GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)–A passion for the glory of God and compassion for people must compel Christians to preach the Gospel to all persons, Mark Dever told more than 300 people June 13 at the annual breakfast sponsored by Founders Ministries, a Reformed theology fellowship of Southern Baptists.
Preaching from Romans 9 and 10, Dever said that humans must be faithful to proclaim God’s saving grace to every person without exception. The doctrine of election, he said, does not paralyze evangelism, but instead encourages it because it shows that God will save sinners when the Gospel is proclaimed.
“The Christian call to evangelism is not simply a call to persuade people to make decisions; rather, it is to proclaim to them the good news of Christ and call them to repentance and to give God the glory for regeneration and conversion,” Dever said.
“We don’t fail in our evangelism if we tell them the Gospel and they fail to be converted; we fail if we do not faithfully tell them the Gospel at all times. We know that we are called to tell them and so we do and we trust God with the results.”
Dever is the pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church and is the founder and executive director of 9Marks Ministries. He also is the author or co-author of several books, including “Nine Marks of a Healthy Church,” and “The Deliberate Church.” Founders Ministries was founded in 1982 for the perpetuation of historic Calvinism doctrines within the Southern Baptist Convention often referred to as “the doctrines of grace.”
Christians of all stripes — including both Calvinists and Arminians — often fail to proclaim the Gospel, he said. But this is due to sinful laziness and not defective theology, he said.
“Will you decide not to tell them the Gospel because you think they won’t believe or because you think perhaps God hasn’t chosen them?” Dever asked. “That is not your place. While there is life and breath, there is opportunity for the Gospel. The Lord’s patience is His kindness.
“In whatever way it is appropriate, you must continue to share the Gospel. Are you going to stop because you have had discouragements and you know God will take care of [saving them] without you? God has not appointed that people will come to salvation in just any way, but that they will come to salvation His way. And His way is through you and me sharing the Gospel with them.”
Election, Dever said, is not a doctrine put together by “stringing together” a handful of Scripture verses, but instead is a doctrine that is part of “the fabric” of the entire Bible. God chose Abraham to be the father of His people and He chose Jacob and not Esau to continue the line of His covenant people, he said. The book of Revelation, he added, depicts Christ as the lamb who was slain to purchase — and not just make possible — the salvation of a people.
“This doctrine is not something we get from two or three verses,” Dever said. “It is based on the tenor of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.”
Dever used Romans 9-10 to offer three reasons why some people are not yet saved.
First, Dever said, salvation is entirely the prerogative of God and if someone is lost it is because God has not yet saved them.
“This is Paul’s answer (in Romans 9 and 10) as to why God hasn’t saved his loved ones (the Jews). … Salvation after all is God’s work,” he stated.
Many object to the doctrine of election, Dever said, by arguing that it makes preaching and missions work pointless since the elect are predestined to salvation. But Dever said that Jesus knew who would and would not trust in Him for salvation and yet Christ still preached the Gospel to them.
A second reason many people remain lost, Dever said, is because they have not trusted in Christ. Saving faith does not come through God’s arbitrary choice to save some against their wills, he said, but comes when a person repents from sin and trusts wholly in Christ alone for salvation.
No one will be saved merely because they are elect, he added, but instead all who believe will be saved by genuine faith in Christ.
A third reason people remain lost is because they may not have yet heard the Gospel, he said, adding that Paul makes clear in Romans 10 that saving faith does not come apart from the preaching of the Gospel. This truth, along with the love of Christ and a desire for the glory of God, should compel Christians to preach the Gospel to every person, he summarized.
Believers must urgently call on sinners to repent and trust in Christ, but they must set before them the high cost of discipleship, he said.
“You must not be too casual about it (sharing the Gospel),” he said. “I don’t like it when people say ‘Give Jesus a try.’ That’s not how Jesus spoke in the Gospels.
“You don’t want to evangelize too shallowly just to get them baptized, just to get them in church, just to get them to make some kind of decision once so that you don’t worry about it and let God sort it out when they get to heaven. No. Evangelism that does not make clear the cost will not produce repentance and discipleship. And evangelism that does not end in discipleship is incomplete evangelism.”
Christians, Dever said, must make it clear that following Christ is worth the high price of discipleship by living joyful and godly lives in front of those with whom they share the Gospel.
Dever encouraged Christians to be patient in their evangelism because it is rare one is converted the first time he or she hears the Gospel. No sinner is beyond God’s grace until he is in the grave, Dever said. Both church history and the Bible are filled with examples of conversions that came after one had rejected God for decades, he added.
Fourth century church father Augustine of Hippo was converted after his mother prayed for him for nearly three decades, and the Apostle Paul was saved after many years of persecuting Christians and attempting to destroy the faith, Dever pointed out. God’s sovereign saving grace always provides hope, he said.
Ultimately, Dever said, the doctrine of election teaches Christians that the Holy Spirit of God persuades sinners to flee to Christ. Consequently, evangelists are relieved of the pressures to give a perfect Gospel presentation and it should keep them from seeking to manipulate someone to follow Christ, he said.
When Paul became discouraged while in Corinth, God appeared to him in a dream as recorded in Acts 18 and encouraged him, telling the apostle, “I have many people in this city,” Dever said. In the same way, election should encourage all Christians fervently to proclaim the Gospel to the lost because God has designed to save sinners through His Word preached by weak human beings, Dever said. The Gospel, he said, provides hope for the salvation of friends who as of now are still lost.
“Friends you have that you think will never be converted will be some of the most splendid trophies of grace you have ever seen,” he said.