The Effectual Call of God
June 28th, 1987 @ 8:15 AM
THE EFFECTUAL CALL OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-28-87 8:15 a.m.
And once again welcome the throngs of you who are listening on radio. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering a sermon, a textual sermon. Most of the times the messages presented by the pastor will be an exposition. It will be a passage; this morning it is a textual message from John 6:37; John 6:37, and I have named it The Effectual Call of God.
The text is in two very distinct parts. First clause: “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me.” Second clause: “And him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” [John 6:37]. The first clause speaks of predestinating grace: “All that the Father giveth Me shall surely, certainly come to Me.” You have two verbs here in the English translated alike: “shall … All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; He that cometh to Me” [John 6:37], in English, both verbs translated in the same English word. They are altogether different verbs; they move in a different world. “All that the Father giveth Me hekō, shall surely and certainly and must come to Me”: hekō. You have an instance of the use of the verb in the story of the prodigal son [Luke 15:11-32]. “Thy brother hekō, has come; he has arrived, and the father hath killed for him the fatted calf” [Luke 15:27]. Hekō: “is arrived, is come, is certainly here.” The other verb, erchomai, is just the usual word for “come”: “He that cometh,” erchomai.
Predestinating grace: “All that the Father giveth Me shall certainly and inevitably and inexorably come; they will come” [John 6:37]. Apparently, what God said to our Lord in glory: “You go down and be incarnate, a man in that earth, and You suffer and die on the cross, and I will give You a people. You will not suffer and die in vain; I will give You disciples and believers and converts, and they will certainly come.” Predestinating grace; God has given to our Savior a people. “All that the Father giveth Me shall certainly and surely hekō, arrive, be there, is come” [John 6:37].
The other part is free will: “And him that cometh to Me I will no wise cast out [John 6:37]. The man that chooses to come, the one who accepts the love and grace of our Lord, I will accept Him. If he will come, I will love and receive him as My very own.”
There are two distinct lines of grace and revelation in God’s Holy Word. One is God’s elective purpose and His effectual calling, His predestinating grace; that’s one line. The other line is free will: “I choose, I accept, I turn, I confess, I repent, I believe.” And those two lines are parallel through all of human life and experience: God’s predestination and our free will choice. I cannot make them meet; they are always parallel. I cannot understand the mystery of them; but no one is able to make them cross. No one can make them contradict.
When a man is saved, he’s an Arminian. Arminius was the great Dutch theologian who was the expounder of free will, of free choice. When a man is saved, he’s an Arminian, always. “Look what I did. I accepted the Lord. I repented of my sins. I confessed the Lord Jesus. I came to Him. It was at such and such service, at such and such hour, and I was saved. I repented, and I confessed, and I turned, and I believed, and I was saved.” He’s an Arminian: “I did it.” But as surely as God lives, as he grows in grace and as the days pass, he becomes a Calvinist, always: “God did it. Looking back, God touched my heart, God called me, and God saved me. It was by God’s love and by God’s grace and in God’s goodness that I came to know the Lord, always” [John 6:44].
Long time ago, I forever settled in my mind those two great doctrines of the Bible, and I have never been bothered by them since. There are two nomenclatures in the kingdom of God, two of them, and if you’ll keep them separate, you’ll never have any problem, never. There are words, there is a nomenclature that belongs up there. And when we speak of Him up there, we talk about almightiness, and sovereignty, and immutability, unchanging immutability; we talk about omniscience and omnipresence and omnipotence, and we talk about predestination and election and foreknowledge. That’s the language up there where God is. Down here where we are, we use an altogether different kind of language. We talk about free will; we talk about choice; we talk about confession, repentance, salvation; we talk about commitment and consecration. These are the words down here. And if you’ll keep them separate, you’ll never have any trouble. Up there it’s God, it’s foreknowledge, it’s election and predestination, it’s the omnipotence of almightiness of the heavenly Father; and down here it’s confession, and repentance, and choice, and free will.
Now having spoken of the text, may I expound upon its two parts? “All that the Father giveth Me shall hekō, surely and certainly come to Me” [John 6:37]; these that God hath chosen, predestinated in His sovereign choice, has given them to Christ. “They will certainly come to Me.” In God’s Holy Scriptures we are told that up there in heaven, in the presence of the Lord God, is a Book of Life [Revelation 20:12-15]. And in the seventeenth chapter of the Revelation, it says that in that book are the names of all of those who are saved, whose names are in that Book of Life, written before the foundation of the world [Revelation 17:8]. Before God created this universe and flung this planet out into space, God wrote in that Book of Life the names of those who are given to Jesus, those who are saved, those who are in the kingdom. We can’t look upon that book. There’s only One who is worthy. There’s just One who is worthy to take the book and to break the seals and to look upon its mysterious pages [Revelation 5:2-9]. He is described as “the Lamb of God, slain before the foundation of the world” [Revelation 13:8]. I can’t see it, I can’t read those names, I can’t look upon it; just the Lamb of God. But oh, what a comfort to me to know that there is such a book, and in that book are the names of those that God hath given to our Lord, who shall surely come to Him [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27; Luke 10:20].
There are those who will not come; they refuse to respond. Here in this chapter, “No man can come to Me, except the Father draw him” [John 6:44], and in the tenth chapter out of which you read, “You cannot believe because you are not My sheep” [John 10:26]. There are some who will not respond. No matter how you pray, or how you weep, or how you witness, or how you testify, or how you make appeal, there are some who will not respond. But there are some who will always turn; there are some who will always believe; there are some who will always accept. The blood and suffering of Christ [Matthew 27:32-50], shall not be poured out into this world in vain, and the man that preaches the gospel will not go without a recompense and a reward. There will always be some who will turn and be saved, always. Some will come, some will believe, some will turn, some will look to Jesus. Always, some will come [John 6:37]. God’s predestinating grace grants to us who make appeal and who pray and who preach, God’s predestinating grace will always bring us some [John 6:37].
If there were a great plague in the city, and some are saved, why not you? If there was a great famine in the land and many are starving, but some will live, why not you? Your coming, your responding is a sign that God hath chosen you.
How do they come? Is it because of their good works? Is it because they merit salvation? The Scriptures say that our righteousnesses, our works, are like filthy rags in His sight [Isaiah 64:6]. How is it that they come? Is it because of some intrinsic worth? Paul said, “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) there is no good thing” [Romans 7:18]. How do they come? They come because of the constraining love of God in their hearts. God puts in their hearts a love for the Lord and a wanting for Christ [2 Corinthians 5:14-15]. And if they want Christ, a thousand times over again Christ wants them.
Oh, the love of God that drew salvation’s plan!
Oh, the grace of God that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span
When He gave us Jesus on Calvary!
[from “At Calvary,” William R. Newell]
That is God’s predestinating grace [John 6:37], and as I say, when you grow older and experienced in the faith and in the Lord, more and more and more do you praise God for His goodnesses to you. It is less and less and less and less of us, and more and more and more of Him, until finally it is nothing of us and all of Him—God’s grace that reached down and saved me [John 6:37].
Now the second one: “And him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” [John 6:37]; free choice, my coming to the Lord. It’s an unusual thing the way the text says. It begins with a plural, “all,” pan, “All, all that come to Me.” But when we come to our second verse, it becomes a singular: ton, “the one,” translated here “him.” All that God has given to Jesus will certainly come [John 6:37]. Then it becomes singular and particularly and personal: “And him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” [John 6:37] There is a solicitude on the part of God for each one of us that is marvelous to contemplate.
You, you, that “him”—”Him that cometh unto Me” [John 6:37]—that “him,” that “him” can be from a drunkard’s hell; it can be from a brothel; it can be from the outcasts of humanity; it can be from the slums of the city; it can be from the gambler’s den. That “him” can be any “him”; that “him” can be any sinner. All sinners, all of us, with our weaknesses and our foibles and our failures, “Him that cometh unto Me,” that “him” can be the brokenhearted and the weary, these who have striven and have failed in life. That “him” can be a young person, a child; it can be an old somebody. If you’re old enough to sin, you’re old enough to die. “And him that cometh unto Me”: that “him” can be anybody. It can be I. It can be we.
“Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out” [John 6:37]. You know, the Greek is sometimes unusual. If you use a double negative in English, it contradicts itself; it’s not—you just don’t use double negatives: “no, not never.” Greek is just the opposite: it will pile up double negatives. And here is one of them: “Him that cometh unto Me ou me, no not never will I cast him out.” The Lord is so approachable. “We who are far off,” says Paul in Ephesians 2, “are made nigh by the blood of Christ” [Ephesians 2:13]. The great eighth chapter of the Book of Romans begins, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus” [Romans 8:1].
“Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out” [John 6:37]; the approachableness and the availableness and the nearness of our Lord. In the days of His flesh, there thronged Him and crowded around Him the poor, and the sick, and the blind, and the lame, and the halt, and the lost. He said, “I am come to seek and to save those who are lost” [Luke 19:10]. And now that our Lord is in heaven, He hasn’t changed: He is still our available Christ [Hebrews 4:14-16].
“It is expedient for you,” He said, “that I go away” [John 16:7]. Were He still in the days of His flesh and living in Jerusalem, how would we get to Him? The throngs from the ends of the earth, the ships would clog the sea; the city would be multitudinously pressed on every side. Our Lord now, this moment, He is as near as your breath, He is closer than your hands and your feet, and you can talk to Him, and you can tell Him all about every providence and experience in life.
I was greatly moved one time by a man telling, a pastor telling of an old gentleman who, when his wife died, went to live with his daughter. And they built a room for him, and there he lived the last of his life and his days in that room in his daughter’s house. And one day the old gentleman came to see the pastor who’s speaking, and said to him, the old gentleman said, “You know, I have a hard time feeling that God is near me, and I just wish I knew how to get close to the Lord.” And the pastor had an inspiration; he said, “I tell you what you do, dad. You get you a chair, an empty chair, and you put it by where you sit, and you talk to the Lord Jesus in that chair, and He will hear you and He will answer. You just talk to Him.” In the night, the old gentleman, the old dad, went to be with the Lord. And when the funeral arrangements were made, the daughter in the house said to the pastor who’s telling this story that I was listening to—the daughter said to the pastor, “Pastor, it is the strangest thing, the strangest thing. When I went to see my dad in the morning, in the night he had drawn up an empty chair, and I found him there. He had died with his hand on that empty chair.”
Jesus is available! Jesus is approachable! Jesus is near. “He that cometh unto Me,” any he, “he that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast him out” [John 6:37].
A concluding remark on the text: that’s the way we are saved, by coming to the Lord Jesus. It is that simple and it’s that plain [John 6:37]. There is never ever anything mysterious about the way we are saved. We are saved by coming to the Lord, always. Our Lord said it like this: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up” [John 3:14-15; Numbers 21:8-9], and we’re saved by a look at the crucified One.
Could I add to it like this? I have flown several times over the mouth of the Amazon River. So great is the pressure of that stream that for five hundred miles out into the Atlantic the water is fresh; the push of that river out into the Atlantic. There was a ship without water, destitute, and the sailors dying. And they called to another passing ship, “What shall we do? We have no water!” And the answer came: “Just dip it up and drink! Just dip it up and drink!” That’s the abounding grace of our Lord for us: just eat, my brother; eat the bread of life [John 6:35, 41, 48, 51]. Just drink, my brother; drink the water of life [John 4:13-14]. It is that simple. There is not one way to be saved for Peter, Paul, and James, and John, and another way for us; we all are saved alike [John 6:37]. There’s not some mysterious door through which those apostles entered into the love and grace and heart of Christ, and we come in another way; all of us come in the same way: just loving the Lord, just coming to Jesus [John 6:37], just believing in Him [John 3:14-16], just trusting in Him [Acts 16:30-31]. And when I do that, I have eternal life:
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them . . .
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any one pluck them out of My hand.
My Father, who gave them Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand.
I and My Father are one.
I’m saved, and I’m safe, and I’m secure. No lion of the pit will ever be able to take away one of the sheep of His flock, and no demon from hell will be able to wrest from the hand of God the Father the humblest one who has sought refuge in Him [John 10:29].
And repeated and repeated in this passage, 39: “All that the Father hath given Me will come, and I will raise him up at the last day” [John 6:39]. The next verse: “This is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one that seeketh the Son, and believeth on Him, hath everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” [John 6:40]. Forty-fourth verse: “Any one that comes to Me the Father will draw him, and I will raise him up at the last day” [John 6:44]. Again, “Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” [John 6:54]. In that little passage there, four times: “I will raise him up at the last day” [John 6:39-54].
Sweet people, Jesus not only saves our souls [Hebrews 10:39], and saves our spirits [1 Thessalonians 5:23], but He also has promised to resurrect and to immortalize and to re-create our human bodies [John 11:25-26]. The whole purchased possession shall be immortalized and redeemed [Ephesians 1:14]. Paul closed the third chapter of Philippians, “For our citizenship is in heaven,” our home is in heaven. It’s not here; it’s in heaven [Philippians 3:20]. Our reward is not here; it’s in heaven:
For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence we look for the Savior . . . Who shall change our vile bodies, that they may be fashioned according to His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself.
We are saved and saved forever, and someday God will raise, out of corruption and death, these bodies [1 Corinthians 15:50-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17]. And we’ll be fashioned and made like unto our Savior [Philippians 3:21]; He our elder Brother, and we of His household of faith [Galatians 6:10]. Oh, bless God, and praise His name forever!
In this moment, when we sing our hymn of appeal, thus to come to the Lord [Romans 10:9-10], to answer that call in your heart, or with a family you, to put your life in the circle of our dear church or to answer a call of God to you in your heart, on the first note of the first stanza, come, and a thousand times welcome. Make the decision now, and when we sing our song, down one of those stairways, down one of these aisles: “Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and here I stand,” while we sing, while we stand, while we come, while we wait, while we pray.
EFFECTIVE CALL OF GOD
I. The text
A. The two parts
– “shall surely come”
2. Free will –
“he that cometh”
B. The two lines of
doctrine; both present in Scriptures
1. Arminian when
2. Calvinist when
you grow in grace
C. Two sets of
II. Sovereign grace
A. Who are they? (Revelation
17:8, 1 Peter 1:19-20)
B. The comfort and
encouragement of the text
1. Some will
refuse (John 6:44, 10:26)
2. Others will
3. Sign of being
chosen is that you come
C. How do they come?
1. Not by good
works or intrinsic merit (Romans 7:18)
2. Because of
God’s constraining love placed in our hearts
III. The choice to come
A. Any “him” can come
B. We are welcome to
come (Ephesians 2:13, Romans 8:1)
approachability of Christ (Mark 1:40-41)
C. We are saved by
mysterious, just look (John 3:14-16)
2. Those who come
obtain eternal life (John 10:27-30)
3. Saved forever
(John 10:28-30, 1 Corinthians 12:27, Philippians 3:20)