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The Freeing Doctrine of Election

Written by Karl Dahlfred on .

This past Sunday, we took a group of people from PhraBaht church out to Nong Doan, a lower class farming community where we are hoping to see a church planted. The goal of our visit to Nong Doan was evangelism - to hand out tracts and to visit people at home. Tracting is really not an ideal way to get the Gospel out but it does have it’s place in stimulating people’s thoughts. One in six Thai Christians report that a tract or some other piece of Christian literature had a role in their coming to faith. In Nong Doan however, our goal is not to just hand out tracts but to meet people and have the opportunity to talk with them about spiritual matters, in particular the Gospel. We want to meet people who are interested to know more and are happy for us to come back regularly, sharing the Gospel, studying Scripture, and building relationships.

This particular Sunday afternoon, one of the ladies in our group wanted to go visit a co-worker who comes out from PhraBaht to Nong Doan on the weekends to visit her family. By the time we got there, this co-worker had already left to go back to PhraBaht but we met her brother and her elderly mother. The mother was happy for us to pray for her as many Thai Buddhists are. Who wouldn’t want a blessing, after all? As we met and chatted with this spritely eighty year old woman, it was discovered that she had never heard of Jesus and knew nothing about the Gospel. Chris, a new missionary who was along for our evangelistic outing was taken aback by actually meeting someone who had never heard the name “Jesus” never mind believing. Chris has blogged about this over at The Stark Truth. After talking a bit and praying for the woman, she invited us to come back again because she wanted to hear more about going to heaven.

Afterwards, as we were sharing our experiences and talking about how things went in our tracting and visiting, Pastor Jarun advised that we need to take our time in building relationships, and building trust with people as we share the Gospel. One woman piped up and pointed out that this elderly woman would need to believe soon if she were to be saved because she is so advanced in years already. So, the question hanging in the air was, “Do we need to push for this lady (or anyone else for that matter) to believe because if we don’t, then they might miss their opportunity to be saved?”

I was overjoyed to hear the response to that unspoken question from some of the believers seated there. It seems that for at least a few of them, they are beginning to grasp the wonderfully freeing truth that we don’t need to pressure anybody to believe because God has chosen those whom He will save from before the foundation of the world (Eph 1). If God has chosen somebody for salvation, they won’t die before having believed. Therefore, we have the freedom to build relationships of respect and trust, sharing the Gospel appropriately, without fear that if we don’t solicit a response now then there might never be another chance. Apparently, no one has informed them that a belief in predestination dampens all enthusiasm for evangelism because they are looking forward to the next time we go out to Nong Doan to tract and visit. I get the sense that a number of these church folks have a heart to evangelize but are saddled with this “get-them-to-say-the-sinner’s-prayer-quick” philosophy of evangelism that they have inherited from the larger evangelical world in Thailand (and globally). They have been taught (or have picked up) from the evangelical sub-culture that the way to get someone to saved is by saying the sinner’s prayer. And to get someone to say the sinner’s prayer, then you just need to make sure they consent to all the items on the prospective convert checklist, i.e. Do you believe you’re a sinner? Do you want to go to heaven? Do you want to believe in Jesus? If they say, “Yes, Yes, Yes” then you lead them in prayer and rejoice that they are going to heaven. However, I think that in the past the PhraBaht church members have seen quite a few people say these kinds of prayers and then either shown no change in their life, barely darkened the doors of a church, or shown zero for spiritual interest in subsequent conversations. Of course, there are people who say the prayer and the LORD has actually regenerated their hearts and worked true faith in them, despite the unbiblical methods used. And because of the exceptions, many people continue to believe that this is God’s appointed way to “get people saved.” But, seeing the failure of many of these prayers to “stick”, I think that the church folks that we are working with are open to the Biblical teaching that God saves, in his time, in his way, and we are merely to be faithful instruments in sharing the Gospel, while God does the work. As we are faithful in loving people and sharing the Gospel, the Spirit works faith and repentance in people’s hearts independent of any invented ceremony of religion that is supposed to bring about the moment of conversion.

This year I am planning to make these visits out to Nong Doan with the PhraBaht church members every two weeks and hope that as we go together, and do some on-the-job training in the essentials of the Gospel and in Biblical, Christ-exalted evangelism, that these church folks with be grasped by the magnificence of the sovereignty of God in salvation and the freeing knowledge that His Spirit goes before us, just as he did before the apostles, as Luke records,

“And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48 ESV)

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