“No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him; and will raise him up at the last day.”—John 6: 44.
THESE words were spoken by “Jesus,” “the Son of man,” and their teaching is therefore gracious; “by the faithful witness,” and therefore they are true; by Him who is Himself Jehovah, the Eternal Son, and therefore they are divine.
He did not deliver the doctrine of the text, in His sermon to the congregation which assembled to hear Him beside the Lake of Tiberias, until He had first spoken regarding the necessity, in order to salvation, of coming to Messiah; the excellence of Him to whom they were called to come; the blessedness of those who came; and the warrant to come to Him, as given to all who hear the gospel. He insisted on the necessity of faith at the outset of His discourse, teaching them that what they needed, as sinners having an endless existence, was not “meat which perisheth,” but “meat which endureth unto everlasting life,” that this enduring meat “the Son of man” alone could give to them, and that this meat was received and enjoyed only by those who believed on Him whom God had sent. He then speaks of the excellence of Him who was sent, as “the bread of God” “which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.” This is followed by a description of the blessedness of all who come to Him. “He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst”—”Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out”—”This is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” And after insisting on the necessity of faith, on the excellence of Him who is its object, and on the blessedness of all who have come to Messiah, He tells them of the warrant of faith as given in the command of God to believe in His Son. “This is the work of God,” He tells His hearers, “that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.” This is the one way of securing the favour of God, and the faith by which this is attained He requires us to yield to Him whom He hath sent.
It is in connection with these truths that we are required to consider the doctrine of the text. At first sight it would seem as if this part of Christ’s sermon had rendered it impossible to derive any encouragement from all the rest of it. It would seem as if it were cruel to tell a man that he must believe or he is lost for ever, and then to tell him he can’t believe. What matters it how excellent Christ is if I cannot come to Him? To speak to me of the blessedness of those who believe, if I am unable to join them, is but to tantalise me. And of what advantage to me is it to have a warrant to come if I cannot make use of it? So some may be disposed to speak regarding such a doctrine, in such a connection, as that of the text. I may have something to say to those who thus regard the doctrine of this passage; but meantime I would only say that no one can quarrel with the doctrine of the text without quarrelling with Christ, for it is His mouth that uttered it, and it was He who preached the truths in connection with which it stands before us here.
In addressing you from this text, I would direct your attention to the spiritual impotence here declared—to the drawing of the Father—and to Christ’s perfecting of the salvation of all whom the Father causes to come to Him.
I. THE SPIRITUAL IMPOTENCE HERE DECLARED. It is inability to come to Christ as He is revealed and offered in the gospel. And this spiritual impotence is universal, for Jesus saith—”No man can come to me.” And He very plainly declares every man’s inability to come to Him, for the words “can come” can have only one meaning assigned to them, and might be rendered “is able to come.” Such is the plain import of Christ’s teaching in the first part of this verse, whatever view may be taken of man’s impotence, and in whatever way it may be attempted to reconcile this statement with those which insist on his responsibility. Coming to Christ is a willing movement of the heart. He must be so known and regarded by him who comes to Him that He is heartily desired. The seal coming to Christ is willing to accept of Him, on the terms according to which He is offered in the gospel, as a Saviour from all sin. And this coming to Christ is an exercise of faith. There is in it a trustful, as well as a wistful, feeling towards Christ, resulting from receiving as true God’s testimony regarding Him, and from discovering, in the light of that testimony, the suitableness, as well as, the divine appointment, and personal excellence, of Christ, as a Saviour. It is to come thus to Him that Christ declares every man, without exception, to be unable, without the drawing of the Father.
Such a doctrine as this is not pleasing to “the natural man,” and he either openly rejects it, or, while professing to receive it, wickedly abuses it. The old heart’s pride, with its strong dislike of being indebted to the grace of God, rises against it.— And one’s love of ease combines with his pride in securing its rejection; for if one realised that his salvation was dependent on the will of God, he could not be at ease; but when he thinks of it as a matter that is in his own hand, then he can sleep on, imagining that when “a convenient season” comes he can secure his salvation. Not such is the feeling of the poor captive, who in his madness barred and bolted the door of his cell thinking it was a palace but who has been awakened to find himself in bondage, with no power to remove the bars and bolts wherewith he himself shut the door, because he has no strength to reach them, and finds sentinels posted to keep him in his prison. He now feels assured that he cannot escape unless an order for his release is issued by him at whose instance he is confined, and that the only key by which the door can be opened is in his hand. He cannot now sleep quietly in his cell, dreaming of finding escape whenever he inclines to go out. His sleep is broken and his vain dreamings are at an end. And there are others who, while professing to receive the doctrine of man’s spiritual impotence, at the same time abuse it, and do so also from the desire to be at ease. “No efforts of ours, ” they say, “are of any avail, therefore we will do nothing, and enjoy our ease until the Lord does His work—the only work that can avail for good to us.” It is as if one who was declared to be dying, and was told that there was only one physician who could cure him, continued quite unmoved, made no effort to secure the attendance of the only one who could treat with success his case, and continued to take the kind of diet by which his sickness was induced. The man who could act so must have been insane; but still more insane is the sinner, who makes his utter dependence on the sovereign grace of God a reason for continuing at his ease in sin. But let men reject or abuse this doctrine as they may, it is plainly stated in the text, and let us now proceed to consider the grounds on which, besides the statement before us, it may be based.
1. The sinner is spiritually impotent because he is spiritually dead. “Dead in trespasses and in sins ” is the description given of every one as he is “by nature.” Now if there is any exercise that is impossible to a spiritually dead sinner, it is a movement towards God—it is coming to Christ. This was the doctrine of Christ to Nicodemus. “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” though Christ, as revealed in the gospel, is “the door,” and though it is by faith in Him the kingdom of God is entered; and this is plainly declared in the words which tells us that “as many as received” Christ, even they “that believed on His name” “were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” This is an abundantly strong confirmation of the doctrine of the text. We have a direct affirmation of it thrice over in the gospel of John within its first six chapters, and frequently elsewhere, and he is mighty in his strength to resist Scripture evidence, who refuses to receive this doctrine as true.
2. Coming to Christ is opposed to all man’s “natural ” tendencies. Coming to Christ implies willingness to be indebted to the grace of God for salvation. That must be expressed in every exercise of faith bearing on the Lord Jesus Christ. But this is quite opposed to the pride of man’s heart, which is such that it can never cease to be ambitious of being independent of God. How then can a man come to Christ unless the Father draws him? And coming to Christ is an exercise of faith in the word of God as the only warrant of his hope of salvation. This word, and this word alone, presents to him the object of his faith, gives the only light by which he can be guided to Him and is the only cord by which he can take hold of Him when he comes. But nothing is more natural to a man than to think that nothing is real which he cannot see or handle, and to that trust in the word of God as true, is to act the part of a vain dreamer. Specially is this true as to his state of feeling towards “the word of the truth of the gospel.” So far as the truth of the word of the law is concerned, he has some warrant in believing in its divine authority, from the operation of his conscience, which testifies on the side of the divine law in its claim and in its curse. But he has no such help in accepting as true “the gospel of the grace of God.” The good news is such that he can have no anticipation of it. So new and so wonderful is it, that he feels as if he must be furnished with evidence that will reach him through all his senses before he can realise it as true. But to him who is coming to Christ no other warrant of faith than the simple word of God as written in the Bible, is given, and on that he must hang the whole weight of his case as a sinner.
How then can he, so resolved to walk by sight, ever come to Christ except the Father “draw him?” And coming unto Christ is coming to Him for salvation from all sin. Every man by nature loves sin, because the carnal mind is enmity against God I cannot be a hater of God without being in love with sin, to which He in His holiness is infinitely opposed. To what he loves the sinner will cleave and never shall he willingly come to Christ for salvation from it.
3. Coming unto Christ is opposed by all the powers of darkness. “The god of this world,” with the great army under his command, is ever busy in endeavouring to keep souls away from Christ. He is ever active in blinding the eyes of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” This is surely most formidable opposition. Think of the might and malice of such an army, think of the opportunity of successful working the reigning power of sin in the heart affords, and think, too, of the many weapons furnished to the great enemy in the things of “a present evil world,” and then surely it must be manifest that the words of Christ are true when He says, “No man can come to Me except the Father, who hath sent Me, draw him.”
4. It is altogether inconceivable that there can be any coming to Christ without some action on the part of God. As to the extent of that action, in order to the result of faith, there may be differences of opinion, but as to there being some measure of it, all who pretend to be evangelical must be agreed. If faith be an actual coming unto Christ in desire and trust, must there not be a revelation by God to the coming one of His Son, and must there not be a reception of him when he comes? If the giving of the word sufficed as a revelation, why was Christ unknown since first the gospel reached us? And can we reach Him and lean on Him without meeting with such a reception as encourages us to do so ? The presence even of our Queen is guarded, and, when there is a reception, those who are introduced expect the Sovereign to take some notice of their presence and obeisance. And are we to be admitted to the King of Glory except according to an authoritative exercise of His will? And if He reveals not Himself to us, as He does not to the world, how possibly can we trust in him? If we add this reason for divine action being necessary, in order to the coming of a sinner to Christ, to those previously stated, how abundantly true appear the words of Him who said—”No man can come to me except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him.”