Acts 13:48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.
This is in some ways a difficult passage. We don’t like the idea of God deciding who will believe and who won’t, who will be saved and who won’t. It’s all part of the mystery of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. In verse 46 we find Paul telling the Jews of that town, “Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.” Human choice is always involved. I have encountered a “hyper Calvinist” pastor who said that we have no responsibility to evangelize because “God will save those He wants to.” After over a year of association with me, he changed his mind! At the same time, anyone ministering in Japan is going to wonder why more people don’t accept the Gospel and receive salvation. There are mysteries we cannot know. That said, if we don’t present the Gospel they will have no chance to believe and be saved. As Paul wrote to the Romans, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:14) We cannot force anyone to repent and believe, but we can present the opportunity for them to do so. It is as the Lord told Ezekiel: “When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself.” (Ezekiel 3:18-19) We cannot save anyone, but God can and does use people in His plan of salvation.
This is something I have struggled with for a long time. The clear evidence that God had been true to His Word and baptized me in His Holy Spirit was when I started sharing Christ with a total stranger on a train. I had never seen him before and to my knowledge have never seen him since, but he heard the Gospel from me! I am an introvert by temperament, and I had never done that sort of thing before in my life. That’s another reason I’m convinced that when I am fully submitted to God, I will share the Gospel and not just keep it to myself. At the same time, the rate of return for effort in Japan is statistically the lowest of anywhere in the world. That said, I’m never to give up, but keep presenting the good news of salvation in word and deed. One of the biggest problems is that the average Japanese is a nice person who goes by the rules, as they understand them, and they don’t consider themselves “lost.” At the same time, as I’ve mentioned recently, Buddhism lacks even the concept of “salvation,” instead teaching that “nirvana” is an “emptying of self.” The ultimate goal is nothingness! I’ve got to demonstrate that it is possible to have a personal relationship with our Creator, and that such a relationship is eternal life. At the same time, I’ve got to convince people that such a relationship is possible for them, and not just for a weird Caucasian. The situation is challenging indeed, but nothing is impossible for God.
Father, thank You for this clear reminder of the task at hand. Today we’ll be seeing a 95-year-old friend, who likes us very much but can’t seem to bring herself to believe Your salvation is for her. I ask for a direct intervention of Your Holy Spirit to shatter the lies that have her bound, so that she may receive Your salvation while there is time, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!