Since God has sovereignly chosen which people will be saved, why should Christians be engaged in evangelism? Today, R.C. Sproul identifies one reason why we should tell others about the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Well, I remember a most discomforting experience I had when I was a seminary student. I was in a seminar, and we were studying Jonathan Edwards’ work The Freedom of the Will. I believe there were twenty-two of us in that class, and the professor had us arranged in a semicircle in front of his desk. He enjoyed the Socratic method of teaching. He called it dialecture. We said, “He lectured, we died,” because he would constantly grill us and put us on the spot and ask us difficult questions.
On this one day, he said to us, “All right, gentlemen, if it is true that God from all eternity has chosen to save certain people and not others, why then should we be busily involved in the task of evangelism?” I breathed a great sigh of relief because I happened to be sitting at the extreme right end of this semicircle of students and he asked the person on the extreme left end, and his custom would be to go right down the line, so I knew that there were twenty-one people who would have to wrestle with this question before he would ever get to me. I was delighted that I had that safety cushion.
So he started with the first student and he said, “Mr. So-and-So, if divine election is true, why should we be involved in evangelism?” The student just candidly replied immediately, and he said, “Well, professor, I don’t know. I’ve always wondered about that myself.” Then he went to the next fellow in the line. He said, “Well, what do you think?” That fellow shrugged his shoulder and said, “Beats me.” All of a sudden, it was getting more and more scary as he went down the line asking each student, and each one of them said they had no earthly idea how to answer the question. Finally, the finger pointed at me.
Now, I have to say this. I hope you don’t take it wrong. But in these discussions in seminary, there were certain times where my fellow students looked to me to bail them out in these thorny, difficult things. They assigned me the role that Plato assigned to Socrates in the dialogues when all these thorny questions would be raised and everybody would give their answer, and then at the end, Socrates would sort it all out. I was feeling more and more and more pressure as the professor came closer to me.
Finally, he descended on me and he said, “All right, Mr. Sproul.” He said, “If God ordains from all eternity certain people be saved, why should we be engaged in evangelism?” I was really nervous. I said, somewhat meekly, I said, “Well, professor, I know this isn’t what you’re looking for. This is not a big reason. But one reason, after all, that we still should be involved in evangelism is, well . . . ” I stammered and stuttered, and I said, “Well, God does command us to do it, doesn’t He?”
The professor went ballistic. He looked at me and he started to play with me and to mock me in a nice way, but he did it. He said, “Oh yes, Mr. Sproul.” He said, “Yes, and what could possibly be a smaller thing than that, that the Lord God omnipotent who reigns should command you to do something? That’s not a big reason to do anything! Or that your Lord who shed His blood for your sins should command you to do evangelism? And so you might undertake to give some credibility to the task, Mr. Sproul, simply because, after all, He did save your soul for all eternity, and you might doff your hat to Him in this enterprise.”
He went on and on, and I just felt smaller and smaller and smaller. But he said, “Of course, that’s reason enough for the church to be engaged in evangelism. How can a person believe in the sovereignty of God and despise the mandate of a sovereign God? God is not only sovereign in His grace, He is sovereign in His commands. And He commands us to preach the gospel to every living creature.”