Updated: Oct 10, 2022
These whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
--- Romans 8:30 ---
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation."
--- Mark 16:15 ---
The real question is this:
If God justifies and glorifies those whom He predestined and called, then why preach the gospel to them? It almost appears that Romans 8:30 and Mark 16:15 contradict each other!
This is a question that many people struggle with. I will do my best to answer this question.
In order to answer this question, we must understand the difference between the general call of the gospel to all creation, and the effectual call of God to those whom He chose in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3).
General Call of the Gospel
Mark 16:15 is a good example of the general call of Gospel - go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. The word 'all' in the Greek is hapas - means all, the whole, everything. In other words, no one single person in all creation is excluded.
Jesus tells us Matthew 7:13-14 - "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it."
The narrow gate is Jesus. He says of Himself in John 14:6 - "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." But many choose to enter through the wide gate and follow the broad path that leads to destruction.
Why do they choose the wide path? Scripture gives us a few reasons.
Satan, the god of this world, blinds the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel (2nd Corinthians 4:3-4).
They are spiritually dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1).
They are by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3).
They do not accept the things of the Spirit of God because they are foolishness to them (1st Corinthians 2:14).
They cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God (1st Corinthians 2:4).
They walk in the futility of their minds (Ephesians 4:17).
They are darkened in their understanding (Ephesians 4:18).
Because of their ignorance and hardened hearts, they are excluded from the life of God (Ephesians 4:18).
They set their minds on the flesh, not the Spirit - the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God (Romans 8:7).
They are not able to subject themselves to the law of God (Romans 8:7).
They cannot please God (Romans 8:8).
They do not belong to God (Romans 8:9).
Does this list only apply to those who are not chosen by God?
Absolutely not! It applies to everyone.
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 6:23).
"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Romans 5:12).
God does not wish for anyone to perish. We see this in 2nd Peter 3:9 - "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance."
He wishes for all to come to repentance. The general call of the gospel is an open invitation for everyone to repent of their sins so that they may be forgiven and come to faith in Christ.
Although God does not wish for anyone to perish, the fact remains that many will perish! Why? Because the wrath of God abides on those who do not obey the Son (John 3:36).
The Effectual Call of God
"For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14).
"Many are called" - invited by the general call of the gospel. The word 'called' in the Greek is klētos which also means invited. Those who respond to the call of God are referred to as klētos - "called as saints" (Romans 7:1), "saints by calling (1st Corinthians 1:2), "those who are the called" (1st Corinthians 1:24), "the called and chosen and faithful" (Revelation 17:14).
"But few are chosen." - The word 'chosen' in the Greek is eklektos from which we derive the word 'elect' - those who are chosen by God.
In John 15:18-19 Jesus makes a clear distinction between those who are "of the world" and those who He chose "out of the world." The world loves "its own" but hates those who "are not of this world" starting with Him. When did He choose those who are not of this world?
Ephesians 1:4 states that "He (the Father) chose us in Him (the Lord Jesus Christ) before the foundation of the world."
What is meant by "foundation of the world?"
Jesus requests the following to the Father in John 17:24 - “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world."
Paul states in 2nd Timothy 1:9 - God "saved us and called us with a holy calling... according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity."
God chose those who would come to faith in Christ from all eternity - before the ages began, before the world was created!
In 2nd Thessalonians 2:13-14 the apostle Paul wrote "But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Note the connection here between "God has chosen you from the beginning" and "He called you through our gospel." Thus, we have both God's sovereign election of those He chose before the world was created, and the gospel by which He called them.
"In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise" (Ephesians 1:13).
If unbelievers are spiritually dead and not able to understand the things of God, then how can they respond to the call of the gospel. Answer - they are regenerated, born again, made alive by the Spirit of God.
What Is Regeneration?
Simply put, regeneration is the actualization of the redemptive work of Christ, effected by the Holy Spirit, in the life of the believer. It is that foundational spiritual renewal that transforms the believer into a “new creation" (2nd Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). It is being "born again" (John 3:3, 7; 1st Peter 1:3, 23). Jesus told Nicodemus (a Pharisee), “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6). Through regeneration, a child of wrath becomes a child of God, will be like Jesus Christ, and will see Him as He is - "Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is" (1st John 3:2).
I mentioned Ephesians 2:1, 3 earlier but held off on mentioning Ephesians 2:4-5.
Ephesians 2:4-5 states "But (in contrast to Ephesians 2:1-3) God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)."
We are literally born spiritually dead. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6). A few verses earlier Jesus said "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
The apostle Peter tells us how we are "born again" - "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, ... for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God" (1st Peter 1:3, 23).
We are "born again" through the living and enduring word of God.
Paul quotes Joel 2:32 in Romans 10:13 - "for WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” He then asks a series of questions - "How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS (Isaiah 52:7)!” (Romans 10:14-15). He then summarizes what he just wrote: "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17).
The elect - those who God predestined and called - cannot be saved without first hearing and/or reading the gospel of Christ. Paul writes "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16). He reminded the Corinthian believers that "my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God" (1st Corinthians 2:4-5). "For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1st Corinthians 1:18). The word of the cross, the "living and active" Word of God (Hebrews 4:12), is the power of God for all who are saved. Without it, no one can be saved.
During their first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas presented the gospel to the Gentiles at Pisidian Antioch. Upon hearing the gospel, the Gentiles "began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48).
Since we don't know who the Lord "appointed to eternal life" our marching orders are clear:
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations" (Matthew 28:19).
"Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation" (Mark 16:15).
Another question that I get asked once in a while - what if someone in a very remote jungle is chosen but never hears the gospel. Will that person be saved?
Jesus answers this question in John 6:37-40 - “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing but raise it up on the last day. “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
He will not lose one single soul whom the Father has given Him before the world was created. As one famous pastor said (and I'm paraphrasing) - the exact number of souls that God has chosen will have eternal life, not one more or one less! If there is just one of God's chosen in that remote jungle, God will somehow provide a way for this person to hear the gospel. God sent Jonah to Nineveh which was about to be destroyed. Jonah desperately didn't want to go there but, after spending three days and nights in the belly of a great fish, he marched into that city and proclaimed what God told him to say: “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown" (Jonah 3:4). "Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them" (Jonah 3:5). God did not destroy Nineveh!
"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth"
--- 2nd Timothy 2:15 ---
Unless otherwise noted, all scripture cited in this post is taken from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update.