God's Gracious Call
Elder Wm. Doyal Thomas
Pastor - Philadelphia Baptist Church
Decatur , Alabama
    Does God issue a call to His people? Do His people respond to God's call? What is a call? Is it an invitation, with RSVP instructions included, or with no response required, nor any response expected? Does God care that those called answer, or is He unconcerned? If so, then why does He issue the call at all? Or does He?
    "No man can come to me, except the Father which 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 to me." (John 6:44-45).
    It is, or at least it ought to be immediately apparent that Jesus is speaking of the natural inability of depraved, sinful, fallen man to come to Him. In verse 44, He speaks as plainly as language can speak of this lack of ability, for He said, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him:"
    Now in the face of this clear declaration by Jesus Christ Himself, depraved, fallen, sinful, religious man has the audacity to lift up his voice in opposition to God and say, "But anyone can come to Jesus anytime he chooses to come". What a shame that a puny, created worm of the dust would even dare to say that Jesus lied, and then to insist upon it by repeating again and again that man can, of his own volitional will come to Jesus to receive the benefits of atonement at any time.
    Just reform your habits, they say. Just clean up your conduct, they say. Just turn over a new leaf, they say. But what does Jesus say? Jesus said, "NO MAN CAN COME TO ME, EXCEPT THE FATHER WHICH HATH SENT ME DRAW HIM ..."
    This pronouncement by Jesus has again verified the doctrine of the total depravity of Adam's sinful race. The fact that man is depraved, and sinful, and dead in trespasses and sins is borne out by the fact of his complete loss of ability. He cannot respond while in his dead state, for he is DEAD!
    But Jesus did not leave the matter after reaffirming that man has no ability to come to Him. Quite the contrary. He immediately dealt with man's need by saying also, "... except the Father which hath sent me draw him." This "except", clearly teaches that the Father will intercede and will draw him.
    Please note also that in the last phrase of verse 44 that Jesus makes a promise to "raise him up at the last day". Does our Lord make idle promises that He has no intention of keeping? Does He speak such words of assurance if He has no ability to carry them out?
    Give very careful and serious consideration to what I'm about to say now on this point. Listen and read very carefully. It is very, very important, and I urge you to hear me plainly, and make no mistake in your understanding of what I say.
    First of all, Jesus did make a plain and clearly stated promise to raise up at the last day SOMEONE. Who is that someone who is to be raised up at the last day? Listen and look carefully. The "someone" is the same as the ones drawn by the Father; the same ones who come to Jesus as stated in the first part of verse 44.
    The promise that Jesus made to "raise up" is a promise of resurrection, and it is based upon coming to Jesus in this life. And coming to Jesus in this life is based upon the drawing power of God. And our dear Lord has never made a promise to raise up all men in the last day in the sense of their being raised up to be eternally in His presence. He has promised that His people will be raised up to that grand end, and that not one of them shall ever perish, nor shall any man pluck them out of His hand. Oh security! Oh blissful joy! To know that His people are forever safe in His care and keeping.
    To declare, or even to suggest that a single one of those chosen by the Father, and given to the Son in the eternal covenant of redemption shall one day fall, or fail to come when called is to accuse God. Hear this clearly. To so declare, or to so suggest is to accuse God. In order for a single one of God's chosen people to be lost, then there must be some failure on God's part. If God promised to raise up every one that He draws, as He certainly did promise in verse 44, and then He fails to do so, for whatever reason, it would prove Him either to be LACKING IN DESIRE to do so, or, to be LACKING IN ABILITY to do so.
    If you say, "God DECIDED NOT to raise up one, it accuses Him of changing, or of being mutable, as man. But the Scriptures plainly teach otherwise. "For I am the Lord, I change not; ..." (Malachi 3:6). "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." (James 1:17).
    If you say, God COULD NOT raise up one, then you accuse Him of being limited in power or ability to do so. This would be an open attack on God's omnipotence. But the Scriptures plainly teach otherwise. "I, even I, am the Lord: and beside me there is no saviour. I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witness, saith the Lord, that I am God. Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?" (Isaiah 43:11-13).
    I repeat. If God does not raise up every one of His own, it is because either He would not, or, because He could not. Which horn of this dilemma will you choose? God forbid that man would make such a charge against the Almighty God. Have you ever questioned God on this matter? Knowingly, or unknowingly? Have you ever imagined that God is trying His very best to save some dead, alienated sinner, and that the sinner just will not let God save him?
    Dear friend, my God is not trying to do anything! He does as He will, now, and always. He has never tried to do anything, and failed to perfectly accomplish whatsoever His desire was, or is. "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will." (Proverbs 21:1). "And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?" (Daniel 4:35). "Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me. Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, my counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." (Isaiah 46:9,10).
    John 6:45 of our text also reveals some precious truth on this subject. It is declared in this verse, "Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me." The last phrase, "cometh unto me", is a continued promise that someone will come to Jesus. Who is this someone? Is it every man of Adam's race? Most surely it is not, for some die and go to hell. Then who is it, if not every man of Adam's race? Who?
    First, it cannot be every man of Adam's race. How do I know that? Can I properly make such a flat and unequivocal statement? Because if every man of Adam's race comes to Jesus, then they all, without exception, will be raised up at the last day as verse 44 has just announced. Is this the case? Certainly not! The declaration by Luke in chapter 16, verse 23 of his account of the Gospel of Jesus Christ would not be true if every man was to be so raised up. Remember, this verse teaches that the rich man is in hell. Is he to be raised up at the last day so that he may be eternally with Christ? What an absurdity that would be!
    If not every son of Adam, without exception, then who? It is most obvious that those who come to Jesus must be some ones in particular. But who are they? Verse 45 tells us that they are "... they that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father ...". These, and none others. These specific ones are they who "cometh unto me". That's what Jesus said. And who dare contend with Him? These are the ones that will come, and none besides them will ever come, because all that come are all that are drawn by the Father. Furthermore, those that come will have heard and will have learned of the Father. Must the gospel be preached to them? Must the word be declared unto them?
    But have not all men heard and learned of the Father? Romans 10:18 asks this question: "Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went unto all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world." But to hear the sounds of the gospel, or to hear with the natural ear does not mean that one has heard, or that one has learned of God.
    How is it that two may sit side by side and hear the gospel preached, and one of them hears the "good news", and the other hears only the uncertain sounds of the human words? How is it? Have you ever considered this matter? You may say, "One of them wanted to hear, and the other didn't." That sounds good, doesn't it? That seems to satisfy most people who attempt to explain how one hears and is saved, while another remains unmoved and unrepentant. In fact, this explanation placates all those of you who believe that man saves himself by his own works, or has a part in the saving of himself. But it is just not true. Scripturally, it just isn't true.
    Consider this: When Jesus was crucified as our sin bearer at Calvary, there were two thieves crucified along side Him. One on either side, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled which declared, "... he was numbered with the transgressors". (Isaiah 53:12).
    These two were guilty of murder and sedition. Truly, they fully deserved the punishment they were receiving. Capital punishment was rightfully being administered to these two guilty, vile, and evil sinners. And capital punishment, duly and properly executed, is just that. It is just punishment, and it ought, yea, it must be carried out, for God has commanded it.
    Now, one of these two guilty criminals comes, by God given faith, to Jesus, while the other, who is equally guilty does not come. As these two were facing certain death, and justly so, does it make any sense whatsoever that only one of them would want to hear the good news of deliverance? And remember that whatever was said that one of them could hear, the other could hear also, when natural faculties were involved. Whatever was seen by one of them could be seen by the other also.
    But only one of them said, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom". Why? Why not both of them? Why either of them? Why is this? The answer is, one of these two guilty malefactors was effectually worked upon in regenerating power by the irresistible power of Almighty God, the Holy Spirit. He was convicted and convinced of his own guilt before God, and of his need of forgiveness. He was quickened, or made alive, and was given opened ears to hear, and opened eyes to see, and a new heart to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour! That's why he reacted as he did. He had been irresistibly called to Jesus Christ.
    In repentance and faith, which are the fruit of the Spirit, one of them turned to Jesus, and was led to say, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom". (Luke 23:42). And hear the gracious Lord as He answers this guilty sinner whom He had just saved, "Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise". (Luke 23:43).
    Today! Today, in paradise with the Lord Himself!
    This one heard, and learned of the Father, as the Holy Spirit worked effectually and efficiently. The result of the Holy Spirit's work is this: The convicted sinner comes to Jesus Christ!
    Why did he? Because unto him it was given to come, to believe. And to the other it was not given. "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; ..." (Philippians 1:29).
    But why not the other? Because unto him it was not given! "He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given". (Matthew 13:11).
    There were no works performed that day either. Nor was there any act of baptism. This one was saved by Jesus Christ, as all those who are saved were saved, or as all those who will yet be saved will be saved. Baptismal regeneration, so-called, is not true! Baptism is necessary for obedience by those whom God has saved, but it has no saving efficacy in and of itself.
    Why do two sit side by side today and hear the same message of God's grace, and one of them acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, while the other sits there unmoved, and seemingly unconcerned? Why is it? For the same reason. Unto one it is given, while unto the other it is not given. "For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? (I Corinthians 4:7). What maketh these to differ?
    For a time now let us examine several proofs from the Scriptures that verify that God does call His elect, and that His calling of them is always effectual. And because His calling is effectual, the results of that calling are always in agreement with God's intent. He calls, and His called ones respond positively to His calling. Thus, they come when He calls.
    "For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call". (Acts 2:39). "Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ". (Romans 1:6). "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". (Romans 8:28- 30).
    "(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)" (Romans 9:11). "But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace," (Galatians 1:15). "Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles." (Romans 9:24). "And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful." (Colossians 3:15). "Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it." (I Thessalonians 5:24). "Where unto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." (II Thessalonians 2:14). "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." (II Timothy 1:9). "And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance." (Hebrews 9:15). "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, and holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (I Peter 2:9). "But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you." (I Peter 5:10). "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:" (II Peter 1:3).
    Now with this preponderance of Scripture that clearly teaches that God calls His elect, let us not strive against God. Let us acknowledge that the things which He tells us are indeed true and faithful. With this assurance, we now declare that the call of God is:
    (1) A Direct Call,
    (2) A Particular Call, and
    (3) An Effectual Call.
    The call of God is A Direct Call, as is shown in Acts 16:14, in that the heart of Lydia was opened so that she received the gospel when it was preached to her. The Holy Spirit applies the word to the heart in regenerating power. It is then, and only then, that man is able to receive the things of the Spirit of God, for until this wondrous transaction takes place man is in a dead state, and cannot receive what he so desperately needs. "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (I Corinthians 2:14).
    The call of God is A Particular Call, as shown in Romans 8:30, in that those, and only those whom God has predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son receive such a call. "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."
    This same truth is borne out by the account of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, as is recorded in Acts 9:7 and associated context. Note that this call came to Saul. Those who journeyed with him heard a noise, but heard not the voice of Him who spoke to Saul. This call was direct, and it was particular. It was to Saul, and not to those who were also present. Was it true in YOUR case? Did those around you hear and respond to the call that you received one day? Did you hear and respond to the call that came to someone at a different time, before YOUR call came?
    The call of God is An Effectual Call, as is also shown by the declaration of God in Romans 8:30. Also, I Corinthians 1:24 states plainly, "But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God."
    In II Samuel 9:5, we see, typically presented before us, the whole matter of God's grace extended to sinners. King David is typically presented as King. Mephibosheth is typically presented as the lost, alien sinner who is in a helpless state. The servant Ziba is typically presented as the Holy Spirit. And verse 5 states the EFFECTIVENESS of the Godhead in recovering fallen, depraved sinners. "Then King David SENT, and FETCHED HIM OUT of the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, from Lodebar." (II Samuel 9:5).
    SENT for, and FETCHED! What joy to know that God calls His people. He sends for them. He fetches them. Who can successfully contend for any other position than that position which Baptist churches and Baptist people have always contended for since the days when Jesus Himself called out from among John's disciples those whom He then organized and designated as His ecclesia, His church, and gave His eternal verity to their success, and to their perpetual existence during this age? Who?
    Remember how we began this sermon? Remember John 6:44-45? "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."
    As you consider this message, may God be pleased to bless His word to your understanding. May He be pleased to permit you to see the truth concerning the call of God. And above all, may He enable us all to seek to properly present this truth and all other truth to people just as they are, sinners needing the mercy and grace of God.

(The Baptist Herald - December, 1990)

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