There are many instances in our churches where one partner in a couple attends worship while the other partner does not. What can the partner who attends do in these circumstances?
While occasionally inviting them is a good thing, it is best not to try to convince them to come by debate, corrosion or the like. Our salvation is totally the work of God. To understand that I have to first address two widely held concepts – decision for Christ and free will.
Two of the most commonly used words that describe coming to Christ are “called” and “chosen”, and we do not do the choosing. We cannot decide to be a Christian.
“If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom He has chosen, He has shortened them.” (Mark 13:20)
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” (John 15:16)
So how does God choose?
“For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom He is pleased to give it.” (John 5:21)
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” (John 9:15)
The best answer we can give is “sovereign grace”. Grace is the undeserved favour or love God has for us. Notice in John 9:15 your desire is not a factor!
Does the Bible specifically address decision for Christ?
“Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12, 13)
To better understand why we cannot decide to become a Christian look at these verses.
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour.” (Colossians 1:21)
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins. . .like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. . .remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:1, 3, 12)
Does this describe free will? In the above described condition – spiritually “dead”, “objects of wrath” and “alienated from God” one cannot come to God on your own. The Bible teaches that without the intervention of God in a man’s life he is hopelessly alienated from God and cannot turn to Him.
When some were abandoning Jesus, He made the following two statements:
“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him”. (John 6 44a)
“He went on to say, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless the Father has enabled him.’” (John 6:65)
If God has to first draw then enable us, how can we say we have free will?
The Bible teaches that God works in a man’s life through the Gospel. However, the Gospel cannot be understood unless God works in a man’s heart first.
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)
“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned”. (1 Corinthians 2:14)
So God has to enable the non-Christian by allowing him to understand the message of the Gospel. And Christ has done this for every Christian.
“We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true.” (1 John 5:20)
Through the above I hope you can agree that our salvation is totally the work of God. We play no part.
So what can the person whose spouse refuses to attend church with them do? Forget debate, corrosion or the like and rather pray to God for your spouse, asking that God would draw and enable then, that He would call and chose them. Then live out your Christian faith before them as a witness to the work of Christ in your life.
And – yes – occasionally invite them!
Rev. Terry Goerz, Redeemer Lutheran Church.