X. Man's Coming and God's Drawing
No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him. John 6:44.
It is absolutely sure that "whosoever will may come." And it is equally certain that whosoever comes will certainly be received. No one was ever refused that came to Christ to be saved. No one ever approached the river of the water of life, thirsty and faint, and was denied a drink. Whosoever comes to eat of the bread of life will not be sent away hungry. One that will come to Christ does not have to hesitate. He need not fear that he will be disappointed or ashamed. If one asks he shall receive. He that seeketh shall surely find. To him that knocks it surely shall be opened. On this you may depend. Such is the gospel. And the gospel is the promise of God that can never fail. And this promise of the gospel is so indubitably sure to every one that comes to Christ, because before one can ever come to Him, and even before one can will to come, the grace of God already operated in his inmost heart and wrought this will to come in him. Grace is always first. The coming of the sinner is the fruit of God's drawing.
And this is a matter of experience of every sinner that is saved by grace. He that comes to Jesus experiences in this act of coming that drawing of the marvelous and efficacious grace of God, and that, too, in such a way that the latter is first and is the cause of the former. One that is saved will surely acknowledge this. Never will a regenerated child of God present the matter of his salvation as having had its initiative in him. Never will he say that anything on his part preceded the operation of God's grace in him, that he first willed to come and God's grace thereupon enabled him to come, that he first accepted Christ and thereupon Christ received him, that he first opened his heart and thereupon Christ entered it. An unmistakable proof of this may be found in the prayer of one that is saved. Here all Arminianism, all boasting of free will in the matter of salvation, is silenced. The reason is that in prayer one speaks to God. Before men one may talk of coming to Jesus as if it were in the power of the sinner to come or to refuse to come. But as soon as one places himself before the face of God all this is changed. Then all is attributed to divine grace. Before the face of God there is no Arminian. Or whoever heard anyone utter an Arminian prayer like this: "I thank thee God that Thou didst wait until it pleased me to come, and that Thou didst knock until I was good enough to open my heart for Thee, and that Thou gavest me grace when I decided to receive it ?" Yet why should not a man express before the face of God what he loudly and boldly proclaims to man? The simple answer is: because before God we cannot lie! Hence, in prayer a saved sinner will attribute all to God and none to self. He will cease speaking about the free will of man, and say: "I thank Thee that Thy irresistible grace overpowered all my resistance, that Thou didst open and enter into my heart, that Thou didst draw me that I might come!" And this is the heart of the assurance and boldness of the sinner as he comes to Jesus. The very fact that in his coming to Jesus the sinner experiences the drawing of the Father is his guarantee that he will surely be received.
And this is the clear teaching of Holy Writ.
Through the prophet Jeremiah, Jehovah says to His people Israel: "Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." Let us not overlook that the drawing of Jehovah is presented here as an act of God's lovingkindness or mercy; and, secondly, that this act is rooted in, and a manifestation of the everlasting love of God to His people. Jer. 31:3. And what is the result of this drawing of God's love? This, "that the watchmen upon the mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto the Lord our God." vs. 6. The will to come to the God of our salvation is the fruit of the drawing of God. To the murmuring multitude in Capernaum, who were about to depart from Him, the Lord Jesus speaks the well-known words: "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me." Let us pause a moment to consider this important passage. It teaches us first of all, that the drawing of God's grace is indispensable to the coming of the sinner. Without this drawing by the Father, it is impossible for any man to come. No man can come, except the Father draw him. And this does not mean, of course, that a sinner may desire, may earnestly long to come to Jesus, but that he is withheld by some constraining power, but that he has neither the will nor the power to come. The coming and the will to come are utterly dependent on the gracious drawing of the Father. Secondly, this passage explains the drawing by the Father as a being taught of God, the result of which is that a man hears and learns of the Father. You readily understand, of course, that this does not refer to the outward preaching of the Word by man. The outward preaching of the gospel by no means causes the whole audience to hear and to learn of the Father, still less to come to Christ. But the Lord here speaks of a being taught of God, of a spiritual illumination that results in a spiritual knowledge of sin, of God, of Christ, of the things concerning salvation, and that results in the spiritual act of coming to Christ. And, finally, let us note, too, that the fruit of this drawing and divine teaching is sure and infallible, for "Every man therefore that hath heard and learned of the Father cometh unto me."John 6:44, 45.
Whosoever will may come! For every man that will come has been taught to will and to come by the efficacious drawing power of the grace of God. He will surely be received.
The same truth is repeated in another form in vs. 65 of the same chapter of the gospel according to John: "And he said: Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto me of my Father." The same impossibility, the same utter incapability of the natural man to come to Jesus is expressed here as in the forty-fourth verse. How shall he come to Christ? Can the mere preaching of the gospel persuade him? But the preaching of the cross concerns spiritual things, and he is natural, and "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." I Cor. 2:14. Hence, it must be given unto him of the Father. The will and the power to come to Jesus are gifts of grace. And therefore the Lord can say triumphantly even in the face of the fact that the bread-seeking multitude of Capernaum oppose Him, and will presently apostatize from Him: "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I wilt in no wise cast out!" vs. 37.
But what is this drawing of the Father through which the sinner comes to Christ ?
Let me answer, first of all, in a general way, that it is a spiritual operation of God's grace, through Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of Christ, by means of the gospel, in our inmost hearts, whence are the issues of life, affecting the entire man with mind and will and all his emotions and desires. We are drawn by the Father, but that this drawing does not take place without Christ as the Mediator of our salvation, is plain from what the Lord declared shortly before His death on the cross: "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all (men) unto me." John 12:32. Through the cross the Lord was lifted up into glory of the resurrection, and into the height of His position at the right hand of God. And as the Head of His Church He received the promise of the Spirit, in order that by that Spirit He might draw all His own unto Him into glory. The Father draws, and Christ draws also, not as if these were two separate operations, but so, that the Father draws us through Jesus Christ as the Mediator of our redemption.
And in this drawing, just as in the act of coming to Jesus, we may distinguish four steps or elements. The first step one takes in coming to the Savior is that of contrition, true sorrow after God; and corresponding to this true sorrow over sin on the part of the sinner, is the divine act of conviction of sin. The latter is the cause of the former. Only the man that is brought under conviction of sin by the Spirit of Christ can come to true contrition and penitence. The Father draws, the sinner comes: this means, therefore, first of all, that the Father convicts, the sinner repents. This must not be confused with that other operation of God in the conscience of every sinner, whereby He inscribes into his consciousness the sentence of his guilt and condemnation, and causes him to assume responsibility for it. Every man feels that he is responsible before God for his sin. Not for a moment can he rid this sense of accountability. And every sinner is convinced that he stands condemned in judgment before God. And this, too, is the work of God through His Spirit. Even the Gentiles have the work of the law written in their hearts, so that their conscience bears witness, Rom. 2:15; and the Spirit convicts the world of sin, because they believe not on Christ, John 16:9. But this is a consciousness of sin that is characterized by nothing but fear and terror, and that causes the sinner to flee from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and to call to the mountains and rocks to cover him. The conviction of sin unto salvation, however, is principally different. It is a conviction of love. And to be sure, the fruit also of this saving conviction is that the sinner fears and trembles before the majesty of a righteous God, yet so, that he does not flee away, nor attempt to hide himself, but rather approaches Him in true sorrow that he has offended his holy God, and taking God's side in his own condemnation, he prays in the love of God, even though it be with fear and trembling: "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see there be any wicked way in me." Ps. 139:23, 24. This saving conviction of sin is not the work of a preacher; it is not the work of the sinner himself; it is the work of God's sovereign grace alone. And without it, the sinner will never take the first step on the way to Jesus. No man can come to Jesus, except the Father draw him!
The second step the sinner takes in coming to Jesus is that of recognition, whereby the sinner beholds Christ as the God of his salvation, as the fullness of his own emptiness, the righteousness that is able to blot out his own unrighteousness, the life that overcomes his death. And corresponding to this act of spiritual recognition on the sinner's part, is God's act of spiritual illumination, whereby He reveals His Son unto the sinner. When He convicts a man of sin, He does not leave him in the despair of his condemnation: He shows him Jesus in all the fullness of His salvation. This spiritual illumination is not the same as that natural enlightenment whereby the sinner knows all about Christ, even recognizes and acknowledges to an extent by his natural powers the beauty of Christ as the best of men, as one that was deeply God-conscious, as a great teacher and wonderful example; but he does not behold Him as the righteousness of God, and the cross is foolishness to him. The Christ of the Scriptures he crucifies afresh. Modernism in all its manifestations is a good illustration of this. The natural man does not understand the things of the Spirit; "they are foolishness to him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." I Cor. 2:14. Nor does the mere preaching of the gospel give him this spiritual knowledge of Christ. The Lord Jesus, reviewing the result of His own preaching gives thanks to the Father that He has hid these things from the wise and from the prudent, and revealed them unto babes, Matt. 11:25; and he emphasizes that no man knoweth the Father, save the Son, and to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him, Matt. 11:27. But when the Father draws us, He reveals unto us Jesus in all His power of salvation. He so illumines our understanding that we behold Him as the One that is desirable above all things, as the One we need as our Redeemer and Deliverer from sin and death. He opens our eyes so that we behold Him in all the riches of His grace, in all the fullness of His righteousness and life. He opens our ears, so that we hear the Word of the cross as a power of God unto salvation. The drawing power of God causes us to seek Him as the beautiful Savior, the God of our salvation!
However, The Father, through the Spirit of Christ, not only affects our understanding, so that we discern the Savior spiritually, He also wonderfully operates by the same Spirit upon our will and all our desires, so that we long for Him, and desire to possess Him. This longing or aspiration, we said in another connection, is the third step in the sinner's coming to Christ. And corresponding to this yearning for Christ is the third element in the drawing of the Father, which we may call allurement or attraction. The natural man is not attracted by the Christ and His righteousness. He is carnal, and minds carnal things. The carnal mind is enmity against God. His will is perverse, and all his desires are impure. He does not hunger and thirst after righteousness. Nor can mere preaching of the gospel create such a desire after righteousness and the forgiveness of sin. But when the Father draws, and by the power of His grace marvelously operates upon the will of the sinner, He changes that will, turns it completely around, instills into the heart new desires, so that the sinner longs for righteousness, for the remission of sin, for fellowship with the living God, for His love and mercy. And as he beholds Christ as the only way unto the Father, he yearns with a strong desire to possess Him, and to be able to say: "My Jesus, I love Thee; I know Thou art mine!" And so, it is also due to the drawing power of the Father, through the Spirit of Christ, that the sinner finally takes the last step to come to Jesus, that of appropriation. Corresponding to this act on the sinner's part is the operation of God's grace, which the Scripture calls sealing. For we are "sealed with the holy Spirit of promise." Eph. 1:13. It is by the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of promise, that the promise of God, the promise of redemption, of rest, of satisfaction, of forgiveness, of righteousness and life, is given unto us personally, so that we are assured that this promise of God is for us. It is by this Spirit that the love of God, i.e., not our love to Him, but His love to us, revealed in the death of His Son, is shed abroad in our hearts, so that we are confident that Christ died for us, and that not only unto others, but also unto us personally, He gives the remission of sin and life everlasting. And so we are assured that Christ is ours, and that we may appropriate Him and all His benefits unto ourselves, and we are bold to confess with the Heidelberg Catechism, question one, that it is our only comfort in life and death, that we are not our own, but belong to our faithful Jesus Christ!
Thus we understand why it is so absolutely sure that "whosoever will may come." In the will to come and the coming the sinner experiences the drawing power of God's grace. God convicts him of sin, and he repents; God enlightens him by His Spirit, and He beholds the Christ in all His beauty of salvation; God allures and attracts, and he longs for the God of his salvation; God seals him, and he appropriates the Christ and all His benefits. How then could he ever be cast out? They that thus come to Jesus shall never be ashamed!