‘For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren.’ Romans 9:3
Concern for the salvation of others is not prevented by a belief in what we call the doctrines of grace; is not prevented by believing in divine sovereignty, and predestination and election. Many persons intensely dislike the ideas which are expressed by these phrases. Many persons shrink away from ever accepting them, because those ideas are in their minds associated with the notion of stolid indifference. They say if predestination be true, then it follows that a man cannot do anything for his own salvation; that if he is to be saved he will be saved, and he has nothing to do with it, and need not care, nor need any one else care.
Now, this does not at all follow, and I will prove that it does not follow, by the fact that Paul himself, the great oracle of this doctrine in the Scripture, has uttered these words of burning passionate concern for the salvation of others, so close by the passages in which he has taught the doctrines in question. Look back from the text, run back a few sentences and you will find the very passage upon which many stumble: ‘Moreover, whom he did predestinate’ — there are people who shudder at the very words — ‘them he also called, and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.’
Just a little while after he uttered those words from which men want to infer that the man who believes it need not feel concerned for his salvation or the salvation of others, just a little after, came the passionate words of the text. Nor is that all, for you will find just following the text, where he speaks of Esau and Jacob, that God made a difference between them before they were born, and where he says of Pharaoh that God raised him up that he might show his power in him, and that God’s name might be declared through out all the earth. ‘Therefore he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth.’ Some good people fairly shiver at the inference, which seems to them to be inevitable from such language as that. But I say the inference must be wrong, for the inspired man who uttered this language, only a few moments before had uttered these words of the text.
And whenever you find your heart or the heart of your friend inclined to shrink away from these great teachings of divine Scripture concerning sovereignty and predestination, then I pray you make no argument about it, but turn to this language of concern for the salvation of others, so intensely passionate that men wonder and think surely it cannot mean what it says. The trouble is in this and many cases that we draw unwarranted inferences from the teachings of the Bible, and then cast all the odium of those inferences upon the truths from which we draw them. Now, I say that whatever be true, for or against the apostle’s doctrines of predestination and divine sovereignty in salvation, it is not true that they will make a man careless as to his own salvation or that of others; seeing that they had no such effect on Paul himself, but right in between these two great passages come the wonderful words of the text.
An excerpt from his sermon entitled, ‘Intense Concern for the Salvation of Others’ in Sermons and Addresses (Hodder & Stoughton: New York, 1886)