44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.
45 “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.”
There is a popular misconception in some Christian churches today that God is going to save everyone from themselves. In fact, some even go so far as to say that there is no hell, that everyone will someday end up in heaven, and there really is no condemnation for our sins, just more of a slap on the wrist. I suppose that some of that idea comes from a passage in one of Peter’s epistles:
2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
Some look at that verse and say, “Ha! Look! God is willing to wait until we ALL come to repentance before He destroys the world.” Right. But what about the BILLIONS of people who have died before today WITHOUT coming to repentance? And what about people living today who still choose to refuse God? And let’s not forget the few who say they have chosen God and His Son Jesus, and yet they certainly don’t show it by repentance. In short, we cannot say that everyone actually WILL come to God.
As Jesus points out in today’s passage, God chooses some to come to Him, and some He allows to go their own way. Note that Jesus states two different ideas here:
1) ONLY those drawn to Jesus by the Father will actually come to Christ and be raised up at the last day, and
2) EVERYONE who is so called by the Father WILL come to Christ.
In theological terms, we refer to these ideas as “Unconditional election” and “Irresistible grace.” In other words, God chooses some of us to come to Christ before we even came into this world, and His choice is not based on anything we do or believe. And once so chosen by God – the Almighty Creator – we have no choice but to accept Christ at some point in our lives. (In my own case, it took thirty years. Better late than never, I suppose.)
The point here is that we cannot assume that God being all-loving excludes God from being sovereign and righteous and just. We cannot assume that everyone to whom we speak the gospel in love and truth will actually come to God. That is HIS choice and His alone, and our mandate is “merely” to “Go into the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)
But as Jesus states so clearly in another verse, anyone whom God the Father has chosen to believe in Him, He will not turn away. (John 6:37) Jesus will indeed accept all whom God has chosen to accept Him. The catch is, of course, that once we DO accept Christ, we SHOW it by living according to God’s rules. Jesus said, “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” (Matthew 7:20) So Jesus’ acceptance is not simple “carte blanche” to keep on living a life contrary to God’s rules.
1 John 2:3-6
3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.
4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.
6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
In the end, it is only by God’s sovereign will that any will come to Christ. As Christians, we are called to share the gospel, to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 29:19), and even to do greater works than Jesus Himself did. (John 14:12) Whatever we do in the name of Christ to try to win people to Him, in the long run, it is still only God’s will that determines whether or not someone comes to Christ. We need to keep living as Jesus lived and keep making disciples, and we can rest assured of this: once God was decided that someone will come to Christ, then they most certainly will.
Almighty God, in Your holy name I come to You now, humbled by Your mercy and Your majesty. By the blood of Your Son I am set free from sin, and I testify before all that I have yielded to Your irresistible grace. What choice did I have but to accept Your love? What choice did I have but to accept Your salvation? The choice I have made is to give all glory and honor to You. Praise the Lord! Amen.