The passage from holy writ to which we will call your attention in this article reads as follows: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread which I give is my flesh, for the life of the world.”

Jesus had multiplied the three barley loaves and the two small fishes on the shores of the sea of Tiberias on the day before He spoke these words to the mul­titudes in Capernaum. He had come to Capernaum toward morning after He had spent most of the night alone on a mount in prayer. And, now, on this day after He had multiplied the bread the multitudes came to seek Him.

They come to Jesus, saying: Rabbi, when earnest Thou hither?

They had eaten from the multiplied bread, it must be remembered. In their enthusiasm they had desired to make Him king by force. They had recognized in Him the “prophet” of whom Moses had spoken. But the one thing that they had forgotten, as all men for­get by nature, is, that Jesus is also priest; that He is the king-priest after the order of Melchizedek. And as the priest He brings the perfect sacrifice for all that the Father has given Him in sovereign election. These must be brought to glory through His death and resurrection; He must give His life a ransom for their souls. And as He gives His life, His flesh and blood, He is the living bread that came down from God. He is the bread of God, prepared by God in the sacrifice of His Son in the flesh.

O, the unbelieving Jews only saw the multiplied bread; they had not really perceived the meaning of the “signs”, and penetrated to the thing signified by it. They simply labored for the bread that perishes. Living bread they do not eat.

Why do these not eat?

Because they do not share in God’s work. What is this work? It is this: That we believe in Him whom God hath sent! No, this does not simply mean, that this faith is the work, that God asks of us instead of the works of the law, but it means that our believing, our act of believing is God’s work in us!

It is God’s work that we actually believe, as well as that we have the potens, the ability to believe. Both are wholly what God energizes, works into us; both to will and to do is of Him. No one can come to the Son except the Father which hath sent Him draw us by the almighty operation of the Holy Spirit. This the unbelieving Jews lacked. They come not because they are not drawn, and they are not drawn because they do not belong to the “all that the Father hath given” to the Son!

This is a “hard saying” in the ears of these Jews, but it is the truth of God.

For this same reason the Gibraltar truth remains standing, that every one that cometh and believeth in Christ shall be saved, he shall in no wise be cast out, but shall live forever, and be raised up in the last day.

What has this now to do with the text under con­sideration?

This text speaks of our “eating” Christ, the liv­ing Bread; it says that if anyone eat of this bread, he shall live forever.

Let us try to understand this.

What does it mean that Jesus is “bread”? And what does it mean that He is the living bread?

Jesus is bread. Now “bread” is prepared food. It is not the same as simply bare grain, be it barley or wheat. Bare grain, it is true, is very nourishing and can make a meal. But it is not the same as bread in its nature and idea. For, let it be observed, that bare grain can be sown, it can die and bring forth new grain. But this is not true of bread. Bread is many grains ground to flour and made into a lump and bak­ed. And in this process grain has been transformed into another product. It is a product that is finished. Bread cannot bring forth new bread. It is in this sense not like wheat.

Jesus, we should notice, did not multiply bare grain on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. That God does every day in nature. But Jesus multiplied “bread” and “fish”! He gave sufficient bread, abundance of bread. Twelve full baskets of the fragments are gath­ered. He multiplies the finished product.

And what is the sign? It is that Jesus is the bread of God from heaven, the real bread of which the manna in the desert was but a type. That bread was won­der bread. The people said: Manna, that is, “what is it”? But the bread that God gives is the true bread, the wonder of grace. It is Christ’s flesh and blood. Not in the literal sense; it is not flesh and blood, but in the sense that Jesus gives it a ransom for the sins of all His people in every tongue and tribe and people and nation. He gives it for the life of the Kosmos. All creation will share in the benefits of Christ’s suf­fering. The Kosmos shall be saved.

And then this prepared bread is the bread of God, because He becomes unto us from God wisdom, righte­ousness, sanctification and complete redemption.

Thus Jesus is the prepared food for the hungering and thirsting souls of those believing, that is, those drawn by irresistible grace, who are “taught of God”!

With this in mind Jesus makes the statement, say­ing: “if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever”.

What does this statement imply?

We wish to point out that what we have here is not “conditional theology”, that is, the teaching that there is objectively salvation for all in Christ, that it is offered well-meant to all, and that it now depends upon man whether he will believe the gospel, whether he will accept Christ. We will say it still more pointedly: That it is objectively intended for all men head for head, and soul for soul, but that it is up to man, whether he by his own “native free-will” is willing to accept Christ and take Him as his Savior. That is Conditional Theology.

That we do not have here in the text!

Fact is, that that is nowhere the teaching in holy writ!

That is the heresy of Arminius together with the proud heresy of Pelagius raised up out of hell!

But, perhaps, someone interrupts and says: But Jesus says: if any (man) eat of this bread he shall live forever!

answer: every word is true, and must be care­fully weighed.

In the first place, we underscore the truth, that we must carefully distinguish between a conditional sen­tence, and conditional theology as above circumscrib­ed. A conditional sentence is logical thought, a condi­tional theology is the teaching of a Christ for all, and the free-will of natural man! Jesus never taught or teaches the latter, but He often employs the former. These two must not be confused. If we do, we simply make it impossible to interpret the Bible. Then each time we see a conditional sentence we immediately as­sociate it with conditional free-willism. That is fat­al to all good understanding of Scripture.

In the second place we must interpret Scripture in the light of Scripture. In this case it means that we do the following:

1.  That we notice that eating and drinking Christ is wholly identical with believing in this chapter. We must not say, that believing is the “condition” for eating. We must say that believing is the spiritual appropriation of the riches of the graces in Christ, the forgiveness of sins and life and glory. “Eating” is a metaphor for believing; it presents faith to us as the need of the regenerated and enlightened mind and will longing for nourishment in Christ.

2.  When we eat food, this food passes into our sto­mach, and thus into the process of digestion, and is transformed into living energy of the body and phys­ical soul. Then we live. Now it is true, this food does not really impart life. It only keeps the flickering life in our body burning for three score years and ten. Eating it we still die. But this food given by Jesus, the Bread from heaven, is different. It gives endless life in our spiritual souls now, effects our entire life even of the body, and gives us the hope of presently living forever in the heavens above.

3.  This, however, is only true “if any man eat it”. “Condition”, I hear someone say. I answer: it is a conditional sentence expressing that those drawn by irresistible grace only, receive the conscious enjoy­ment of the forgiveness of sins, and that they are more and more “bone of His bones, and flesh of His flesh” only when they eat. It is only in eating that we taste the goodness of the Lord as a conscious posses­sion in Christ. No one, who does not eat, receives. Only those who eat and drink Christ shall live forever!

4.  This certainly is a word for the entire audience. It tells those who eat not, that they have no hunger, they do not have the knowledge of sin, misery, re­demption and gratitude. They are not “taught of God”. But this not knowing God reveals itself in not eating. Hence, this statement is an announcement to those not eating, that they have no part in Christ. On the other hand, those eating Christ taste the goodness of the Lord. They lift up their hearts into heaven and see Christ as the true spiritual manna, and live by God’s covenant faithfulness; they are admonished and assured of Christ’s hearty love. They are assured of this in the sentence: if any man eat of this bread he shall live forever.

The act of believing is eating.

The act of our believing is the work of God!

Hence, if any man eats he shall live forever.

This, I repeat, is not “conditional theology.” It is a conditional sentence telling us who shall live for­ever, and who shall not see life.

But it is more.

It is an assurance and admonition, a promise of God to all believers, the oath bound word of Jesus to every believing one that he has life, and it thus is a strengthening from faith to faith.

It is the key of the kingdom of heaven, whereby it is publicly testified to all and every believer, that, whenever they receive the promise of the gospel by a true faith, all their sins are really forgiven them of God.

—G. Lubbers