Sunday, December 18, 2011

John 6 28 to 35

28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?
29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
30 They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?
31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.
32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.
33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.
34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.
35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

Key Observation:
The only “work” which we may do, and are commanded to do, is believe on him whom he hath sent.

I started reading “A Defense of Calvinism”, by C.H. Spurgeon last night, and I do enjoy my Spurgeon. Yet, in his opening, he starts out with a misplaced zeal for God, not wanting to take any credit for his salvation, which is indeed a Biblical doctrine, but needs to be understood properly. But before I look at what Spurgeon said, I need to first look at this passage: “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” The question is really simple; what must we do, that we might work the works of God. Jesus replied to the question, “ye believe”. Yet I have dozens of friends who look at this passage and say, “See, God’s work is to force you to believe. Man has nothing to do with salvation. Otherwise it would be a work, and then I could not say my salvation is all due to God’s grace.”

I do not hope to correct the record or solve the election and choice issue, which has been going on for hundreds of years. I do like Augustine’s fine essay on Grace and Free Will. It is a great read, especially for anyone that seems to be overawed by the thrust of overzealousness on the part of some regarding election. As regards the above passage about believing God, I think it best to let the Bible speak as it ought in all cases, that is for itself, something I feel that Calvin would also agree with. As I understand it, God’s election works in man; God calls all men, as the Bible says many are called but few are chosen. Wrapped up within the election, is the bonafide choice of men, and somehow God makes it work so that it all harmonizes, probably in a way that is beyond our ability to conceive.

Spurgeon starts off his work by saying which makes me wonder: “when I see some of the worst characters in the street, I feel as if my heart must burst forth in tears of gratitude that God has never let me act as they have done!” Is Spurgeon saying that predestination is for the unelect as well as the elect? When I first read this sentence I thought of the publican, self-righteously praying and thanking God that He is not as other sinners. Our Lord teaches that such prayers are examples of self-righteousness, and thus are not prayers at all. But Spurgeon seems to be saying the opposite. By giving God all credit for his own salvation, and taking none for himself, Spurgeon is saying that God is sovereign in all things, even to the choices that men make, for good or for bad. I fear this leads inevitably to what is termed “double-predestination”, a doctrine which essentially teaches man makes no choices at all, but it is all God in man who is really making the choices. That doctrine is plainly against the whole tenor of the New Testament. It is certainly against the tenor of the book of John, where believing and life are the key words of this gospel.

I do think that this is a basic misunderstanding of faith; is not faith that the Bible teaches the very opposite of works? Is that not what Christ was saying to these who asked him what they must do to work the works of God? Arguing from the negative is not usually a strong plank of argumentation, and so should be used sparingly, but do you not find it odd that God does not simply clear up the mess with a slightly different version of what Christ replies? Could not Christ have saved hundreds of years of debate by simply saying: “You can do nothing for it is God who works in you to bring you to faith in spite of yourselves.It is God who does everything."? It is very true that Jesus teaches that some are elected. But the same Jesus teaches that, teaches also that the world is convicted both of sin and of the righteousness of Christ by the Holy Spirit.

I do find the arguing of Spurgeon endearing when he talks about God’s election of himself. Let me repeat a few of the wonderful things he noted:
1) “When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me.”
2) “The truth flashed across my mind in a moment—I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him.”
3) “Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, "I ascribe my change wholly to God."

I find it interesting to compare my own calling with the testimony that Spurgeon shares. In my own conversion it was very obvious to me that my calling was a God-thing, and not me at all. I did not have to wait for later prayer and meditation, as did Spurgeon, to know that all glory and honor is due to the Father for my salvation. I do agree wholeheartedly with all the three points I listed above, and with the many fine other points of reasoning Spurgeon has about God’s election in his own life.

I think the main point of disagreement comes only in belief; it seems obvious from the following verses that we are charged to believe:
1) “He knows that he tells the truth and he testifies so that you also may believe.” (J. 20:35)
2) “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” (J. 20:31)
3) “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but he that believes not stands condemned already.” (J. 3:18)
4) “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” (Here we are told “rejection” will keep the wrath of God on the non-believer. (J. 3:36)
5) “So he and all his household believed.” (J. 4:53)
6) “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (J. 6:40)
7) “But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.” (J. 6:36)
The famous song sings whosoever will may come, and so the Scripture says (J. 3:15), but apparently the Calvinist believes that is limited to those whom God elects. But who, I ask, does He elect? He elects those who believe. Have you ever seen anyone elected who has not believed? Neither have I. God alone knows those who are elected in the future; we can only see their election after their belief. It is absolutely not arguable that God does the calling, that He woos our spirit with conviction, and as Spurgeon would hold, that He has everything to do with our coming to the Son. “We love him, because he first loved us.” (1 J. 4:19) But the question remains, why would Jesus hold us responsible to believe if we were not to respond? And if we are responsible to respond, to the point of righteous condemnation if we do not, how is it God doing the believing? At least with the worse doctrine of double predestination, it is consistent to say that God is the author of unbelief.

Ezekiel 3 gives us a famous verse about the wicked: “When I say to a wicked man, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man shall die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.” I know that many would look at this verse and say, it being Old Testament, that it does not apply, but I think it does have bearing on the principles by which God has chosen to put out the gospel. Does not Paul, the great defended of election, also say: “And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news?'"

I get the implication of this passage. We have the responsibility from God to do our best in carrying the message of grace to a lost world. The great commission makes it our responsibility; we have the very help of God’s Spirit to go before us to carry this message. I have always thought about the implication of what would happen if we do not carry the message forward; is it not there that the truth of Ezekiel’s words may apply?
Are we not accountable to do that which God has charged us?

Long ago I heard a simple story where Jesus was meeting with his disciples, and outlining His whole plan. He told them of the great commission, of the gift of His Holy Spirit, and of His thoughts of church planting. When he finishes his long and complete discourse, one of the disciples, having second thoughts, asks the Lord, “What if your people do not carry the message?” To which the Lord replied, “I have no other plan.”

I know how disconcerting it has been to my close friends who I have discussed these things. I have seen the looks of dismay, and heard their strenuous objections saying, “You can’t really believe that! That would mean that we are responsible for the souls of men.” I know not whether we are responsible for the souls of men. If I understand the bema seat of judgment aright, we will not be punished at all, for Christ Himself has been punished for all sins. But who is to say that we will not miss rewards because of what we did not do, including that message of salvation to that lost one? I do know one thing—it is the plan of God to spread His gospel through such unworthies as me, and I ought to do the best job I can when doing it, using prayer and the power of the Spirit in witnessing, that some might be saved. Look back to what Paul said. I don’t know what else he could be implying when he asks: “How shall they hear without a preacher?”

My views of carrying the gospel are bolstered when I read of such saints as George Mueller, who never wanted to pass up a chance to witness, from fear that he would be out of the will of God. Still I do recognize that much of the world does not let the message of Christ come into their world. Spurgeon recognized this when he said, “Could He not have caused me to be born with the skin of the Hottentot, brought forth by a filthy mother who would nurse me in her "kraal," and teach me to bow down to Pagan gods, quite as easily as to have given me a pious mother, who would each morning and night bend her knee in prayer on my behalf?” With Spurgeon, I recognize a whole lot of good fortune to my life that I even heard the gospel, and I heard it in a country where freedom of religion is a founding tenet. Moreover, I see much in the election of God when countries are so blind to the gospel that they would kill you for speaking the name of Christ. All I am saying is that God Himself has bidden us both to believe and to witness. We ought to be circumspect in doing both, especially as we see the Day drawing nearer.

Spurgeon, Charles H. (2010-05-14). A Defense of Calvinism (Kindle Locations 54-56). Unknown. Kindle Edition.
Spurgeon, Charles H. (2010-05-14). A Defense of Calvinism (Kindle Locations 40-42). Unknown. Kindle Edition.
Spurgeon, Charles H. (2010-05-14). A Defense of Calvinism (Kindle Locations 37-38). Unknown. Kindle Edition.
Spurgeon, Charles H. (2010-05-14). A Defense of Calvinism (Kindle Locations 32-33). Unknown. Kindle Edition.
Spurgeon, Charles H. (2010-05-14). A Defense of Calvinism (Kindle Locations 17-18). Unknown. Kindle Edition.

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

1. What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Ev'rything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Ev'rything to God in prayer!

2. Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer:
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our ev'ry weakness,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

3. Are we weak and heavy laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge;
Take it to the Lord in prayer:
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He'll take and shield thee;
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Lyrics: Joseph Medlicott Scriven

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