September 09, 2012
Are You Elected for Salvation?
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Some of Jesus’ statements are difficult to understand and have been the source of much theological discussion. One of these teachings is today’s text. We do our best, when studying difficult parts of God’s Word, sometimes coming up with different interpretations. Then we comfort ourselves by saying, “We have done our best to understand. And when we get to heaven, we know there will be no mysteries.”
The basic teachings of the Christian faith are very clear. Jesus Christ is God. The human being is the crowning work of his creation. He was created with a will to make his own choices. When Eve and Adam were tested in the garden of Eden, they decided to act contrary to the will of God, and thus sin came into this world. However, God, not willing to give up on the human being, sent his only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, into this world. Jesus suffered and died at Calvary‘s cross and paid the price for our sins. Anyone who trusts in Christ (the bread of life), will be saved. However, if they do not trust in him, they will be lost. These things are very clear. However, some things are a bit more complex.
According to today’s text, Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him . . .” What does Jesus mean by this? Are not all persons drawn? If not, how can we say God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son?
Jesus created us in his image. This means that we have a mind with which we can say no to God. We all agree that no one can come to God unless the Father draws him. But they can also turn away from God and go their own way. Eve turned away from God in the Garden of Eden, and millions of us do it in our own way. The Bible says very clearly that the reason for rejection is simply that the person has turned his back on Jesus.
According to today’s text, we are lifted up by the Father. During this past month, I attended a funeral for a person who was very committed and highly accepted in our community. After the service, as we were standing around a bit, a man who had been in one of my confirmation classes, came up to me. He said that after he left home, he drifted from the faith and was no longer in a living relationship with God. Then he said, “Maybe I’d better come back.” Is there still hope for him? You better believe there is. The Heavenly Father is bringing him back. He was among those whom Jesus had lifted up. He has a place in heaven, and God will bring him back.
That’s what it means to be predestined. God is never done with us. He chose us from the very beginning and he continues to work with us through the power of the Holy Spirit. Until we draw our last breath, we are able, by God’s grace, to come back, but we must receive Him. This is where the conflict comes.
C. S. Lewis was a great writer of the Christian faith. He was highly trained in literature and languages, and he taught at both Cambridge and Oxford. Tom Wright tells the story of C. S. Lewis coming to Christ. Lewis was being interviewed by a Christian journalist who had been seeking material for an article on decision. The journalist tried his hardest to get Lewis to tell when he made his decision for Jesus. But the closest Lewis would come was to say that God brought him into his arms. “God has closed in on me, and he brought me through difficult times until I knew I was his.”
This noted scholar was not willing to subjectively say he made a decision for Jesus Christ. The closest he would come was to say, “God closed in on me. He brought me through difficult times until I was his.” From the beginning God predestined C. S. Lewis, and all along the way the Holy Spirit worked in his heart even as Lewis walked away. This is quite close to a predestinarian position.
I believe Martin Luther said it correctly when he wrote the meaning to the third article in his catechism: “I believe that I cannot, by my own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel . . .” I believe that at the beginning, I was chosen by God. The power of the Holy Spirit worked through the Word of God in my life until I came to the day when I said, “Jesus, you are my Savior and my Lord.”
Apply this teaching to a mother who has five children. Three are very committed to the Lord Jesus; two do not want him and have rejected the Church. They refuse to go to church, no matter how much she pleads and begs. Can they be won for the Lord Jesus? A predestinarian in true fashion would say that, if you are elected, you are going to be saved. God will not let you get away. If you are not elected, there is no sense trying.
What about the eternal welfare of the people who are not elected? It is an important question that warrants discussion. I don’t know if we dare say we have come up with an answer. However, God is in the midst of all of this. God gives us a simpler message in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son . . .” He also gives us the words of our text, which talk about Jesus being the living bread that came down from heaven. “This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” These words caused sharp theological discussions, even among the Jews. We pray God’s Word is clear and we can know, beyond all doubt, that we are his forever.
Before coming in to tape today, I asked a lady, “Do you believe you have the assurance of your salvation?”
“Yes, I do,” she said.
“Do you believe God walks with you while you are here?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Do you believe he’s gone to prepare a heavenly home for you?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Well then let me ask you, were you predestined or elected out of eternity long before you were born?”
And she said, “I don’t know.”
This is what we have talked about today. We may not understand it now, but we trust Christ. The Jews had a great deal of difficulty receiving this message. Most people cannot believe that if we are not elected then we are not chosen for salvation, for this is not a God of love.
We can glory in this – the chosen by him – we are elected for all eternity.
Rev. Homer Larsen