In his abridged systematic theology, Bible Doctrine, Wayne Grudem defines election as “an act of God before creation in which he chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but only because of his sovereign good pleasure” (p. 282). I think the most common objection I’ve heard to the doctrine of election is that it provides no incentive for evangelism. The argument goes something like this, “If God is sovereign and he has already chosen who will be saved then what point is there in sharing the Gospel? If God has chosen people and God’s plans never fail, then those people will be saved regardless of whether I evangelize them or not.” I think there are a handful of problems with such an objection, but today I only want to answer the objection by showing how embracing the doctrine of election gives greater motivation for evangelism than not embracing it.
The following line of reasoning also comes from Grudem’s Bible Doctrine. In it he references 2 Timothy 2:10 where Paul writes, “I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” How does this verse provide incentive for evangelism? Grudem writes, “[Paul] knows that God has chosen some people to be saved, and sees this as an encouragement to preach the Gospel, even if it means enduring great suffering” (p. 285). Election says that there are people who must be saved because God has already chosen them, and since he has also chosen that people must be saved through hearing and believing the Gospel, we know that our evangelism will lead to some people being converted. Grudem says that election provides us with a guarantee that there will be some success in our evangelistic efforts (p. 285). If you don’t embrace this doctrine you do not have this guarantee because you are depending on the wills of sinful people living in a sinful world surrounded by other sinful people to choose God’s salvation. On the other hand, you are also depending on your own persuasiveness and eloquence in communicating the Gospel so that people will choose to believe. Election does not depend on man for these things, but on God whose plans never fail. The question we have to ask at the end of this matter is who are we depending on for the salvation of souls, and what does that do for the encouragement of Gospel ministry?