2020-03-11 Which Is It? Either? Or?

“And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come
to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
John 6:65

I listened to a sermon by Alistair Begg last night and thought I would share with you a portion of what he covered in John 6. You see, I speak a lot on predestination of the elect, and it would seem that I put little value on the idea of individual choice. That’s not the case. In fact, the bible is plumb full of God pleading with us to change our minds. At the same time, it is full of God telling us how mankind won’t listen to him, so he plucks out a remnant for his name’s sake. John 6 is a good example of both.

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

So far, so good. This lines up with the common view of Christianity: that the invitation is open to all and obtained by the one who chooses to believe.

v. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.

Uh, oh. Who is he talking about? Potentially the five thousand men (plus women and children) that Jesus fed the day before? Or might he be talking about EVERYONE? Either way, Romans 3 makes it clear that all have turned aside. That fact does not deter God from accomplishing his plan.

v. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

Since we know that not everyone is saved, this verse must mean that the Father does not give EVERYONE to Jesus. Furthermore, those that the Father gives to him, Jesus keeps. He NEVER casts one of those out. So, only those whom the Father chooses, and all of them. This lines up throughout scripture.

Jesus goes on to clarify his mission.

v. 38-39 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.

Jesus agrees with him, but it is clearly God the Father who is in charge. Folks, this is predestination of the elect. Can’t get around verses 36-39. However, neither can we get around verse 35 – or verse 40.

v. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

The opportunity of knowing God is given to everyone, yet we all reject it. Down to the very last one of us. It is for this that we have condemned ourselves. Whether or not we have heard the gospel is irrelevant. We have enough knowledge of God to hold us accountable. Indeed, we will all be held accountable, just as Romans 1 tells us. Clearly tells us.

So, it’s not either/or; it’s both. It’s not either free will or predestination; it’s both. Our belief in anything short of that forces us to skip over verses of the bible. In our passage, free-will alone forces us to skip verses 36-39. Predestination of the elect, alone, will skip over 35 and 40. See what I mean?

This has big implications for evangelism. We really have no choice but to preach the gospel the whole world over, to every single man, woman, and child, for man is condemned in his sin without knowledge and faith in Jesus. At the same time, the gospel hardens every heart that refuses to believe. So, in one sense, it would be better for the unbeliever, if indeed s/he never will believe, that she never hears the gospel. Why? Because there are degrees of damnation (See Matthew 10:15).

No, God intends for us to share the gospel with everyone. Why? Why wouldn’t we want to share everything we can about God? Isn’t he worthy? Isn’t his mercy worthy of offering and proclaiming, regardless of whether anyone believes or not? Besides, you and I don’t know who God will give to Jesus. It isn’t until we truly understand the nature of our sin do we realize that we are no better than the worst of the worst. A young woman is just as condemned in her sin as the owner of a slave-trading ship.

It’s a privilege to be counted among the saved and an honor to tell others about Jesus. With regard to man’s will versus God’s election, it isn’t either or, it’s both. I believe it is Charles Spurgeon who asks something like this: “Why would we want to separate good friends?”

Preach the gospel, my friends, to everyone, and remember that salvation is God’s business and his alone. Yours is to obey, and he commands us all to make disciples. How better might we prove our love for God and our neighbor than to share the gospel? The only love greater is if you lay down your life for your friends (John 15:13).

Father, I pray that this helps people understand and emboldens them to share the gospel. Send out workers, Lord! Amen.

Copyright © 2020 Scott Powers

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