IF ALL ARE NOT SHEEP, WHY PREACH TO ALL?!
Arminian ‘soul-winners’ always ask us, “If you believe in Election and Predestination etc, HOW can you preach to all men and win ‘the lost’?
We answer, the Master said go ye and preach to ‘every creature’! So we do! Whether that creature is a sheep or a goat or in some cases a wolf or a swine, we know not!
THIS we are convinced of, that His Sheep WILL hear His voice through our preaching and follow the Lord! [John 10:27]
A sheep CANNOT become a goat and neither can a goat become a sheep!
THEY’RE BORN THAT WAY!
He that hath ears to ear let him hear!
NO MAN will thirst for Christ unless he is one of God’s sheep! Jesus said unto the unbelieving Jews – “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life”. And He tells them why – “But ye believe not, BECAUSE YE ARE NOT OF MY SHEEP”! [John 5:40 & 10:26]
“The Lord did not say “Ye are not of My sheep BECAUSE ye believe not,” but, “Ye BELIEVE NOT, because ye are not of My sheep.” Man always turns the things of God upside down. When he comes to something in the Word which is peculiarly distasteful, instead of meekly submitting to it and receiving it in simple faith because God says it, he resorts to every imaginable device to make it mean something else.
Here Christ is not only charging these Jews with unbelief, but He also explains WHY faith had not been granted to them — they were not “of His sheep”: they were not among the favored number of God’s elect.” [A.W. Pink]
So when WE go forth and preach, we preach not with a confidence in either our eloquence or convincing skills, but in the Word of the Lord Jesus who said – “Everyone that is OF THE TRUTH heareth My voice”! [John 18:37] i.e. EVERYONE who BELONGS TO THE TRUTH, who are the sheep!
These ‘sheep’ and only these will hear, understand, repent and believe in the true sense of the word!
The rest can only hear, despise, wonder and perish! [Acts 13:41] For they are goats to whom it is not divinely and sovereignly ‘given’ to believe! [Mark 4:11,12]
God works through MEANS. Whatever God has decreed in eternity He brings it to pass through means.
God decreed in eternity past that Christ should suffer on the cross and pay the ransom for those whom God had given Him. But before that decree could come to pass, the Lord had to be betrayed, condemned and crucified. The betrayal, condemnation and crucifixion by men are the ‘MEANS’!
Though the Devil cannot do anything to change God’s decree, he sure tries to thwart the MEANS. So we see even though Christ had set His face to go to Jerusalem to be rejected of the elders, tried, condemned and crucified. Satan did his best to dissuade Him. And that through one of the Master’s closest disciples. [Read Matt 16:21-23]
Even so, the elect of God are ordained to salvation, but not WILLY-NILLY OR ANYHOW, but through ‘MEANS’. “it pleased God by the foolishness of PREACHING to save them that believe”. [1Cor 1:21]. The Apostle after stating that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved, goes on to ask – “How then 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”? [Romans 10:12-15].
So apart from God’s decree to save His elect, we should also consider the means He uses. So here are the means involved in salvation and how God’s sovereignty is displayed in them –
First you need a preacher to preach the Gospel. The Apostle asks, “how shall they preach, except they be SENT”? [Rom 10:15]. So God raises up preachers and sends them out. [see Ezk 34:11,12].
At one time the Lord encouraged Paul by saying, “Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I HAVE MUCH PEOPLE IN THIS CITY”. [Acts 18:9,10]. The Lord had his elect sheep in that city, but he WASN’T GOING TO SAVE THEM WILLY-NILLY, but through Paul’s PREACHING.
Secondly when the Gospel is preached, people’s hearts have to be OPENED before they can receive it. So it is written concerning Lydia – “whose heart THE LORD OPENED, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul”. [Acts 16:14].
And again, “when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ORDAINED TO ETERNAL LIFE BELIEVED”. The ‘Faith’ to believe the Gospel is not as many suppose a product of the human mind, but the GIFT OF GOD TO HIS ELECT! The Apostle says that “ALL MEN have not faith”. [2Thes 3:2] and speaks of the “faith of God’s elect” [Tit 1:1] which is the gift of God [Eph 2:8].
So when Paul says, “I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” he is speaking of the difficulties that arise when one is called to be a minister of the Gospel. As we said earlier, though the Devil cannot change God’s decree, he sure does try to thwart and hinder the means.
(Remember, the Lord had earlier told Ananias concerning Paul – “I will show him how GREAT THINGS HE MUST SUFFER for My Name’s sake. [Act 9:16] ) And since it is THROUGH THE FOOLISHNESS OF PREACHING THAT MEN ARE SAVED, the Apostle is determined to endure all things and continue to preach the Gospel; so that THROUGH HIS PREACHING THOSE APPOINTED TO ETERNAL LIFE (the elect) may BELIEVE and be SAVED!
God saves men sovereignly and freely. But like we said earlier, He does not save them ‘willy-nilly’, but through faith which cometh by hearing the word preached.
And so we preach! Not because we KNOW who the sheep are, nor because we believe that men in themselves have the power to come to Christ (John 6:44) neither because WE in ourselves are sufficient for these things (2Cor 2:16), but because ‘it has pleased God, that by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe’! [1Cor 1:21]