Today, I begin a study in the doctrines of grace, or commonly known by many as the 5 points of Calvinism. Calvinism is a belief that encapsulates an understanding of soteriology (doctrine of salvation). Sadly, Calvinism is often completely misunderstood by many within Christianity that do not hold to its beliefs. It’s often caricatured by a host of statements that sound good on the surface to many Christians, but are quickly shown to be untrue.
One of the most common misconceptions about Calvinism is: “Since God’s sovereign over our salvation and elects those who will be saved, there’s no need to evangelize the lost.” This is actually more accurate of a statement for someone who holds to hyper-calvinism. But to brutally honest, as one who identifies as a Calvinist and is active in Calvinistic circles and ministries, the hyper-calvinist that believes evangelism is wrong or at best pointless is like the magic unicorn of theology today…I’ve yet to find one. Granted there are Calvinists that would deny this and yet in practice fail to evangelize the lost, but this is true of Arminians that believe the call to evangelize and fail to carry it out.
The proof of ones theology is really in their actions and church history is one the side of the Calvinists. It was Calvinists that sparked and mobilized to begin the modern missions movement. William Carey, a calvinist, in a desire to reach the nations wanted to speak up about his calling. While doing so, he encountered a “unicorn” who told him that God didn’t need his help to convert the heathen. Carey ignored the man and went on to India to be greatly used for the cause of the gospel in India, translating the bible into multiple languages and founding the Baptist Missionary Society. A Calvinist, one who believes God chooses and draws those who are saved, is considered the father of modern missions. If you need more proof of Calvinists and their missionary zeal check out Jason Helopoulos’ article detailing their work in the Great Commission.
So what is a Calvinists view of missions? We are to preach the gospel to every man with the end goal of Revelation 5:9-10 in view, where God will gather all whom He’s redeemed from every tribe, language, people and nation. Salvation is truly of the Lord, from beginning to end, yet God graciously allows us to enter in to His mission (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
Charles Spurgeon, also a Calvinist once gave an illustration that all Christians are fishers of men regardless of their theology. He went on to say the Arminian fishes at the pond hoping to catch something. The Calvinist goes to the same pond with the understanding that the pond is stocked with confidence and He must simply be faithful in casting knowing there are elect whom Christ has chosen and will draw to Himself. Calvinism or the doctrines of Grace are the very motivator for missions and evangelism. It’s what gives us confidence that evangelism is not about us manipulating our words or winning an argument, but humbly proclaiming the gospel and being faithful as God saves souls.
If there are any unicorns out there reading this or even in practice whether hold to Calvinism or Arminianism, may this be true of all Christians as we strive to fulfill the Great Commission:
If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for. – Charles Spuregon