How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
Paul’s own example of evangelistic and church planting zeal must be the context in which his words are understood. Too often Christians have Paul’s theology, but not his heart or work ethic. Not only did he experience God’s sovereign choosing of him for salvation and calling him in to ministry, he also had a heart passionate to preach the gospel so that lost people could be found and churches could be founded.
In roughly a decade of ministry, Paul walked an average of nearly 20 miles a day, preaching a message hated by most everyone. He was single and didn’t have the comfort of a wife, and he was often suffering alone. He was often poor and would spend time working a job to keep himself alive so that He could continue preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 18:1-3).
Summarizing the life of Paul as a missionary of Jesus, theologian Paul Barnett says, “This ex-Pharisee brought the message about Jesus the Christ to the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire, and wanted to repeat this achievement in the western province, Spain. Apart from Paul’s Herculean efforts, it is difficult to imagine how the gospel of Christ would have taken root so comprehensively in the Greco-Roman world. Paul’s intrepid and energetic travels and tireless work, however, do not in themselves explain his achievements. Here we must understand that for Paul his relationship with Christ and his work for him were inseparable. He regarded all that he did as ‘the work of the Lord’ (1 Corinthians 15:58) that the risen Christ was doing ‘through’ his servant, Paul (Romans 15:18)…In short, to understand Paul’s achievements we need to appreciate his driving passion, which was that Christ loved him and seized him, and that he could never be separated from his love (Rom 8:35, 39), sinner though he was and persecutor though he had been.” (Paul Barnett, Paul: Missionary of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 5-6.)
By believing that God elects people, we are relieved of the burden to manipulate and guilt people into becoming Christians and can work more honestly, lovingly, patiently, truthfully, compassionately, and sincerely. Thus, belief in predestination should not quench evangelistic zeal but rather fuel it. After all, no matter how dark people’s hearts might be, knowing that there are elect people and that God the Holy Spirit has chosen to work through the proclamation of the gospel, we can evangelize in hope, eagerly expecting that some will be saved, and not feel guilty when others reject Jesus.
This is my testimony. I am certain that God predestined me, sought me, saved me, and sent me into ministry. My relationship with God is one in which He initiates, and I respond. He leads, and I follow. He acts toward me, and I react toward Him.
Furthermore, I cannot save anyone and so I preach the gospel and leave the results up to God. This has been the case for more than half of my life. I have had the honor of seeing more than 10,000 people respond to the gospel and be baptized under my preaching. I saved no one. Anyone who is saved is saved by God. I carry no burden for people who are not converted when I preach the gospel But, God gave me the great honor and joy of being the means by which His will was accomplished in the lives of many people. God is sovereign not just over the ends and what happens, but also the means and how it happens.
Paul is seeking to show that God’s heart and salvation plan have never changed throughout history. In this, he is showing us the character of God so that we would know Him better and trust Him deeper.
Who did God send to share the good news of Jesus Christ with you? Is there any way to thank and encourage them this week? Who has God put in front of you to share the good news of Jesus with? Lastly, how is God calling you to serve with your time and give of your wealth to help further the mission of Jesus Christ as He did Paul?
This is an excerpt from Pastor Mark’s Romans 8-9 commentary Duck Duck Doom. You can get a free e-book copy on our store here.
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