Third, because predestination is true, Paul preached knowing that without the gospel, no one would be saved. Preaching is the necessary means by which God brings those whom He predestined unto salvation from spiritual death to eternal life. Whether we are ordained preachers of the gospel or the simplest believer, we are called in our own social circles to bear witness to the Savior. Whoever we are, we know that while we seek to “persuade” (2 Cor. 5:11) and “implore” (v. 20) through the Word, it is God Himself who pleads with sinners to be reconciled to Him (vv. 19–20).
Fourth, because predestination is true, it was Paul’s—and is our—only hope of any success in missions. Paul ends his discussion of Israel’s unbelief, his anguish, God’s predestinating grace, and the means of preaching with his great doxology reflecting on this:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Rom. 11:33–36)
jesus’ effectual death
We often hear that “limited atonement” or “definite redemption”—that doctrine saying that Jesus effectually “la[id] down [His] life for the sheep [the elect]” (John 10:15)—is a disincentive to missions or that to do missions is in direct contrast to our theology. Let me state positively that because I believe that Jesus laid down His life effectively for a particular people, I am to preach the gospel and to desire that it be preached everywhere.
Let me explain this by going back in history. At the Synod of Dort (1618–19) in the Netherlands, Reformed theologians, pastors, elders, and statesmen from across Europe gathered to counter the teachings of the followers of Jacob Arminius. Arminius and his followers (called the Remonstrants) believed that Jesus died in the same way for all people. In response, the Synod of Dort said in its second point of doctrine that we are to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth because of our theology. Dort said that while the value of Jesus’ death is enough to satisfy the sins of a thousand, million, or infinite worlds if they existed, Christ made atonement only for those whom God predestined and who embrace Jesus by faith. In other words, if your view of limited atonement limits your missionary outlook, you don’t understand the historic Reformed view of Jesus’ death. The Canons of Dort in 2.5 echo Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19:
This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be announced and declared without differentiation or discrimination to all nations and people, to whom God in his good pleasure sends the gospel.
We are to do missions because Christ’s death is effective for the elect. Jesus has a universal authority: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18). He makes a universal promise: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (v. 20). He further promised His presence with the church’s universal task to baptize and teach the nations. Jesus’ Great Commission is the means of fulfilling the story of God in Scripture. God made the world so that through Adam’s obedience all who would come from him would be blessed to live in everlasting fellowship with the Creator. But Adam sinned. Instead of leaving all of Adam’s posterity in their sins forever, the Lord intervened with promises that one day He would bless and save the world. To Abram He said, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). The psalms of Israel celebrated this future promise in poetic prayers and songs when “all the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you” (Ps. 22:27). The prophets longed for that day to come when “the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it” (Isa. 2:2).