A study in baptism based on Romans 6:4

INTRODUCTION: One of the clearest verses on the doctrine of baptism is Romans 6:4. Paul’s unambiguous teaching here declares the purpose and the meaning of baptism. This article studies this verse.

Baptism is a New Testament ordinance given to us by the Lord Jesus Himself. At the beginning of His earthly ministry, Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:15) in the Jordan River, and at the end of His first advent, He commanded His church to baptize His disciples in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). But while Jesus modeled baptism and commanded baptism, we are going to turn to Paul’s teaching in Romans 6:4 to learn about the purpose and the meaning of baptism.

Therefore, we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. – Romans 6:4

The purpose of the ordinance of baptism is to mark the beginning of the believer’s new walk of holiness as he now walks with Jesus. The old life of sin has been buried with Jesus in the waters of baptism, “so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

In baptism, the believer publicly declares their commitment to forsake their old life of sin and godlessness by repentance from sin, and vows by faith to live for Jesus Christ as they strive for holiness. Baptism is the outward illustration of an inward transformation. Water baptism pictures the realities of Romans 10:9, and of 1 John 1:9, and of Matthew 22:37.

Romans 10:9 – In biblical baptism, the believer publicly confesses with their mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord of their life, and they declare their faith in Christ and in His resurrection. Thus, baptism is for those who can confess their submission to Christ and their faith in Him.

1 John 1:9 – Water baptism is the occasion of the believer’s public confession of their sin and of their willfully turning away from their sin.

Matthew 22:37 – Water baptism marks the believer’s intention to love the Lord his God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love his neighbor as himself. His love for the Lord will henceforth be manifested in obedience to all the Lord commanded us.

Both for Christ and for the believer, there is a death and burial, and there is a resurrection from the dead. Paul’s analogy is beautifully pictured in the waters of baptism. The analogy is understood by the paradigm, “As Christ physically, so the believer figuratively and spiritually.” As Christ physically died and was buried to mark His vanquishing of sin, so the believer figuratively and spiritually dies and is buried in the baptismal waters to mark their relinquishing of sin. The posture of the believer being pushed back into the water is significant because it pictures the believer’s weakness and helplessness, and their surrender to the Lordship of Christ. Then, as Christ was physically raised from the dead in glorious resurrection, never to die again, so the believer is spiritually raised to walk in newness of life, never to be condemned again. As Christ was physically raised by the power of the Father (Ephesians 1:19-20), so the believer is raised from the water by with the help (“power”) of the pastor.

As Christ confessed His intentions (Mark 10:45; John 10:11, 15, 17, 18; Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19) and consequently submitted to His physical death, so in baptism the believer confesses their intentions (Romans 10:9; 1 John 1:9; etc.) and then submits to burial into the water.

Thus, it is clear that believer’s baptism is what Christ commanded for His church.

SDG                 rmb                 12/27/2021                 #476

An encounter on the street with James

The other day I met James. I had just finished a last minute Christmas purchase of art supplies for my wife and was sitting in my car scrolling up my GPS to get me to my next extravagant expenditure. My car was facing out onto the street, and as I looked up from my cell phone, my eyes met the gaze of a thin man in a rumpled coat. He looked directly into my eyes and, after giving me the universal motions of imaginary feeding, he shrugged his shoulders and held up his hands, clearly indicating he needed me to provide money for his food.

His gesture was not done belligerently, and I did not feel like he was just pan-handling me, but I was locked into task mode and his appearance was unexpected and a little unwanted, so, in a blatant display of selfishness, I shook my head, “no.”

“Why not?” His question startled me. “Why not? Why won’t you help me out?”

“I don’t feel like it,” was my heartless answer.

“Why won’t you help out a hungry veteran?” he shouted in reply. “You have a chance to help out a fellow human being.” Then he pointed to a hole in the side of his neck and said, “That’s where a bullet went through my neck. I have served my country and now you won’t even help me out!” And he turned to walk away from me across the street, disgusted with my stubborn stinginess.

I jumped out of my car and yelled, “You’re right! You make a very good case. Hey, come back here! You are right!”

By now the man had crossed the main traffic lane and was in the turn lane, shouting at the cars as they drove past, too close for his comfort. “Hey, you almost hit me!”

Now I was on the curb, and he was in the street but walking toward me. He was thin, but not quite gaunt, with a full brown beard. His speech was sober, and I sensed he was an intelligent man. “You seem to be angry,” I said. “Why are you angry?”

Why was he angry? What a naïve question! The answer was obvious. He was angry because life had been cruel to him. He hadn’t planned to be homeless and living in trash dumpsters as he begs for food on the streets of the city. Every plan had failed, and each road had been a dead end. It was a life of opportunities squandered, of unwise choices, and of hard providences. Now this human being, this highest of God’s creatures, this one created in the image of God, was dodging cars to try and scrounge his next meal. Who wouldn’t be angry?

He was now only a couple of feet away from me, but he was still in the edge of the traffic lane. “You need to get out of the street,” I said as I put my hand on his shoulder and pulled him onto the sidewalk.

“Well, you were right to ask me for some money for food. You do need money, don’t you?” I asked.

“Yes, I need money for food.”

I pulled out my wallet and handed him a twenty dollar bill. “Are you able to find work? Or are you looking for work?” It turns out that, because he did not have a cell phone, he was not able to find employment.

“I do have a place to live, though,” he said. “I live in that storage bin beside that shop over there. You want to see it? It doesn’t smell too good.”

“No, thanks. What’s your name?”

“James.”

“How old are you, James?”

“I’m fifty.”

“Has faith ever been a part of your life?”

“Faith is part of my life now. Faith that I will be restored. Faith in Jesus Christ.” His words had a ring of sincerity to them, not the usual “faith talk” that you here from beggars who know that talking about Jesus with people is sort of expected. “Do you know John 1:1?” he asked. “Go ahead, James, tell me John 1:1.” And he quoted it verbatim. I added John 1:2. “Wait here for a second, James.”

I ran over to my car and grabbed a “Who is Jesus?” tract and gave it to him.

“Oh. ‘Who is Jesus?’” he said. “Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. John 14:6.”

I affirmed his quote of Scripture and encouraged him to read the tract and think about what it said. We talked a little more, then I shook his hand and said, “I have to get moving, but God bless you, brother.” As I got in my car, I shouted, “Maybe you can find a church that needs a good preacher!” Then we waved goodbye, and James disappeared into my rear view mirror.

The first thing I learned from my encounter with James is that I can still be self-centered and greedy and heartless. There are evidently times when my heart is hard and when I feel inconvenienced because a fellow human being pleads for my compassion and assistance. O, how I need to repent of my greediness! Our Lord Jesus commanded me to “Give to everyone who asks of you” (Luke 6:30), and I reject them because I am slightly inconvenienced or just don’t feel like helping. “Lord, please change me more into the image of Jesus with the heart of Jesus! Amen.”

I still think about James, and here’s why. I know that, except for the grace and providence of God, I could be where James is. If at certain critical points in my life, the Lord had not turned events in His providential and favorable direction, I would be sleeping in a storage bin and asking cruel strangers to give me the means of survival. If God had not been merciful and generous to me (And why has He been so good to me, the one who deserves His wrath and who should receive the consequences of so many foolish choices?), I would be living like James with no plans for the future and no hope for the present. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us . . .” (Ephesians 2:4). “Lord, let me ever praise You for Your mercy and grace.”

Finally, I pray that James reads the tract and that causes him to get a Bible and read it. I pray that his reading of the Bible creates the spark of faith in his heart and mind, and that he seeks the Lord with all his heart. I pray that he believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and that he finds a good church. How James’ life can be restored and straightened out so that it is useful again and that he is useful to the Master, I have no clue. Those things are too difficult for me (Psalm 131:1), but there is nothing too difficult for God (Jeremiah 32:17; Luke 18:27). I know that Jesus Christ is the only hope for James. Jesus Christ came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). He finds the prodigals in the pigsty and restores them to a joyful life in the Father’s house. If Jesus is willing, He can and will save (Matthew 8:2). So, I pray that James seeks Jesus with his whole heart.

SDG                 rmb                 12/26/2021                 #475

Where is the right path? (Proverbs 14:12 and John 14:6)

My friend Doug and I have had a weekly phone call appointment for more than 14 years, and for those 14 years we have walked through life together, experiencing highs and lows and seeking to pursue the Lord and to live for His glory. This week we were talking about our mutual feelings of yuletide incompetence, how the Christmas season offers virtually unlimited opportunities for us to disappoint others by not fulfilling our basic duties, when Doug changed to a more serious topic. “So, I got a text from Jonathan this week.”

The tone of our conversation was abruptly more sober. “The gist of his text was something like ‘How does it feel to be a future grandfather?’” My friend went on to explain that his son has apparently gotten his current girlfriend pregnant. We spent the rest of phone call talking about his son and about this turn of events and about how this is yet more evidence that Jonathan seems bent on destroying his life.

This morning I was reflecting on Jonathan’s situation. Despite being at an exclusive private high school and having a godly father who poured into his life, this young man had become involved in drugs in high school, first using and then dealing. He had escaped high school and had bounced from place to place, becoming a heroin user and a member of the opioid addiction community. He has spent significant time in jail. He has overdosed multiple times on heroin. At one point, it looked like his organs were shutting down, but he survived and, like a dog returning to its vomit (2 Peter 2:22), he returned to his destructive habits. He has lost jobs that were basically given to him to help him pull out of his long-term nosedive. He has been in and out of innumerable halfway houses and recovery programs. In fact, Jonathan had done basically everything he could do to ensure he would mess up his life, except get a woman pregnant. But now, even that disaster he has now inflicted on himself. With immense advantages and every opportunity to choose a path offering some degree of success, the young man has consistently chosen the path of disaster. Not the path of lesser success that could have turned out well but providentially did not, but the path that is obviously bad and that will almost certainly produce pain and misery. Jonathan seems bent on his own destruction and on ruining his life.

ALL FALLEN MAN

But isn’t that the state of all fallen man outside of Christ? Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” We are all born broken, with flawed wisdom and with selfish desires and sinful passions. All of fallen man is born blind (See Isaiah 6:10; 43:8; John 9:25.) and stumbles along life’s path, groping for some sort of light or trustworthy direction (Isaiah 59:10-14; Acts 17:27). We all pursue a path that seems right to us, that seems “right in our own eyes” (Judges 21:25), but the end of that path is death. There is only one way that leads to life, and His name is Jesus (John 14:6). All other paths are false trails, dark and slippery, that lead to death. There is only one gate, small and narrow, that leads to life, and the name of that gate is Jesus (Matthew 7:13-14). All other gates, gates wide and broad to admit the many who rush through them, are gates of destruction that lead inevitably to death.

Jonathan is manifestly on a path of destruction, but he is not alone on that path. While the degree of damage and ruin is more evident in Jonathan’s life than in most others, the trail he is walking is well trodden. The prophet speaks not of heroin addicts only, but of all mankind when he says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). Our old heart of stone is deceitful and leads us down dark and slippery paths to our own ruin. The only solution for our deceitful heart of stone is replacement with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26-27). And the only one who can replace our sinful heart with a new heart is Jesus.

A SAVIOR WHO SAVES

While there is pity and sadness when we see someone like Jonathan making a shipwreck of his life and running headlong down the path of destruction, we need not despair. Jesus is a Savior who has come to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). Humanly, we may see the sinner as being far down the path of destruction, but distance is no obstacle for the Lord, because nothing is too difficult for Him (Isaiah 59:1; Jeremiah 32:17, 27; Luke 18:26-27). The Lord can deliver any sinner from his circumstances, no matter how deep the well into which he has fallen (Jeremiah 38:9-13). There is no place the sinner can go from which the Lord cannot deliver him unto salvation. The distance a sinner has wandered is of no consequence to the Lord.

The situation for Jonathan appears bleak. He seems to have wandered into a place from which there is no rescue. And if Jesus Christ had not been sent from heaven to earth and had not lived a sinless life and died an atoning death; if Jesus had not been raised from the dead and did not now offer His atoning blood as payment for all the sinner’s sins; if Jesus was not a glorious Savior, King of kings and Lord of lords, mighty to save so that anyone who places their trust in Him will be saved (Acts 16:31), then there would be no reason for any hope for Jonathan.

Like Jonathan, all mankind outside of Christ is on the way to destruction. Titus 3:3 says, “For we were once foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.” A bleak situation, indeed, but not hopeless. “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for all mankind appeared, He saved us” (Titus 3:4-5). Because of Jesus Christ and His glorious gospel of salvation, all who repent of their sins and believe in Jesus will be saved.

SDG                 rmb                 12/24/2021                 #473

“They will come to Me” – (John 6:37 – Part 4)

INTRODUCTION: This is the last post in this series studying John 6:37, a verse in which Jesus teaches us about the sovereignty of God in salvation. In this series, we will examine not only what Jesus explicitly teaches in this verse, but also its implications based on other passages of Scripture and plain reasoning.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” – John 6:37 (NASB)

In our third study in this series, we considered the phrase in the verse, “will come to Me” and sought to answer the question, “What does it mean for the sinner to ‘come to Jesus’?”  (See post #469 on 12/11/2021.) This article gives a clear explanation of what it means to come to Jesus in repentance and in faith.

In this fourth and final article from John 6:37, we will be discovering what Jesus promises to the one who comes to Him in repentance and faith. Our Lord says, “The one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” What does this mean? What is Jesus’ purpose in this teaching?

THE BELIEVER IS NOT CAST OUT

There are many ways that we can understand this expression.

The reason Jesus said this was to give confidence to the person who has believed in Him. Jesus’ purpose was to let the one who trusts in Him for salvation know that the believer is held securely by the Savior. That is, the believer is saved forever. There is no possibility that the one who has trusted in Jesus will ever be lost again. Eternally secure.

We already know that the one who comes to Jesus for salvation has passed from death to life (John 5:24). That is a one-way ticket. There is no return flight. The death of Jesus has been applied to the believing sinner’s sin and believer’s sin is atoned for. All the sins of the believer are covered by the blood of the Lamb and are therefore forever separated from the believer as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

By faith in Jesus, the sinner is born again (or born from above). The twice born can never suffer the condemnation and punishment of the once born. The one who has believed in Jesus has been “delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of Jesus Christ, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). Again, this is a one-way trip. There is no path back into the darkness for the true believer.

There is therefore now no condemnation for the one who has trusted in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Not now, not ever.

So, Jesus is here proclaiming that the one who has trusted in Him as Lord and Savior is certainly bound for heaven and will be there eternally. That is the entire purpose of Jesus’ statement. Therefore, believe in Jesus.

SDG                 rmb                 12/20/2021                 #472

Thoughts on baptism from Matthew 28:19-20 – Part 1

“Buried unto death in Christ, rise again to walk in newness of life.” – my pastor when I was baptized thirty-one years ago at the age of thirty-one.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Jesus Christ giving the Great Commission to His church in Matthew 28:19-20.

Yesterday morning, our church celebrated the baptism of three new disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. One was a lady in her early thirties who had lived an immoral life before Christ. In her testimony, she herself compared herself to the “woman at the well” in John 4. But then she met Jesus, and had professed faith in Him, and had now found a good church where she could grow in her relationship with Jesus and could be taught what it means to be an obedient disciple of Jesus. As a testimony to her faith in Christ, she was baptized into Christ, and also baptized into His body, the church, where she will be nurtured and grow.

The next person baptized was ethnically Vietnamese. He was a young man 17 years old who had been raised in a Bible-believing home where Christ was honored as Lord. His parents were strong believers and had taught their son that he must personally place his faith in Jesus. And so, there came a day when this young man repented of his sins and placed his faith in Jesus. Now, as a testimony of his faith in Jesus, he was baptized into Christ, and also baptized into His body, the church, where he will be nurtured and grow.

The third person baptized was a Chinese man in his thirties. He had been born in northern China and, five years ago, had come to the United States to earn his PhD. When he came to this country, he was under tremendous stress. He and his wife had a newborn and there were issues with his visa and his job was stressful. As a result, he had almost experienced an emotional breakdown. At that time, he had met some Christians from our church and had begun to hear about Jesus. He committed to read the Bible from cover to cover to find out about Christianity. Then there came the day when he told his friend, “I believe in Jesus.” And so, in obedience to the command of Jesus, he was baptized into Christ, and also baptized into His body, the church, where he will be nurtured and grow.

These three stories are very different and are about three very different people. Externally they are about as different as people can be. Their journeys varied widely, as the Lord drew them to Himself (John 6:44). But the destination was the same. They were journeying toward Jesus and toward the salvation that Jesus offers to anyone who will repent of their sin and believe in Him.

THE BEAUTY OF THE GREAT COMMISSION

This is the beauty that is contained in the Great Commission which Jesus has given to His church. A person is far from God, living their life separated from Him by their sins (Isaiah 59:2; Ephesians 4:17-19). They may be living in open rebellion against God, or they may be outwardly “good” people who simply do not believe in Jesus, or they may be people who have never heard of Jesus and so remain ignorant of their sin and ignorant of His salvation. But regardless of why they are lost, and regardless of where they are in their wanderings, the path to salvation is clear and is the same.

First, a follower of Jesus proclaims to the sinner the gospel of salvation and tells the sinner of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then, at some point, the sinner’s ears are opened so that he hears the gospel and trusts in Jesus Christ for salvation. Now the sinner has passed from death to life (John 5:24) and has been born again (John 3:3, 5), and has been saved (Acts 16:31). Thus, the sinner has become a disciple of the Lord Jesus.

Now that this person is a disciple of Jesus, what happens next? He is to be publicly baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit as a testimony of his new faith in Jesus. This is explicitly stated in Matthew 28:19, and there is absolutely no ambiguity. And the disciple is to join themselves with a local church where she can be taught “all things that the Lord commanded us.” The proper place for every disciple of the Lord Jesus is the local church. The church is where the new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) grows into a mature and obedient and reproducing believer.

The beauty of this transformed life was pictured for us Sunday in our church when these three disciples testified to their faith in Jesus and told of their journey to Him. From different directions they had entered through the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13-14) of faith in the Lord Jesus, and they had been publicly baptized into Christ, and now they were in the place of nurturing and teaching where they would grow into “oaks of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:3). This is such a beautiful picture of what Jesus came to do, “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10) by bringing them to faith and then placing them in healthy local churches.

TWO DIFFERENT VIEWS AND PRACTICES

Having talked about the biblical picture of what happens when a person comes to faith in Christ, I wanted to talk about two different views and practices that occur in many churches which do not correspond to the teaching of the Great Commission, and which thus result in great confusion in even identifying disciples and determining if they are obeying what Jesus commanded. The first practice that I will discuss is Paedobaptism, which is the practice of many Protestant churches of sprinkling infants with a little bit of water and calling that baptism. The second practice that we will explore is what I will call “revivalism.” Revivalism is a particular practice of evangelism which assumes that, when an “evangelist” proclaims a standard message, there will be instantaneous conversions, which will be punctuated by “praying the sinner’s prayer” and thus guaranteeing the sinner an eternity in heaven.

I will expand on these ideas in two future articles.

SDG                 rmb                 12/20/2021                 #471

“They will come to Me” – (John 6:37 – Part 3)

INTRODUCTION: This is part of a series of blog posts studying John 6:37, a verse in which Jesus teaches us about the sovereignty of God in salvation. In this series, we will examine not only what Jesus explicitly teaches in this verse, but also its implications based on other passages of Scripture and plain reasoning.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” – John 6:37 (NASB)

In our second study in this series, we considered the next phrase in the verse, “will come to Me.” (See post #468 on 12/10/2021.) In that post, we focused on answering the question, “Who will come to Jesus?” This led to a detailed study of the nature of the elect and election, and how this displays God’s sovereignty in salvation.

But now, in this post we seek to answer the extremely important question, “What does it mean for the sinner to ‘come to Jesus’?” Since it is only those who “come to the Son” who are saved from eternal condemnation, we should strive to know what “will come to Me” means.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ‘COME TO JESUS’?

The expression “come to Me” appears twice in this verse. Jesus says they “will come to Me” and He says, “the one who comes to Me.” To “come to Jesus” is one the most important themes of the entire Bible. Jesus Christ, God the Son, was sent from heaven to earth on a rescue mission, “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10) as He “gave His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The only way that anyone receives salvation is by coming to Jesus. The Bible teaches that God has divinely chosen those people whom He will bring to salvation, but this doctrine of God’s election is given to us so that we may know the power of God’s sovereignty in salvation, not so that we may be confused about how to be saved.

Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me.” For the human sinner, the most important part of Jesus’ statement is, “will come to Me.” If you want to be saved, there is something that you need to do. If you want to be saved, you must actively come to Jesus.

“What does it mean to ‘come to Jesus’?” First, you must believe in Jesus. In John 1:12 says that to those who believed in Jesus’ name become children of God. In John 20:31, the Bible says that those who believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have eternal life in His name. This believing can be understood as an unshakeable trust in Jesus, that He is who He said He was and that He is my Savior and my Lord.

Second, this inward faith and trust in Jesus manifests itself in an outward profession. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Faith in Jesus cannot remain an inner, silent thing, but must be expressed outwardly in a verbal profession. When you come to Jesus, others should know that Jesus has become your Lord and Savior.

Also, to come to Jesus means to repent of your sin and to begin to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matt. 5:6). John the Baptist cried out, “Bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). At Pentecost, the people asked, “What are we to do (to be saved)?” Peter replied, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38). The Philippian jailer asked Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31).

Finally, to come to Jesus, the Son of God, means obeying Him. In John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” If you have come to saving faith in Jesus, you will have a desire to obey His commands and to walk in holiness and righteousness. You will forsake the wicked ways of your past. Paul says that, if you have come to Jesus, “you laid aside the old self with its evil practices” (Colossians 3:9). Jesus says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word” (John 14:23).

As we conclude this post, we should notice two things. First, all those who come to Jesus will be saved. This should be an encouragement to anyone who desires to be saved from the coming judgment. But second, only those who come to Jesus will be saved. This should instill a sense of urgency. Those who were thinking about coming to Jesus but never did, and those who never expressly rejected Jesus, but who also never came to Him in repentance and faith alike will perish forever. All second chances are forever blown away at the final heartbeat. At that moment, eternity opens wide, and the lake of fire receives another unrepentant sinner. I urge you to come to Jesus.

In our next post in this series, we will examine the truth that the one who comes to Jesus He will certainly not cast out.

SDG                 rmb                 12/11/2021                 #469

“They will come to Me” – (John 6:37 – Part 2)

INTRODUCTION: This is part of a series of blog posts studying John 6:37, a verse in which Jesus teaches us about the sovereignty of God in salvation. In this series, we will examine not only what Jesus explicitly teaches in this verse, but also its implications based on other passages of Scripture and plain reasoning.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” – John 6:37 (NASB)

In our first study in this series, we examined the phrase, “All that the Father gives Me.” (See post #465 on 12/6/2021.) It was discovered that all the souls given by God the Father to God the Son was established and fixed “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4) when the Father chose the elect for salvation. These people have been given as a gift by the Father to the Son to worship the Son forever in heaven (see Revelation 7:9-12). These truths mean that the phrase, “All that the Father gives Me,” could be expressed as “All the elect.”

In this part of our series, we will consider the next phrase, “will come to Me.” We will break this study into two parts: first, the implications of “All that the Father gives Me” with respect to who will come to Jesus for salvation, and second, what it means for any sinner to “come to Jesus” for salvation.

WHO WILL COME TO JESUS?

Now that we have begun to dig deeper into this verse, we need to identify who will, and who will not, come to Jesus for salvation. If we simply read the verse as it appears, the answer appears obvious. Who will come to the Son for salvation? All that the Father has given the Son will come to the Son for salvation. To simplify this answer, we can make the substitution we mentioned above. Thus, “All the elect will come to the Son for salvation.”

Let’s talk about this a little. Here Jesus is making a statement of divine decree. That is, God has decreed that all those He chose in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) will certainly come to Christ for salvation during the course of their natural lifetimes. (The corollary to this decree is that only those the Father chose in Christ before the foundation of the world will come to Christ.)

So far, so good. But is there any way to know who is elect and who is not? Because if only the elect will come to Christ for salvation, I want to know who those people are. More specifically, I want to know that I am one of the elect. So, is there any way to know who is elect and who is not?

WHO IS ELECT?

The answer is, “Yes. We can know who is elect.” The way that we discover who is elect is by observing who comes to Christ for salvation. To give a personal example, I know that I am one of the elect. I know that because about thirty years ago I came to Christ for salvation. I placed my faith in Jesus, I repented of my sins, I was baptized upon profession of my faith, and my life was radically changed, and I have continued to follow Jesus in the fellowship of His church to this day. My coming to Christ revealed my election by God before the foundation of the world. So, the way we know the elect; the way we know those the Father has given to the Son, is by noticing those who come to faith in Christ.

Okay. So, are we saying that only those who have come to Christ are the elect? Not exactly. You see, we have said that all those given by God the Father to God the Son (the elect) will certainly come to Christ for salvation during the course of their natural lifetimes. As we think about this, though, it becomes obvious that some people may be of the elect, but they have not yet come to Christ for salvation. If they are elect, then they will certainly come to Christ before they die, but they have not come to Christ yet. The fact is that it is impossible to know those who are elect unless and until they come to Jesus for salvation. This, by the way, is the reason that we continue to pray for and to evangelize all people until they come to Christ or die, because we do not know who, among the unsaved living, is elect and who is not.

WHO IS NOT ELECT?

But sadly, there is a way to know who is not elect. Every person who dies outside of Christ, that is, who never comes to the Jesus the Son for salvation during their natural lifetime has revealed that they were not of the elect. They were not given by the Father to the Son. Because they died outside of Christ, they perished. Every person who does not come to the Son for salvation will be judged on the last day and will be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “COME TO JESUS”?

This leads to an extremely important question. If only those who “come to Jesus” are saved from the lake of fire, then the critical question is, “What does it mean for the sinner to ‘come to Jesus’?” I am glad that you asked. That will be the subject of the next post on John 6:37.

SDG                 rmb                 12/10/2021                 #468

“All that the Father gives Me” (John 6:37) – Part 1

INTRODUCTION: This is part of a series of blog posts on John 6:37, a verse in which Jesus teaches us about the sovereignty of God in salvation. In this series, we will examine not only what Jesus explicitly taught in this verse, but also its implications based on other passages of Scripture and plain reasoning.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” – John 6:37 (NASB)

In our study, we will examine the verse in small bites.

All that the Father gives Me” – From this opening phrase, we conclude that there is a specific, fixed number of souls that the Father has given to the Son. The Father has not given every soul to the Son, but only “all that the Father gives Me.” This phrase limits the number of those who will be saved to only those given by the Father. We know, therefore that all will not be saved.

It is also true that the Father certainly knows the number who will be saved, for “The Lord knows those who are His” (2 Timothy 2:19). If the Father knows the number of hairs on each person’s head (Matthew 10:30), then He certainly knows the exact number of souls that He has given to His Son, so we can say with confidence that the number is specific and fixed.

We also know that the number of those who are given to the Son for salvation is specific and fixed because these were chosen by the Father “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). At a time that was before all time, “before the foundation of the world,” God the Father chose the full number of those who would ever be in Christ. Once the Father “chose us in Him,” the full number of future saints was forever established and could not be changed. Thus, we can say that the number is specific and fixed.

Notice also that the Father is completely sovereign in this giving of souls to the Son. The Father alone has determined the exact number of souls that will be given to His beloved Son, and the Father alone is the One who gives them. The people who are chosen by the Father for salvation and then given to the Son are passive. (NOTE: This does not mean that we are saved passively. We will address what it means to come to Jesus for salvation later in this series, but our salvation is not passive. What we are discussing here is that we who are the recipients of salvation made no contribution to our being chosen by the Father and being given to the Son.)

Finally, we call “all the Father has given” to the Son “the elect” or “the chosen.” Substituting this term into the opening phrase yields, “All the elect (will come to Me).”

In the next post, we will consider the phrase, “will come to Me.”

SDG                 rmb                 12/6/2021                   #465

God’s grace demonstrated in conscience (Romans 2:14-15)

INTRODUCTION: Yesterday we talked about the Law and about how this instrument that God gave us to diagnose the disease of our sin (see Romans 3:20 and Romans 7:7) was twisted into a ladder of performance whereby man could achieve his own righteousness by his own efforts. Today we are going to talk about another diagnostic tool that God has given to man to bring their sin up to the level of consciousness. Today we are going to talk about the conscience.

BACKGROUND

The main purpose of Romans 1:18-3:20 is to bring all readers to the unmistakable awareness that they are sinners under the wrath of God. Paul is acting as a prosecuting attorney to drive all people, Jew or Gentile, to the realization that they are under the Lord’s just condemnation for their sin. Paul’s main witness for the prosecution for establishing the sin of all people is the Law which God had given through Moses at Sinai. Even though the Law was given to the Jews and had remained unknown among the Gentiles (Romans 3:1-2), the Gentiles were still condemned by their own sin. Listen to Romans 2:12:

For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law. – Romans 2:12

This verse makes unambiguously clear that it is not the knowledge of your sin that condemns you, but it is the existence of your sin that brings you under God’s wrath. The Gentiles did not have the Law, and so the Law could not reveal to the Gentile his sin, but he would nevertheless perish in his unrepentant sin.

The issue is our sin. And the issue is always our sin. “The soul that sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:4). “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). We must repent of our sin and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, or we will perish forever in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15) as punishment for our sin. But for us to repent of our sin, we must be aware of our sin. And so, God in His grace has given us several means for becoming aware of our sin. He has given the Law, as we have already seen, but he has also given the conscience.

THE CONSCIENCE IN ROMANS 2:14-15

Paul speaks of the conscience in Romans 2:14-15, which is the essential biblical teaching on the conscience.

14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them. – Romans 2:14-15

Paul starts by declaring that the Gentiles “do not have the Law.” This is what we have already been saying. The written Law was given to Israel and was unknown among the Gentiles. Does that mean that there was no way for the Law of God to be revealed to the Gentiles? No, because even though the Gentiles did not have access to the written Law, they all have a conscience that operates like the Law to reveal their sin to them. As the written Law was the diagnostic tool for showing the children of Israel their sin, so the conscience was the diagnostic tool for the Gentiles.

Let me explain what Paul is saying here in these two verses. Even though the Gentiles do not have access to the written Law and thus are not shown their sin by the written Law, God has graciously given to every Gentile a conscience which operates like a law within themselves (2:14). God has written His Law on every human heart (2:15), and when the Gentile sins, the conscience accuses him (2:15) that he has violated the Law, and when the Gentile accidentally or incidentally or intentionally obeys, the conscience defends him (2:15) as having done right. In this way, the conscience acts as a pseudo-Law to make the Gentile aware of their sin. Thus, the conscience is “a law within themselves” (2:14) for the Gentiles.

What we see, then, is that the conscience serves the same function as the Law in making the sinner aware of their sin, but the voice of the conscience is much softer than the voice of the Law and is also more easily muffled or silenced.

SUMMARY

We have seen that, as the written Law made sin known to the Jew, so the indwelling conscience, operating as a pseudo-Law, makes sin known to the Gentile. God has graciously given these means for revealing sin to every man so that no one needs to remain ignorant of his sin. Next time, we will continue this line of thought and see why the conscience also fails to restrain the Gentile from sin.

SDG                 rmb                 11/30/2021                 #462

The Law becomes a ladder to climb

The Lord gave the Law as a tool for diagnosing the deadly disease of sin. For the Jews, however, this diagnostic tool was converted into a system of works as a cure for their guilt. This will take some explaining, for the process of changing the Law from an instrument for revealing sin unto condemnation into a ladder of works righteousness up which a sinner could climb, is lengthy and intricate.

WHY WAS THE LAW GIVEN?

It must be understood at the outset that the Law was given at Sinai to reveal to all mankind their sin before the thrice holy God. “Through the Law comes the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). “For I would not have come to know sin except through the Law. For I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’” (Romans 7:7). It was an act of God’s grace to declare the Law so that sinful man would become aware of his sin, and then God’s kindness would lead the sinner to repentance (Romans 2:4). In other words, the Law was written to reveal to the sinner his sin and his consequent condemnation so that the sinner would cry out to the Lord for mercy and forgiveness. The Law was the diagnostic tool that showed man his sin, but faith in the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness was the cure for the sin.

HOW WAS THE LAW DISTORTED

But there was another way to respond to the condemnation from the Law, a response which was itself sinful and which nullified the intended purpose of the Law. In this wrong response, the priests and the scribes and the false prophets, and later on the Pharisees and the Sadducees, realized that obeying the Law was impossible, because the Law required perfect obedience. The Law as written gave no wiggle room, but rather demanded perfect obedience from birth to grave. If you failed to obey perfectly, the Law brought full condemnation. The priests and the scribes perceived this as a problem. The way they solved this problem was by changing the absolute obedience demanded by God’s Law into a relative obedience based on a set of man-made “works” that could be obeyed. Thus, the Jews modified the terms of the Law so that they could obtain their own righteousness through their obedience to the Law (Romans 10:1-3). The modified “Law” could be obeyed because it only required relative obedience. Instead of the perfect Law of God, which was graded as either perfect obedience or absolute failure, the modified “Law” accepted your “best effort” as good enough and then was graded on a curve. Thus, your own works achieved your right standing before God.

Now, consider for a moment what was lost by this emasculating of the perfect Law of God. As we compare these two versions of the Law, we will see how catastrophic this was for the Jews and how it rendered them almost beyond the reach of the gospel.

THE PURE LAW AS GIVEN AT SINAI

If the Law as given at Sinai were allowed to stand inviolate, then the hearer of the Law could realize their abject failure to keep the requirements of the Law and thus see their complete condemnation. Knowing their condemnation before the Holy One of Israel, the sinner could abandon all their own works and all their own efforts at achieving righteousness and could, instead, see the worthiness of Jesus and the glory of His death on the cross, and could cry out to Him for mercy as the only one who could save them from their sins. The sequence would be to hear the Law and thus to realize the greatness of my sin. Being convicted of my sin, I would seek God’s appointed means of forgiveness and reconciliation. In this way, I would find Jesus and would cry out to Him in faith and repentance. The cross of Christ has overwhelming power, for it is only at the cross that God’s justice and His mercy meet. It is only in Jesus that forgiveness is to be found. “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.”

THE MODIFIED “LAW” AS MADE BY THE JEWS

On the other hand, the modified “Law” offers an entirely different scenario. In this case, the hearer is not convicted of their sin by the Law’s holy demands, but instead is alerted that their performance must improve. Instead of despairing of any and all personal merit, the hearer considers what works they need to perform to achieve their righteousness. Instead of the cross of Christ towering to infinite height as the only means of forgiveness in all of human history, the death of Christ is unnecessary and insignificant, since my sin can be covered by my own good works (Galatians 2:21). Instead of Christ being the one worthy of all praise as the only Savior, He is reduced to a pathetic martyr and a good teacher and nothing more.

SUMMARY

Therefore, the Lord graciously gave His perfect Law to reveal to us the cancer of our sin. Like an undiagnosed terminal cancer, unconfessed sin is killing every person and condemning them to eternal judgment under the wrath of God. But God has designed the Law to be a diagnostic tool that exposes sin and makes our iniquity known to us. The Law is the best instrument for diagnosing sin, but it is useless as a cure for sin. As a PET scan shows the existence and extent of cancer but is worthless for fighting cancer, so the Law reveals the existence and extent of sin but is worthless for fighting sin.

So, the Law and the cross of Christ work together to bring justification and forgiveness and righteousness. The Law reveals the sinner’s sin, and, by faith, the blood of Jesus shed on the cross cleanses the sinner of all guilt and condemnation and unrighteousness. Through faith and repentance, the sin the Law reveals is the sin that the Lord Jesus heals.

SDG                 rmb                 11/30/2021                 #461