Great Texts of the Bible
Christ’s Doctrine of Election
All that which the Father giveth me shall come unto me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.—John 6:37.
1. After claiming to be the Bread of Life, and condemning the Jews’ attitude towards Himself, Jesus announced His assurance that notwithstanding their unbelief all that the Father gave Him would come to Him, and then immediately uttered the gracious words which have given confidence and courage to all approaching Him through the centuries, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” In this twofold declaration the Lord revealed two aspects of one great effect, the heavenly and the earthly. The heavenly takes in the whole result, “All that which the Father giveth me shall come unto me.” The earthly declares the individual responsibility, and utters the word creating confidence, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”
2. The tone in which the words are spoken supplies another element in the picture. Jesus seems to pause after saying, “Ye have seen me, and yet believe not.” It is a sorrowful fact, and it is very mysterious. Here are His own people rejecting Him, or at any rate coming to Him in such a wrong fashion that He has to discourage them. It looks as though God’s plan of salvation were not working out right. Is it going to fail at the outset? Such questions must crowd into the Saviour’s mind, as He faces the fact that these people will not accept Him. But they are not allowed to cloud His faith for an instant. At once the Son acquiesces in the Father’s plan. It is all right; it cannot fail. “All that which the Father giveth me shall come unto me.” Nobody will be lost whom the Father designed to save. “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” I am doing My part correctly. So all must be well.
The Commander-in-Chief at the base of operations decides upon the plan of campaign, and entrusts its execution to another General who never doubts the strategy though it does not appear successful immediately, and never doubts His own perfect fulfilment of the plan.1 [Note: J. E. Roberts.]
Mark well this passage, “I will in no wise cast him out.” Our Saviour doth plainly import that there neither is nor can be devised—no, not by God Himself—any one consideration whatsoever which might occasion Him to put off or say nay to any person that doth come. No consideration in the world, I say, can so aggravate a man’s condition, could he make it as bad as the devils themselves, yet, if there be a coming to Christ, there can be no consideration in the highest pitch of sinfulness for Christ to reject, or put by, a person coming to Him. For you must know, beloved, Christ is well acquainted with all the objections the heart of man (nay, the devil) can object against the freeness of His grace and life by Him. To save labour, therefore, in this one passage (I will in no wise cast out) Christ at once answers all the objections that could be made. And I dare be bold to maintain, in the name and stead of Christ, let a person but say and lay down this for granted, that come he would—that he would have Christ rather than his life,—let this be granted for a truth, I will be bold with Christ out of this passage to answer ten thousand objections, even fully to the silencing of every objection that can be made; “I will in no wise cast him out”; I will in no wise, that is, I will upon no consideration that can be imagined or conceived.2 [Note: Tobias Crisp.]
The Father’s Part
“All that which the Father giveth me shall come unto me.”
At once the question suggests itself, Who are given by the Father to the Son? The context supplies an answer. The charge brought by Jesus against these Jews is, “Ye see and believe not.” He has declared already, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” It seems evident, therefore, that “that which the Father giveth” includes all who believe on the Son. That may include everybody. “Whosoever will” may believe. But to believe is the essential condition. Therefore the great truth of our text is that all who believe are saved. It sounds a commonplace: but consider what it means. Take a few cases. A is a denizen of the slums, poor in pocket and in education; B is a University professor, of high moral instincts and intellectual attainments; C is a Roman Catholic scientist; D is a cannibal on a mission station on the Congo. Now suppose each of these convicted of sin and desiring to trust Jesus. Their circumstances vary enormously. Coming to Christ and reaching Him mean very different experiences. A never uttered a prayer in his life, and scarcely understands any article of the Christian creed; B has considered the creed carefully and critically, and has been accustomed to reverent worship; C has to accept dogmas on the authority of the Church, though his reason may contradict them; D has dim conceptions of God and is governed by savage instincts which cannot be eradicated in a brief time. Does it seem at all likely that four men placed in such different circumstances should ever succeed in finding God in Christ? Jesus says they shall. “All that which the Father giveth me shall come unto me.” No lack of knowledge, no spirit of caution, no church dogma, no savage instinct shall hide the face of God in Christ or keep a seeking soul from the Saviour. Coming from East and West and North and South, the guiding star shall gather them all at the feet of the Son of God.
The Christian doctrine of election used to be freely preached; but it was sometimes mis-stated, and therefore it was misunderstood. So it fell into disuse. Now it seems to be too much neglected. If it means what some people think it means—that God elected a certain number of individuals without reference to their moral fitness for salvation and consigned all the rest of mankind to eternal perdition—I do not wonder it is neglected. Such teaching conflicts with our knowledge of God and has no shred of evidence in the Scriptures. Its true meaning is given in this verse. God has elected for salvation not this or that individual, but all people who believe in His Son whom He hath sent. This may be all. God wants it to be all. All who believe are saved. That is, God elects, not the individuals, but the means, and guarantees that all who use the means shall be saved.1 [Note: J. E. Roberts.]
As to this matter of election, I would to God that some who object to it had as much common sense in this matter as they have in the daily actions of ordinary life. I ask for no higher degree of common sense. Let me assume that a purse has been lost in the street adjoining our place of meeting; the purse contains a thousand guineas; whoever finds that purse may keep it. “Ha!” we say, “well, only one can find it; therefore what is the good of a thousand seeking it? Only one can have it; and if I am elected to be the man, it will come in my way.” I never heard people reasoning so with regard to an affair of that kind. Though only one may have it, ten thousand will strive for it if they know the conditions. There is a prize to be given in the school. It is one prize; there are five hundred scholars in the school. The boys say, “Well, only one of us can get it, why should five hundred of us be toiling and fagging for it?” Another boy says, “I know if I am to have the prize, I will get it; so I shall read no books, and make no preparation.” You would not allow a boy to reason so. Yet there are men who say this, “If we are called to heaven, we’ll get to heaven; if we are elected to be saved, we need not make any effort about it.” Thou wicked and slothful servant; out of thine own mouth I condemn thee; the whole action of thy evil life shall be thy answer on the day of judgment, and thou shalt be condemned to an ignominious silence because of a self-accusing conscience.1 [Note: J. Parker.]
I am thankful to believe that my final salvation does not depend wholly on myself. If it did, it would be at stake to the very last! Salvation involves so much. It includes deliverance from sin, development of character, fitness to dwell with God. Man’s faith is often such a frail thing. It were a poor refuge, if there were no Divine purpose to support it. It becomes a sure defence if God says, “I pledge that man’s deliverance.” Here is a man battling with a rough sea. A belt is flung to him. What hope of deliverance can he have by clinging to a few pounds of cork? This hope, that there are fifty strong arms pulling him through the surf to the shore. Do not push the simile too far. The Christian life is not simply clinging to a belt; it is a daily conflict with temptation. But it is gloriously true that faith in Christ transfers the responsibility of salvation to the Saviour, and makes deliverance certain. Though I grasp the hand of Christ I might lose it in a moment of doubt or weakness, or when my feet enter the chill waters of the river of death. Thanks be unto God for the assurance that if I clasp the hand of Christ He grips mine, and none can pluck me out of that strong clasp. It is my sheet anchor amidst the storms of life and the floods of death.2 [Note: J. E. Roberts.]
Because I seek Thee not, oh seek Thou me!
Because my lips are dumb, oh hear the cry
I do not utter as Thou passest by,
And from my life-long bondage set me free!
Because content I perish, far from Thee,
Oh seize me, snatch me from my fate, and try
My soul in Thy consuming fire! Draw nigh
And let me, blinded, Thy salvation see.
If I were pouring at Thy feet my tears,
If I were clamouring to see Thy face,
I should not need Thee, Lord, as now I need,
Whose dumb, dead soul knows neither hopes nor fears,
Nor dreads the outer darkness of this place—
Because I seek not, pray not, give Thou heed!1 [Note: Louise Chandler Moulton.]
“Him that cometh to me.”
1. “Coming” is the only way of salvation. If there could have been any other way, this one would never have been opened. It is not conceivable that God would have given His only-begotten and well-beloved Son to die upon the cross of Calvary in order to save sinners if there had been any other way of saving them that would have been as consistent with the principles of infallible justice. If men could have entered into everlasting life without passing along the path stained and consecrated by the blood of Jesus, surely that blood would never have been “shed for many for the remission of sins.” The very fact that this new and living way has been opened proves that there is no other, for God would never have provided it unless it had been absolutely necessary.
2. But what is “coming”? The people He was addressing had followed Him for miles, and had found Him and were speaking to Him, but they had not “come” to Him. To come to Him is to approach Him in spirit, and with submissive trust; it is to commit ourselves to Him as our Lord; it is to rest in Him as our all; it is to come to Him with open heart, accepting Him as He claims to be; it is to meet the eye of a present, living Christ, who knows what is in man, and to say to Him, “I am Thine, Thine most gladly, Thine for evermore.”
An Irish boy was asked what was meant by saving faith. “Grasping Christ with the heart,” said he. The truest answer possible. And faith is only another word for coming. The man who grasps Christ with the heart, “comes.”1 [Note: R. D. Dickinson.]
3. The one essential in coming is the desire to come. Christ pledges His gift to readiness of heart. As to the open eye the light pours in, and to the listening ear the music enters, so to the longing heart Christ gives the pardon and the purity and the peace which, though it has not shaped its need into those words, are in reality the gifts for which it yearns. The value of a photographic plate consists not in what it is, but in its readiness to receive the impression when the shutter of the camera is opened and the light streams in. If a mere piece of common glass were there instead of the plate, the light might shine on it for ever and no impression would be made; it is the prepared plate that receives the impression which the light conveys. So, too, it is the prepared soul that receives the gift of Christ. The one thing that the Saviour asks for is readiness, willingness, some movement of the life towards Him; if there is that within us we need not fear that Christ, who is light, will fail to bring His blessing to us or to leave His mark on us. Everything is possible to us if we are open to the influence of God. What is it that we want Christ to do for us? Is it to cleanse away our sin? He points us to His cross. Do we want rest from an accusing conscience and from the weary load of loneliness? “Come unto me,” He says, “and I will give you rest.” Is what is deepest in us still unsatisfied, although we have been seeking many fountains and drinking from many cups? “He that believeth on me shall never thirst.”
At one critical time during this period of soul-conflict he stated in one of his addresses that the question, “Believe ye that I am able to do this?” was made a word of life to him. He writes: “I was very near death; I was almost despairing. The only thing that kept my head above water was the promise, ‘Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.’ I repeated it again and again, and prayed very earnestly, when the word came to me with such power, and with such a rebuke, ‘Believe ye that I am able to do this?’ He was able, and I believed Him, and He did it.”1 [Note: K. Moody-Stuart, Brownlow North, 41.]
(1) Unfitness is no barrier to coming.—It is strange how people are inclined to wait a little, to try to prepare themselves for Christ! They know how unlike Him they are, and how unfit they are for His presence and service; so, as a youth who waits awhile to prepare himself for some important examination, or as a soldier waits awhile to perfect himself in drill for some promotion—so they think they can wait. But their waiting never changes their nature or renews their heart. For their case is rather like that of those who suffer from a malignant disease. No amount of waiting or even of attention to the outward signs of the disease is of any avail, and the time spent over that but increases the danger; for the disorder is within, the whole system is poisoned and needs renewing, and it is to save their life that they at once put themselves in the hands of a qualified physician. Christ Jesus is the qualified physician, and His blood is a “full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.”
I have heard of a cavalier who lost his life because he stopped to curl his hair when Cromwell’s soldiers were after him. Some of you may laugh at the man’s foolishness; but that is all that your talk about fitness is. What is all your fitness but the curling of your hair when you are in imminent danger of losing your soul? Your fitness is nothing to Christ. Remember the hymn—
Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him.2 [Note: C. H. Spurgeon.]
(2) Emptiness and not fulness is required.—Before a building is erected it is necessary to excavate for a foundation, which involves the removal of much that seems important. And it is literally true that Christ wants not our fulness but our emptiness, that He may “build us up in our most holy faith.” We think ourselves full, and are reluctant to part with anything; whereas we are “poor”—destitute of everything that is necessary to appear before God with; we are “wretched,” being altogether out of harmony with the eternal joys of heaven; and we are “blind” to our actual condition, to our own welfare, and even to the salvation so freely provided and so fully revealed by Christ our Saviour, till the eyes of our understanding are opened, and we are led to see and desire the many things we need. And the faith that saves is that which takes us out of ourselves, where there is nothing, to Christ, where there is fulness for all we need—purity, peace, and joy, “without money and without price.”
From all thou holdest precious, for one hour
Arise and come away,
And let the calling Voice be heard in power;
Desert thyself to-day;
If with thy Lord for once thou turn aside,
With Him thou’lt fain abide.1 [Note: J. E. A. Brown.]
4. The coming is a personal coming to a personal Saviour.—How personal the text is concerning both the one coming and the One to whom he is to come: “him that cometh to me.” That is the long and the short of the whole matter, its Alpha and Omega, its beginning and its end; there must be a personal coming to the personal Christ. It will not suffice for us to come to Christ’s doctrines. We must, of course, believe what He taught; but believing His teaching will not save us unless we come to Him. It will not be enough merely to come to Christ’s precepts, and to try to practise them,—an utterly impossible task for our own unaided strength; we must first come to Christ, and then, when we trust in Him for salvation, His gracious Spirit will “take of the things of Christ, and shew them unto” us.
In simple trust like theirs who heard
Beside the Syrian sea
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word
Rise up and follow Thee.2 [Note: Whittier.]
“I will in no wise cast out.”
1. Christ’s accessibility.—“Jesus never slept in a walled town” is the striking remark of a literary writer. There never lived so open a man, so accessible always to all. Sitting at the well of Sychar, and talking freely to the first comer; receiving Nicodemus by night; listening to the Syro-Phœnician mother, who breaks through His concealment; preaching to the five thousand, who disturb His retirement,—He is the property of every man that wants Him, and leaves us an example to follow His steps.
2. Christ’s longing for response.—“I once knew a mother,” says Canon Duncan, “who had a son who suffered from paralysis of the brain. Yet, how she loved and cared for him! But the cause of her great grief was this; she said: ‘I have nursed him from childhood, cleansed, fed, and clothed him, watched over him and supplied his every want, tried to please him, and to teach him little things, and now, though in years he is a man, yet he does not even know me, and shows no return of my love, but just lies there to eat and drink and sleep! And I feel that I cannot go on; I am just longing for some recognition—some response to my lifelong love and care!” How many are there, though not afflicted like that son, who nevertheless treat their God and Saviour much the same! He sacrificed His very life for them; fed, clothed, and cared for them day by day; and has called them by His providence, by His word, and by every token of love, and yet they give no response.
He utters this word Himself, that, however long men may neglect it, however long it may be that they see and hear, and yet believe Him not, when they do finally come, He cannot, and will not, and must not cast them away.1 [Note: Schleiermacher.]
It is the greatness of Thy love, dear Lord, that we would celebrate
With sevenfold powers.
Our love at best is cold and poor, at best unseemly for Thy state,
This best of ours.
Creatures that die, we yet are such as Thine own hands deigned to create:
We frail as flowers,
We bitter bondslaves ransomed at a price incomparably great
To grace Heaven’s bowers.
Thou callest: “Come at once”—and still Thou callest us: “Come late, tho’ late”—
(The moments fly)—
“Come, every one that thirsteth, come—Come prove Me, knocking at My gate”—
(Some souls draw nigh!)—
“Come thou who waiting seekest Me—Come thou for whom I seek and wait”—
(Why will we die?)—
“Come and repent: come and amend: come joy the joys unsatiate”—
—(Christ passeth by …)—
Lord, pass not by—I come—and I—and I. Amen.1 [Note: Christina G. Rossetti, Poems, 164.]
3. The certainty of Christ’s welcome.—Every one who will come to Christ is sure of a welcome. That is the emphatic message of the text. The words used by our Lord are the strongest possible. Sweetly familiar as the music of the English version is, it scarcely represents their double emphasis. Literally they read, “Him that cometh to me I will not, not cast out.” That is to say, to use a modern phrase, there is not the slightest fear of his being cast out. A heart burdened with a spiritual need will never be repelled; a man panting with a spiritual desire may be absolutely certain that when he comes to Christ he will be welcome. “Oh!” cries Bunyan, “the comfort that I have had from this word ‘in no wise,’ as who should say, by no means, for no thing, whatever he hath done But Satan would greatly labour to pull this promise from me, telling me that Christ did not mean me. But I should answer him again—Satan, here is, in this word, no such exception, but him that comes, him, any him—‘him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.’ ” Bunyan was right. The welcome is for all, without any reserve or any exception, or any condition, save that of willingness to come.
Of other ten adults at this time admitted, one was specially noteworthy. She was about twenty-five, and the Elders objected because her marriage had not been according to the Christian usage on Aniwa. She left us weeping deeply. I was writing late at night in the cool evening air, as was my wont in that oppressive tropical clime, and a knock was heard at my door. I called out—
“Akai era?” (= Who is there?)
A voice softly answered,—“Missi, it is Lamu. Oh, do speak with me!”
This was the rejected candidate, and I at once opened the door.
“Oh, Missi,” she began, “I cannot sleep, I cannot eat; my soul is in pain. Am I to be shut out from Jesus? Some of those at the Lord’s Table committed murder. They repented, and have been saved. My heart is very bad; yet I never did any of those crimes of Heathenism; and I know that it is my joy to try and please my Saviour Jesus. How is it that I only am to be shut out from Jesus?”
I tried all I could to guide and console her, and she listened to all very eagerly. Then she looked up at me and said—
“Missi, you and the Elders may think it right to keep me back from showing my love to Jesus at the Lord’s Table; but I know here in my heart that Jesus has received me; and if I were dying now, I know that Jesus would take me to Glory and present me to the Father.”
Her look and manner thrilled me. I promised to see the Elders and submit her appeal. But Lamu appeared and pled her own cause before them with convincing effect. She was baptized and admitted along with other nine. And that Communion Day will be long remembered by many souls on Aniwa.1 [Note: John G. Paton, ii. 282.]
4. The fulness and freeness of Christ’s welcome.—A man may have been guilty of an atrocious sin, too black for mention; but if he comes to Christ he shall not be cast out. To that atrocious sin he may have added many others, till the condemning list is full and long; but if he comes to Christ he shall not be cast out. He may have hardened his neck against the remonstrances of prudence, and the entreaties of mercy; he may have sinned deeply and wilfully; but if he comes to Christ he shall not be cast out. He may have made himself as black as night, as black as hell; yet, if he shall come to Christ, the Lord will not cast him out.
This is the Charter of Christianity—that there lives no sinner too bad for Jesus to save. A year ago I met a doctor possessed of far more than ordinary gifts in dealing with one of our most fatal diseases. From all parts of the country men and women whose lives have been despaired of by their own physicians have journeyed to this man’s consulting-room, and have placed their last hope of recovery in his mysterious powers. And he described to me the pathos of his work. For again and again he has to face a body of anxious patients who are waiting from his lips their sentence of life or of death; and, while he is able to restore many to perfect health, he knows that he will find others for whom he can do nothing. Such is the lot of every physician but One. There is One to whom no case is hopeless; who never yet sent patient away unhealed. “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”1 [Note: H. Bisseker, Sunday Evenings in Methodism, 153.]
Lord, dost Thou me invite
To sit in white
At the great Feast which for Thy friends is spread?
I could not be so bold,
In raiment poor and old;
Rather without Thy gates would stand unfed.
Thy messenger mistook
My hungry look,
As claiming seat at table of the pure;
I am too wise to dare
My worthless presence there,
Nor could my spirit that clear light endure.
Hedge-rows for me instead,
Their berries red
Enough of sweetness for my lips contain;
The glow-worm is my lamp
’Mid herbage damp;
To tread Thy bright courts would be only pain.
Yet still He calleth me—
“Come, for I wait for thee,
It is the lost and hungry that I need;
Not luxury and pride,
The humble and the poor My feast shall feed.”2 [Note: J. E. A. Brown.]
Christ’s Doctrine of Election
Bisseker (H.), in Sunday Evenings in Methodism, 153.
Burrell (D. J.), The Golden Passional, 101.
Davies (T.), Sermons, i. 306.
Dods (M.), Footsteps in the Path of Life, 127.
Duncan (J.), Popular Hymns, 148.
Hall (J. V.), The Sinner’s Friend, 9.
Hoyt (W.), in The American Pulpit of the Day, i. 34.
Hutton (R. E.), The Crown, of Christ, ii. 543.
McDougall (J.), The Ascension of Christ, 86.
Power (P. B.), The “I Wills” of Christ, 47.
Roberts (J. E.), The Lord’s Prayer, 73.
Smellie (A.), In the Hour of Silence, 208.
Spurgeon (C. H.), Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, x. (1864) No. 599; xxx. (1884) No. 1762; xl. (1894) No. 2349; li. (1905) No. 2954; lvi. (1910) No. 3230.
Spurgeon (T.), Down to the Sea, 215.
Vaughan (J.), Sermons (Brighton Pulpit, 1866), No. 551.
Christian World Pulpit, liv. 196 (Moule); lxiii. 76 (Mursell).
Church of England Magazine, l. 168 (Dalton).
Expositor, 3rd Ser., iii. 146.