by Mike Ratliff
14 I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. John 10:14-16 (NASB)
When those of us who came from an Arminian or Free Will background come to grips with the reality of God’s Sovereignty, it is amazing how we struggle with letting go of the responsibility to “earn” our salvation. Of course, part of that struggle is rooted in the misconception that “election” happens at salvation. Ephesians 1 makes it clear, however, that God chose His elect before the foundation of the world. An honest reading of that wonderful letter by the Apostle Paul shows us that God’s people are His in completion even though many of them have not yet believed and repented. They are our Lord’s sheep.
One of the accusations against Reformed Theology from Arminians, Pelagians, and Semi-Pelagians is that Calvinism kills evangelism. This is not true of course. Often when the proof of the veracity of Reformed Theology is presented biblically to them, some Free Will proponents will say something like, “then why preach the Gospel if the elect will be saved regardless?” The answer to that is quite simple as is the case with most of God’s truths. We are commanded to preach the Gospel to all. We do not know who the elect are. Only God knows that. We are commanded to make disciples from all nations. Therefore, we preach the Gospel leaving the work of regeneration, justification, sanctification, adoption, and glorification in God’s capable hands. We pray for lost souls. We pray that God will draw them to Himself.
Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post (John 10:14-16) paying close attention to v16, which I have highlighted. Notice that the sheep are not yet redeemed when our Lord spoke this. He had yet to go to the Cross. Also, they were His sheep, but they had not yet believed. Also, “other sheep” belong to Him as well. Of course, He was speaking of the Gentiles who would make up the bulk of the Church in the years ahead.
5 But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. 6 But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 Then he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was next to the synagogue. 8 Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized. 9 And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; 10 for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.” 11 And he settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. Acts 18:5-11 (NASB)
Carefully read the passage above (Acts 18:5-11), paying close attention to vv9-10, which I have highlighted. Just as our Lord still had to die to redeem His sheep that had not yet believed, Paul was to go on speaking, preaching, and teaching because God said, “for I have many in this city who are my people.” These people were God’s people already, but they had to hear the Gospel in order to believe and repent so God could justify them. The devotional below is from Charles Spurgeon pertaining to Acts 18:9-10.
This should be a great encouragement to try to do good, since God has among the vilest of the vile, the most reprobate, the most debauched and drunken, an elect people who must be saved. When you take the Word to them, you do so because God has ordained you to be the messenger of life to their souls, and they must receive it, for so the decree of predestination runs. They are as much redeemed by blood as the saints before the eternal throne. They are Christ’s property, and yet perhaps they are lovers of the ale-house, and haters of holiness; but if Jesus Christ purchased them He will have them. God is not unfaithful to forget the price which His Son has paid. He will not suffer His substitution to be in any case an ineffectual, dead thing. Tens of thousands of redeemed ones are not regenerated yet, but regenerated they must be; and this is our comfort when we go forth to them with the quickening Word of God.
Nay, more, these ungodly ones are prayed for by Christ before the throne. “Neither pray I for these alone,” saith the great Intercessor, “but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word.” Poor, ignorant souls, they know nothing about prayer for themselves, but Jesus prays for them. Their names are on His breastplate, and ere long they must bow their stubborn knee, breathing the penitential sigh before the throne of grace. “The time of figs is not yet.” The predestinated moment has not struck; but, when it comes, they shall obey, for God will have His own; they must, for the Spirit is not to be withstood when He cometh forth with fulness of power-they must become the willing servants of the living God. “My people shall be willing in the day of my power.” “He shall justify many.” “He shall see of the travail of His soul.” “I will divide him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong.” – C.H. Spurgeon
44 The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. 46 Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us,
‘I have placed You as A light for the Gentiles,
That You may bring salvation to the end of the earth.’”
48 When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region. Acts 13:44-49 (NASB)
Now, carefully read Acts 13:44-49 above. Who is sovereign? Is it man and his Free Will or is it God? God saves those whom He has given to the Son (John 6). My brethren, the doctrine of election is humbling. No one has any deeds or merit that raises them up in God’s eyes as deserving of grace. No, God elected sinners who actually have nothing to offer God whatsoever. God elected and will save each one. They will bring Him glory as they learn to humbly submit to His will in all things. They will learn that they can only do good by the grace of God. They are nothing without their Lord and can do nothing without His joy.
On the other hand, the vast majority of the visible Church appears to believe just the opposite. They stubbornly hold on to the fallacious notion that they are Christians because of something they did. All genuine Christians believed and repented, but even that comes via God’s grace through faith as a gift from God. No one can do one thing to earn or deserve it.
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-10 (NASB)
Carefully read the passage above (Ephesians 2:1-10). What was the condition of all Christians prior to their justification? They were ALL dead in their trespasses and sins. They were by nature children of wrath like everyone else. However, God mercifully MADE THEM ALIVE. This comes only by His grace through faith. This faith comes as the result of God making them alive. Then they believe by faith. God did it this way that no one may boast. If anyone claims to be a Christian, by his or her own efforts then they do not understand grace nor do they believe what is clearly taught here. Our salvation is a gift of God, not a result of works. Therefore, this faith is part of the gift, which is given to each believer according to God’s grace.
All of the Good Shepherd’s sheep will believe and repent and be saved by Grace through faith. Those of us who already in the sheep fold are responsible to preach the Gospel to everyone that those who belong to our Lord and are appointed to eternal life will receive the gift of salvation by His grace through the faith that comes only to the regenerate heart.
Soli Deo Gloria!