by Dr. James Willingham
Picking upon the theme of the doctrines of grace constituting a lost masterpiece, we will look in this post upon unconditional election as a lost masterpiece of evangelism, Certainly, it is true that this doctrine was a part of the body of divinity, a term used in years gone by to describe the theology of biblical faith, which played such an important role in the Great Awakenings and the launching of the Great Century of Missions (the Modern Missionary Movement). The preaching of so many of the leading ministers of the 18th century was very much concerned with setting forth these truths with a view to winning people to Christ, that is, the evangelism of the lost. Our Lord apparently thought unconditional election was a doctrine of evangelism, because He used it in two cases, one with wonderful results and the other with sore outcome. And, in both cases, His teaching of the truth of unconditional election was of someone else being the chosen persons.
In both cases, as we shall see, it is not only election that our Lord preaches, it is that some else is the elect and not the person involved. The case with the favorable outcome was that of the woman of Canaan, Mt.15:21-28. Our Lord in the face of her pleas for help declared that He was not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The woman’s response was to fall down before Him in worship. The second example involved His neighbors in Nazareth, when He spoke of Elijah helping the widow of Sarepta, a city of Sidon, but did not help any widow in Israel. Moreover, He spoke of Elisha healing Naaman the Syrian, and He called attention to the fact that the prophet did nothing for any leper in Israel. The response of people who had known him for years was a murderous rage.
Election is clearly a part of the statement in John 6:37, where our Lord says, “All that that the Father gives me, shall come to me, and him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out.” If the people addressed Nazareth and in John 6 had treated our Lord’s presentation of the Divine choice as the woman of Canaan did, there would surely have been a different outcome. Election, especially unconditional election, is a truth of God’s written word, one advocated, clearly, by our Lord Himself, and it is truth that is evangelistic, intensely evangelistic and emphatically inviting. Such a teaching also encourages the development of humility, a very wanted grace in these days.