, this is an argument from silence. But more importantly, Scripture actually does overtly say that Paul himself did indeed make this a regular part of his evangelistic preaching according to 1 Corinthians 15:3. I will develop this further shortly.

 

 

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Tim Rogers

Dr. Allen,

Great words of truth and refutation of mis-truths. I thank God for your ministry.

Rick Patrick

Somehow, I feel strangely moved to write a five point sermon entitled “Missionary Motivation.” But wherever will I get my outline and scripture references?

Thank you, Dr. Allen.

Ron Hale

Dr. Allen,

I want to thank you for giving your energy and attention to this important work. I have talked to several people over the last couple of years and they have have shared how your work in Whosoever Will and other writings have helped them better understand the issues and the theological tension among Southern Baptists.

Your work on “The Atonement” ranks among the best of the best in helping us understand …what others have tried to make so difficult. Thank you and I look forward to the next article.

Steve Martin

Wonderful post.

Once the Living God grabs a hold of us and lives inside of us and we realize the great things that He has done for us, is doing for us, and will yet do, for us…it’s hard to keep our mouths shut about it.

That’s my motivation, when I’m at my best.

Thanks.

Tim B

If I might be so bold I would add a sixth motivation that we find in Colossians 1:28-29. Paul writes “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me. (nasb) Perhaps this would be point 2 or 3b but it is the desire of the man of God for the salvation of others and the honor to bring every single lost man into the presence of Christ with him. I cannot read this verse and conclude that Paul understood “election” in the same way that the high Calvinists do, otherwise his stated purpose of the salvation of every man would be working in contradiction of God’s purpose which is the salvation of the elect alone.

volfan007

Dr. Allen,

Thanks for the posts. They’ve been very informative and inspiring. I’m glad that so many are reading what you’re writing, and they are being truly informed on these great doctrines.

God bless you, Brother.

David

Tony Byrne

Dr. Allen wrote:

“In fact, in my observation, it is characteristic of leaders of the Founders organization to make little or no mention of God’s desire for the salvation of all people. Ascol’s quotation of me above gives him abundant opportunity at the very least to affirm what I am saying with respect to God’s desire for the salvation of all people, and more importantly, what the Scripture is saying about it. Although Ascol’s silence here is not proof he does not affirm God’s universal saving will, this appears to be a telling omission.”

This is a crucial point. For those of you in the SBC, whether you are professors, pastors or bloggers, the above point needs to be highlighted over and over again. Dr. Ascol and those associated with the Founders movement are not like the regular contributors to the Banner of Truth. Iain Murray and his BOT associates *regularly* address this issue of God’s revealed desire for the salvation of all men in connection with the free offer of the gospel in their books and magazines. Not so with Ascol and the Founders. Until Ascol and his associates change, those of you in the SBC need to *regularly* point out this problem. It’s a vital point.

Calvin S.

Good article Mr. Allen. Thank you.

As a Calvinist, I think I can look beyond any minor points of disagreement we may or may not have and agree with you, especially in the first motive you give for doing evangelism and missions: “God’s Glory”. Amen! This is what motivates me more than anything else.

Cal

charles

Jesus also suggested this:

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John14:15)

He said to go and make disciples, and therefore, Calvinists and many non-Calvinists will do so out of love and gratitude.

Still, as Paul admitted, the missionary and preacher are “nothing” and God gets all the credit for the growth of His Church. (1Cor3:7)

The fact that some non-Calvinists suggest that they would drop out of missionary efforts if God really predestines the ends of salvation just shows how little their hearts are motivated by love. If God will not admit that He needs their help, their pride would be hurt beyond recovery. That’s quite a bit of pride.

Much better to be like Paul who worked to please his Master. (1Cor3:5,8-9) Paul knew God doesn’t need human help to reach the lost…Paul himself “did not receive the gospel from any man” (Gal1:12) but he still was eager to obey the Lord, who is pleased to use the foolishness of preaching to save His people.

    Daniel Wilcox

    Charles,

    You say, “The fact that some non-Calvinists suggest that they would drop out of missionary efforts if God really predestines the ends of salvation just shows how little their hearts are motivated by love.”

    It’s exactly the opposite. For as you know, God, according to Calvin and others, also predestines damnation, to most humans. In TULIP there is no love, not from God to human, nor from human to God, nor between humans. Famous Calvinists (and ones who have talked and written to me) claim that we can’t tell every person Jesus loves you:-(

    Again this week when I was out getting something at a busy store, as I passed hundreds, I tried picturing most of these humans (like a Calvinist) as unloved by God, as foreordained to eternal damnation…. I couldn’t do it.

    There is no love in theological determinism, of that I am sure. The ceaseless
    horror of Calvinists claiming we can’t go out to the lost and tell them, assuredly
    that God wills and loves to save them.

    Daniel

      Calvin S.

      Daniel writes: “There is no love in theological determinism.”

      Really? Calvinists believe Jesus when He said, “You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (John 17:23)

      Calvinists not only believe God loves all people; Calvinists believe that God loves His own people as much as He loves His only begotten Son. There is no greater love than that.

      The Father loves all people with a general love; and He loves His own people as much as He loves Jesus. That is what Calvinists believe and that is what Calvinism teaches.

        Daniel Wilcox

        You say
        “The Father loves all people with a general love;”

        Predestinating us to Hell, secretly “instigating” in us evil,
        NOT sending Jesus to die for us…

        That is the Father’s love?

        Spare us from such evil love.

        Daniel

          Calvin S.

          You better hope you are right, Daniel, and all those Calvinists are wrong, since you are so quick to call God evil. If Calvinists are right and you are wrong, you are gonig to have so serious weeping to do in His holy presence.

David Benjamin Hewitt

This is something the I have never understood:

This is a crucial point. For those of you in the SBC, whether you are professors, pastors or bloggers, the above point needs to be highlighted over and over again. Dr. Ascol and those associated with the Founders movement are not like the regular contributors to the Banner of Truth. Iain Murray and his BOT associates *regularly* address this issue of God’s revealed desire for the salvation of all men in connection with the free offer of the gospel in their books and magazines. Not so with Ascol and the Founders. Until Ascol and his associates change, those of you in the SBC need to *regularly* point out this problem. It’s a vital point.

Calvinists, that is, 5 point Calvinists, covenantal or otherwise, do affirm that God desires to save all men, though as I understand it, not in the same way as He desires to save the elect. God desires obedience to His commands, and He has commanded all men everywhere to repent; Paul says as much in Acts 17:30-31. God delights in obedience to His commands; therefore, He wants all men everywhere to repent, and therefore be saved. There is, I think, I little more to it than that, but I would say that is the most important aspect. I see it as similar to the differences in the love God has for His elect and subsequently children, and the love He has for the non-elect (part of what is commonly called common grace).

Anyway, just thought I’d chime in there; I honestly don’t see why this has been such a big deal and continues to be one.

sdg,
dbh

    Daniel Wilcox

    David,

    You say, that Calvinists think
    “God desires obedience to His commands, and He has commanded all men everywhere to repent; Paul says as much in Acts 17:30-31. God delights in obedience to His commands; therefore, He wants all men everywhere to repent, and therefore be saved.”

    How do you figure? This is totally contrary to what ever Calvinist has told me personally for almost 50 years, totally contrary to TULIP, etc.

    According to all the famous Calvinists I’ve read, God instead has a secret will wherein God actually wills the exact opposite.

    And Calvin himself declared that God “WILLED” for Adam and Eve to sin!

    And then you say,
    “and the love He has for the non-elect (part of what is commonly called common grace).”

    How is predestinating millions of us to Hell, Not sending Jesus to die for us, etc.
    by any definition “love”?

    Daniel

      Shane Dodson

      So Daniel…

      If Jesus did the same for everybody, and it is God’s will that everybody be saved…

      …then what differentiates the lost person from the saved person?

      David Benjamin Hewitt

      Daniel:

      What I mean is something that every Calvinist I know has affirmed. The Bible teaches both the fact that God has an eternal decree that has fixed all things for the praise of His glory, and also a moral character that He has expressed in commands that we are to obey. We don’t live by what we think we know of God’s decree; we rather live but what God has revealed as morally pleasing to Himself. He loves obedience to His commands, so He would love it if everyone were to repent and believe — because He has commanded it (Mark 1:15 comes to mind).

      I would also affirm that God had “willed” Adam and Eve to sin, that is, decreed that it happen (because it did happen), though it was wrong for them to do so because they violated His commands.

      With regard to God’s love for all mankind, I would look to passages such as Matthew 5:44-45. The fact that anyone anywhere continues to draw breath is evidence of the love of God for that person. This is not always saving love, but it is love nonetheless.

      There is an excellent chapter on Providence in Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology; it is quite thorough and very helpful on the matter, bringing a great deal of biblical testimony to bear. It was helpful to me, and I suspect it would be to you as well.

      God’s blessings to you, sir.

      sdg,
      dbh

      Calvin S.

      Wow Daniel. 50 years and you’re still not listening! Mr. Hewitt is right, you are wrong. The problem is you aren’t listening.

    Calvin S.

    Mr. Hewitt, as a Calvinist, I can say, you hit the nail on the head.

Shane Dodson

If Jesus did the same for everyone…

Then that which differentiates the saved from the lost is 100% what WE do.

Dr. Ascol is correct. We are talking about individuals whose “consciences are bound by something other than the inerrant, infallible and sufficient Word of God.”

    Steve Martin

    That could not be more wrongheaded.

    He did die for everyone (“the whole world”) but what “we do” has nothing at all to do with whether or not we ‘hear and believe’ the gospel. The Holy Spirit opens ears and hearts when and where He will.

    Why?

    Nobody knows why. Let it go.

      Shane Dodson

      “He did die for everyone (“the whole world”) but what “we do” has nothing at all to do with whether or not we ‘hear and believe’ the gospel.”

      That was not my point. If He did the same for everyone, then what differentiates the saved from the lost…from a synergistic worldview?

    Tim Rogers

    Shane,

    Can you explain what 1 John 2:2 means when it says “the sins of the whole world”? According to your position either “whole” doesn’t mean “whole” or “world” doesn’t mean “world”. Are you saying that John was writing in “code”? If John is writing in code then who knows the code?

      Shane Dodson

      Hey, Tim. Perhaps you could answer my original question?

      Thanks!

      Norm Miller

      John Piper and others of his ilk know the code, Tim. I have read Piper’s comments on this verse wherein he avers that John meant “elect” when he wrote “world.” Oh so curious that we need Piper to explain the meaning of the word “cosmos.” Curious, too, that the Holy Spirit of God inspired the word translated “world” when He could have inspired John to use the word translated “elect.” Surely, Piper’s linguistic insights are to be deemed more authoritative than the actual words God Himself inspired. And now for my favorite application of the Piper, et al, hermeneutic: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the elect.” — Norm

        Shane Dodson

        Anybody up for answering my question?

        The sound of silence is deafening.

Stephen

Dr. Allen, I have not read either book. Do you have examples of this? “Some Calvinists today are engaged in evangelism for the simple reason that they do not know who the elect are”

David L. Allen

Stephen,

I have experienced this dozens of times in several venues through my years of full-time pastoral and academic ministry since 1982. I have heard it dozens of times from Calvinists, especially students. I have read it in dozens of places in Calvinist literature where it is either directly or indirectly stated, including people like John MacArthur. I have seen it in dozens of Calvinist blogs on the internet. In many of these venues, the statement comes without any mention of other motives for evangelism beyond the biblical command to evangelize, though the writer/speaker may in fact have other motives. It often goes something like this: I or someone ask the question of a Calvinist brother: “Why do you evangelize?” The response is “Evangelism is commanded. I don’t know who the elect are, so I seek to share the gospel with all people.” In addition to the command to evangelize, the only motive here for evangelism is lack of knowledge of who the elect are. There is no statement about God’s love for all; no statement about God’s desire for the salvation of all; no statement about one’s own love for the unsaved; and for high Calvinists, no statement about Christ satisfying for the sins of all so they can be saved should they believe as motives for evangelism. I have seen statements like: “God’s sovereign election is the only basis by which we have confidence to evangelize.” Or consider statements like “Has God ever revealed to us why we should evangelize the lost? Indeed he has. In Acts 18, Paul was opposed vehemently in his gospel mission. He was about to leave Corinth out of fear and discouragement, but God in a vision at night revealed to Paul a confident truth: “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them” (Acts 18:9–11).” A Reformed Baptist Church in New Zealand states the following in a list of beliefs: “Evangelism – While God knows who the elect are, we do not, so God has ordained that his church should preach the gospel (the good news) of his salvation to all people throughout the world. . . .” For some Calvinists, certainly not all, it boils down to this: We evangelize because: 1) God’s command; 2) evangelism is the means God has ordained for gathering the elect; 3) we don’t know who the elect are; so 4) we preach to everyone. My chapter in Whosoever will further explain my take on this issue.

David Benjamin Hewitt

Dr. Allen said:

We evangelize because: 1) God’s command; 2) evangelism is the means God has ordained for gathering the elect; 3) we don’t know who the elect are; so 4) we preach to everyone.

There is an important one sir that you missed, that we see in Romans:

Romans 10:14 ESV How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

I\’m sure you have also heard that God ordains the ends as well as the means. That is, God has determined that salvation will take place through certain means. So, the Gospel must be preached for anyone to be saved. No evangelism, no salvation. Therefore, we must share the Gospel! Of course it will not effect the number of elect, but that isn’t the point. The Spirit and the word work together to bring about salvation.

sdg,
dbh

    Bob Hadley

    dbh,

    You wrote,

    “I\’m sure you have also heard that God ordains the ends as well as the means. That is, God has determined that salvation will take place through certain means. So, the Gospel must be preached for anyone to be saved. No evangelism, no salvation. Therefore, we must share the Gospel! Of course it will not effect the number of elect, but that isn’t the point. The Spirit and the word work together to bring about salvation.

    While I fully understand that YOU STATE that the preaching of the gospel is the MEANS GOD USES TO BRING ABOUT THE END, WHICH IS CONVERSION.

    I do not believe a calvinist can stand on this statement and here is why. Unless and until God regenerates the lost person, the gospel (the means you suggest) falls on deaf ears and dead hearts… (TD/TI) So, there are NOT THE MEANS God uses to bring about the end; His effectual call is what brings about the end…

    AND the gospel THEN is the power of God unto salvation (sanctification) to those who believe…. NOT TO BRING ABOUT BELIEF.

    Before you jump too quick… remember this… for the calvinist, the gospel HAS NO POWER TO SAVE THE UNREGENERATED PERSON.

    ><>”

      David Benjamin Hewitt

      Mr. Hadley:
      No, the Gospel is part of the power that is at work in this way: It is the Spirit that makes the Gospel effective. Of course without the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit it will fall on deaf ears, but people need something to believe. They must believe the message about Christ; since without the Gospel message there is nothing in which to believe, preaching of the Gospel is needed.

      Hope that helps,
      dbh

      Bob Hadley

      dbh,

      I understand what you say to be true… but the TRUTH is whether you want to accept it or not, the gospel is NOT the means God uses to bring about regeneration; it is His effectual call…. THEN the gospel has power for that individual.

      It is like oxygen. Oxygen keeps a living organism alive; it CANNOT give life to a dead organism. In the same way, the gospel is effectual for the individual regenerated or made alive… it CANNOT be the means because until the deaf ears and dead heart is made alive, the gospel just like oxygen cannot give life.

      Now… I understand YOU believe the gospel to be the means that the Holy Spirit uses and for the record, I agree BUT calvinism does not allow for that distinction.

      ><>”

        David Benjamin Hewitt

        Perhaps an issue of semantics. Indeed, I would say that the Spirit is the One Who makes alive. Yet, when He does so, there must indeed be faith for justification and thus salvation. He will not make alive where His truth has not been made known so that there will be truth to believe.

        That is what I meant. :)

        sdg,
        dbh

        Bob Hadley

        dbh,

        Ok… now we are getting somewhere. The Spirit makes one alive; that is what allows the gospel to NOW take effect so, the gospel cannot be the means the Spirit uses to bring this new life… because until the new life is given, according to calvinism the gospel has no effect on the individual.

        Now… lets carry this a step farther. The gospel as a means has NOTHING to do with one being chosen before the foundation of the world and becoming the elect… the gospel as a means has NOTHING to do with Jesus dying for that individual on the cross and paying the penalty for that person’s sin…

        Now according to the tenets of calvinism, the elect WILL be saved and WILL spend eternity in heaven because Jesus died for their sin… that has absolutely NOTHING to do with the gospel being the means of salvation for the elect according to calvinism.

        I realize this may seem a matter of semantics… but since theology is expressed with words semantics would seem to me to be very important… and trying to maintain that the gospel is the means God uses to accomplish the end where conversion is concerned is not an acceptable semantic approach to the tenets of calvinism.

        If you believe that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, conversion THEN it does not seem feasible to me for calvinism to be a valid theological foundation to stand on…. semantically speaking.

        ><>”

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