The following article is an excerpt from "A Book of Bible Study"
by Joseph F. Harwood.
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As we continue our study of predestination, we will consider more teachings from the Bible that speak of God’s sovereign choice of a people for Himself, whom He has foreknown since before the creation of the world. One of the things that we will notice as we study further is that teachings given to us by Jesus are consistent with teachings given by the apostles John, Peter, and Paul. And their teachings are in agreement with teachings given to us by the authors of the book of Acts and the letter to the Hebrews.
In John 6, Jesus said: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44). In this verse Jesus taught that for anyone to be able to come to Him, they must be drawn by God the Father. Otherwise, they are unable to accept the Gospel of Christ; they are unable to believe in Him. Now let us look carefully at the second part of this verse. After Jesus said that no one can come to Him unless the Father draws him, He then immediately said, “and I will raise him up at the last day”.
Notice the certainty in the statement where Jesus said, “I will”, which teaches us that those whom the Father draws to His Son will be raised up at the last day. Jesus did not say that those who are drawn must then make the decision to come to Him in order to be saved, as opposed to rejecting Him. However, Jesus did say clearly, and without any added conditions or any mention of man’s cooperation, that those whom the Father draws will be raised up at the last day.
John 6:44 is one of several Bible passages we will consider that teach us about the calling of an individual to faith in Christ. Jesus taught us that this calling of God, this drawing by God the Father, is an effectual calling, meaning that all of those who receive this inward calling will indeed come to Him, and they will all be raised up at the last day. Without this effectual calling of God, the mind of sinful man, which is hostile toward God, has no desire to come to Christ and has not even the ability to come to Him (again, Romans 8:7).
There is an outward calling whereby the Gospel of Christ is preached in the hearing of men, which is illustrated in the Parable of the Sower recorded in Matthew 13:1-23. Jesus taught us in this parable that the only place where the seed sown by the farmer produced a harvest of good fruit was where it fell upon “good soil”. This is to say that when the seed of the Gospel of Christ is spoken in man’s hearing, the only place where a harvest of good fruit will be realized is where the message is heard by God’s elect. In contrast to others who hear the same Gospel message, God’s elect both hear and understand the message, and they will therefore be saved and bear fruit to the glory of God. (Consider Matthew 13:23 and Acts 22:9).
In contrast to others who may receive the outward proclamation of the Gospel of Christ in their hearing, God’s elect not only hear this outward calling for men to put their faith in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, but they also receive the inward calling of God, which always results in the regeneration of those who receive it. In His time, the Father draws His elect to faith in His Son Jesus Christ, and they all do in fact come to Him.
This drawing, which Jesus spoke about in John 6:44, is the inward calling of God, and it always results in the one who is drawn being raised up at the last day, just as Jesus said. With this inward, effectual calling of God regeneration occurs, and one is born into the kingdom of God, apart from their own personal decision or cooperation. The one who has received this calling has no more chance of refusing it than Saul had when he was called to faith on the Damascus road, even while he was still intent on persecuting the church.
If anyone rejects the Gospel of Christ, it is only because they have never been drawn by the Father; they have never received this inward, effectual calling of God which Jesus spoke about in John 6:44. Believing in Christ is not something that sinful, unregenerate man has the ability or capacity to do, in and of himself, in order to obtain salvation for himself. He must be drawn by the Father.
When a man is drawn to Christ by the Father, he is regenerated. He is born into the kingdom of God, and evidence of this regeneration and conversion which God has wrought within him is that he does indeed believe in Christ. Man does not reject the inward calling of God. Rather when the Father draws a man, Jesus will raise him up at the last day, just as He said He would.
There is one other thing that we should mention regarding the “drawing” by the Father that Jesus spoke about in John 6:44. The Greek word in the original text which is translated to English as “draws” in John 6:44 is the word “helko”, which means “to draw” or “to drag”. With this meaning in mind, we can easily see from the accounts of Saul’s conversion in the Book of Acts how he was forcefully “dragged” into the kingdom of God apart from any decision or cooperation of his own, even as he was “still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” (Acts 9:1).
Later in John 6, Jesus once again emphasized man’s inability to come to Him, unless it has been granted to him by the Father. Speaking to a crowd, Jesus said that the words He had spoken to them are “spirit” and “life” (John 6:63), and yet there were some there who did not believe. Jesus then explained the reason that there were some who had heard His words but did not believe, when He said to them: “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” (John 6:65).
Jesus knew that some of those following Him at the time refused to accept Him and His words. Knowing His own sheep, and knowing that there were also some there who did not believe, Jesus emphasized again in John 6:65 what He had already taught in John 6:44, when He said that no one could come to Him; no one was able to come to Him, “unless it has been granted him from the Father”.
In John chapters 8 and 10, Jesus again taught of the inability of unregenerate men to hear His words and come to Him, unless they are numbered among those whom He referred to as His sheep. In John 10:24-26, we read that some Jews had gathered around Jesus and asked Him not to keep them in suspense, but to tell them plainly if He was indeed the Christ. Jesus replied to them saying that He had already told them, and that the miracles He had done in His Father’s name among them bore witness to His claim that He was in truth the Christ. And then Jesus told them: “But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.” (John 10:26, emphasis added). It has only been given to God’s elect, or those whom Jesus referred to as His sheep, to believe in Him.
Notice that Jesus did not say to them they were not His sheep because they had decided for themselves not to believe, but conversely, He said that the reason they did not believe in Him was because they were not His sheep. Only those who belong to God, or those whom Jesus calls His sheep, will hear His voice (John 10:3-4, 10:27). All of the rest will not be able to hear (John 6:44, 6:65, 8:43, 8:47, 10:25-26).
Jesus, being the Son of God, knew that these individuals to whom He was talking were not numbered among His sheep. Only God’s elect, or those whom Jesus referred to as His “sheep”, will hear His voice. These will be called to faith in Christ, and they will therefore believe in Him. All of the rest will be left in their sins.
Jesus said: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (John 6:63). The Spirit of God gives eternal life, and unregenerate man, or man who is “in the flesh” so to speak, is completely without the ability to accept the Gospel of Christ unless he is called to faith by God Himself (John 6:44, 6:65, Romans 8:7, 1 Corinthians 2:14).
If and when this calling of God occurs in an individual’s life, they are regenerated; they have been born again. Their being born again does not come about as a result of their own decision made when they are still dead in their sins, or still in the flesh, because as Jesus said: “the flesh profits nothing”. Man’s salvation comes about by the sovereign choice and effectual calling of God.
All men will remain hostile toward God unless and until they are called by Him to faith in Christ, just as was the case with Saul right up until the moment of his conversion on the Damascus Road. The Scriptures teach us that man’s depravity is total. Since man in his unregenerate state is hostile toward God and unable to seek Him, then God must seek men and Himself bring them to faith, if any are to be saved.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote: “ For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30).
In these verses Paul spoke of God’s foreknowledge of those who would receive the gift of eternal life. Paul taught that those whom God “foreknew” are the ones who are “predestined” to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ, which means that those whom God foreknew are the ones who are predestined to be the recipients of eternal life. Further, Paul taught that those whom God predestined; He also called, and those whom He called; He also justified, and those whom He justified; He also glorified.
Romans 8:29-30 describes the chain of events by which each of us as believers comes to faith in Christ, and ultimately spends eternity with Him in Heaven. Notice that action by God is involved in every event in the chain. Paul said that God foreknew, God predestined, God called, God then justified, and God finally glorified. In every case action by God is mentioned, and action by man is not mentioned.
All who come to faith in Christ come to faith in Him and ultimate glory by the order given in Romans 8:29-30. Each of these events happens in succession, and once again, each of the actions involved in these events is brought about by God Himself; there is no action or cooperation by man mentioned at all.
First, God foreknew these individuals, meaning that He chose them from before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight (Ephesians 1:4-5). And these whom He foreknew are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. In God’s time, these individuals are born into the world. And again in God’s time, He calls these chosen individuals to faith in His Son. Paul then taught that God justifies those whom He calls. And finally in this chain of events, we see that those whom God justifies, He also glorifies.
Let us now look very carefully at the “link” in this chain of events where Paul said that those whom God called, He also justified. Paul did not say that “some of those” whom God called are also justified, if they decide to heed that call of God and accept Christ. Rather, Paul taught very succinctly in this passage, and with no added conditions or cooperation by man mentioned whatsoever, that all of those whom God calls to faith in His Son are also justified by Him.
This calling that Paul wrote about in Romans 8:30 is the same effectual calling of God that Jesus taught about in John 6:44 and 6:63-65. The lesson from all three of these passages is that all of those who are called to faith in Christ with this inward, effectual calling of God will come to Christ, and none will refuse.
In Romans 8:29-30 where Paul describes the order of salvation, and also in John 6:37, we find stated very concisely the teachings of both predestination and the eternal security of the believer. Every step in the salvation of an individual is brought about by God Himself, and the decision to bring that individual to faith in Christ was made by God before the foundation of the world. Further, that salvation is eternally secure and certain, as Paul also taught elsewhere in the book of Romans when he wrote: “for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29).
Chosen by God - Appointed to Eternal Life
Paul mentioned predestination again in his letter to the Ephesians, where he wrote: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will”. (Ephesians 1:3-5).
The letter to the Ephesians is written to God’s saints (Ephesians 1:1). God’s saints are those who have, or will in God’s time, be brought to faith in Christ. Speaking of God’s saints, Paul taught that God “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him”. Paul also said that God “predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself”, and that He made His choice of us “according to the kind intention of His will”.
Paul mentioned predestination yet again as he continued his teaching in Ephesians 1. Paul wrote that in Christ “we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11).
In this verse Paul taught that God works out “all things” in conformity with His sovereign will, plan and purpose. And “all things” includes His choice of those who will be brought to faith in Christ, receiving redemption through His blood, which bought for us the forgiveness of our sins. God Himself chose to reveal His Son to those whom He foreknew, His elect, and it is the result of His choice of us that we are brought to faith and believe in Christ.
We are those whom the Father has given to His Son Jesus Christ, and we will indeed come to Christ (John 6:37). Jesus referred to those of us who were given to Him by the Father as His “sheep” in John 10. Elsewhere in the Bible, those of us chosen to receive eternal life are referred to as “the elect”. Elect means chosen, and an election simply means a choice.
Considering once again Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 1, we will notice that it is God who chooses men for salvation, and that man’s choice or decision is not mentioned (Ephesians 1:4-5, 11). In another passage in the Gospel of John, Jesus spoke to His disciples, and He told them plainly that it was not they who had chosen Him, rather it was He who had chosen them and appointed them to bear fruit that would last (John 15:16).
The writer of the Book of Acts spoke of those whom God has chosen, or God’s elect, as being those who are appointed to eternal life. In Acts 13 we read: “When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48, emphasis added).
Who were those who believed? It was those who were “appointed” to eternal life who believed. Let us not overlook the order of the events in this verse: the appointing to eternal life by God came first, and then as a result came the believing in Christ.
Those who do ultimately come to faith in Christ are those whom God chose before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. These are the ones whom He appointed to eternal life. In God’s time these individuals are born into the world, and again in God’s time they are all called by Him to faith in Christ. When they are called, they all come to Christ.
When we believe in Christ, it is evidence that God has chosen us and has appointed us to eternal life. In fact, it is evidence that we have already been called to faith in Christ by God the Father; it is evidence that we have already been born again.
Believing in Christ is not an act of our own will that we choose to do when we are still unregenerate and dead in our sins, by which we avail ourselves of God’s “offer” of salvation, as some say. Paul taught in Ephesians 2:8-9 that it is by God’s grace we have been saved, through faith. And this faith which saves us is not a result of any works of our own. Rather our faith in Christ is a gift that God gave to us apart from any work, action, merit, or decision of our own. The Scriptures we have considered so far indicate that getting saved is something that happens to an individual as a result of God’s choice and His calling, and it is not something that unregenerate man attains by way of his own choice or decision to believe in Christ.
If we believe in Christ, it is because we have been appointed to eternal life, and all of those appointed to eternal life will come to faith in Christ at such time as they are called by God, as Jesus taught in John 6:44. When these elect are called to faith in Christ, they all come to Him, regardless of their present hostility toward the Gospel, and regardless of any decision of their own, just as was the case with Saul when he was called to faith on the Damascus road, even while he was still hostile toward God and intent on persecuting the church (Acts 9:1-16, 22:1-10).
As we can see from John 6:44 and 6:63-65, Jesus taught that unregenerate men are not able to come to Him apart from His Father’s drawing or calling. And let us consider once again Paul’s teaching in Romans 8 where he wrote: “the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.” (Romans 8:7, emphasis added). If it were not for God’s irresistible grace demonstrated by His effectual calling to faith of His elect, no one would be saved, because we would all remain hostile toward Him, and unable to come to Christ.
Our coming to faith in Christ has nothing to do with any decision that we make while we are still unregenerate and dead in our sins, either to receive Christ or to reject Him, because we are incapable of coming to Christ when we are still dead in our sins. Rather, our faith in Christ is the gift that results from the decision of God, who “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4), and who “predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself”. (Ephesians 1:5).
Many Are Called, But Few Are Chosen
In Matthew 22:1-14, Jesus gave the Parable of the Wedding Banquet. In verse 11 we see that the king, who had prepared the wedding banquet for his son, noticed that there was a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. The wedding clothes in the parable signify the righteousness of Christ, without which no one will enter the kingdom of Heaven. The king told his servants to tie the man up, and throw him outside into the darkness, where there would be “weeping and gnashing of teeth”, which signifies eternal separation from God. In the final verse of the passage Jesus said: “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14).
When Jesus said that many are called, He was teaching that many are called outwardly, when they hear or read the proclamation of the Gospel message. Many are called outwardly to repent of their sins and come to Him. But Jesus then said that though “many” are called in this way, only “few” are chosen. These few who are chosen are God’s elect, who hear not only the outward call for men to repent of their sins and believe in Christ, but through the hearing of the word of God they are also called with the inward, effectual calling of God which always results in the regeneration of those who receive it.
Many may hear the outward call of the proclamation of the Gospel message, but as Paul wrote to Thessalonians believers, he knew that God had chosen them because “our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:5). Those who receive God’s calling hear the outward proclamation of the Gospel, and it comes to them not in word only, “but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” Here is the evidence manifested by those whom God has chosen, those who have received God’s calling to faith in Jesus Christ.
As we consider Jesus’ teaching in the Parable of the Wedding Banquet, let us once again consider His teaching in the parable of the sower given to us in Matthew 13:1-23. Both of these parables provide an illustration of men hearing the Gospel message, and both parables demonstrate the results in their lives of them having heard the message.
In the Parable of the Sower, a farmer went out to sow seed. The seed is the metaphor that Jesus used to symbolize the Gospel message. As the farmer spread the seed, some fell beside the road, some fell on rocky places, some fell among the thorns, and some seed fell on what Jesus described as “good soil”.
In each of the first three cases, no harvest was realized from the seed that was sown. Only in the case where the seed fell on “good soil” was a harvest indeed realized. The “good soil” in this parable symbolizes God’s elect, who receive the seed of the Gospel message and understand it. And they are the only ones who come to faith in Christ. As a result of their genuine faith, they will bear a harvest of spiritual fruit to the glory of God (Matthew 13:23).
Even though many are called outwardly, as Jesus taught in Matthew 22:14, only few are chosen by God to come to faith in Christ. All of these chosen, or God’s elect, will all be called with His effectual calling to faith in Christ, and they will all indeed come to faith in Christ. This again is what Jesus was teaching when He said: “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, emphasis added).
When Paul wrote in Romans 8:30 that those whom God calls, He also justifies, he did not say that those whom God calls are justified, if they should cooperate by making the right decision. Paul said without ambiguity and without any added conditions whatsoever that those whom God calls He also justifies. Any added implication of the decision of man being necessary is something that is not contained in the Scripture.
No one resists this inward, effectual calling of God. Many may reject the outward call of the spoken or written Gospel message, but all of those who are called inwardly by God do indeed come to faith in Christ, and none who receive this calling resist it or refuse it. This is the destiny of those of us whom God has chosen to come to faith in His Son Jesus Christ, and it is a destiny that God decided and appointed for us before the world was created.
The Apostle Peter also spoke of God’s elect, or those chosen by God, when he addressed the recipients of his first letter with the words: “To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure” (1 Peter 1:1-2).
Peter addressed his letter to those who are “chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father”, as Paul also taught in Romans 8:29-30. For what purpose were they chosen? They were chosen by God “to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood”. And God’s choice of His elect was made before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-5).