June 7, 2010

No (Il)logical Leaps

‘If you believe that, you’ll be as cold-hearted as a stone. If you take that to its logical conclusion, you’ll never share the gospel with anyone.’ That is what is often said when someone begins unpacking the argument that Paul lays out in Romans 9. He says there that God can show compassion on anyone He chooses, and that He can also harden anyone He chooses (v.18). He says that men, women, boys, and girls are saved, not ultimately as a result of something they do with their wills (v.16), but because of something God does with His will (v.11). He implies that we only ever choose God because He first chooses us … and says flatly that God does not have to choose us (v.21)! That is Romans 9. And that is the doctrine which is often the target of statements like the ones with which this article began.

‘If we really believe that God chooses people for salvation’, the argument goes, ‘and that all that He chooses will ultimately be saved (John 6.37); and if the salvation of certain people was already decided “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1.4) … then why do we need to go out and preach the good news? God is going to save whom God is going to save. It has already been decided! So why preach? Why share with your co-workers? Why even pray for souls, really?’

Now those are valid questions! And some people, who wholeheartedly believe the doctrine taught in Romans 9, come to just those conclusions … and do, indeed, sit on their hands evangelistically. And then there are other people (who do not believe Romans 9 means what I just said it means) who use the above ‘logical conclusions’ to dissuade others from believing what Romans 9 says: ‘If you believe that stuff, you’ll lose your soul-winning edge, brother! You’ll become a member of the frozen chosen!’

But both groups, while believing that they are taking the doctrines of election and predestination to their logical conclusions, are actually making a leap that the Bible emphatically does not make! For, after Paul devotes an entire chapter (Romans 9) to the sovereignty of God in saving whom He chooses … he follows immediately with another whole chapter (Romans 10) on the responsibility of man … to pray for the lost; to witness to the lost; and to believe the gospel, each of us for ourselves!

Did you ever notice that? Paul believed, as strongly as anyone, that God elected people for salvation “before the foundation of the world”. He’s the one who wrote those words! But he also said, of his unbelieving kinsmen: “My heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is their salvation” (Romans 10.1). He longed to see people saved … even though he knew that it was already as good as done! And it was this same Paul, who believe strongly in God’s predestining grace, who gave us those famous lines about evangelism and world mission: “How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” (verse 14). That doesn’t sound like a frozen chosen to me! It sounds like someone who understood that, while God is sovereign in salvation, He uses human means to achieve His ends … which requires us to be involved praying, sharing, going, giving, sending, preaching, and so on!

And notice also that Paul turned to the sinner, in Romans 10.13, and said, famously: “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved”! These are the words of the same man who just finished saying that salvation “does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” (Romans 9.16)! And now he says “Whoever will …”? Yes! Why? Because he was unwilling to make the so-called logical leaps that we are so often tempted to make. He understood that, just because man’s willing and running are not the ultimate cause of his salvation, does not mean that missionaries (and lay-people) don’t need to run with the gospel; nor does it mean that sinners don’t need to will to believe!

So let’s not jump to our own ‘logical’ conclusions! Let’s follow, rather, the logic of Paul and of the Holy Spirit! “It does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” … and yet, at the same time: “how will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” That is the logic of the gospel … and must be the logic of the Christian, too!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

and so...do keep on preaching, dear brother, that others may hear and believe and be saved and come to Christ and give Him the honor and glory due to His Name. Ah...the logic of the gospel--glorious!!
feasting on the truths of Romans, Kathy S.