“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” John 6:37
After miraculously feeding thousands of people (John 6:1-14) and walking on water (John 6:15-21), Jesus begins His discourse on the bread of life for those who hunger spiritually (John 6:22-58). In the middle of this discourse, Christ makes an incredible promise to His listening audience: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” (John 6:37). Let’s look closely at what Jesus says:
“All…,” not some or most, who have ever believed in Jesus prior to the Church Age are given to Christ by “the Father.” Before the Church Age (Acts 2:1ff), those who believed in Jesus as the coming Messiah belonged to God the Father. Because of Israel’s rejection of Christ (Matthew 12:22ff), Jesus anticipated the transfer of ownership of Old Testament believers to Him by the Father in anticipation of the coming Church Age (Matthew 16:18; cf. Acts 2:1ff). 1
“…the Father…” The safe keeping of Old Testament believers is not solely about a gracious Son trying to calm down an uncontrollably angry Father. The Father lovingly takes the initiative. 2
“…gives…,” not “quibbles over.” It is the Father’s great delight to entrust rebellious sinners who believed in the coming Messiah into the safe keeping of His Son.
“…will come…” The Father’s safe keeping of a believing sinner is never thwarted. All who have believed in Jesus in the Old Testament are securely kept by Christ after this transfer of ownership from the Father to the Son.
“The one who comes…” While the Father loves “all,” coming to Christ is an individual’s choice. God cares about “the one” sinner who is lost without Christ. We are not robots. We are not drawn to Christ against our wills kicking and screaming. Each human being has the freedom to choose to come to Christ by believing in Him (cf. John 6:35).
“…comes to Me…” God is not inviting sinners to come to a set of doctrines, to a church, or even to the gospel. He is inviting us to come to a Person – Jesus Christ. 3
“…I will by no means cast out.” This phrase “I will by no means cast out” is emphatic in the Greek language (ou mē ekbalō exō). Literally it means, “I will no not ever cast out” the one who comes to Me. In Jesus’ day and ours, there are lost sinners who are deeply afraid that Jesus will not welcome them into His fold or family much less keep them forever. If there was no fear of being cast out, then there would be no need for Jesus to say this so emphatically both then and now.
We may have many objections to this incredible promise from Jesus:
“But Lord, You don’t realize what I have done in my past!”“I will by no means cast out.”
“I have proudly turned away from You.” “I will by no means cast out.”
“I relied totally on myself.” “I will by no means cast out.”
“I have deeply hurt others with my own brand of selfishness and sin.” “I will by no means cast out.”
“I have served Satan all my life.” “I will by no means cast out.”
“I have sinned against Your grace.” “I will by no means cast out.”
“I have sinned against Your mercy.” “I will by no means cast out.”
“I have sinned against Your light.” “I will by no means cast out.”
“I have sinned against Your love.”“I will by no means cast out.”
“I have no good thing to bring with me.” “I will by no means cast out.”
“I cannot measure up to Your standard of holiness.” “I will by no means cast out.”4
Jesus’ promise answers all our objections. Even when we run out of specific sins and failures, we may anticipate that Jesus will eventually reject us when He gets to know us better. We say to Him, “Lord, You know me better than anyone else, for sure, but You don’t know the darkness that is hidden from everyone deep in my soul.” Christ says, “I know it all.”
We retort, “But the thing is, it isn’t just my past. It is also my present.” “I understand,” He replies.
“But I don’t know if I can break free from this sin any time soon.” “That’s the only kind of person I am here to help,” Jesus says.
We say, “The burden is getting heavier and heavier all the time.” “Then let Me carry it,” He offers.
“It is too much to carry, Lord.” “Not for Me,” He assures.
“You don’t understand, Jesus. My sins are not against others. They are against You.” “Then I am the most suited to forgive them,” He responds.
“But the more of the wickedness You discover in me, the sooner You will reject me.” 5 “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.”
When we come to Christ in faith we will be welcomed forever. The only condition for enjoying such everlasting love is to come to Him just as we are in faith. Jesus does not say, “The one who comes to Me feeling bad enough about their sin,” or “The one who comes to Me with a load of good works,” or “The one who comes to Me with extra devotion.” Christ simply says, “The one who comes to Me.” This is God’s amazing grace. It cannot be earned, and it cannot be undone. Once you come to Christ in simple faith, you are God’s child forever.
There may be some of us who still do not accept this assurance from Christ. It may be because we come from backgrounds which are filled with rejection. The main reason some of us have a hard time trusting people today is because we have experienced so much rejection while growing up. Perhaps a parent criticized us for everything we did, a teacher humiliated us, a friend betrayed us, a spouse left us, or an employer terminated us.
Every human being has limits. If we offend enough, if a relationship gets damaged enough, if we betray enough, we are cast out. The walls go up. But with Jesus, our sins and weaknesses are what qualify us to come to Him. Nothing but coming to Him in faith is required. 6
You may think, “My sins may not exhaust Christ’s acceptance of me, but what about my pain? What if my pain keeps piling up, and numbness starts to take over? As the months go by, won’t Jesus eventually cast me out because my burdens are too great for Him? Surely such intense pain is not designed for someone who comes to Christ and is promised never to be cast out?”
But Jesus does not say that “the one who comes with pain-free lives will by no means be cast out.” He simply says, “the one who comes to Me.” It is not what life gives to us but to Whom we come to in faith that determines Christ’s permanent acceptance of us. Jesus says we come to Him to enjoy His everlasting love. 7
I can hear someone says, “But what if I stop believing in Jesus after I come to Him? Won’t He cast me out?”8 Jesus did not say, “The one who comes to Me and keeps coming to Me.” He simply says, “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” If Christ were to cast out a person who stops believing in Him after his or her conversion, He would have told a lie here. Coming to Christ in faith has permanent results. Jesus cannot lie because He is God (John 1:1; I John 5:20) Who is “full of truth” (John 1:14) and is “the truth” (John 14:6), and He never breaks His promise of eternal life (Titus 1:2). Jesus guarantees you will never be rejected by Him. If we will come to Jesus on His terms – believe in Him (even if it is just once) – He guarantees to accept us forever!
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for taking our place on the cross when You received the punishment for sin that should have been ours so that when we come to You in faith we will never be cast out of God’s family. Although many of us have been deeply wounded by the rejection of others, please help us learn to trust You knowing You will never reject us regardless of what we or others do, say, or think. Heal us so we are no longer driven by the fear of rejection. Help us to rest in Your total acceptance of us. No longer do we need to seek the love and approval of others because we are totally loved and accepted by You. Use us Lord Jesus to share this good news with those who need it the most. We love You Lord and seek to live for You now. In Your matchless name we pray. Amen.
1. Anthony B. Badger, Confronting Calvinism: A Free Grace Refutation and Biblical Resolution of Radical Reformed Soteriology (Anthony Badger, 2013), pp. 185-186.
2. Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Suffers (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), pg. 60.
3. Adapted from Ibid., pp. 60-61 cites John Bunyan, Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2004) and in Vol. 1 The Works of John Bunyan, 3 Vols., ed. George Offor (repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1991, pp. 240-299.
4. Adapted from Ortlund, pg. 62 who cites Bunyan in Come and Welcome to Jesus in The Works of John Bunyan, pp. 279-280.
5. Ortlund, pp. 63-64.
6. Ibid., pg. 64.
7. Ibid., pp. 64-65.
8. While Ortlund (pp. 65-66) and other Puritans believe that a true believer can never fall away from Christ (stop believing in Christ), nothing in Jesus’ promise suggests such an understanding. Our eternal security is not based upon our enduring faith but upon our Savior’s enduring faithfulness to His promises (2 Timothy 2:13). See Charles Stanley, Eternal Security, Can You Be Sure? (Nashville: Oliver Nelson, 1990), pg. 80.
“Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You.’ ” John 17:1
In 1952, a brilliant guest lecturer was asked, “What is there left in all the world that has not been done for a doctoral dissertation?” The lecturer replied, “Find out about prayer.” The lecturer happened to be Albert Einstein.
It has been said that, “Prayer is conversation with God that arises out of communion with God.”The closer we grow to the Lord, the more intimate our prayer life will be with Him.
Do you believe in prayer? Honestly, do you believe God hears us when we talk to Him? Can He be trusted with our deepest longings and most troubling fears? I would like to think that the majority of people in the world today may consider praying to a Supreme Being more than ever before during this global pandemic. But there are probably some people who want nothing to do with a Higher Power because of the suffering that is taking place in the world today.
Jesus Christ frequently turned to His heavenly Father in prayer (cf. Luke 5:16; 22:39). After warning His disciples of tribulation and comforting them with the promise of His victory (John 16:25-33), Jesus turned to His Father in prayer in John 17. In this prayer, we have one of the most intimate glimpses anywhere in Scripture of the heart and mind of the Lord Jesus. This is the longest of our Lord’s recorded prayers. It is the longest in length and it is also the longest in span of time. It includes the time of Jesus’ day and reaches all the way to our lives today.
John 17 is like the holy of holies of the book of John. Remember the holy of holies in the temple where once a year the high priest could go in and make the sacrifice for the people and pray for the people (cf. Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 16:1-34; Hebrews 9:7)? It was such a holy place because it was God’s presence. John 17 is a chapter like that. Dr. David Anderson understands the outline of John’s gospel to be parallel to the temple (see diagram 1). 1
The first twelve chapters are about evangelism whereby John presents seven miraculous signs so non-Christians might believe in the name of Jesus (John 20:31). When we come to the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-16), there is a shift from evangelism to intimacy or fellowship with God. This truth is not for unbelievers.
Anderson writes, “That is why in John 13:1-30, Judas must be sent out of the room as one of the two steps to prepare Jesus’ disciples for the intimate truth He wishes to share. The second step of preparation was to wash the feet of the remaining believers. Judas had no place in this setting because he was not a believer. Unbelievers had to come into the temple/ tabernacle through the blood, but believers could only go into the Holy Place through the laver of cleansing. The truth Jesus wished to share in the Upper Room was for the ears of believers only. But even these believers needed to be cleansed of their daily sins in order to be in fellowship with the Lord. If they were not in fellowship with Him, they would not be able to comprehend the truth He wished to share.”2
“It is in the Holy Place that we find the table of shew-bread and the candelabra of light. Here is food and light for the believer who has been cleansed by the blood (relationship) and the water (fellowship). So if we have Preparation in John 13:1-30 (the unbeliever is sent out and the believers are cleansed with water), then we have Preaching in John 13:31-16:33. It is no coincidence that we find Prayer in John 17. Here the High Priest intercedes for those who are His own, His disciples and all who would believe through their ministry. The High Priest has entered the Holy of Holies to intercede for His people. But this High Priest does more than intercede in prayer. He actually became our mercy seat (Rom 3:25) as He loved His own to the uttermost (John 13:1). Thus in the Passion and Resurrection narrative of John 18-20, Jesus has become the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Hissacrifice was accepted by the Father as fully sufficient, as proved by His resurrection. Then leads His own out of the tabernacle and into the world (John 21) to complete the mission.” 3
So John 17 is Jesus’ High Priestly prayer for us. As we study this chapter of John, I hope we will embrace the fact that we are with Jesus entering into God’s presence. It is an incredible privilege. Just like the high priest used to enter into the temple where God’s presence was, Jesus Himself entered into God’s presence and prayed for us. The sense of this prayer is we are in a very holy place where we listen to Jesus pray.
This prayer is commonly known as the High-Priestly prayer of Christ or the Prayer of Intercession. Intercession refers to praying to God on behalf of others. This prayer is a picture of Jesus’ current ministry of intercession in heaven as our High Priest (cf. Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). Jesus prays this prayer in front of His Eleven disciples to summarize His relationship with the Father and the relationship He wants them to have with Him and the Father. Repeatedly Jesus had connected His going to the Father with their new life of prayer (John 14:12-14; 15:16; 16:23-24, 26). The power of prayer in Jesus’ name would be connected to His intercession for us in heaven. This prayer will teach us what it means to pray in Jesus’ name. It will also show us Jesus’ love and concern for His disciples, including you and me.
From John 17, we will answer the question, how can we pray more like Jesus prays? After Jesus’ Upper Room Discourse (John 13-16), He prepared for the cross by turning to His Father in prayer. Notice that He taught His disciples first, and then He prayed for them to internalize what He had just taught them. We would be wise to do the same. Peoples’ lives will not be transformed through the preaching of God’s Word alone. We must pray for those people to apply what they have heard from God’s Word.
We see in this prayer that Christ first prays for Himself (John 17:1-5), then His followers (John 17:6-19), and finally for future believers (John 17:20-26). His prayer is like circles that grow wider and wider (see diagram 2). He starts with Himself, then He widens the circle beyond Himself to pray for His Eleven believing disciples. Then He widens the circle a lot more by praying for all future believers that His disciples (and others) would reach. So He begins with His own need, then prays for the needs of the disciples, then He prays for the world that they would reach.
As Jesus prays this prayer, we will learn what is really important to Him – desperately important. Here Jesus is. He is about to die. He knows that these disciples are going to have tremendous needs in their lives. He loves them, so He prays for them. How can we pray more like Jesus prays?
LIKE JESUS, WE ARE TO PRAY FOR GOD TO BE GLORIFIED WHEN WE FACE TRIALS (John 17:1-5). We might think this is selfish to begin by praying for Himself, but when we look at the content of this part of His prayer, we will realize this is not selfish because Christ’s motivation was to glorify His Father. Jesus prays for two things in this first part of His prayer: His resurrection (John 17:1-3) and His glorification (John 17:4-5).
“Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said…” (John 17:1a). The word for “eyes” (ophthalmous) is where our English word ophthalmologist is derived from. 4 Christ does not bow His head or close His eyes as we are accustomed to doing in our western culture. There is more than one posture to take when we pray. You can pray while you are walking or driving( just make sure to keep your eyes open). You can pray when you are standing or kneeling with your hands raised, or you can pray sitting or laying down. There is no one way you have to pray. If you are in the habit of taking only one posture when you pray, you may want to change that up from time to time. It could revolutionize your prayer life.
Christ prayed aloud so His disciples could hear what He prayed to His Father. Likewise, as we disciple new believers in Jesus, it is important to pray aloud with them because God can use that to teach them how and what to pray. I am not exactly sure where Jesus prayed this prayer. It may have been in the Upper Room (cf. John 18:1) or on their way to the Garden of Gethsemane (John 14:31).
We are told that Jesus “lifted up His eyes to heaven.” He was not discouraged or downcast as He approached the cross, He was hopeful and expectant as He looked up to His Father in prayer. He had just announced that He had “overcome the world” (John 16:33), and now He engages in a prayer of victory!
The first thing Jesus prays is, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You.” (John 17:1b). Jesus prayed, “Father, the hour has come…” By addressing God as “Father,” He expresses His childlike relationship to His Father and His submission to Him. His long-anticipated “hour has come” for His death, resurrection, and ascension to His Father in heaven (cf. John 2:4; 7:6, 8, 30; 8:20; 12:23, 27-28, 31-33; 13:1, 31).
Jesus is not being selfish here when He prays for the Father to “Glorify Your Son,” because it serves a higher purpose – “that Your Son also may glorify You.” The word “glorify” (doxason) is derived from the word “glory” (doxa) which “refers to the estimation or opinion in which one is held. Here Jesus prays regarding His own reputation and attributes. His words ‘Glorify Your Son’ petition the Father to bring into full display Jesus’ divine character and attributes through His impending death and resurrection.”5 Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension would also “glorify” the Father by enhancing His reputation and attributes through Jesus, since Jesus is a perfect reflection of the Father (John 12:44-45; 14:9-11) and was sent by Him (John 4:34; 7:16; 8:18; 14:24; 17:8, 18).
We see in this verse how much “the Father and Son love one another and desire to make much of one another before a watching world. Those who come to God through Jesus Christ are called to participate in this intra-Trinitarian love, bringing glory to God through our faith in and obedience to the Son.” 6
Jesus’ words remind us that suffering precedes glory (Matthew 16:21-27; 20:19; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:9-10; 12:2). 7 Through His suffering and death, Jesus brought glory to Himself and to His Father. Likewise, when we suffer for Christ’s sake, we bring glory to Him and He promises that God will give glory and honor to us in the form of eternal rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ (John 12:26; cf. Matthew 16:21-27; Romans 8:17; I Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; I Peter 1:3-11; 2:11-25; 4:12-5:4; Revelation 2:10, 25-29; 22:12).
We may ask, “How did the Father glorify Jesus?” Jesus prayed, “As You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.” (John 17:2). The Father glorified Christ by giving “Him authority over all flesh” so Jesus would “give eternal life” to those the Father had “given Him.” Only God can give life that never ends to people which means Jesus must be God! Notice Christ has authority to give eternal life to “all flesh”! There is no such thing in the Bible of only a select group of people that are savable. All people are savable because Christ is drawing all people to Himself (cf. John 12:32), He desires all people to be saved (I Timothy 2:3-4), and He died for all people (cf. I Timothy 2:3-6; I John 2:2).
Five times in this prayer, Christ refers to believers as those whom the Father had given Him (John 17:2, 6 [twice], 9, 24). Does this refer to the elect from the foundation of the world? Does it mean a person cannot believe in Christ if the Father has not given him or her to Jesus? No, this is a reference to the Father giving Old Testament believers in the Dispensation of Law over to Jesus at the beginning of the dispensation of Grace (see John 6:37 for discussion). 8 The Eleven disciples were believing Jews who belonged to the Father, but now the Father transfers them into the Son’s hands for His use and safe keeping at the beginning of the Church Age (cf. John 17:6-12). Now they belonged to Jesus. 9
Someone may ask, “What is eternal life?” Jesus explains. “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3).“Eternal life” is knowing “the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom” the Father “sent.” The word “know” (ginōskō) refers to an intimate knowledge of God, not just an awareness of certain facts. 9 Notice that the primary focus is on one’s relationship with God (“life”),not the duration (“eternal”).This is not just a future promise, it is a present reality for all believers in Jesus. Eternal life is knowing the true God personally in one’s experience forever. Eternal life is not static or unchanging. It can be experienced at deeper and deeper levels as we grow closer to the Father and His Son.
In fact, when we examine the uses of “eternal life” in the New Testament, we discover that when eternal life is referred to as a present acquisition, it is received as a free gift by believing in Jesus (cf. John 3:15-16, 36; 4:10-14; Romans 6:23; I Timothy 1:16; I John 5:13; Revelation 22:17), but when eternal is referred to as a future acquisition, it is received as a reward for sacrificial service to Christ (cf. Matthew 19:29; Mark 10:29-30; John 12:25-26; Galatians 6:8).
Some have argued that John 17:3 shows Jesus is not God because Jesus distinguished God the Father as “the only true God” from “Jesus Christ whom” the Father sent. But Jesus did NOT say, “I am not God” in this verse. You will not find that anywhere in the Bible. Jesus was not denying He was the “only true God,” but was praising the Father as such. The very next words after this verse are: “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” (John 17:4-5). Jesus said He shared the glory of God the Father before the world was.
But the Yahweh of the Old Testament says, “I am the Lord, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another.” (Isaiah 42:8). How can Jesus claim to have the glory of His Father before the world was if Yahweh says He will not give His glory to another? Because Jesus is the Yahweh of the Old Testament. He has the same divine nature as His Father in heaven. Jesus identifies Himself with the Father. Jesus is in the Father, and the Father is in Jesus (John 10:38). Jesus is one with the Father (John 10:30). They are not divided in essence. So, in one sense Jesus is in the Father; and if the Father is the only true God, then Jesus is also the True God. In John 17:3, Jesus was not creating a point of distinction between Himself and the Father in the expression, “only true God”, but between the Father and any other “so called god” like idols. Jesus had lived among the Romans with their many competing gods and Jesus was addressing the Father with these idols in mind.
This understanding is substantiated by the same writer of John 17:3 when he writes in his epistle, “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” (I John 5:20). John clearly states that Jesus Christ is the true God and eternal life. He then writes, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” (I John 5:21). John affirms that Jesus “is the true God” and then immediately warns his readers to guard themselves “from idols” or false gods.
Also the Greek word for “only” (monos) in John 17:3 does not always refer to absolute exclusivity. For example, monos is used in Jude 1:4 of “the only” Lordship of Jesus Christ, “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only [monos] Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jude is not excluding God the Father when he refers to “theonly” Lordship of Jesus Christ. Other verses in the Bible confirm the Lordship of God the Father (Psalm 2:7; 110:1; Isaiah 63:16; Mark 13:20; Luke 10:21-22) and God the Son, Jesus Christ (Psalm 110:2; Luke 6:5; 19:31; John 13:13; 20:28; Acts 2:36; 10:36; 16:31; Romans 10:9; Philippians 2:11; Revelation 17:14).
To say that Jesus denies He is God in John 17:3 would contradict the entire message of the gospel of John which begins (John 1:1-18) and ends (John 20:28-31) with the fact that Jesus is God. The burden of proof rests upon those who deny Jesus is God. John calls them “antichrists” in his first epistle who reject that “the Christ,” the Messiah-God,has come in human “flesh” (I John 2:18, 21-22; 4:1-3). They willingly reject the historical record of the Bible which clearly and consistently proclaims that Jesus is fully God (cf. Isaiah 9:6-7; 44:6; John 1:1, 14-18, 34, 49, 5:6-47; 6:69; 8:57-59; 9:35-38; 10:30-39; 11:27; 14:7-9; 17:5; 20:28, 31; Acts 16:31, 34; 20:28; Romans 1:3-4; 9:5; Philippians 2:6, 9-11; Colossians 1:15-20; I Timothy 3:16; 4:10; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; I John 4:2-3; 5:20; Revelation 1:17; 22:13; et al.) and fully Man (Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 9:6-7; 7:14; Daniel 7:13-14; Matthew 8:24; 9:11; Mark 6:3; John 1:14; 2:12; 4:6; 7:3, 5; 11:35; 12:27; 19:28; 21:12; Philippians 2:7-8; I Timothy 2:5; I John 4:2-3; et al.)!!!
Our privilege is to know God personally now and forever through Jesus Christ (John 17:3). If this is true, and it is, then the one thing that will last beyond this life and the one thing that deserves our utmost attention is our daily life and fellowship with God. Many of us have known the Lord for a long time, but has our knowledge of the Lord grown deeper as a result of spending time with Him and obeying Him (cf. John 14:21, 23)? What are we doing today to know God more intimately?
Next Jesus prayed, “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.” (John 17:4). As Jesus faces the cross, He has no sense of failure, but rather fullness of attainment. He had “glorified” His Father “on the earth” and “finished the work which” the Father had given Him to do – revealing the Father by His words and works (cf. John 1:18).
“And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” (John 17:5). Christ does not pray for new glory. He prays, “Glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” The words, “the glory which I had with You before the world was,” affirm the eternality of Jesus Christ and His preexistence as God before He became a human being on earth. Notice that Jesus clearly affirmed his pre-existence. “Before the incarnation, before Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary, before the creation week even began, God the Son eternally existed in the glorious presence of God the Father. And to this glory He would soon return.”10
These words also affirm Jesus’ equality with the Father, because in the Old Testament, God said He would not share His glory with anyone: “I am the Lord, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another” (Isaiah 42:8; cf. 48:11). Since the Father and the Son share their glory, they must both be God.
Christ’s human flesh had veiled this glory He shared with the Father in eternity pastduring His earthly life (Philippians 2:6-8), and now He prays that that same glory may be restored in His Father’s presence. As Jesus had glorified the Father on earth (John 17:4), now He prayed to be restored to His heavenly glory with His Father (John 17:5).
Like Jesus, we are to pray for God to be glorified when we face trials. Christ faced His sufferings and death with the desire to glorify His Father in heaven. He submitted to His Father’s timetable and agenda. This takes humility. Jesus went through terrible pain and suffering to honor His Father. Are we willing to do that? Are we willing to submit to God’s timetable for us? If not, pray for that willingness. When we are struggling and in pain, it is easy to obsess on ourselves and it is especially difficult to focus on others and on what God wants. Through prayer, we can obtain the power to focus on God’s will for us and glorify Him even though we may be in pain. The best way to face calvary (suffering), is to spend time Gethsemane (prayer).
Keep in mind that Jesus is praying for us now in heaven (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). He is praying for us to glorify our Father in heaven as we face difficulties. Sometimes when we face difficult situations, we do not know how to pray, so the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and prays according to God’s will on our behalf. “26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27). So we have both God the Son and God the Holy Spirit praying for us, especially when we face trials in life. What an encouragement this is for us as we seek to glorify the Father during these challenging times!
Prayer: Precious Father in heaven, thank You so much for Jesus’ prayer in front of His eleven believing disciples. We are given an incredible glimpse into the intimate relationship Jesus had with You during His earthly ministry. And just as He prayed for You to be glorified when He faced His hour of suffering and death, help us to yield ourselves to You in prayer so You are glorified when we face difficult times. And like Christ Who submitted to Your timetable and agenda, may we humbly submit to Your timetable and will for our lives. Please make us willing when we are unwilling to do this. We can so easily focus on ourselves when we are hurting or in pain, instead of focusing on others and what You want to do in our lives. But praying to You gives us hope because as we talk to You, You can give us the power to focus on Your will for our lives and glorify You in the midst of our struggles. Thank You, my Lord and my God, that God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are also praying for us in addition to You. Knowing this greatly encourages our hearts. In the beautiful name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.
1. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy (Irving, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2005), pp. 16-17.
3. Ibid., pp. 18-19.
4. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 300.
6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1813.
7. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 457.
8. Anthony B. Badger, Confronting Calvinism: A Free Grace Refutation and Biblical Resolution of Radical Reformed Soteriology (Anthony Badger, 2013), pp. 185-186.
“You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” John 15:14
Last time we learned the first way to be Jesus’ friend was to live in His love (John 15:9-11). Today we discover that the second way to be Jesus’ friend is to LOVE as HE LOVED (John 15:12-17). To help His disciples understand this command to abide in His love, He repeated something He had said before. “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12). You may ask, “What is Jesus’ love like?”
a. IT IS UNCONDITIONAL (John 15:12; cf. 13:1-11; Luke 22:24). Earlier, the disciples had been fighting among themselves about who was the greatest among them (cf. Luke 22:24). Jesus then humbly washed their dirty feet (John 13:1-11). Christ loved them even though they did not deserve it. Christ’s love was not a response to our love. He loves us even if we never loved Him back. Jesus loves us when our walk of faith is weak or when it is strong. He sticks with us in the good times and the bad. Nothing about us makes Jesus love us. He loves us because it is His nature to love. If Jesus waited for us to love Him first, He would still be waiting. Thank God that Jesus loved you and me first. His love does not require that you love Him back.
If we are going to love one another as Jesus loved us, then we must love one other whether we deserve to be loved or not. God’s love is not an emotion. “You can love people whom you may not necessarily like because love is not dependent on your feelings. That’s why Jesus can command to ‘love your enemies’ ” (Matthew 5:44).”1 Love is a choice to do what is best for another person. Christ living in us wants to unconditionally love others through us.
b. IT IS SACRIFICIAL (15:13). Next Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13). The greatest love of all was to give up your life for your friends. In the context, this must refer to Jesus’ upcoming death on the cross (cf. John 10:11, 15, 17-18; 12:32-33; 13:1ff). This is the greatest expression of friendship.
“There was an orphanage near an American Marine Base in Viet Nam. One day the Viet Cong fired mortar shells into the orphanage, killing dozens of children and wounding many more. A boy named Kai had a seriously wounded friend who needed a blood transfusion. Kai’s friend had a rare blood type and only Kai’s blood matched it. Little Kai had never heard of a blood transfusion but when the American doctors explained it would save his friend’s life, little Kai volunteered.
“As the blood began to flow from Kai to his friend, Kai began to whimper. When the doctors asked if it hurt, he said no. A little later he whimpered again. Again, he told the doctors it did not hurt. The doctors asked, ‘What’s wrong, Kai?’ With tears coursing down his light brown, dusty cheeks, Kai asked, ‘When am I to die, sir, when am I to die?’ You see, little Kai didn’t know that you only give a little blood. He thought you gave it all, and he was willing to do so for his little friend.” 2
Are we willing to sacrifice for one another? Men, it may mean giving up a game of basketball or a TV show to listen to someone share their problems with you. Ladies, it may involve laying aside that intriguing novel to listen to your neighbor process a misunderstanding they had with someone. When a need arises among the people in your life, reach out to help them in love.
c. IT IS OBEDIENT (John 15:14). Jesus would give His life for His friends. Who are His friends? “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” (John 15:14). Jesus’ friends are those believers who keep His commandments. We may say that Jesus is our best Friend, but would He say we are His friends? The true test of friendship with Christ is obedience to “whatever” He commands you to do. Friendship with Christ is a discipleship issue, not a salvation issue.
Twice Abraham was called a friend of God in the Old Testament: by God (Isaiah 41:8) and by men (2 Chronicles 20:7). James 2:21-23 explains why Abraham was justified before men by works when he offered up his son, Isaac. Works justify us before men, but not before God (cf. Romans 4:2). Abraham was justified before God by faith alone (Genesis 15:6) over twenty years before he offered up Isaac (Genesis 22). The faith that justified him before God was matured by his act of obedience in offering up Isaac (James 2:22) and filled full of meaning (James 2:23a). Men could declare Abraham to be a “friend of God” because they saw that he had an intimate relationship with God through his obedience. So friendship with God is based upon obedience.
Do people know that we are friends of Christ because of our obedience to Him? Our obedience to Jesus is a compelling testimony to the world that we are vitally connected to Him, especially when we keep His commandment to love one another. Our friendship with Christ is realized by others through our actions. This means we love one another whether we feel like it or not. But instead of ignoring our feelings, we are to deal with them so we can be available to love others. We need to experience God’s love and power before we can love others with His love.
d. IT COMMUNICATES TRUTH (15:15). Then Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15). During their time together, Jesus viewed these men as servants and Himself as their Master. The responsibility of a servant was to submit to the will of his master. A servant is nothing more than an instrument. He simply does what he is told because he has no other choice. He does not have a close relationship with his master, as friends do. The servant does not know the personable issues about his master’s life. He just follows orders.
But now Jesus calls His disciples “friends.” Why? He says, “For all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” These men who had been Jesus’ servants were now His friends because He had kept nothing back from them. He had revealed all that the Father had made known to Him (cf. John 14:21). A master shares his will with his servants. But a friend shares his heart with his friends. “There are no secrets between friends.”3 Christ shared His heart with His disciples, so they could bear fruit to the glory of His Father.
Many years ago, a Christian writer went through a deep period of doubt and temptation. He questioned his ministry, his qualifications, his marriage, his salvation. Anguished and burdened, he finally went to a friend and confessed his feelings. As they talked and prayed together over the course of several weeks, his perspective returned. Peace came into his heart, and he experienced the joy of the Lord again.
If we can receive this kind of help from talking with a friend, how much more beneficial would it be to be completely open with the Lord Jesus? He is the Best of friends. Alexander Maclaren wrote, “If we are friends of God, we shall have no secrets from Him. There are very few of those who are dearest to us to whom we could venture to lay bare all the depths of our hearts. There are black things down in the cellars that we do not like to show to any of our friends… But you should take God all through the house. And if there is the trust and the love that l have been speaking about, we shall not be afraid to spread out all our foulness, and our meanness, and our unworthy thoughts of, and acts towards, Him, before His ‘pure eyes and perfect judgment,’ and say, ‘Nobody but my best friend could look at such a dungheap, but I spread it before Thee… Tell God all, if you mean to be a friend of His.”4
Christ did not withhold any truth from His disciples. There were no secrets between Him and His friends. Close friends communicate openly and honestly. Even though the truth may hurt at times, it is better to share it than to conceal it. Concealing the truth allows the situation to worsen. I appreciate it when my wife is open and honest with me about her true feelings. It shows me that she cares about our relationship. Friendship involves open communication. As we abide in Christ, He can enable us to share openly with one another.
e. IT TAKES THE INITIATIVE (15:16). Jesus continued and said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.” (John 15:16a). Christ took the initiative in choosing His disciples to “go and bear fruit.” Normally disciples choose their own teacher, 5 but Jesus chose them. All around the world today, students seek out the teachers of their choice and attach themselves to them. But Christ’s disciples did not take the initiative. After spending all night in prayer to God (Luke 6:12-16), Jesus “chose” His disciples and “appointed” them to their mission to “go and bear fruit.” Notice that Jesus did not “choose”them to be saved or to have eternal life. 6 His selection of them was related to their mission and ministry, not their salvation. John’s gospel never refers to people “being chosen from all eternity for eternal life or death.”7
The divine election of God in the Bible is related to service, not salvation.8 In the Old Testament, God chose individuals to serve Him such as Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), Moses (Exodus 3:12; Numbers 16:5-6, 28), Aaron (Numbers 17:5), King David (2 Samuel 6:21; 1 Kings 8:16), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5), and the Messianic Servant (Isaiah 49:5-9; 52:13-53:12). He chose a group of people, Israel, to continue the mission He began with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 7:6-8; 14:2; 1 Kings 3:8; Psalm 33:12; 106:5; Isaiah 43:10; 45:4; 65:9, 22; cf. Matthew 24:22, 31; Mark 13:20; Luke 18:7; Romans 9:11; 11:28; 2 Timothy 2:10; 1 Peter 2:4). 9
In the New Testament, Jesus chose Twelve men to serve as His apostles (Luke 6:12-16; John 15:16). The fact that Judas was chosen by Christ demonstrates that this election was to service, not salvation since Judas never believed in Jesus (cf. John 6:64; 13:10-11; 17:12). Christ said that Paul was “a chosen vessel of Mine” to preach to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15-16). Peter was also chosen for service: “God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe” (Acts 15:7-8). 10
Just as Jesus took the initiative in choosing His disciples for their mission and service, so we must do the same in our relationships with one another. The importance of choosing believers to train in discipleship is underscored by the fact that Christ prayed all night to God on a mountaintop before He selected His disciples (cf. Luke 6:12-16). We need God’s wisdom and leading to choose men and women who will be “faithful” followers of Christ (cf. 2 Timothy 2:2).
Are we sharing the gospel with non-Christians and then asking them to meet with us for discipleship? We must be intentional about sharing the gospel with the lost and then teaching those who believe in Christ to obey all of His commandments (Matthew 28:20) because disciples are not born, they are made.11 Christian growth is not automatic. It requires a commitment to follow Jesus regardless of the costs (cf. Luke 14:25-33).
Finally, f. IT BEARS FRUIT THAT LASTS (15:16b-17). “And that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” (John 15:16b). Christ also “chose”and “appointed” His disciples that they “should… bear fruit… that… should remain.” This fruit is related to the fruit of evangelism because it remains and cannot be lost (cf. John 4:36; 10:28-29). One of the most unloving things we can do is keep God’s love and His gospel to ourselves. This lasting fruit is also connected to answered prayer – “that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” To ask the Father in Jesus’ “name” means to pray for what Jesus would pray. God desires that all people be saved from hell (I Timothy 2:3-4). When we pray to that end, God answers that prayer. Prayer is the backbone to reaching the lost with the gospel of Christ. As God’s people pray, the Holy Spirit prepares the lost to hear and believe the gospel (John 16:7-11).
When we pray and preach the gospel, God saves people as they respond in faith, resulting in lasting “fruit.” How exciting to see people come to faith in Christ! As we allow Jesus to live through us, our desire to see people obtain eternal life will increase. This week you may be asked by another believer to go with them to share the gospel with a family member or friend. Or maybe someone will ask you to pray for an individual that they just shared the gospel with. Next Christ says, “These things I command you, that you love one another.” (John 15:17). The way to honor Christ’s Lordship in our lives is to obey Him especially as it relates to loving one another. And as we obey Him, people can see that we are His friends.
After one of the worst battles of the American Civil War, a small remnant of a Confederate regiment stood alone on a grassy knoll. A Southern officer on horseback approached the small band of soldiers. “Where is your captain?” the officer inquired. “There he lies,” they said, pointing to his lifeless form a few feet away. “And what are you men doing here?” the officer asked. “Sir, we are paying our respects, giving him our final salute. He told us to hold this hill, and we have done just what he said.”What loyalty! The proof of their allegiance was complete obedience to his orders.
As Christians, we should also remember our great Captain, Jesus Christ. Although He died, He does not remain on the field of battle. He rose again and lives victoriously at the right hand of God the Father! He freely gave His life that He might save us and bring us to God. This is all the more reason to give Him our total commitment to obey Him.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, no one deserves our allegiance more than You! Thank You for laying down Your life for me. No greater love has ever been shown to me than this. Right now I give You everyone and everything to use for Your purposes. Please help me to abide in You and You in me so Your love will flow through me to others. This world could use a lot more of Your love. May they know I am Your friend by my love for You and others, especially the lost who need to hear Your life-giving gospel message. In Your mighty name I pray. Amen.
1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1807.
2. See https://bible.org/illustration/john-1513 on April 17, 2018.
3. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 443.
5. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament Edition (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983), pg. 326.
6. Shawn Lazar, Chosen to Serve: Why Divine Election Is to Service, Not to Eternal Life (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2017), pg. 140.
7. Ibid., pg. 147.
8. Shawn Lazar’s article, “Election for Baptists: Why Biblical election is to service and privilege, not to eternal life,” at https://faithalone.org/grace-in-focus-articles/election-for-baptists-why-biblical-election-is-to-service-and-privilege-not-to-eternal-life/; cf. Robert Wilkin, “THE DOCTRINE OF DIVINE ELECTION RECONSIDERED: ELECTION TO SERVICE, NOT TO EVERLASTING LIFE,” at https://faithalone.org/journal/2012ii/Wilkin.pdf; cf. Anthony B. Badger, Confronting Calvinism: A Free Grace Refutation and Biblical Resolution of Radical Reformed Soteriology (Anthony Badger, 2013), pp. 151-212.
9. Lazar, Chosen to Serve…, pp. 41-55, 175-199.
10. Lazar, “Election for Baptists…”
11. see Dr. Charlie Bing, GraceLife Notes, no. 23, “Are Disciples Born, or Made?” at http://www.gracelife.org/ resources/gracenotes/?id=23.
Some students of the Bible understand Romans 9 to teach that God sovereignly chooses some people to go to Heaven and some to go to Hell. However, this understanding ignores the argument of the book of Romans and the context of Romans 9.
The book of Romans is dealing with salvation from the present-day wrath of God which involves God giving the unrighteous over to the downward spiral of the degradation of sin (Rom. 1:16-32). Because God is holy and hates sin, we must first be delivered from His wrath toward sin through justification which is by faith alone in Christ’s death (Rom. 2:1-5:10a). We can then experience deliverance from God’s present-day wrath and the perversion of sin through faith in Christ’s life (Rom. 5:9-8:39).
The argument of Romans up to the end of chapter 8 is a direct challenge to the commonly held belief of first-century Jews that because they were God’s chosen people they would be saved from hell simply by being of Jewish descent and by keeping the Law (cf. Rom. 2:17-3:20). This assumption, says Paul, is absolutely false. The problem is that the Jews were confusing election to service with election to salvation (cf. examples of election to service: Jeremiah – Jeremiah 1:5; Paul – Gal. 1:15-16; John the Baptist – Luke 1:13-17; John 1:23; the disciples (John 15:16). They assumed that because God chose them as the means by which “all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gen. 12:3), He also chose them, simply as Jews, for salvation. But now they hear Paul saying, “No! Jews do not have a unique path to heaven; on Judgment Day they will be treated like everyone else.” So now they are thinking, “That’s not fair! God has just been leading us on, giving us promises He never meant to keep. He is going back on His word! Where is the justice?”
So in Romans 9 Paul is defending God’s righteousness in His dealings with the Jews and the Gentiles. The Word of God has not failed (Rom. 9:6a). When God says that only those Jews will be saved who trust God’s promises, like their father Abraham did, He is not breaking His original promises to Israel. His choice of the nation as a whole was not a guarantee of any individual Jew’s salvation. God graciously and sovereignly chose Israel to be the nation from which “Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God” (Rom. 9:5). God’s choice of the nation of Israel to bring the Messiah-God into the world was not based upon their natural descent or works (Rom. 9:6-11), but upon His merciful and sovereign choice (Rom. 9:11b-16). And God certainly has the sovereign right to use any individual or group that He chooses for such a purpose, without any promise of personal salvation from Hell being attached.
An example of God choosing someone for service without providing individual salvation from Hell for him is Pharaoh (Rom. 9:17; cf. Judas whom Jesus chose to bear fruit in ministry even though Judas never believed in Jesus – John 6:64; 13:10-11; 15:16; 17:12). God both “had mercy” on Pharaoh by choosing him for an important role in birthing the nation of Israel, and He also “hardened” him in order to accomplish the same purpose (Rom. 9:18). An example of a nation being chosen for service and not salvation is Israel at this present time (Rom. 9:31-10:4). The nation of Israel rejected Jesus as their Messiah which led God to show mercy to Gentiles by including them in the church. An elect person or nation is never guaranteed justification. In the Old Testament, God chose the nation of Babylon to discipline Israel (see Habakkuk). Likewise, He chose King Cyrus of Persia to help Israel and to subdue the nations (Cyrus is even called God’s “shepherd” and “anointed” in Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1). But neither of these sovereign choices proves anything regarding individual or corporate salvation from Hell.
If God chooses individuals and nations to service based upon His merciful and sovereign will, and not human behavior, “Why does He still find fault?” Paul’s listeners would ask him (Rom. 9:19). Paul responds by saying that people are not in a position to criticize their Judge because He is the standard by which we measure justice (Rom. 9:20-30).
God chose the nation of Israel to service and blessings for the purpose of sharing those blessings with others. But since they failed (Rom. 9:31-11:10), God saw fit to elect another group called the Church (composed largely of Gentiles) to accomplish this task (Rom. 11:11-25). Fortunately for Israel, because God is gracious He will again return to them and fulfill His promises and plans (Rom. 11:23-32). How unsearchable is God and His ways (Rom 11:33-36)!?
Conclusion: God’s election relates to His merciful and sovereign choice to choose individuals and/or nations for service (not salvation), especially as it relates to sharing His blessings with others, including the gospel. Just as the nation of Israel was chosen by God to bring the Messiah-God into the world (Rom. 9:5) and be a channel of blessing to all families/nations (Gen. 12:3), so believers (both Jews and Gentiles) in Christ today, are sovereignly chosen by God to be His mouthpieces of blessing to others (cf. Luke 6:13; John 15:16; Acts 1:2, 8; 9:15; 10:41; 15:7; 22:14-15; 26:16-18; James 2:5; I Pet. 2:9).
In this article we are going to compare the five points of Calvinism with what the Bible teaches to see if it is biblical. We will conclude each section with a question.
Point #1 – Total depravity: Calvinism teaches that all people are totally depraved and “dead” (unable to believe in Christ) in their sins (Ephes. 2:1; cf. John 6:44, 65; Romans 3:9-12; 5:12-14; 8:7-8; I Cor. 1:18, 21; 2:14) and therefore, must be regenerated by God first before they respond in faith to the gospel. The Bible agrees with Calvinism that all people descend from Adam and are guilty of sin (Rom. 5:12-21; 3:23), which argues for man’s lost condition and the universal need for eternal life. Hence, the gospel message is intended for the whole world of mankind. Contrary to Calvinism, which teaches that faith is a gift which logically follows the regeneration of the elect, the Bible teaches that faith is a human response which is the only condition for regeneration (Gospel of John, Acts 16:31; Rom. 4:5; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-9; et. al.).
Man still retains the image of God in his being which carries with it the ability to believe the gospel for salvation otherwise why would God condemn people for not believing if they have no capacity to believe (John 3:18)? God’s justice would be called into question if a man is held responsible for something he has no capability of doing. Believing in Christ is a person’s responsibility (John 3:18; I John 3:23), so he or she must have the ability to receive eternal life on that basis; otherwise the gospel offer to any and all who believe would be a hoax (Mark 16:15; John 3:15-16; 4:10, 14, 6:35-40, 47; Rom. 10:13-15; I Tim. 2:3-6). The Holy Spirit regenerates people as they believe in Christ (Eph. 1:13-14; Titus 3:5). Saving faith is not meritorious nor a gift from God, but is the conviction that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead, and then believing or trusting in Christ alone for everlasting life (John 11:25-27; I Cor. 15:3-4; Eph. 2:8-9; Heb. 11:1). Question: If all people possess the image of God (Gen. 1:26 – which includes the ability to think logically, appreciate beauty, have self-awareness, speak in language, and even believe something), why can’t they believe the gospel?
Point #2 – Unconditional election: Calvinism teaches that God unconditionally chose some to be saved in eternity past. This select group will ultimately be saved for all of eternity and will persevere in faith and holiness until the end of their lives (Matt. 24:13). But Calvinism fails to realize that the Bible teaches that election relates to service, suffering, and holiness for the Lord, not to salvation. For example:
1. The Old and New Testaments both make it clear that the Jews are God’s chosen people and the elect (Deut. 7:6; 14:2; 1 Kgs. 3:8; Ps. 33:12; 106:5; Isa. 43:10; 45:4; 65:9, 22; Matt. 24:22, 31; Mark 13:20; Luke 18:7; Rom. 9:11; 11:28; 2 Tim. 2:10; 1 Pet. 2:4). They were chosen to be the line through which Messiah came. Israel was chosen to serve God in its practices and in its worship. Indeed, God has not given up on Israel. By the end of the Tribulation, Israel will cry out to the Lord Jesus and will be delivered. During the Millennium, and then on the new earth, Israel will serve God forever in its practices and praise. Due to the bias toward the Calvinist understanding of who the elect are, many of the references to Israel as the elect in the New Testament are misunderstood. If the New Testament follows and is built upon the Old Testament, then it should not be surprising that both testaments refer to Israel as God’s chosen, His elect.
2. Jesus, God’s Chosen Messiah (Isa. 42:1-4; 49:7; Matt. 12:18; Luke 9:35; 23:35; John 1:34). He was chosen by God the Father to be the Messiah and to die on the cross for our sins (Matt. 12:18; 1 Pet. 2:4).
3. Twelve Men Chosen As Christ’s Apostles. Jesus chose twelve men to be His disciples and apostles (Luke 6:13; John 6:70; 13:18; 15:16, 19; Acts 1:2). The fact that Judas was chosen by Christ demonstrates that this election was to service (John 15:16), not salvation, since Judas never believed in Jesus (cf. John 6:64, 70-71; 13:10-11; 17:12). When Judas, betrayed Jesus, his place was taken by another man chosen by God, Matthias (Acts 1:24-26). One Greek word used for choosing was used of the election of the twelve: eklegomai (Luke 6:13; 15:16,19).
4. Saul Chosen As Apostle to the Gentiles. Saul of Tarsus was later chosen by God to be an apostle as well, specifically the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15 [ekloge]; 13:2 [prokaleo]; 22:14-15 [procheirizo]).
5. Peter Chosen to take the Gospel to Cornelius. Peter was chosen by God to be the one to take the gospel to Cornelius and his household, the first group of Gentile converts (Acts 15:7 [eklegomai]).
6. God’s Chosen deliverer, Moses. God chose Moses to lead His people out of Egypt and to the Promised Land (Num. 16:5-6).
7. God’s Chosen priestly line, Levi. God chose Aaron and the tribe of Levi to be the priestly line (Num. 17:5; 1 Sam. 2:28; 2 Chron. 29:11). God chose that priests from the tribe of Levi would minister before Him in the temple and would be paid by the tithes of the people (Deut. 18:58; 21:5; 1 Chron. 15:2).
8. Men Chosen to Be in Messiah’s line. Specifically God chose Abraham (Neh. 9:7), Isaac, Jacob (Ps. 135:4; Isa. 41:8; Ezek. 20:5), and Judah (1 Chron. 28:4; Ps. 78:67) to be in the line of Messiah.
9. David Chosen to replace Saul as king. God chose David to replace King Saul and to be in the line of Messiah (2 Sam. 6:21; 1 Kings 8:16; 1 Chron. 28:4; 2 Chron. 6:6; Ps. 89:3).
10. God Chose Solomon to succeed David as king. God chose Solomon over David’s other sons to be king (1 Chron. 29:1).
11. God Chose Mary and Joseph. God’s choosing went right down to Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:30, 42-45, 48), and Joseph, the husband of Mary (Matt. 1:20).
12. God’s Chosen City, Jerusalem. Over and over again God reminds His people that Jerusalem was and will forever be God’s chosen city (e.g., Deut. 15:20; 16:2, 15; 1 Kings 8:44; 11:13; 14:21; 2 Kings 21:7; 23:27; 2 Chron. 6:6, 34; 12:13; 33:7; Neh. 1:9; Ps. 132:13; Zech. 3:2).
13. Chosen Sojourners. In his first epistle Peter wrote to Jewish believers scattered around the Roman Empire. He called them elect (or chosen) sojourners. Though many versions translate 1 Pet 1:2 as “elect according to foreknowledge,” the word elect (eklektos) actually occurs in verse 1 immediately before sojourners.
God also chooses believers to suffer (I Thess. 1:4; cf. the context 1:5-10) and to holiness (Ephes. 1:4). In 2 Thessalonians 2:13 the Bible says, “God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth…” The word “salvation” (soteria) occurs three times in First and Second Thessalonians. In its two other uses it clearly refers to deliverance from the Tribulation via the Rapture (cf. 1 Thess. 5:8, 9 as compared with 5:3, “and they shall not escape”). They were elected to salvation from the Tribulation.
Some Calvinists will point to Acts 13:48 to show that election is connected to salvation. The verse reads, “And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”But the word “appointed” (tasso) means “to arrange/position.” In other words, “as many as had been arranged/positioned [prepared] to eternal life believed.” Luke is saying that the Holy Spirit prepared these Gentiles for eternal life by opening their hearts to believe in Christ. Contrast these Gentiles with the Jews in verse 46 whose hearts were not open and who did not believe in Christ for eternal life.
Calvinism discourages evangelism. Since it teaches that God elected and predestined only and all to be saved in eternity past, there is no need to go and preach the Gospel because God will save only those He elected. However, Scriptures command us to “Go…make disciples of all the nations” (Matt. 28:19) and to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). All people are free to believe in Christ for eternal life. This is why the call to local and world evangelism is so urgent. Question: Does God only love the elect, and not the whole world (John 3:16; I Tim. 2:1-6; 2 Pet. 3:9)? If God chose some in eternity past and one must be saved first and then believe, as Calvinism teaches, why did Jesus need to die on the cross (cf. Rom. 1:16; Gal. 1:3-4)?
Point #3 – Limited atonement: Calvinism instructs that Christ died only for those whom God elected in eternity past, thus opening no way for a legitimate call for all people to believe which is contrary to the New Testament teaching – “all” (Matthew 11:28); “every creature” (Mark 16:15); “whoever” (John 3:15-16; 4:14; 11:26; I John 5:1; Revelation 22:17); “anyone” (John 6:51; 7:37; 10:9). Contrary to Calvinism, the Bible teaches that Christ’s death was sufficient payment for the sins of the world (John 1:29; 3:16; 4:42; 17:6; I Tim. 2:1-6; 2 Pet. 2:1; I John 2:1-2), but the benefits of His death (forgiveness, eternal life, etc.) are only applied by the Holy Spirit as people believe in Christ (John 3:16; Acts 10:43). Question: When preaching Calvinism to a non-Christian, how do you preach about the cross?An honest Calvinist would have to say, “Christ may have died for you or He may not have died for you, it all depends on whether you are elect. By the way, you cannot even believe in Jesus unless you are among the elected few. If you are, the Holy Spirit will regenerate you so you can believe in Jesus.”
Point #4 – Irresistible grace: Calvinism teaches that no one whom God elects can resist the gospel, just as no one who is not elect can receive it (cf. John 6:37, 44, 65; Rom. 9:19; I Cor. 2:13-14). Since God’s elect unto salvation cannot be lost, the Holy Spirit must regenerate them whether they choose to believe in Christ or not. However, this extinguishes the idea of our personal responsibility to not only recognize our personal sin and guilt, but also to believe or trust in the Savior. Affirming man’s capacity to believe does not exclude man’s need for God’s illumination. No conversion occurs until God breaks through the blindness induced by Satan and enlightens the heart with His truth (John 6:44; 2 Cor. 4:3-6). Unbelievers are convinced the Gospel is not true. Until God opens their eyes, they won’t believe that Jesus freely gives eternal life to people and that the sole condition is believing or trusting in Him alone for it (I Cor. 2:14; Acts 16:14). God does not drag people to Christ as Calvinism teaches, He draws them (John 6:44: 12:32) so that they can choose to believe in Christ during that time of drawing (John 3:15-18). For example, Judas was drawn by God for three and a half years but chose not to believe in Christ (John 6:64, 70-71; 13:10-11; 17:12). The Holy Spirit will not force those to believe who are unwilling (John 5:40).
God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility is seen in the account of Lydia in Acts 16:11-16. On the one hand, God was drawing Lydia to Himself. He sent someone to bring the Gospel to her. And He opened her eyes so that she could believe the Gospel and be saved. If any of those things had not occurred, Lydia would not have been born again. On the other hand, Lydia was a God-fearing Gentile. She was at the place of prayer by the riverside outside of Philippi. She was seeking the truth and God rewarded her search (just as He rewards all who seek Him – Acts 17:27; Heb. 11:6) by opening her eyes to the truth so she could believe the Gospel. Question: Does the Holy Spirit regenerate (cause to receive eternal life) the elect person regardless of his opposition to God or does the Holy Spirit regenerate only those who believe the free offer of eternal life (John 7:37-39; Gal. 3:5-6; Ephes. 1:13-14)?
Point #5 – Perseverance of the saints: Calvinism teaches that all true Christians will persevere in faith, holiness, and good works to the end of their lives (Matt. 24:13). A true believer will never fall away from the Lord. According to Calvinism, failure to persevere is proof that a person was never truly saved. Since works are an inevitable outcome of salvation, one can only know he or she is saved by the presence of good works. Since no one is perfect, any assurance of salvation is imperfect as well according to this view. A Calvinist cannot be 100% certain he or she is going to heaven until death because of the possibility of failing to persevere in good works before they die. However, the Bible teaches that assurance of salvation is based upon the promises of God to give eternal life to those who believe in Christ apart from any good works (John 5:24; Rom. 8:38-39; Eph. 2:8-9; I John 5:11-13). For example, Jesus never said, “he who believes in Me and perseveres in good works has everlasting life” (John 6:47).
True Christians are preserved eternally by the Triune God (John 10:29; 14:16-17; Rom. 8:31, 35-39; Ephes. 1:13-14; 4:30; Heb. 7:25; 9:12; 10:10, 12, 14; I John 2:1-2). Contrary to Calvinism, good works are not an inevitable outcome of salvation, otherwise why would the New Testament writers exhort believers to good works (Eph. 4:1; Colossians 3:1; I Timothy 6:11-18; Titus 2:7, 14; 3:8, 14) or warn believers of the consequences of failing to persevere in good works (I Cor. 3:11-17; 9:26-27; 10:1-12; 2 Cor. 12:20-21; Hebrews 3:12-15; 4:11; Rev. 3:11) if good works are an inevitable outcome of salvation? While God desires that all true believers become holy, not all believers will nor will they persevere to the end of life (I Cor. 3:1-10:13; 11:27-30; Gal. 5:16-21; I Tim. 1:19-20; 2 Tim. 4:10; James 1:1-5:6; cf. King Saul and King Solomon), resulting in God’s discipline now and the loss of eternal rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Matt. 16:24-27; 25:26-28; I Cor. 3:11-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Tim. 2:12; Heb. 12:5-11; Rev. 2:26-27). Question: If all true Christians persevere to the end of life, why does God exhort believers to do good works and warn them of the consequences if they don’t (Matt. 5:16; 16:24-27; Matt. 24:45-51; 25:26-28; I Cor. 3:11-15; 9:24-27; 2 Tim. 2:17-26; Titus 3:8; Heb. 3:1–15; 6:1-12; 10:23-39; I John 2:28; 4:17-19)?
In summary, we see that each of the five points of Calvinism are contrary to what the Bible teaches. Rather than seek to align our beliefs with the doctrines of people, let us seek to align our beliefs with the doctrines of God. This will result in a greater commitment and passion to take the gospel to “all” of the world (Mark 16:15) to make disciples of Christ among “all the nations” (Matthew 28:19-20) until all hear His glorious gospel message!