“Coming to Jesus” is a thought which is expressed repeatedly in Scripture. In Matt. 11:28 the Lord Himself calls unto the weary and heavy laden to come unto Him and obtain rest. Also in John 7 this same thought is expressed by our Saviour, when, upon the last day of the great feast, He stood and cried: “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.” Well known are the words in Isaiah 55 where we read of the calling of Jehovah unto those that thirst to buy without money and drink of the water of life. And in that striking sixth chapter of John it is this very coming to JESUS which causes that earthly, bread-seeking Galilean multitude to reject the Lord Jesus Christ. Scripture emphasizing throughout the sovereign will and purpose of God, also stresses this work of salvation, surely as realized by God, but in His people, working in them the willing and the working. By the grace of God they must and do take an active part in the service of God. Hence, coming to Jesus, believing on Him, embracing Christ and all His benefits, and other similar expressions, such as seeking our salvation in God alone, are activities enjoined upon the people of God. This emphasis upon the responsibility particularly of the people of God must not be lost sight of. To this “coming to Jesus” we would briefly direct your attention in this essay.
As already stated, this coming to JESUS was the bone of contention between the Lord and those Galilean enthusiasts of John 6. In this chapter Jesus Himself ascribes this coming to Him to His Father, the living God. We must remember that the previous day He had revealed Himself in all the glory of His power. Five thousand men, not counting the women and children, had been fed by Him with only five loaves and two fishes. This tremendous miracle had aroused the admiration of the multitude. But, they had at first failed to see the sign. When Jesus then made it clear to them that the feeding of the five thousand had merely been a sign, that He therefore did not come down from heaven to give earthly bread and honor and glory but that He was that heavenly bread which had come down from and would return to heaven, and that they, to live, must eat His flesh and drink His blood, the people began to contend with Him. They perceived that they had witnessed a sign! The Galileans hungered after earthly bread. They were carnal. And they knew that the Lord had the power to give it unto them. But when it became clear that the bread which Jesus gave they did not desire, and that He did not give what they craved, they all deserted Him with the exception of the twelve. This desertion, now, of those carnal Galilean enthusiasts is finally attributed by the Saviour to His Father. Fact is, no man can come to Jesus, except the Father draw him. That men do not come to the Saviour and acknowledge Him is because the Father does not draw them.
How different this issue is presented today! To come to Jesus, believe in Him, “accept” Him, is proclaimed today as a very simple matter. In reality, it is humanly impossible. Our Lord is the “cheapest article on the market” today. Fact is, however, that nothing is as costly as the salvation of God’s people, for it was purchased with that most precious and infinite price, the blood of the eternal Son of God. Yet, a gospel is being proclaimed in which this priceless salvation is ultimately made dependent upon man, is left to his choice. And all men are of themselves able to make this choice. Of course, this corrupt conception of salvation is rooted in a wrong conception of the Christ, as well as in the evil heart of man. The most important element has been lifted out of the name Jesus. For Jesus means: Jehovah saves. Notice: Jehovah saves. Wicked man has placed the weight of salvation in his own hands. That God alone could possibly save us, even in the way of the cross, that it was necessary for the Almighty to assume our flesh and blood, that Calvary is the blotting out of guilt and the perfect satisfaction of all divine righteousness which could be brought about only by the living God Himself is not understood by many. Calvary, then, is not our salvation but merely a manifestation of God’s universal love. The Lord so loved the world, is so intensely interested in and eager to save all, that He did not even hesitate to send His only begotten Son. The cross is but a means of God to seek entrance into the hearts of men. And salvation itself is dependent upon our choice. To be sure, the Arminian would resent it if he were accused of ignoring the Scripture that man is saved by grace. Rather, he would maintain this cardinal principle. However, if that irresistible grace shall operate in the hearts of men and continue to operate there, man himself must will to receive it. This presentation of salvation lifts the very heart out of the name Jesus. Then Jesus is not: Jehovah saves. Jesus is not “Jehovah saves” upon the cross, but His death is merely the realization of a chance for all. Calvary, then, is not viewed as the blotting out of sin and the condemnation of the world. And the work of salvation in the hearts of men is the product of the combined efforts of God and man.
This Arminian presentation of salvation constitutes the heart of the first of the now famous Three Points. The issue involved must not be confused with a general preaching of the gospel, or, if you will, with the command to repentance which must be proclaimed without distinction. We also believe that the gospel must be held before others than the elect. This is the question: Why does God cause the gospel to be proclaimed? For, according to our confession, the very proclamation of the glad tidings of salvation is to be ascribed to the good pleasure of the Lord. He causes His Word to be preached to whomsoever He wills. Now the Christian Reformed churches have adopted the Arminian tenet that the gospel is a manifestation of God’s grace to all. And what else can this possibly imply but that the Lord, graciously inclined to all, seeks their welfare and salvation when He causes Christ to be proclaimed unto them? Yet, it is this very thought which is condemned in that well-known sixth chapter of John. To be sure, the Jews did not believe in the Lord. They murmur against Him because they cannot induce Him to give them what they crave and demand. They contend with Him because it becomes increasingly evident to them that a mighty gulf separates this Jesus from them. And how they crave the earthly which they know He can give! However, let it be understood that the Saviour attributes their rejection of Him to the living God. In fact, this is His comfort. No man can come unto Jesus except the Father draw him. The question of salvation is therefore never one of the free will of man. To the contrary, God decides, and He alone. That a man does not come to Christ is ultimately because the Father does not draw Him. Jehovah simply does not desire the salvation of all. And this is the very opposite of Point One. Our coming to the Saviour is exclusively the work of God. Notice, our coming, for we must come. But the Father draws, and whomsoever He wills.
Who, then, is this Jesus? Surely, we must come to Jesus. But, let it be emphasized, we must come to JESUS. Jesus is He Who has been sent of the Father. This implies that God has appointed Him to perform a very definite task. And this task is to lead His people out of the hopelessness of their sin and death into the heavenly glory of God’s eternal covenant, not to mention at this time this salvation of God’s people as it also stands in connection with the restoration of all things. It was the Father’s good pleasure to save His people in the way of sin and grace. They must be hopelessly lost in sin in order that it may become fully apparent that only God can save, in order that no man should boast. As the Head of a condemnable people, it was the calling of this Servant of Jehovah to suffer the eternal wrath of God, because God’s saving mercy is always in perfect harmony with His righteousness. And because God’s wrath is eternal and we are all conceived and born in sin, it was imperative, were we to be saved, that the living God Himself should undertake this task. And, let us remember, Jesus, Jehovah saves, Immanuel, God with us, does save His people upon the cross of Golgotha. Upon that accursed tree Zion’s salvation becomes a fact. Calvary is not merely the realization of a chance for all, but it is the salvation of all God’s people. For upon that tree our guilt is blotted out and the wrath of God has been borne unto the very end. There God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. There our heavenly life with God was merited. And now, this suffering Servant of Jehovah continues to be “Jehovah saves.” For He is risen from the dead and is even now seated at the right hand of God. Unto Him has been given all power in heaven and upon earth. Through Him, as the exalted Christ, the Lord accomplishes all things. And He has received the promise of the Spirit, to pour Him out into the church, and through Him to lead His people also spiritually out of the bondage of sin into the blessed liberty of the covenant of God. This He accomplishes alone. He calls them irresistibly out of darkness into light. He draws them powerfully out of sin. He causes them to know themselves, see their sin and iniquity, and long for the blessed fellowship with God. He causes them to love God in Christ Jesus, and to say upon the question of the Saviour, “Will ye not also go away?” those beautiful and well-known words: Lord, to whom shall we go?
Bearing this in mind we can understand the implication of the expression: coming to Jesus. Do not say that the explanation as given of Jesus by us is too profound, that our coming to Him does not imply all these “dogmatical” distinctions. If you do say this, you are certainly deceiving yourselves. No man ever came to Jesus except in the way of these “dogmatical implications.” And he who has not learned these things, confessed them, may well examine himself whether he may possibly have embraced a Jesus of his own imagination. To come to Jesus means, in the first place, that we are conscious of our profound need of just such a Saviour, that is, that Saviour of the cross. This implies knowledge of ourselves. We must know ourselves condemnable before God. We have sinned against Jehovah. And Jehovah is merciful only in the way of the maintenance of His righteousness. We must know and believe that fellowship with God, for us as sinners, is possible only when the righteousness of God with respect to our sin has been fully satisfied. This satisfaction is impossible of ourselves. We cannot bear away an eternal wrath. Neither can we bear it in obedience which is required if our suffering is to have any value before God, because we are children of disobedience. Therefore, the operation of the grace of God in the heart of such a sinner is always such that it renders him condemnable before God and also utterly helpless in his condemnation. We must become hopelessly lost before the tribunal of the Lord. Besides this knowledge of ourselves, our coming to Jesus also implies that we then realize our need of the Jesus of Calvary. I need atonement. A mere example of divine love, having (this example) no atoning value, not blotting out my guilt, is worthless. God’s wrath must be borne away. The sinning soul must die. Our guilt must be paid. A Saviour I need Who takes my guilt away, my guilt, Who has fully satisfied the justice of Jehovah. I must be saved through blood. This is not all. Only Jesus can possibly be that Saviour. Salvation is impossible of men. God alone must save. For God alone can bear the infinite wrath of God in perfect obedience and merit for me eternal life. How important that we fully realize: To the cross of Christ I cling. He, to whom sin has become a burden and the righteousness of God a terrible reality will only then be satisfied when he may know that Christ merited for him upon the cross not merely a chance but actual salvation.
Moreover, besides this consciousness of our need of such a Saviour, of the cross, to come to Jesus also means that we know and believe that He alone must and can and will lead me out of sin and darkness into the light. My coming to Jesus implies the confession that He first did come to me. For I am by nature a child of sin, a lover of darkness rather than the light, bound with chains of darkness and death which I cannot break. Hence I must and do confess, not only that I am utterly condemnable before God and must be reconciled in the way of the blood of the cross, but also that He must lead me and continue to lead me, irresistibly, into the life of God’s covenant. I must confess my helplessness and Jesus as the only power to save. That I bid farewell to all human aid and seek my all in Him, the only Captain of my salvation. Jesus alone can and does apply unto my heart the salvation once merited upon the cross. Who therefore comes to Jesus must embrace Him as his only but also as his heavenly Saviour, must not regard Him as a distributor of earthly prosperity and glory, but as that Redeemer Who saves me from all death, also from this earthly, to give me a place in the eternal house of our God. Who would come after Jesus must forsake the world and fix his eye upon the city above.
This will explain why no man can come to Jesus, except the Father draw him. To be sure, man does not will to come to the Saviour. To such a Jesus the Galileans refused to come. And it is ever thus throughout the ages. Man refuses to acknowledge his sin before God, loves this world and feels no need of a Saviour Who delivers from sin. Neither is he interested in a heavenly Deliverer. Man will embrace an earthly deliverer, saving him from the results of sin, but he will ever reject Jesus, Who saves from sin and leads His people into God’s blessed fellowship. And because of this rejection of the Christ, which is rooted in his sin, he must give an account. But, he cannot come. In his hatred of Jesus he cannot bring about a change. He must be born again. The Father must draw him. How many there are today who “accepted” a Jesus but have never learned to know Him Who saves man unto the uttermost!
No man can come to Jesus except the Father draw him. What a blessed, comforting thought! To be sure, this truth maintains man’s helplessness to save himself. Therefore it is the object of man’s hatred throughout the ages. But, this truth also maintains the irresistible grace of God. It leaves man hopelessly lost. But it also ascribes our salvation wholly to God. Then our salvation, then only, is safe. Now we can know and be persuaded that the work which by God in me has been begun shall by His grace be fully done. Now we know that the Almighty God, Who called me out of darkness into His marvelous light, will continue to draw me until one day I shall stand before Him, in the assembly of the elect in life eternal, without spot or wrinkle.