Normally when objections are raised against the sovereignty of God over His creation, evangelism is targeted. Evangelism is the proclamation of the gospel to unbelievers, and this is a call that they will either believe or deny. Perhaps the most common objection is the one that says, “If God has already ordained who will believe, then why evangelize?”
One reason this is normally raised is because it is assumed that the hearer of the gospel has the ability in and of him or herself to believe or reject. This is not the case since the Bible clearly teaches that natural man is enslaved to sin. This enslavement to sin renders the mind of a natural man unable to subject itself to God. Not only can it not subject itself to God as though it just existed in some indifferent self deceptive fog, the Bible says that the natural mind is HOSTILE toward God.
“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” [Romans 8:7]
Some might say that this verse highlights those who have “stinking thinking” and just need to adjust their fleshly thoughts to godly ones. But the mind is set on the flesh from birth, since we are all conceived and born in sin.
“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” [Psalm 51:5]
“no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” [Romans 3:12]
Romans 8:7 shows that we aren’t living in some “indifferent fog.” Instead, we are hostile in mind, craving sin from the womb. Think of having enemies that never talk to you versus an enemy that would be hostile toward you. There’s a difference. A lot of people view evangelism as Christians throwing out floatation devices to people who can’t swim – and we beg and beg for them to come and just grab that device. The truth is that evangelism is like Christians throwing floatation devices at graves.
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world…” [Ephesians 2:1-2]
It seems that another assumption is that humans are the ones who do the actual converting. Though a natural man can free another from physical bonds, it is impossible for a natural man to pull someone out of spiritual bondage. Rather, through the proclamation of the gospel, Christ calls His people to Himself [John 10:27]. It is through the hearing of the gospel that God replaces their sinful hearts of stone with hearts of flesh [Ezekiel 36:26]. This act is evidenced by the faith of those who believe the gospel.
The question can not really stand because it assumes that God is sovereign, but begs the question of free will. It assumes that God can be sovereign over ordaining the ends of salvation (ie. the salvation of an elect people), but somehow He isn’t able to ordain the means by which His people are saved. Scripture says that God’s people believe in the gospel. The way that God has ordained to call His people to Himself is through the proclamation of the gospel. How can anyone believe in the gospel unless it is communicated to them? He uses human instrumentality. Sure, God could “zap” the gospel into the minds of his people as they sit in solitude without ever coming into contact with anyone or any Bible. But, He hasn’t chosen to bring His people to salvation that way.
“How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”” [Romans 10:14-15]
The ironic thing is that those who argue for free will don’t escape this line of argumentation either. They would affirm that God knows the future. Unless they believe that the future can be changed, then they would also believe in a fixed number of Christians. How could prophecy work if the future was changeable? So, why not ask them, “If God already knows who will be saved, why go evangelize?”
This entire argument sounds meaningful until the Bible gets opened. The best way to illustrate what evangelism is like is found in Ezekiel 37:1-14.
“1 The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. 2 He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. 3 He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.” 4 Again He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.’ 5 “Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. 6 ‘I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the LORD.’”
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9 Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.”’” 10 So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.”
11 Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.’ 12 “Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 “Then you will know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. 14 “I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it,” declares the LORD.’”
God shows Ezekiel exactly what evangelism is – bringing lifeless DRY BONES to spiritual life. Did Ezekiel say, “Lord, what’s the point? You already told me that you are going to make them come to life?” No. Praise be to God who brought these dry bones to life.