A message on God’s sovereignty in salvation, i.e. election and predestination, like our Young Adult Pastor Josh Stone delivered at CVC on Sunday, August 2, usually raises all kinds of questions. We were asked a great question this past week and Josh and I tried to give a reasoned answer.
“If election is true, how would you explain seeing Christian regions, statistical trends, families, nations, etc. instead of a random sampling throughout the world? It seems to suggest that human behavior, or evangelism, or indoctrinating children explains the places we see Christians in history more than God choosing individuals for no reason other than His choice. Or does God choose people based on where they were born?”
I don’t know of any sources where your question is directly answered. I’m sure there are some. I do know that in John Piper’s book, “Let the Nations Be Glad!,” he does talk about how God delights in saving people groups, not just individuals. Piper gives a rather lengthy survey of the uses of the word “nations” [ethne] and the uses of “all the nations” [panta ta ethne] in the New Testament. It’s especially noteworthy that Matthew 28:19 tell us, “As you are going, make disciples of all the nations.”
In the book, Piper makes it clear that the biblical emphasis is that the gospel goes to every nation, tribe, people, and language. He writes, “God’s call for missions in Scripture cannot be defined merely in terms of crossing cultures to maximize the total number of individuals saved. Rather, God’s will for missions is that every people group be reached with the testimony of Christ and that a people be called out for his name for his name among all the nations… Our responsibility is to define missions his way and then obey (pp. 233-234).
It does seem to me that as we look at the overall message of Scripture, God delights to work among particular people groups in particular seasons of time. Out of those people groups, He saves individuals so that, as Revelation 7:9-10 teaches us, there will be in heaven people from every nation, tried, language, and tongue worshiping the Lamb who was slain.
Biblical history, revival history, and missionary history seem to indicate that God seasonably focuses His attention on various people groups in which He wants to work.
This seems to me to explain why we must continue to pray for a spiritual awakening and revival in America. We long to see Him work in our nation amongst our own people group right here in the USA.
This helps to explain why the center of Christendom has now shifted to the third world. God has now chosen to work to draw people to Himself in dramatic ways other parts of the globe.
And this is why we send the missionaries among the unreached people groups (UPGS) of the world, like our focused UPG, on Pearl Island in Indonesia. We are wanting to be on the ground floor of a movement of God’s Spirit as He draws the SOLI people to Himself.
Obviously, as God works to display His saving power among the peoples, He will be drawing individuals among those people groups to Himself.
Josh Stone adds, “Also, [this] is emblematic of how God has worked throughout history. He chose Israel, and Israel was the locus of the saved people for many years. He chooses to use people groups for His purpose, but that purpose is beyond our ken. But we do know He chooses to use parents to bring to salvation children, and He uses missionaries to expand his work to other nations, etc.”
So, the evangelism done by believers among their own people group resulting in a higher percentage of saved ones among that group as compared to other groups might seem like it points to the fact that it’s human effort, not God’s sovereignty in salvation that prevails. But it’s God who chooses to work among a particular group for a particular season of time so that His people share the gospel in a way that particular individuals in that group are rescued from sin and shame.
In his August 2 message Josh Stone said, “I used to think that I was drowning in a sea of my sin and God tossed me a life preserver. I’ve come to realize that I was dead, floating facedown in the sea of my sin, and God miraculously gave me new life.” It appears that God sees entire people groups floating facedown in the sea of sin and then miraculously gives new life to particular individuals within certain of those families and people groups as He deems best.
Piper, in “Let the Nations Be Glad!” summaries, “God’s great goal in all of history is to uphold and display the glory of His name for the enjoyment of His people of all the nations” (p. 213).