THE EFFECTIVE CALL OF GOD
Dr. W.A. Criswell
6-28-87 10:50 a.m.
We welcome the throngs of you who share the hour on radio and on television. This is the pastor of the church bringing the message entitled The Effective Call Of God. Most of the time I will be preaching an expository sermon, presenting an exposition, taking a passage of Scripture and trying to deliver a message on its meaning. The sermon today is a text. It is a textual sermon, and the text is John 6:37, John 6:37: “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and he that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.”
There are two very distinct and separate parts in that text. One concerns predestination, election—the fore-calling and effectual calling of God. “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me—shall surely come to Me” [John 6:37]. The second part concerns free will, and choice, and commitment, and response. If anyone will come, “whosoever will may come,” if anyone chooses to come, “I will in no wise cast him out” [John 6:37].
In this English text, you have two greatly differing verbs in the original that are translated the same in English. It’s the word “come.” “All that the Father giveth Me shall come,” in English, “to Me” [John 6:37]. Then in English, “he that cometh to Me” [John 6:37]—in English, they’re the same words, “come.” In the Greek text, they are altogether different. All that the Father hath given Me,” heko, heko, “shall surely, and inevitably, and certainly, and must come.”
You have an instance of the use of that word in the report to the elder brother when his prodigal younger brother came home. A report was made to the elder brother [Luke 15:25-27]: “Your younger brother who wasted his substance in riotous living, your brother hēkō,” he hath arrived, he is certainly here, “and your father hath killed for him the fatted calf”: hēkō, shall certainly and surely come. The other verb that’s translated “come” is just the ordinary Greek word [erchomai]: “Anyone who chooses to come, he will be received with great welcome, all that the Father hath given Me shall surely come to Me” [John 6:37].
There is a people that God hath called, and elected, and chosen, and given to His Son, the Lord Jesus. It is as though the Lord God in heaven had said to His Son, our Savior, “If You go down into that darkened and lost world, and are incarnate in human flesh, and if You suffer and die on the cross, I promise You,” says the Lord God, “You will not die in vain. I will give You a people. It will be Your reward for Your atoning grace.” There is predestinating grace in the choice and elective purpose of God our Father. “All that the Father giveth Me shall certainly and surely come to Me” [John 6:37].
The other part is no less a revelation and a truth of God: “Him that cometh I will in no wise cast out” [John 6:37]. Any man, anywhere, who chooses to come to the Lord will be received and loved and welcomed by the Savior Himself. Those two lines of revelation are constantly appearing in the Word of God and in the revelation of the work of our great Lord and Savior: one line, predestination, election, foreknowledge, the call and choice of God; and the other, free will, response, confession, acceptance. Those two lines are throughout the revelation of Holy Scriptures. I cannot make them meet. I cannot understand; it’s a mystery beyond my comprehension, but no one else can make them cross. You cannot make them contradictory. They are both in human life and human response.
When a man is saved, he’s an Arminian, always. Arminius was a Dutch theologian who flourished in 1600, and he was the great champion of freedom of the will, freedom of choice. When you are saved, you’re an Arminian. “I did it. I repented of my sins. I came down that aisle. I gave the preacher my hand, I accepted the Lord as my Savior. I turned and looked to Jesus and He saved me.” You’re an Arminian. You did it. You can tell the day and the hour and the preacher and the service. You’re an Arminian: “I did it.”
But—I don’t care who you are—as you grow in grace and the days multiply, you’ll become a Calvinist. Calvin flourished in 1550 and was the great exponent of the elective purposes of God in the earth. And as you grow older and as you experience His love and mercy in your life, the day will come when you avow, “God did it. He touched my heart. He wooed me, and sought me, and bought me, and brought me. God did it. All praise to the glory of the Father for the grace that He showed to me, all the love.” Didn’t you just sing that?
Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan.
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man.
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span
[“At Calvary,” William Reed Newell]
God did it. Long time ago I settled that theological antipathy in my mind, and I’ve never been troubled with it. There are two sets of nomenclature. There are two sets of words. And if you’ll keep them separate, you’ll never have any trouble, never. There is a nomenclature, there are sets of words that belong up there; they belong with God. When you use the words “almightiness,” and “eternality,” and “sovereignty,” and “immutability,” unchanging “immutability,” when you use the words “omnipotent” and “omniscience” and “omnipresence,” and when you use the words “election” and “foreordination” and “foreknowledge,” when you use those words, you’re talking about God. You’re talking about up there where He is. Then when you use the words “choice,” “freedom of will,” “response,” “coming down an aisle,” “acceptance,” “believe,” “repentance”—those words are down here. And if you’ll keep them separate, you’ll never have any trouble. God, omnipotent; God, foreknowing; God, seeing the end from the beginning; God, sovereignty; God’s elective purpose—that’s up there. But down here where I am, I choose, and I confess, and I commit, reconsecrate; that’s down here. Now we’re going to look at both of them in our text.
“All that the Father giveth Me shall surely come to Me” [John 6:37]. Up there, where God is, there is a book called the Book of Life [Philippians 4:31; Revelation 17:8, 20:12, 15, 21:27]. And in that book are written the names of all of those God hath given to the Lord Jesus. In that book are the names of all of those who are going to be saved, who respond. In the seventeenth chapter of the Revelation, God says the names were written in that book before the foundation of the world [Revelation 17:8]. Before God created this universe and before God flung this planet into space, He wrote down in that book the names of those who are going to be saved [Revelation 17:8].
I can’t see the book. I’ve never looked upon it. There’s only One who is worthy to take the book and to break the seals and to look upon those mysterious pages. The Revelation says He is the One worthy to open that book, for He was slain from before the foundation of the world [Revelation 5:5-9, 17:8]. But in that book are the names of all that the Father hath given to Jesus [Revelation 3:5, 20:12]. Who are they? I do not know; God knows. But they shall surely come, whoever they are [John 6:37]. If those names are in the Book of Life, they will inevitably and certainly come. They will respond. There’s a comfort in that beyond any way that I could describe it. There are those who will not respond, they will not come.
In this passage, in the sixth chapter of John: except the Father draw them, they will not come [John 6:44]. In the tenth chapter of this same Gospel, our Lord says, “Ye will not believe because you are not My sheep” [John 10:26]. No matter how you cry, or weep, or beg, or pray, or explain, or preach, or visit, they will not come. They are not going to be saved. There are those who will not respond. But oh, praise God! What an assurance! There are those who will; they will come, they will turn, they will trust, they will believe.
When I preach, not everybody is going to be saved. But praise God, some will! They will come. All of the demons and devils in hell and all of the discouragements in man cannot keep them from coming. They will come.
“All that the Father giveth Me shall surely come to Me” [John 6:37]; they will come. Why not you? One of the signs—the sign of having been chosen, and elected, and your name in the Book of Life, is that you come. If there was a great plague in the city and people were dying, but some live, why not you? If there was an extensive famine and people were starving, but some were living, why not you? The sign of your election is that you come.
How do they come? How are they made to come? Is it because of their good works and all of the gracious things by which they adorn their human life? The Bible says all of our good works are as filthy rags in His sight [Isaiah 64:6]. How do they come? Is it because of an intrinsic merit and worth? Paul said, “I know that in me, in my flesh, there is no good thing” [Romans 7:18]. How do they come? They come because of the constraining love of Jesus our Lord. He puts it in your heart, “I want to come. I want to respond. I want to give my heart and life and soul to the Lord Jesus. I want to come.” And however you may love and desire the Lord Jesus, He loves and desires you one thousand times more. “He that cometh unto Me,” the second part: “I will in no wise cast him out” [John 6:37]. It’s a strange thing here, He begins with a plural; “All that the Father hath given Me shall surely come to Me”: “All,” pan, “all” [John 6:37]. Then, when He comes to the second part, He changes it to a singular—ton, “the one,” translated here, “him.” “And him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” [John 6:37].
It is a reflection of the solicitude of our Lord for each one of you: dear in His sight. Like Elisha when the Shunammite came: “Is it well with thee? Is it well with your husband? Is it well with the child?” [2 Kings 4:26]. The solicitude of our Lord for you.
“And him that cometh I will in no wise cast out” [John 6:37], that “him”—“him”—that anyone that cometh. A remarkable thing: any “him” can come out of a drunkard’s hell, or out of a gambling den, or out of a brothel, or out of the slums of the city and the outcasts of society. “Let him come, whosoever will” [Revelation 22:17]. Any “him” can come.
Some of the most marvelous preachers I’ve ever heard in my life were lifted out of the most sordid and unbelievable cesspools of humanity. Over there in our preacher’s school, there are four of them enrolled that were lifted up out of the streets and the gutters of this city in our inner city chapel. Any “him,” let him come. Sinners, come; come, all of us sinners, come. Come with our weaknesses, and our foibles, and our despairs; come the brokenhearted and the weary—the incessant turmoil and trials of life—come anyone. Anyone, any “him,” let him come; a child, a youth, an aged man. If the child is old enough to sin, he’s old enough to die, let him come. Any “him,” let him come, “And him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out” [John 6:37].
In English, you use a double negative, and it is very, very confusing. We just don’t talk in double negatives, “no, not never.” Greek does it all the time, and it is here: “And him that cometh to Me I will not, no, not, never—ou mē—not cast him out” [John 6:37]. Welcome, welcome! No matter who you are, welcome! Christ died for you, gave His life for you. Second chapter of Ephesians, “We who one time were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” [Ephesians 2:13]. The great eighth chapter of the Book of Romans begins, “There is now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus” [Romans 8:1].
Come. Come. He is the most available and approachable of all of the Saviors that mind could have ever conjectured up or imagined, Jesus. In the days of His flesh, they thronged Him and pressed Him on every side [Luke 8:42]. The poor, and the hungry, and the blind, and the lame, and the halt, and the outcast [Matthew 15:30-31]—even the lepers could touch Him [Matthew 8:1-3].
I don’t think there’s a more dramatic scene described in the Gospels than when a leper just walked up to Jesus, thronged on every side—just walked up to Jesus [Matthew 8:1-3]. How could he walk up to Jesus? Because as he came, from every side they fell away, they fell away, and he walked in a big open circle, just walked right up to Jesus. And can you imagine the gasp of the crowd when it says in the Scriptures, “And Jesus reached forth His hand and touched him” [Matthew 8:3], put His hand upon him—the most available and the most approachable of all of the Saviors that mind could imagine; that’s Jesus.
And sweet people, in order that we might approach Him wherever we are today, He said, “It is expedient for you. It is expedient for you that I go away” [John 16:7]. That means if He were here in the flesh and, say, living in Jerusalem, how could we get to Him? The sea lanes would be clogged with ships, and the multitudinous throngs around Him would crowd us out. But our Lord is as near to you as your breath and as close as your hands and your feet. Anywhere, any time, He is there [Hebrews 13:5].
I heard a preacher one time tell one of the most moving things. There was an old gentleman whose wife died, and he went to live with his daughter. And they built a room onto the house for the aged father to live in. The father went one time to the pastor, who’s telling the story, went to the pastor and said, “Pastor, sometimes God seems so far away. Just so far away. I wish I knew how to get close to Him, and that He would be close to me.” And just of a sudden there came into the heart of the pastor an answer. He said, “Tell you what you do: you draw up a chair by the side of your chair, and you just talk to the Lord Jesus in that chair, just as though He were there in the days of His flesh. You just talk to Him, and He will listen and He will talk to you back into your heart. You just talk to Him.” So the old man did it.
And upon a day, the daughter came to the pastor to arrange for his funeral service. He had died in the night, her father. And she said, “You know, it’s the strangest thing. When I went into the room, there he lay in the bed. He had gone to be with the Lord. But the strangest thing—in the night, in the night he had pulled up an empty chair. And he had died with his hand on that empty chair.”
He is as near as your breath and as close as your hands and your feet. The approachability and the availability of our Lord! May I close?
“He that cometh, him that cometh I will not cast down”; any “him” that comes [John 6:37]. That’s the way that we’re saved. We are saved if we come. There’s one way to be saved and only one, and that’s by coming to the Lord Jesus, and that is the way. It may be mysterious to my mind how God washes our sins away in the blood of Christ [Revelation 1:5], and how by coming to Him I am born again [John 3:3, 7]. I may not be able to enter into the impenetrable mysteries of how God saves souls, but the way He does it is simple, and a child can do it. I did it as a child; the way is plain.
Our Lord said it like this: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up: that whosoever looks to Him, trusts in Him, believes in Him, shall be saved” [John 3:14-15].
There is life for a look at the Crucified One.
There is life at this moment for thee.
Then look sinner, look unto Him and be saved,
Unto Him who was nailed to the tree.
[“There is Life for a Look,” Amelia Hull, 1860]
It is simple, it is simple: look, look to Jesus! [John 3:14-15]. I could illustrate it like this: several times I have flown over the mouth of the Amazon River; it is five hundred miles wide, and so great is the thrust of that water that it goes five hundred miles into the Atlantic Ocean—it pushes back the Atlantic Ocean five hundred miles. One time, flying over that mouth of the Amazon, I thought of a story. A ship was there, and the sailors were dying of thirst. They radioed to another ship for help. And the radioed ship answered back, “Why, just let down the bucket, and dip and drink.”
“Drink, just drink”: that’s God’s way of salvation [Revelation 22:17]. Just eat the bread of life [John 6:35], just drink of the water of life [Revelation 21:6, 22:1]; just accept, just believe [Acts 16:30-31], just come, just respond, just look and be saved [John 3:14-15]. It is that simple and that plain: “and he that cometh I will not cast out” [John 6:37]. Just come. Not only am I saved, but I am given eternal life. John 10:27: “My sheep hear My voice,” if you’re one, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them.” See, He reads that Book of Life [Revelation 17:8]; He is worthy [Revelation 5:9]. “I know them, and they follow Me: and I give unto them eternal life” [John 10:27-28].
Now the next one, “And they shall never perish, neither shall anyone 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” [John 10:28-30]. Given eternal life just by coming to Jesus, and safe and secure forever; He said it. He promised it [John 10:28]. There’s no lion in the pit that can tear away one of His sheep, and there’s no power in heaven or in hell that can undo the atoning grace of God when I accept Him into my heart.
In another figure, Paul says in the twelfth chapter of 1 Corinthians, we are members of His body [1 Corinthians 12:27], and you don’t amputate the body of Christ. You don’t mutilate the body of our Lord. When He appears, He will be complete, and His saints will be like Him: perfect, saved, secure [James 1:4].
The last verses of the third chapter of Philippians go like this: “For our citizenship is in heaven” [Philippians 3:20]. Our home is there, not here. Our reward is there, not here [Matthew 5:12]. Our inheritance is there, not here [1 Peter 1:3-4]. “Our life is hid with Christ in God, not here [Colossians 3:3]. Our citizenship is in heaven; from whence we look for the Savior . . . Who shall change this vile body like unto His glorious body, by which working He is able to subdue all things unto Himself?” [Philippians 3:20-21].
God does not just save our souls and our spirits and leave our bodies to corrupt and decay in the ground [Psalm 16:10], but God saves the whole purchased possession [Ephesians 1:14]. He regenerates and saves my soul and my spirit [1 Thessalonians 5:23], and when He comes, He will redeem and resurrect my body [Romans 8:11], and I will be a part of His great perfect family in heaven. He, my elder Brother, and we, a part of Him—and He is not complete without me, and His family circle is not enduring without you. God hath prepared some better thing for us [Hebrews 11:40], and we wait for His Son from heaven and that day of immortality, and perfection, and resurrection [1 Thessalonians 1:10].
That’s the salvation of Jesus our Lord, and it is ours for the asking [Matthew 7:7]. It is ours for the receiving [Romans 6:23]. It is ours for the coming [John 6:37]. It’s ours for the taking. Somebody will be saved. They will come to Me. Why not you? Why not you? Lord, in that book, let my name be there:
Is my name written there
in the book bright and fair?
O Jesus, my Savior,
is my name written there?
[from “Is My Name Written There?”; Mary A. Kidder]
When you come [John 6:37], that is the sign that you were elected, and chosen, and predestinated [Romans 8:28-30], and your name is written in the Book of Life [Revelation 17:8]—why not you? May we pray?
Our Lord, how could we ever sound the praises that well up in our souls when we think of the grace of God our Savior that reaches down to us? Sinners all [Romans 3:23], dying all [Ezekiel 18:4], yet in Christ forgiven, immortalized, resurrected, raised, saved, safe, secure for ever and ever and ever and ever [John 10:28]. And the devil can’t get us, and hell can’t destroy us, and the world can’t keep us buried in the depths of the ground—raised, glorified, like our wonderful Lord [1 John 3:2]. O God! What a salvation Christ has prepared for those who love Him [1 Corinthians 2:9]. And our Father in heaven, bring to Thy Son and our Savior these that You have elected and called today, this moment, this hour [John 6:37]. Some may refuse, but some will surely come; You promised it, we believe it. We have affirmed it, we have seen it, and we praise God because of it. Lord, glorify Jesus our Savior in these who come [John 17:1-2]. In Thy saving name, amen—while we stand and while we sing.