Summary: God provides comfort and encouragement to persevere.
We rarely think of Jesus as needing to persevere. Yet he faced greater rejection and more opportunities for discouragement than any of us could imagine—he was forsaken by the whole world, and even by God. It would be wise of us, therefore, to look to him for a theology for survival, for making it to the end. He provides just that in John 6.35-40. [Read. Pray.]
After a lecture at a Bible conference, some pastors were discussing predestination versus free will. The conversation quickly turned into debate, however, and soon the argument grew so heated that sides were drawn and the group broke into two factions, each moving to different parts of the auditorium.
One man, not sure to which camp he belonged, stood for a moment in the aisle, trying to decide (theologically, but also very physically) which way to go. At last he made up his mind to join in with the predestination crowd. He went in their direction and sought to enter the circle they formed. Someone said to him: “Who sent you here?”
“Nobody sent me. I chose to come on my own!”
“You choose?” they practically shouted. “You can’t come in here of your own free will. You belong with them!”
He quickly walked toward the free-will side and tried to join in their conversation. But one of the group asked, “When did you decide to join us?”
“I didn’t decide, I was sent here,” he answered.
“Sent here!” they were horrified. “You can’t join us unless you choose to by your own free will.” And so he was excluded from both companies.
Maybe you feel that way about these debates. Some vehemently insist on predestination and sovereign election; others demand with equal vigor free-will and divine foreknowledge. Both solutions seem to deny your experience.
I am not so foolish this morning to imagine I could resolve to everyone’s satisfaction what many smarter and more winsome Christians have found inevitably elicits disagreement. What we can do together is allow Jesus to teach us both the content of the doctrine and the proper way to use this truth. My personal conviction is that the Bible teaches what is known as “Calvinism.” If you are unfamiliar with that term, that is fine—it is not necessary to know the word. It is simply a title to quickly identify a way of understanding passages like the one we are studying today.
I want to be clear about my position because I am aware that my beliefs are sometimes vilified quite adamantly. A quick internet search finds writers claiming that Calvinistic pastors: lie, disagree with God’s word, promote heresy, grossly insult Almighty God, are false, hellish, and cultic. I hope I am not all of these this morning, but neither do I want to be naïve about the strength of passion uncovered by this topic.
We might ask, “Is there any good to this endeavor? Maybe we should not even bring up such controversial topics. Doctrine divides, especially doctrines like predestination and election. Can anything good come from it?”
But these ideas are not something we made up. It is, after all, Jesus’ teaching which causes such consternation. Maybe we should ask, “How can we benefit while avoiding some of the conflict?” We do so by carefully observing the context. Look at verse 40: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”