Rev. Heys is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” 

Matthew 11:28

In this verse we find a very comforting truth. Jesus Christ, our Savior, promises us a very important and blessed gift. In our King James version of the Bible we read that Jesus here promises us rest. That surely is a precious and blessed gift. However, the original Greek word which our Savior uses is not the word “rest.” It is the word “refresh.” Christ here promises those who come unto Him, that He will refresh them when they come unto Him. A few did come unto Him; but very many of the Israelites did not follow Him as their Savior.

That refreshment which our Savior promises is a most blessed gift. Jesus uses the same word which we find in I Corinthians 15:18, in II Corinthians 7:13, and in Philemon verses 7 and 20. Just look up those verses. In them we read of refreshments, rather than of rest. This means that He will give us a fresh, that is, surely a precious, gift.

What we should bear in mind, therefore, is that this word refresh refers to a spiritual gift promised by Jesus Christ, our Savior, to all the people who are eternally chosen in Him to be members of His body, that is, to be His church. All the descendants of Adam and Eve were born spiritually dead, even though they did for a time have a physical life. Satan had caused them to die spiritually, and he moved them to try to become gods. But our Savior, here in the verse quoted above, promises to God’s elect spiritual refreshment. He also promises enjoyment of a new spiritual life, wherein they will love God and serve Him with heart, mind, soul, and strength.

Now the prefix “re” (with which this word refresh begins) means “back again.” Thus, in words such as repeat, return, remember, and many other words beginning with “re,” we have the idea of becoming fresh once again, as God had created Adam and Eve spiritually fresh. Our Savior here promises us that He will make us spiritually fresh.

By all means, we must deny that false doctrine called common grace. It teaches that some of those, not chosen in Christ, are dealt with by Him in His grace. For, indeed, He does give them many earthly possessions. But we, as Protestant Reformed Churches, came into being because God enabled us to maintain the truth that God’s grace does not deal at times with some of those not eternally chosen in Christ Jesus, our Savior. God’s grace is not temporally upon those not chosen in Christ. They may become millionaires while still remaining spiritually dead. They are constantly under God’s wrath, even when they have what they enjoy for the flesh. Nowhere in Scripture can we find God’s grace on those not saved by Christ Jesus. Those not chosen in Christ are constantly on their way to hell and all its torment.

What is more, our God’s name is Jehovah, which declares that He never changes in His grace. Jehovah means “I AM”; and that name denies that He for a time is gracious to those not chosen in Christ. God never changes His mind, and plainly does not change His treatment of those not redeemed by His Son. Jehovah never, for one split second, becomes the I Was Gracious. Satan likes to get people to consider God to be changeable. He is very, very crafty in his attempt to turn believers away from God. And in the church-world Satan has gotten many lies taught, in his attempt to turn men away from God. Some call those who present the lie about God Christians. But literally they are anti-Christians in the sense that they fight against Christ, the Son of God in our flesh. We do well to hold on to the name Jehovah. Let us never teach the lie that Jehovah, the I AM becomes for a while the I Was! Satan wants us to do that. But let us hold on tightly to that name I AM! That name expresses the truth that He was never, in any way, the I Was Gracious.

Now the word “refresh” is indeed an interesting and comforting word here in our Savior’s statement, calling us to come unto Him, and thereby receive refreshment. In John 10:9 we read: “I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” In that verse we find the truth revealing what it means that He will give us rest. We are called to come unto Him, not because he depends upon us, but because the only way to refreshment is knowing Him as our Savior, who earned salvation for us by His cross. He does not depend on us. He does not wait until the moment that we come unto Him.

What we should bear in mind is that our Savior promises to make us fresh spiritually. That refreshment means that we will be brought out of guilt and punishment. Refresh means to return to spiritual freshness. Our Savior will make us like Adam and Eve were before Satan got them to turn away from God and to consider themselves to be gods. Indeed He will make us far more spiritually glorious than Adam and Eve were. We will be eternally free from Satan and his devilishness.

We must reject the claim that we let Him change us spiritually. Being by nature spiritually dead, we cannot refresh ourselves spiritually. A man physically dead cannot, by his will and strength, bring himself back to a holy, spiritual life. In the text quoted above we do not ask our Savior to save us, until He has already begun it in us. He is our Savior because of what He does, not because of what we by nature desire and do. As we correctly sing Psalter number 383:1, which is based upon what we read in Psalm 139:14:

All that I am I owe to Thee,

Thy wisdom, Lord, hath fashioned me;

I give my Maker thankful praise,

Whose wondrous works my soul amaze.

Our God eternally decided who would be refreshed. In fact, that word “refresh” which is found in Matthew 11:28 makes it very plain that by nature we are wholly stale spiritually. Our God Himself stated to Adam, in Genesis 2:17: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat: for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” On that day Adam and Eve did die spiritually; and they could not bring forth any child that was not by nature spiritually dead. Our Savior Himself, born of Mary, had no earthly father, and therefore He had a body that was holy, was not guilty of sin, and was not unable to walk in holiness before God.

We must, therefore, reject the doctrine of Arminianism. Jesus does not offer salvation to any human being. For no one born to a man and woman can in any way or for any brief moment want salvation from sin. Indeed, he would like to escape the punishment for which guilt calls; but he enjoys and wants to stay in sin and guilt. And our Savior declares in our text what He does to those eternally chosen to be children of God. In John 14:6 Christ states that important and wonderfully comforting truth: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

We should, therefore, also hold on tightly to the truth that our Savior gives us refreshment. We give God nothing, even as far as our earthly lives are concerned. We do not even want to come unto Christ until He has already come into our hearts by His Spirit and earned the right to do so by His own suffering for our sins upon His cross. We have the desire for every bit of salvation, because He has begun it in us. Just go back again to that blessed truth mentioned above: “All that I am I owe to Thee.”

Yes, we need to call our Savior to come unto us in order to receive that gift of refreshment. But we also need to be made by God able and willing to come unto Him. Indeed, there were very few Israelites who wanted our Savior to come. Many of these Israelites did labor. But the sad thing is that their labor was that of crucifying our Savior. As we read in Matthew 27:1: “All the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put Him to death.” We even read in Acts 9:1 and 2 that Saul, who later on was called Paul, who was “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest” and desired to get men and women to be brought bound to Jerusalem. He wanted to promote hatred against those who followed Jesus Christ. God did change Paul shortly thereafter; but note that God changed him, and brought him that refreshment, so that he became fresh in confessing Christ Jesus, and he became one of His apostles. Indeed, he was given refreshment. He did not refresh himself spiritually.

Indeed, all that we are spiritually we have by our Savior, who calls us to come unto Him. And when He calls us to come, He does not offer salvation. He commands us to come. Our God does not offer salvation, and then present it after we ask for a spiritual rebirth. We are all born physically without our request. And, by all means, we are created spiritually as children of God, by His work in us. His grace enables us to desire and seek salvation. That He reveals so clearly in the 14th verse in Psalm 139. All that we are we owe to God, as His gift of grace through His Son in our flesh. He commands us to come unto Him. But doing that in His grace, He enables us to hear it and to act according to it. We must thank Him for our desire and ability to come unto Him.

Very correctly we, every Sunday, sing: “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.” Sing it every day, when you wake up in the morning, and just before you go to sleep at night. God does not merely have His promises made known to us, He also works that thankfulness for salvation in us as part of our salvation. Do not forget that an important part of our salvation is the joy and confidence of its blessedness.

God calls us to come. We depend entirely upon Him for every bit of salvation, including the desire for it. Thank God, not merely for the salvation, but also, and by all means, for the knowledge of what He does in His grace, when He saves us, and makes us His holy children.