October 25, 2009 / No. 3486
Dear Radio Friends,
Our meditation from the word of God today is found in John 6:37: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”
They were not coming to Jesus. They had seen Jesus and His mighty miracles. They had heard His gracious words. And, yet, they believed not. Standing before them in John 6 was the true Bread of God from heaven, which, if a man eat, he shall never hunger; and he that would believe in Jesus shall never thirst. God had sent His Son into the flesh. His Son had clearly spoken to them in the streets of Capernaum. He had revealed His mighty power in the feeding of 5,000. But they did not come to Him. They believed not.
It seemed at that point in our Lord’s ministry as though the great power of sin, the forces of unbelief, the hardness of the human heart would keep from Jesus those He came to save. He had been sent of the Father as a Savior, and it appeared that He would return empty-handed.
The beautiful words of the text that I read at the beginning of our message were Jesus’ calm, unshakable confidence in the unconditional election of His heavenly Father, the triune God. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Jesus rested upon the mighty and undefeatable saving love of God to bring to Him all that His Father had graciously chosen from eternity to be saved. The power of unbelief did not cause Jesus to despair. He stood confidently in the knowledge of God’s gracious election and just reprobation. Jesus said, Not sin, not hardness, not evil—these are not the unbreakable power. But God’s free, gracious love of election is the certain and conquering power.
And this is our confidence, this is our faith, this is our comfort in the rejoicing of our hearts: unconditional election of the Father.
How is a soul to be saved? There is no question more important. If this is not an important question to you at this moment, it is because the devil would have you sleep the sleep of death. Does salvation depend upon the sinner? Does it originate and proceed from our choice? Does God base His choice of whom He will save upon something that we are or we do? Is it because you were born in the church? Or was there something in you that caught God’s eyes? Did God choose those who would first choose Him? Does God want everyone to be saved? Does He offer to save all, but He cannot save any unless they first will to choose Him?
That is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is not a gospel that can save—not the false doctrine of free will. But the gospel is a gospel of free grace. Our natural condition is that we are totally depraved. We are left of ourselves dead in sins, without, of ourselves, hope for salvation. Without Jesus we can do nothing. We are born dead in trespasses and sin. The power and the source of our salvation is God’s free and everlasting, particular, electing love. Predestination, or unconditional election and sovereign and just reprobation—these are the truths of the Holy Scripture. This is the gospel. God’s eternal choice of who will be saved, a choice not based on who or what a man is, but solely on the good pleasure of God’s own will. “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (I Cor. 1:31). This truth is the foundation of all true humility and comfort in the adoration of God. Unconditional election.
Jesus said in John 6:37 that the Father had given some persons to Him to save. He said, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.” Our Lord was deeply aware of this, and He would speak often of this in the Gospel of John. That is, the phrase: “All that the Father giveth to me,” or the reference to the Father giving to Him certain ones to be saved. He would say it again immediately in John 6:39: “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” The giving of these persons, said Jesus, took place in the will of God—it was God’s choice. God elected them. God gave them to Jesus. God did this eternally (Eph. 1:4): “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.” All that the Father giveth to Me—by this Jesus is referring to an eternal choice of God.
Again, in John 10:29, the Savior would say, “My Father, which gave them me.” There He is referring to the sheep. “My Father, which gave them me is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” And, again, in John 17, in what is called His High Priestly prayer in the night before His crucifixion, He says in verse 2, “As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.”
To give the elect to Christ was an act of God’s undeserved love. It was an act of God’s grace. “All that the Father giveth to Me.” You may read it this way: “All that the Father entrusted to Me.” As a human father gives his daughter whom he loves to a man to marry, so that this man now becomes responsible to protect and to lay down his life for her, “so also My Father gave them to Me.” Not a cold, distant move on the eternal books, but a loving bestowal into the bosom of Jesus Christ. Election is God putting into the arms of Jesus Christ those whom He willed to be saved. Election was a solemn charge in the being of the triune God in which He said, “I have loved them for mine own sake, out of mere grace. They are precious to Me. And now, My Son, I give them to You.” Election is the divine marriage of our souls to Jesus.
And why would God give them to Jesus? Why is that so important? The answer is, Because we are sinners. We need salvation. Because you and I are exposed to God’s holy wrath because of our sins. He gave us to Jesus in order that we might be saved, that we might be the beneficiaries of salvation, so that we would not be lost. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives to me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me shall in no wise be cast out.” To be cast out is to be lost. It means that in the final judgment you would be cast out, you would be banished from the kingdom of light and glory, and you would be cast into the eternal pit of fire. In order that we would not be cast out, the heavenly Father freely gave us to Jesus Christ that He might save us.
This is what is meant by unconditional election. It means that salvation is of grace—that the reason for one to be in Christ is God’s act and God’s act of grace. The reason is not to be found in a man. Deuteronomy 7:6-8: The Lord did not set His love upon you or choose you because you were more in number than any other people, but because the Lord loved you.
Now there is a question: Why did God give some men and women to Jesus Christ? Why did God elect some to salvation? More personally, why did God give you to Jesus Christ? There are only two possible answers to the question. The one is, because the person chosen somehow deserved that choice. The answer, then, would be works. One distinguishes himself somehow. He shows a willingness, perhaps, an inclination, to love God. God chose those, then, whom He saw would be willing to choose Him. Somehow or in some way they merited God’s choice—they caught His eye. Or the other answer would be grace. Then the answer would read this way: Because, though these chosen were yet sinners, dead and fallen, God freely loved them in spite of their not deserving it. Indeed, being undeserving of any of His love. The answer of the Bible is: Election is of grace. It is unconditional.
This is Jesus’ explanation. The Father did not give these people to Him because they came to Him. Not because they believed in Him. Of themselves they did not come to Him. But out of sheer grace, only grace. Our coming to Jesus is the result of God’s giving us to Jesus. It is not the condition on which God first loved us. But it is the evidence of God’s free love to us. It is all due to sheer, sovereign grace—a grace that was given to us from eternity. We read in II Timothy 1:9, “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” Before the world began God freely gave grace to some. God’s choice of those who would be saved is entirely gracious, entirely to be found in Himself.
Do you believe this? The fruit of this faith will be humility, a profound, deep humility, before God. We will fall upon our knees. On a very practical level, we will be humbled before God and we will confess that salvation is entirely of the Lord, of grace alone.
What illustrates and recommends the eternal and the unmerited grace of election is the expressed testimony of the Holy Scripture that not all are given to Jesus. Some are left in their sins. This is the decree of reprobation. When Jesus says that there are those given to Him—“All that the Father gives to me”—He teaches that some are not given to Him. Jesus is addressing in John 6 those in His audience who did not believe on Him. Verse 36: “Ye also have seen me, and believe not.” Their unbelief did not indicate a failure on the part of God or Jesus, a failure in the will of God. But Jesus emphasizes that the Father never gave them to Jesus.
When Jesus teaches that God did not give all men to Him to be saved, He is teaching the biblical truth of reprobation. Reprobation is God’s sovereign, just decision to appoint definite persons to everlasting punishment because of their sin—to lead them in their unbelief. I tremble when I preach this. Romans 9: Hath not the potter the power to make, out of the same lump of clay, vessels to honor and to dishonor? Matthew 11:25, 26: Jesus’ words, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.” It is just. Men deserve this punishment to which God has appointed them. It is sovereign. They are no worse than the elect. It is God’s good pleasure before which we, as humans, must bow.
Our Lord’s teaching is that God’s gracious election will produce faith. “All that the Father gives to Me shall come to Me.” Faith is not first the work of man, upon which God makes His decision. But the gospel is that God, out of mere grace, elects, and those whom He elects are given faith. Faith is the fruit, the certain fruit, of election. There is no uncertainty in this. The elect (all that the Father gives to Me) shall come to Me, shall believe.
When Jesus says, “shall come to Me,” He is talking about true, saving faith. In verse 35 of John 6 He said, “He that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” In verse 36 He had told them that they believed not. So, coming to Jesus is the gift of God, the activity in your soul of trusting Jesus for eternal life and pardon. It is the knowledge of yourself as a guilty and needy sinner standing before damnation. It is to be united to Christ now and eternally. It is to say, “My Jesus, I love Thee; I know Thou art mine. For Thee all the folly of sin I resign.” To come to Jesus is to believe Him personally and to receive, through faith, salvation. “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Our faith, our coming to Jesus, is the gift of God rooted in His election. We read in Acts 13:48: “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” Our believing does not proceed from our natural will. Faith is not a decision of the depraved sinner. Faith is not a condition to salvation. It is not that God promises to save if you believe, that is, that God cannot save, that God cannot open, that God cannot deliver, unless you first indicate to Him a willingness on your part. That is not the teaching of the Scriptures. That is heresy. But the teaching of Scripture is this: Your faith is the divine, gracious creation of God. And it finds its source in the free love and grace of God. He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For of God are ye in Christ Jesus (I Cor. 1).
But there is more. When Jesus emphasizes faith as coming to Him, He is referring to the personal and to the experiential aspect of faith. It means that you must leave behind all other confidences. You must leave behind all else. It means that you trust in Him. It means that you follow Him. It means that you place all of your confidence in Him.
You see, the fruit of election is not carelessness. It is fervent faith in Jesus Christ. Election, the election of God, not only determines the end (eternal salvation), but also the means, the way of salvation (faith). We read in II Thessalonians 2:13: “But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.”
The truth of God’s unconditional and eternal election does not teach that it is not necessary, personally, to come to Jesus. But it says we shall come to Jesus. To think of election as an excuse for sin or for carelessness in the Christian life or for flirting with sin in the world or for the conclusion that sin is not serious since we are elected anyway, that idea is as much a denial of eternal election as is the heresy of free will. To use election as a defense for indifference in the Christian life is the theology of the devil. It is forged in darkness. And it is intended for the ruin of souls.
But we are chosen (Eph. 1:4) in Christ “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” Election produces faith. All that the Father chooses, in them He works the gift of faith. He works within them a deep trust and a deep need—an awareness of the deep need for Jesus Christ.
We are given, then, personal assurance. Listen to Jesus in John 6:39: “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” All that the Father giveth to Me shall come to Me, and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out. Falling away from the love of God, slipping through the hands of Jesus Christ? If that were the case, then life would be filled with uncertainty.
But listen to Jesus. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” That is very personal. Can I be sure that I belong to those who are given to Jesus—that I shall not be cast out? The answer is this: Has God worked in you the knowledge of your need, of your sin, a knowledge of Jesus, a distrust of yourself and a glory in God? This is His work of grace in you. You belong to Jesus Christ by the free mercy of God. You will not be cast out. That means that nothing can ever remove you from the arms of your Savior. Romans 8: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, distress, persecution, nakedness, peril or sword? No, I am persuaded that nothing can separate us, says Paul, from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
This is assurance. This is peace. It is found in the gracious, eternal, sovereign, free election of God. All that the Father gave to Jesus shall come to Jesus. And all those coming to Jesus shall never be cast out.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy word, and we pray that the Holy Spirit may now seal it unto our hearts. In Jesus’ name, Amen.