We covered a lot of ground in the last two weeks, but John 6 is a long, connected story of people wanting physical bread to satisfy their finite, short-minded, physical lives when Jesus is offering them the spiritual bread that will satisfy their infinite, eternally-minded, spiritual lives.
Jesus spoke to three main groups: the crowd, the Jewish religious leadership, and the Disciples. He didn’t mince words or pull punches. He didn’t soften the delivery so that more people would accept Him. He didn’t follow convincing marketing techniques or use clever linguistics. He just came right out with the truth, letting it offend whom it would, and letting convict others to salvation. He didn’t say it offensively, but as is often the case, the truth offends just by the very nature of it being truth.
You and I have a tough responsibility to approach Scripture without any presuppositions. We are to let God be true and every man a liar. We need to remember that no Scripture is of private interpretation. We must allow the natural, plain sense of Scripture make common sense even if we don’t like where it leads us.
Enter Augustine. One of the earlier and very influential theologians was a man who lived from A.D. 354-430. He was an immoral man with a mistress whom bore a son for him, but he was converted at the age of 31. He went on to influence much of Christianity in both the East and the West through his theological writings. From his studying of Scripture he determined that God chose people for salvation because it was plainly stated as such in the Bible. It should be noted, this was rarely a disputed point in early Christianity and other early writings seem to indicate that many understood Scripture to teach as much.
In the past months we’ve covered the heresy of Pelagianism wherein the teaching is that man, apart from God, enacts his own salvation. This was deemed a heresy in the 600s A.D. But, as the church fell into spiritual bankruptcy, much theological training and thought was lost for church politics. When Luther unintentionally launched the Reformation, deep Bible studying was rediscovered (remember, the Catholic Church forbade it, and kept the masses in their control by virtue of mass illiteracy and fear of retribution if one challenged the Church). Luther’s studying brought to light some of the same teaching as Augustine, and then Calvin dug into them even deeper (and Calvin’s Institutes were a massive undertaking of a broad range of doctrine). In fact, “Calvinism” was a modernized rendering of Augustine’s teachings.
The next heresy that came up was called Semi-Pelagianism which is the root of Arminianism. You see, the goal of Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism is to put man’s intellect into the mix because people always want to earn their salvation, or want to have a share in God’s purview, just like the crowds in Jesus’ day:
- John 6:28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?”
But, because man’s quest to take over God’s decision-making and work in Salvation has repeatedly been his theme since the Fall in the Garden, this also was identified as a dangerous theology, and in 1618-19 at the Synod of Dordt, the church identified the biblical errors of Semi-Pelagianism as heresy and the matter should have been settled.
It wasn’t. The corruption of sin is so that man has a high view of himself. He feels he can earn salvation and tries to. Or, if he accepts that only Jesus saves, then he wants to take credit for making the right choice, which fuels his pride. This is why I have emphasized over and over again just how bad sin is, because you and I on our own would never choose God, and would never desire Him. We were dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1), and as we learned in John 3, eternal life is from above. You didn’t choose physical life, and similarly, you didn’t choose eternal life. Dead people don’t do anything. Unborn people don’t do anything. Slaves don’t choose their masters. Wives in ancient days didn’t choose grooms. Children had no say whether they would be adopted or by whom. And worst of all, since the Bible says we were slaves to sin, under Satan’s rule, and enemies of God, there is nothing in our being that would even desire the King of kings and Lord of lords!
Thank God He reached into my dead, cold, black, sin-filled, self-worshipping heart and convicted me, opened my eyes, and changed my desires. That is the definition of grace: receiving what you don’t deserve! And we are a graced people!
John 6 Jesus lays it out in plain language: God has given Him those who will be saved, and entrusted them to Jesus to save them, secure them, and sanctify them.
- Ephesians 1:3-6 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, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
- Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
If you read Ephesians and this section of Romans, you find some great truths (one which we will visit tomorrow dealing with Eternal Security). You also find that the foundation of these truths is in the fact that we are “in Christ”. He is the source of our salvation and our lives. Jesus said to eat His flesh and drink His blood, and that those who do will abide in Him (abide “in Christ”).
I often refer to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Abstract of Principles, their 19th century doctrinal statement that is still the foundation for all they do and teach. Their statement on Divine Providence and Election is quite educational:
- God from eternity, decrees or permits all things that come to pass, and perpetually upholds, directs and governs all creatures and all events; yet so as not in any wise to be the author or approver of sin nor to destroy the free will and responsibility of intelligent creatures.
- Election is God’s eternal choice of some persons unto everlasting life-not because of foreseen merit in them, but of His mere mercy in Christ-in consequence of which choice they are called, justified and glorified.
There it is again: “in Christ”. Luther, if you remember, had codified the Solas of salvation which includes Solus Christus: Salvation is in Christ alone. This is the theme of salvation that we hold high, which was foundational to the early Baptists of the Reformation, as well as to the Presbyterians, to the Lutherans, and even many of the Anglicans. Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven, and apart from Him you do not have life.
- Do you often feel timid, insecure, and even too inadequate to witness to lost people? ____________________________________________
- Do fears such as, “What if they ask me things I don’t know?” or “I don’t know that much Scripture” plague you? ___________________________________________________
- Are you like Moses and afraid that you are not good at speaking and debating truth? ___________________________________
- What are some of the inhibitions that have kept you from being a bold witness? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Now, do you see how these things have no bearing on your witnessing? If you know what the Gospel (which we’ve covered over and over here at church), then the basic truth of that Good News is all you need to proclaim to people. You present it and the Spirit will do the rest. Isn’t that a huge burden off your shoulders? __________________________________________
- If you were saved later in life, you will remember what you were saved from more clearly than those who were saved as young children. If this is you, what are some of the things that enslaved you: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Do you see how Jesus gave you a new heart and the indwelling Holy Spirit took up residence within you to help you overcome these fleshly gods? _________________________________________________
- We all still sin, but pride is probably the root sin of all we do. Do a Concordance search for pride (you can use blueletterbible.orgfor free) and write down some passages about how wicked and anti-God pride is: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Recognize that there is no room for any human involvement in choosing God in salvation because it finds its foundation in pride. We are all called to respond to the Gospel, but without the Holy Spirit convicting us and changing our desires, we would proudly resist Him, or proudly feel we had a hand in our salvation.
- Lastly, use a Bible dictionary (you can use Blue Letter Bible again) and look up the word Grace. What are the primary aspects of this term with regards to God loving us, and our deservedness of Him: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Grace Greater than our Sin Hymn by Julia H. Johnston
1 Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt,
yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin.
2 Dark is the stain that we cannot hide,
what can avail to wash it away!
Look! there is flowing a crimson tide;
whiter than snow you may be today.
3 Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
freely bestowed on all who believe:
you that are longing to see his face,
will you this moment his grace receive?