Does God's sovereignty make missions futile?

I got this question emailed to me a few days ago from someone who became a Christian just a few weeks ago.  I thought it was a great question and that you all might be blessed by the interaction.  Hope this helps!

Question:  If God chooses who is to be a part of his kingdom, why are Christians called to spread his word in order to turn unbelievers into believers? What can we do that God can't? If a person is chosen by God to receive God, wouldn't that make missions futile?

This is a question that has been debated throughout church history, most notably by a group called the Hyper Calvinists.   I think the best responses come in the form of two books that I would highly recommend

  1. Spurgeon vs. Hyper Calvinism:  The Battle for Gospel Preaching  by Ian Murry

  2. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer

I’m grateful that this question recognizes that God does clearly call Christians to spread his word.  For example,

And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. (Mar 16:15 ESV)

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Act 1:8 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? (Rom 10:14 ESV)

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.  (2Co 5:20 ESV)

God clearly wants us to spread his word.  The question remains though, why does God ask us to do this if he has already predestined those who will believe?  The answer is that God has chosen to work out his purposes through people.  It is not that we are doing something that God can't.  God doesn't need us to proclaim his work.

"I tell you, if you were silent, the very stones would cry out." (Luk 19:40 ESV)

Yet, while God doesn't need us, in his kindness, he still wants to use us.  The analogy that Jesus gave was that of a farmer.

"The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how.  The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.  (Mar 4:26-28 ESV)

A farmer can't cause growth.  He just plants seeds.  In the same way, we can't cause anyone to become a Christian.  Only God can.  However, we are called to scatter seeds.  God uses us to have His plants grow.  He could use other things to get the seed out into the world, but because he loves us, he wants to use us.  

Knowing that God has chosen people for salvation should actually make us way more bold to share about salvation.  Since we know that some people will respond, as God has predestined them to respond, we should get out there and share the good news with as many people as possible.  Evangelism (sharing the gospel) is the one thing in the world with guaranteed results!  If you know that an investment would be guaranteed to work out, wouldn't you want to put all your money into it?  We know that God is going to save and we know that he has chosen to use us to make his saving purposes happen.  This should make us not fear what people are going to say, but instead be eager to see how God is going to work.

-  Pastor Jeff

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