One question that arises from Christ’s statement, however, is why someone would “come” to Christ at all. That is to say, what exists within a man or woman that would ever incline them to desire and therefore, seek God?
In examining this question, let us first look at what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans; “For whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (8:29-30). Clearly one can learn from these verses that God’s “redemptive chain” for an individual begins with God “foreknowing” that person. In fact, it is the basis upon which God predetermines to call and irresistibly bring to Himself those whom He desires to redeem, justify and glorify. But what does it mean?
Many would claim “foreknowledge” means that God, Who because of His infinite knowledge, is able to look down through the tunnel of time and see who will respond to the message of grace through Jesus Christ. One writer has even termed this foreknowledge to be a kind of “preacquaintanceship” such that God is “fully acquainted with what we now are long before we ever existed as persons”. He went on to affirm that God sees our fallen nature and our depravity, and yet, in spite of this, the writer comes to the troubling conclusion that “God has predestined those to be saved whom He knew would respond to His grace”. This same writer indicated that he has no knowledge of what it is that God “foreknows” about an individual that would cause him to believe, and is therefore compelled to assign a mysterious element, resident in man, which is directly related to, and is the cause of an individual’s predestination by God.
Let’s work through the logic of this thinking. Scripture plainly attests that God knows everything about an individual, past, present, and future. Psalm 139:15-16 declares, “My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they were all written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them”. Thus, God certainly is “preacquainted” with our every thought and action before they ever came to pass. However, the text also clearly states that all our days have been ordained before our birth. This means that it is God Who has pre-decreed our every thought and action, not us!
Now, at this point, one might still persist in maintaining that God’s ordination of our days is prefaced and dependent upon His knowledge of our future thoughts and actions. But if this were true, then God’s will would not be independent of our will. God’s ordaining of our days would be subject to our yet to be fulfilled inclinations to respond or not to the gospel call. If that is true, then God is not absolutely sovereign. In fact, He would not be God at all, but one more being who is subject to external circumstances. The Psalmist wrote, “Our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases” (115:3). Now in order for this statement of the Psalmist to be true, God’s will and His subsequent activities must be entirely free of any circumstances or the influence of any other being. But if God’s predestination of His people is dependent upon some mysterious inherent desire or ability in them, then God is subject to His own people! Clearly, a god who is dependent on a “mysterious” quality in some people to choose Him is a fabrication and an idol!
If God’s predestination of His people is not dependent on His “preacquaintanceship” with them, then what is the basis? Let’s begin by examining our condition prior to our conversion. In Psalm 14:2-3 we read, “The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one”. These verses make crystal clear the fact that there is no one who is without sin. They also very plainly declare that no one even seeks or pursues God.
Now, is this lack of seeking a result of ignorance? The Apostle Pau wrote, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteous of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:18-21). Our natural sinful inclination is to actively “suppress” the truth, not respond to it.
Paul wrote elsewhere, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature the children of wrath, just as the others” (Ephesians 2:1-3). This confirms the description of mankind given to us in Genesis; “…the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (8:21). Again, we see the active pursuit of sin which is the natural outworking of our sinful natures.
If foreknowledge only meant that God could see our thoughts, inclinations, and desires, then all He would ever foresee would be our ceaseless “suppress(ing) of the truth” and the “fulfilling of the desires of the flesh and of the mind”. No one would be predestined for salvation on that basis.
In Ezekiel we read, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep my judgments and do them” (36:26-27). And in Ephesians we read, “But God, Who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (2:4-5). Both of these passages speak of God’s divine initiative in changing a person’s heart such that they are enabled and made willing to obey God in faith and repentance.
Let’s pull together what we’ve discovered. Firstly, apart from God’s intervention, there exists nothing within a man, woman or child that would ever cause them to respond to the proclamation of the gospel. Secondly, the reason for this lack of response is that it is a heart condition. That is to say, we are born with sinful, self-serving, God-hating hearts and therefore, are not inclined or disposed to obey God. Thirdly, it is God Who changes our hearts and minds to seek and embrace Christ Jesus as Savior, and obey Him as Lord by faith, that too a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8). So if we go back to our question of “what exists within a man or woman that would ever incline them to desire and therefore, seek God?”, we are driven to the conclusion that nothing is there! This ability and desire only comes from God’s sovereign, gracious and immeasurable electing love divinely applied by the Holy Spirit upon an individual of His choosing. That’s grace and grace alone!
Believer, don’t congratulate yourself on your great decision to believe in and follow Jesus Christ. Instead, be amazed and wonder that, through the gift of faith, such a lowly sinful creature like yourself would be rescued from eternal damnation and brought into a state of adoption with the very Creator of the universe. In eternity past, God set His intense desire and intimate consuming love upon you so that in the course of time, you would be brought into union with Himself because of the work of Christ’s fulfilling the righteous requirements of the law in His perfect life, His death on the cross, dying in your place for your sins, and His resurrection from the grave whereby He has purchased new life for His blood-bought people. God has made it possible for even you to be one of the many sons which He is bringing into glory.
Perhaps you haven’t experienced this love of God to you through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. Perhaps you know of Christ, but you are not in Christ. If the words in this article have concerned you in this regard, then possibly God is in the process of changing your heart condition, so that you now have a desire to begin seeking Him for salvation. Call out to God now for mercy. Believe in Christ Jesus as your Savior, repent of your sins and begin to serve Him as your Lord. Remember Christ’s words, “…the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out”. By God’s sovereign grace may you too come to Christ by faith and experience God’s marvelous and glorious love to you.