“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me…” 1 John 6:44–45
What is it that draws people to Christ? Every Christian should be interested in this question because every Christian loves to see Christ glorified and sinners turning to him for salvation.
Often when people are interviewed for membership at Covenant our Session asks them, “Why did you come to Covenant Presbyterian Church? There are many other churches in Houston.” People answer that they enjoy the teaching, the preaching, the warm welcome by our congregation, or because the church is in the neighborhood. All of these answers are encouraging for us to hear. But the most encouraging reason of all is the truth that guarantees their coming: God the Father irresistibly draws his elect to Christ. God himself is the reason that sinners become Christians and find their way into his Church. And the converse is also true: some sinners never come to Christ because God the Father does not draw them. Augustine of Hippo well understood this truth and wrote:
“Our Savior, to teach us that belief comes as a gift and not from merit, says: ‘No one comes to me, unless my Father … draw him’ [John 6:44 p.], and ‘… it be granted him by my Father’ [John 6:65 p.].
If salvation is all of God’s doing, excluding any human merit, does this mean that the church has no responsibility in leading people to Christ? No. God ordinarily employs means in order to accomplish his ends. The witness of his church, and especially the reading, teaching, and preaching of his Word are the means he uses to draw sinners to himself. John Calvin wrote:
“Although Christ declares that no one except him whom the Father draws can come to him, and the elect come after they have “heard and learned from the Father” [John 6:44–45], still Christ does not neglect the teacher’s office, but with his own voice unremittingly summons those who need to be taught within by the Holy Spirit in order to make any progress.”
The Holy Spirit is the inward, spiritual teacher of God’s elect, but he always works in conjunction with the Word of God in order to convict of sin and to convince sinners of Christ’s righteousness and judgment (John 16:8). “Whether, therefore, God makes use of man’s help in this or works by his own power alone, he always represents himself through his Word to those whom he wills to draw to himself.”
The responsibility of Christ’s ministers, therefore, is to proclaim the Word of God purely, boldly, confidently and promiscuously to all men, trusting that God the Holy Spirit will surely draw the elect to Christ through their labors. Additionally, as the Word is taught to God’s people they learn how to pray according to God’s will and how to sing according to God’s will, so that the worship service is filled with the Word of God. The church thus becomes a witness and a source of light in this dark world that draws God’s elect to their desired safe haven — Christ himself.
Our duty in Christ’s church as ministers, elders, and congregants is to hold forth the Word of God as purely as possible in our assemblies. We also must demonstrate the Word of God through deeds of mercy and kindness; our worship and our charity to one another in the church comprise our spiritual fellowship (1 John 1: 3,4).4 This is how God’s elect in the world will be drawn to Covenant Presbyterian Church. Any admission of error, omission of essential Biblical truth, or use of worldly measures manipulating people through pageantry or entertainment in our worship and fellowship might draw more people to Covenant but it would also impede and confuse those who are being led of the Spirit by the Word. In our mistaken zeal to grow the visible church in numbers we might find ourselves at cross-purposes with God, to the Spirit’s grief and to our shame.
There can be no doubt that God will continue to build his Church until Christ returns. There can also be no doubt that if we faithfully uphold his Word at worship and in our fellowship that God will build his church despite our feeble efforts. This all will be accomplished by his grace in Christ Jesus and for his own glory. Therefore, be encouraged and rejoice — your labors in the Lord are never in vain!
Pastor Lou Veiga