God Gets To Choose
I am one of twenty people who take the message of hope to my home town in Hampshire, England. We call ourselves ‘town pastors’, although only a few us are professional clergy. Sometimes we meet people in Alton late at night who are open and receptive to the Gospel and, of course, we attempt to be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give the reason for the hope that we have with gentleness and respect (paraphrasing 1 Peter 3:15).
At times it seems an awesome, if not daunting responsibility. What if we make a mess of things? Of course, we do have responsibility; we should know the Gospel that Paul summarises in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. We should demonstrate the Gospel by accepting and loving those people. But we can also be reassured that, as for Lydia, it wasn’t Paul’s eloquence that moved her to faith in Christ, but God himself.
One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia…the Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. (Acts 16:14)
Paul says of himself that many thought him a poor speaker (2 Corinthians 10:10) but as Luke reports, the response to his witness, whether poor or not, was entirely up to God – and so it is with us town pastors. It is God’s choice to reveal himself through his mighty Spirit, and that is a wonderfully gracious act for those that would ‘be sent’ to bear witness to Christ, as we are therefore released from:
Concern over knowing or choosing to whom we speak – it can be anyone
Whether our profession of faith is ‘weak’ or ‘powerful’, it need only be sincere and point to Jesus.
In this process, it seems that God gives to us only two responsibilities, to bring the good news of Christ and be ready to nurture those who accept Him; to disciple them, in fact (Matthew 28:19). Any who take an extreme Calvinistic stance, that election releases us from Jesus’ commandment: ‘go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation’ (Mark 16:15) must contend with God on this. The doctrine of election should actually motivate rather than discourage. By reserving to Himself the burden of ‘saving’ people as His sovereign act, we can relax knowing that our sometimes feeble if faithful witness is always enough (as with God, nothing is impossible). That is grace indeed.