Unless you are hiding in a bunker somewhere awaiting the return of Christ, you have heard the age-old swipe at Calvinism: “They don’t care about evangelism.” Now mind you, few who say this mention names like Edwards, Whitefield, Livingstone, Carey, Mueller, Spurgeon, Elliot, Kennedy, Piper, etc. You won’t hear about the Great Awakening, the myriad of Calvinist missionaries, Evangelism Explosion, Let the Nations Be Glad! and others. So many who say these things are really more intent on slandering than on speaking truth about a theological conviction.
Also, there are some who, in saying that Calvinists are anti-evangelistic, are actually saying that Calvinists do not report many conversions, or that they do not present an altar call in their messages. To say this actually implies a common misunderstanding of evangelism. This misunderstanding is found in the statement, “We plan on reaching the world for Christ.” Such a statement suggests that evangelism is about conversions. We are set on converting the world to Christianity. But that’s not what evangelism is. No one can convert anyone, no matter how persuasive we are. That, by the way, is not a Calvinistic statement; it is a Christian statement. We all depend on the Holy Spirit to do the work of regeneration and illumination. Because a Calvinist decides not to count everyone who says a prayer or walks down an aisle as a Christian is based on the understanding that neither are mentioned as requirements for salvation. It does not necessarily imply anti-evangelism.
Nevertheless, there is some truth to the statement, “Calvinists can be anti-evangelistic.” This is because of an even bigger statement, “Christians can be anti-evangelistic.” Those who try to pin the tail on the Calvinist are not being totally honest with the current situation.
“If you call yourself a Christian and rely on the Word and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from his Word, and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the Word the embodient of knowledge and truth– you who then teach others, do you not teach yourself?” (cf. Rom. 2:17-20)
While I could speak from the broader scope, I will try to focus instead on five reasons why every Calvinist must be evangelistic. I speak these to my own soul.
Every Calvinist believes in the absolute sovereignty of God.
For Calvinists, God rules over all things. He dwells in the heavens and does whatever he pleases. He will fulfill all his purposes, and no one can ward off his hand and say, “What have you done?” This is crucial to evangelism because Calvinists are convinced that all of the world is under God’s rule. All of humanity, then, needs to submit to his rule. Such submission can only be accomplished by the power of the Gospel. Therefore Calvinists should be evangelistic.
Every Calvinist is zealous for the recovery of the biblical Gospel and biblical conversion.
The entire point of Calvinism (almost) is to bring the Church back to the Scriptures to examine what the Bible says about the Gospel and about conversion. Calvinists have fought to the grave to uphold the glory of God in the Gospel. They hold that the Gospel gives him most glory when he is the One to whom all credit is due. So they work and toil to restore the Gospel to its God-centered focus.
But what good is all that work if the Gospel is not then spread? What good is it to polish a diamond to its original lustre only to lock it up in a safe for no one to see? Calvinists argue in vain if they do not then take this glorious Gospel to the ends of the earth.
Every Calvinist believes in the radical depravity of humanity.
Calvinists believe both that sin affects the very core of man’s being, and that therefore man cannot do anything that will ultimately merit God’s favor unto salvation from his wrath. There is none righteous. Our thoughts are not Christ-focused. Our affections are not Christ-focused. Our wills are not Christ-focused. Our actions are not Christ-focused. We are totally depraved.
What more reason for Calvinists to be evangelistic. Knowing how corrupt man actually is should cause them to boast even more in the glorious power of the cross. For man cannot save himself, being so tragically lost. Only God can save, as Calvinists confidently believe. So why not unleash the power of God unto salvation by spreading the Gospel?
Every Calvinist believes in the gracious purposes of God in election.
Every Christian believes that God chooses people for salvation. Calvinists believe that such elective choice is not based on anything in man, such as foreseen faith, but is totally an act of God’s gracious purpose to save whom he wills. Though this has tended to keep some Calvinists in their La-Z-Boy’s, it should move them to take the Gospel to the world, for God has purposed to save through faith in the Gospel. The Calvinist idea of election teaches that God graciously purposes to save some; the Gospel is how God accomplishes that saving purpose. Thus God uses those whom he has saved as messengers to accomplish who speak the Word which draws people unto himself.
Every Calvinist believes in the Gospel’s invincible power to save unto eternity.
Calvinists hold strongly to the belief that God is the active agent in salvation. He is the one who purposed to save sinners. He is the one who has called out some from before the foundation of the world. He is the one who sends his messengers to the ends of the earth so that his word will deliver many from their bondage to sin and from his coming judgment. And every Calvinist believes that because God is the one who totally saves, nothing and no one can thwart his purposes or snatch anyone from his hand.
Such a confidence in the perseverance of God in salvation ought to bring much rejoicing to the Calvinist, but it should also cause him to go. Does he not also pity the lost, who cannot save themselves? Does he not also long to see the awesome power of God break through the strongest chains and melt the most hardened heart? Does he not want to hear even louder boasting in the Lord who saves? Does he not want to be joined in heaven with an innumerable throng of saints who can all sing, “Our God reigns”? Then every Calvinist ought to go into all the world, fully confident in the sovereign work of God, preaching the Gospel that God alone saves and will save everyone who believes.