Monday, September 14, 2015
"The Words of Eternal Life" Sermon: John 6:50-71
“The Words of Eternal Life”
September 13, 2015Second Reformed Church
The Jews were angry because Jesus said that He had come down out of Heaven – that He is God in the flesh. And Jesus explained that no one can believe in Him savingly unless God the Father causes them to believe by changing their heart.
Then Jesus explained that salvation – eternal life – was only to be found through eating the Bread of Life – through eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Those who do so, Jesus will physically raise from the deadon the last day and bring them into the Kingdom of God.
What Jesus meant by this, as He explained here and elsewhere, is that those who would have eternal life must abide in Him – we must be united with Jesus if we are to live forever with Him. Just as the branches cannot live unless they are united to the vine, neither can we who believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths that Jesus is God in the flesh Who physically rose from the dead – neither can we live – eternally – unless we remain united with and in and to Jesus through faith alone.
Once Jesus finished speaking in the synagogue, the disciples addressed Jesus:
“When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This is a hard saying, who can listen to it?’”
So, we see, first, this morning, the Gospel is offensive.
Jesus had explained to all those present in the synagogue that it is not possible to become right with God through keeping the Law.
Jesus told them that He is God – the Son of Man – the Promised Savior – come from Heaven – born united in the flesh of Jesus of Nazareth to complete the work of salvation.
And – the only way to be right with God – to be seen as holy and sinless – and thus received into God’s Kingdom – is to continually feed on Jesus’ flesh and continually drink His blood – that is – to remain ever united with Him through faith alone.
And the disciples turned to Jesus and said, “This is a hard saying, who can listen to it?”
Let’s flesh that out: “What you have just explained Jesus is a hard thing to hear – it is a harsh thing to hear – it is unpleasant –it is hard to take. You tell us that salvation is not through the Law. You tell us that God – the Infinite and Almighty God – has taken on a human body. You tell us that we must be united with You in flesh and blood. Jesus, this offends our understanding of the purpose of the Law. It is offensive to think of God taking on human flesh – uniting in a real human person. And this language of flesh and blood – eating and drinking – to represent unity with the Son of Man in faith is really hard to take. Do You expect us – and them – to swallow all of this? Do You understand how difficult this is for us to wrap our minds around?”
Nothing has changed, has it?
“God became a human? Right. Like in Greek and Roman mythology?”
“What do you mean? I’m a good person. God has to take that into account – I’m no Hitler.”
“If God is love, He will take everyone, won’t He?”
“Flesh and blood – com’mon – you have to get past the mythology and stress God’s love.”
“Faith alone? Com’mon – you don’t want people to think you’re narrow-minded or bigoted or intolerant, do you?”
Have you heard anything like those comments?
“Jesus, what You’re saying is disgusting, and it doesn’t fit in with our understanding of reality. Do You really expect us to believe it?”
How did Jesus answer them?
“But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this said to them, ‘Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?’”
“Are you offended by what I am saying? What will you think when I ascend – in this physical body – back to My throne in Heaven?”
Jesus was prophesying what He would do, but primarily, He was testing it them – putting to them the question of whether they really believed in Him savingly? Maybe they were not following Him just for the bread, but, perhaps it was because He was different – He spoke with authority – or something else. But when the rubber hit the road – did they really believe Him?
Do we believe Him? Do we strive to obey Him? Do we trust in His work for our salvation by faith alone?
Paul explained the truth of the matter: “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ the power of God, Christ the wisdom of God” (I Corinthians 1:23-24, ESV).
Just like you can’t be “kind of” pregnant; we can’t “kind of” believe. It’s all or nothing. The disciples were realizing that.
Second, we see that it is the Spirit Who gives life.
“’It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh is no help at all. The words that Ihave spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.’ (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and he knew who it was who would betray him.) And he said, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.’”
Jesus told the disciples three things:
First, God the Holy Spirit brings men and women to spiritual life through faith in Jesus Alone. Nothing that you or I or anyone does or does not do contributes to our salvation. We cannot do or not do anything to save ourselves or to convince God to save us. Our salvation is not based on our merit.
Second, Jesus knew in His Divinity – since He is at the same time and in the same person – the One True God and the real human being, Jesus of Nazareth – Jesus knew who believed in Him savingly and who did not – and He knew who would deny Him and who would betray Him.
And third, no one can come to Jesus unless God the Father draws that person – or here, Jesus says, unless God the Father “grants” it to that person – as John put it – “who were born, not of the blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but God” (John 1:13, ESV)
What is the procedure or the mechanism by which we may be saved?
John tells us, “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16a, ESV). The motivation behind God’s plan of salvation – sending the Son to accomplish salvation, and the Spirit to apply salvation, as the Father grants – or gives – salvation – is God’s love. God so loved the world – for God’s reasons, but not due to us being fuzzy, lovable creatures. No, we were dead in our sins – in cosmic rebellion against God, but – for some reason not explicitly revealed to us – God loved the world, chose a people for Himself, sent His Son to make them right with God – through becoming a human – living, dying, rising, and ascending, and then sending God the Holy Spirit.
God made a plan, God the Father loved the world, God the Son came in the person of Jesus to accomplish the work of salvation, and God the Spirit gives life according to God the Father’s choice in love and His granting faith alone in Jesus and His Gospel.
Jesus said, “If you are offended by the Gospel – if you dismiss it as nonsense – it is due to the fact that God the Holy Spirit has not raised you to spiritual life.”
Third, Jesus alone has the words to eternal life.
“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.”
Jesus had just drawn a line in the sand. He had stated clearly that salvation was only through Him Alone. The Law cannot save. We cannot save ourselves. God the Father chooses whom to save. God the Son does the work of salvation in being our Substitute before God – living a holy life under the Law and taking on the punishment for our sins – and God the Holy Spirit raises those God has dragged and granted belief to believe. And we must remain united to Him through faith alone to live and be received into eternal life.
And many of His disciples walked away and never came back.
Imagine the sorrow Jesus felt as these many people walked away – not that He had failed, but they showed that they never really believed.
I had a chemistry teacher in high school, who I talked with after school one day, and he said that he was a Christian. And then I started bringing some things up to him from the Bible, and he said, “You don’t believe the Bible, do you?”
“Yeah, I like coming for the bread and the coffee hour. And most of the people are nice. I enjoy hanging out with them. I can even get into to old-time music. But really – Jesus, God in the flesh? God had to die to make people right with God? No, it doesn’t make any sense. And if I was being pushed about believing it, I would leave.”
Jesus told them that keeping the Law won’t save them – that He is God in the flesh – and that anyone who wants to live eternally – forgiven in the Kingdom – must continually eat His flesh and drink His blood – remain united in Him alone through faith alone.
And many of His disciples walked away and never came back.
“So Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.’”
“What about you, Twelve? What about you that I personally chose to be My disciples?”
As usual, Peter jumped up with an answer for the group: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
“Lord, there’s no one else we can go to – of course we are staying. You Only have the words of eternal life – all that You teach is the Only Way to salvation – that it is through You and of You and by You – there is no other. You teach salvation and You are salvation. There are no other options. There is no other way to be saved and no other person who can save.
“We believe that You are God the Son come to earth in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth to live a perfect life under the Law and to make us right with God. We have come to know that this is salvation – that You are the truth – because God the Father chose us and dragged us and granted us to believe in You. God changed our hearts and raised us from spiritual death, and we believe in You Alone for salvation.You are the Holy One of God – You are the Son of Man – God in the flesh.”
The language that Peter uses is clear: this is a confession of Jesus being God the Savior – the Only Savior, the Savior that Peter believed savingly in – and attributed saving belief to the other eleven. He understood that his salvation was a work of Divine intercession and change in him – and in all those who believe.
Do we believe that?
Do we believe that Jesus is God the Son, the Only Savior?
Do we believe that God the Father loved a people for Himself and chose us and dragged us and granted us to believe in Salvation through Jesus Alone?
Do we believe that God the Holy Spirit has raised us from spiritual death and applied the Gospel to us?
Do we believe that there is no salvation except through faith alone in Jesus and His Gospel through abiding in Him now and forever?
Are we sure? Are we clear about Who Jesus is and what He has done?
Shall many of us walk away?
Peter preached: “And there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Jesus Alone has the words of eternal life – it is His Gospel Alone – there is no salvation through any one or any method anywhere.
Wake up! Eternal life hangs in the balance.
Some people on the Internet say that ISIS is bringing people into the US to take over. Let us take that as a challenge! Would the members of ISIS be able to recognize you and me as Christians? Would our witness to Jesus and His Gospel be enough for them to kill us? Would they catch us talking about the things of Christ and telling others about His Gospel? May it be so!
Brothers and sisters, if we believe that Jesus Alone has the words of eternal life, and everyone who does not believe and receive Him will suffer God’s Wrath, wouldn’t we want to tell others – to warn them – to tell our friends and family members? Not to be obnoxious, but to clearly tell them what we believe as the Only Truth?
“But, I’m not good at talking to people.”
OK – invite them to worship with you.
“But, I’m embarrassed; I wouldn’t know what to say.”
Take the fliers in Freeman Hall and hand them to your friends and family and let them read them themselves. Take copies of Tabletalk and give them to your friends and family – each one has the church name and address on it.
“Jesus answered them, ‘Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.’ He spoke of Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.”
God has chosen us to believe and to proclaim His Gospel to others. But, God saves people, not us. We ought to do our best to explain what we believe and why, but God chooses who to raise from spiritual death to spiritual life. He brings people to Himself and causes them to believe the Gospel.
God knows who will believe and when; God knew Judas would betray Jesus from before the Creation – it was all part of the plan. Jesus chose the Twelve, and He chose Judas because He would betray Him.
If we have believed savingly in Jesus and His Gospel – if we are abiding in Him – let us tell other the words of eternal life. There’s nowhere else to go.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for choosing to send Your Son to be our Savior. We thank You for the words of eternal life that we know from Your Word and the life, death, and ascension of Your Son. We ask that any who have not believed would be drawn by You and convicted by the Spirit that Jesus is God the Son and His salvation is the only words of eternal life. Give us confidence and boldness to tell others what Jesus has done to make the One Way of Salvation. And may You be please to work through us in the Person of the Spirit to bring many people to life. For it is in Jesus’ Name, Amen.