Do people respond only because God calls them?

If it’s true that people respond only because God calls them, then why preach the gospel? All God has to do is open the minds of those he wants without any preaching of the gospel being necessary – which is exactly what he did with Jesus’ disciples. They responded because God chose them, and it was he who then opened their minds to understand who Jesus was (Matthew 16:16-17).

Couldn’t God do that with everyone else, then? Yes, he could. All God would have to do through the centuries is pick out those he wanted and open their minds to the truth. But that isn’t how he operated. Instead, in Acts 1:8, Jesus told his disciples he was sending them to the world with the gospel message, and as we see later on in the book of Acts, it was through their preaching that people responded.

Did they respond only because God was calling them, though? But if that’s the case, we’re only preaching the gospel to reach those God is calling, and is that what God intended?

Not in Acts 17 it wasn’t. Paul arrives in Athens and starts preaching the gospel openly and publicly “in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there,” verse 17. He preaches a powerful message about the real God versus their empty man-made gods, and tells them in verse 30 that “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands ALL PEOPLE EVERYWHERE to repent.” His message was meant for EVERYONE, not just a select few that God was calling. And look what happened next. Some in the crowd responded, verse 32. Some “became followers,” verse 34. Others, however, “sneered,” verse 32. It was a mixed bag of responses, not because God was only calling some people, but because this was the way it was. People heard the gospel and some responded while others didn’t.

Some in Athens found it hard to respond because of their religious baggage. Others, like King Agrippa in Acts 27:28, were wary about any religious message. So when Paul preached to him, Agrippa fired back with, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to become a Christian?”

Did Agrippa’s negative response mean God wasn’t calling him? But that wasn’t how Paul took it, because he replies, “Short time or long – I pray God that not only you but ALL who are listening to me today may become what I am,” verse 29. Paul believed that ALL the people in that room could have what he had. Any of them could respond, in other words, because the gospel wasn’t just for those being specially called, it was for “all people everywhere.”

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