Monday, March 08, 2010

God Preserves His People (John 6:44)

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.
In this verse alone the mystery of God's sovereignty is revealed to His servants.

It is a verse that many reject at face-value; and many more simply do not know it at face-value.

To better understand the import of this verse patience is need to survey the background context. The opening verses of chapter six describe the miracle of the bread and fish. Having but little food to feed the multitudes, Christ miraculously feeds them, with food to spare.

The people were amazed, ready to "take Him by force to make Him king"(v.15). But it was an earthly king they sought and not the heavenly King who should rule their hearts. In fact, when they tracked Him down later (v.24), they were not seeking spiritual bread either. Christ rebuked them accordingly (v.26, 27):

"Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you..."

Thus begins the famous Bread of Life discourse.

And the people still did not understand, asking: "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" It was the same old question about what they could do to inherent heaven by doing works pleasing to God. And Jesus answered: "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent" (v.29, see my posting).

He tells them to eat the heavenly bread. They ask for this bread. And Jesus rebukes them again: "I am the Bread of Life...but I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out." (v.35-37).

Here, in verse 37, we have a similar statement to verse 44. It is the Father who gives the Bride to Christ, and that Bride will come to Him. The verb 'will' (cp. 2 Pet. 3:10) means just that: God will bring His people so that they will cling to Christ. This is in marked contrast with the crowd surrounding the Bread of Life yet still seeking food from heaven.

Verse 39 echoes verse 44 as well: "of all He has given Me I should lose nothing," but shall raise them up on "the last day." Verse 40 similarly promises that Christ will raise them up. This clearly refers to the Resurrection and the Great White Throne of Judgment. And as with the previous verses, it is God who is acting upon, preserving and otherwise guaranteeing the salvation of the saints.

In contrast, it is not the saints who are said to preserve themselves. Elsewhere in the Bible, saints are described as striving to be faithful to God but that is because God is faithful to them. They persevere because God preserves them.

Christ states these facts succinctly: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day."

God's people will come out of the kingdom of darkness to the light of Christ's Gospel only if the Father draws them to Christ. That is the meaning of this verse.

A host of questions certainly arise from many Christians: how can this be? Do I not have free will? What about God's promise to save everyone? and the like.

Dear reader, it is not uncommon that we have more questions than the answers given in the Word. For the Bible was not created for our idle amusement but as a declaration of God's truth. And the truth and mystery of God's mighty power in our salvation is the point of these verses.

Consider: the fact of God's active preservation and protection of His people is asserted by Christ (who cannot lie) in vs. 37, 39, 40 and now in verse 44. If you are God's and He is yours, then you will be raised at the last day unto everlasting life. You are given to the Son by the Father. And you will come to Christ (v.37).

Although Christ does not answer these questions directly, the face-value reading of verse 44 is bore out by the context I carefully summarized. In fact, the persistent unbelief of the Jews--seeking an earthly king, earthly food and earthly works--simply reinforces the proper reading of this text. Men are so dead in their sins that when Christ is before them in the flesh they will not believe (Eph. 2:1,2; Rom. 3:10ff.).

But the evidence of God's sovereign might drawing His people with bands of love is not complete.

After the disciples complain about these hard saying, Christ reminds them that the flesh (physical eating) profits nothing but " 'the words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.' For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him." (v.63ff.)

And Christ continues: " 'Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.' 66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more."

What amazing words! What a stupendous mystery. When Christ says 'therefore' he is connecting their unbelief with the fact of God's sovereignty: they cannot come to Christ unless such a movement has been granted to them by the Father.

Dear Christian, do you praise God for His marvelous mercy in granting you the ability to come to Christ? to persevere until the last day? Do you hope to enter heaven because God is drawing you or because you are drawing yourself?

I pray the wonderful love of the Father will draw you yet closer to His Son.

No comments: