“Calvinism kills missions!” many say. After all, if God has already chosen some to save before the foundation of the world, while leaving others to be damned, then why should we bother preaching the gospel to the nations? The elect are going to be saved and none of the rest will be. But when we pause to take a closer look at Calvinism, we find that it does not kill missions—it is actually fuel for missions! Let us consider the well-known five points of Calvinism to see how they relate to missions.
Total Depravity—The Need for Missions
As Calvinists, we believe that “through Adam sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned (Rom. 5:12). So all of humanity is born as sinners; we are all born in rebellion against God. No one is righteous, no one understands, no one seeks after God (Rom. 3:10-11). We are totally depraved by nature, which does not mean that we are as thoroughly wicked as possible, but that our sinfulness affects all areas of life. No aspect of our lives is free from the corruption of sin.
Since all human beings are sinful, we are all born under the judgment of God. No matter where we go in the world today, apart from Christ, those we meet face the wrath of God for their sins. “We are by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). An eternity in hell awaits people around the globe as punishment for their sins. How can this reality not drive us to find ways to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the nations? Jesus is the only one who can save them from a grim and heart-breaking future!
Unconditional Election–The Hope through Missions
Because God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but calls the wicked to turn from their way and live (Ezek. 33:11), He predestined a people to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will (Eph. 1:5). God’s election, or choice, of a people to lavish his grace upon was unconditional, since there is nothing in us as sinners which would cause God to love us (1 John 4:10).
God’s elect are a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues (Rev. 7:9). And He has chosen this great multitude to receive His glorious grace. It is with this certain hope of success in missions that Calvinists go to the nations proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Limited Atonement—The Message of Missions
God the Father gives His elect people to His Son, Jesus Christ, so that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life (John 6:40). He uses preachers to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations, for how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? (Rom. 10:14)
The message of all Christian preachers is summarized by the Apostle Paul: “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve” (1 Cor. 15:3-5). Christ died to pay for our sins, “thus securing an eternal redemption” (Heb 9:12). He did not die merely to make the forgiveness of sins possible. Christ has actually redeemed us to God by His blood. He redeemed men and women from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Rev. 5:9). Calvinists want God’s people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation to hear of Christ’s substitutionary atonement for sinners so that they are forgiven of their sins and adopted as sons and daughters of God.
Irresistible Grace—The Power in Missions
Human beings are born in a state of total depravity, totally depravity, spiritually dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). That means no one will come to Christ on his own. But we rejoice in remembering that God is at work through the Holy Spirit in effectively drawing His elect to Christ (John 6:44). And God’s grace is irresistible, because He has determined to save a people for His glory.
As a result, Calvinists call on all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30) because we know that those chosen by God will repent and believe in Christ! This powerful grace of God gives us confidence in missions, knowing that all those who believe in Christ will be saved: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Yes, Calvinists believe John 3:16!
Perseverance of the Saints—The Success with Missions
Finally, Calvinists rest in knowing that our missions work will be finally successful. For God’s Word shall not return to Him void, but it shall accomplish what He pleases (Is. 55:11). If we do not see the fruit of our labors among the nations, then we need not despair. It is not he who plants, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:7). At the same time, we know that God is at work drawing people to Himself, so we continue to proclaim the good news trusting in Him to remove hearts of stone and to give hearts of flesh (Ezek. 36:26).
Furthermore, when people around the globe are born again, we recognize that He who has begun a good work in them will complete it (Phil. 1:6). God will present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (Jude 24). So we look forward to the day when we will join with our brothers and sisters in Christ from around the world, praising our Savior for the redemption He accomplished on the cross. May these glorious truths fuel our hearts for missions as Calvinists, so that Christ will be glorified!