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A Hard Teaching

A Hard Teaching

by Josh Caudill

In John 6, Jesus tells his disciples, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44).

I'm inclined to agree with the disciples when they respond, "This is a hard saying" (John 6:60), and I think I'm not alone.

One of the reasons that I believe passages like this scare me is because it takes the authority and control away from me. This passage seems quite certain that the power--and will--to save is from God. As frustrating as this is, it's absolutely the best way for things to be.

In fact, when I think about a doctrine like "election," I think that my biggest fear comes from a misunderstanding I can have about it. Namely, I fear discussing "election" because I fear that our conversation can quickly turn into one in which we have some sort of knowledge of or authority over God's process of election. But we do not.

And Jesus alludes to this when he mentions the story of the Israelites and the manna in the desert. The people of Israel had escaped slavery in Egypt, but were made to wander through the desert before entering the promised land. God provides bread for them to eat; although wandering and perhaps feeling lost, they were protected. They were most certainly not lost, but they likely felt hopeless, and at times even complained that they may have been better if they had remained in captivity in Egypt.

But years later, the prophet Isaiah would remind us all that God's plan, as much as it appeared to focus on the people of Israel, was much greater:

"In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, 'Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance'." -Isaiah 19:24-25

Even Egypt, Israel's captors before their time in the desert, were chosen by God. Yet I doubt that the Israelites would have believed this while eating the manna in their tents.

Likewise, Jesus proclaims that God makes the decisions about His redemptive plan, for we are prone to think in terms that are much too small about such matters. I fear that I am quick to decide who is in and who is out.

So what is our work to do, if it is not to decide who will be saved and who will not? Jesus replies, "This is the work of God: that you believe in him whom he has sent." -John 6:29

I pray that I would believe Jesus this week, and that I would let this belief shape my thoughts, actions, and intentions.

Grace & Peace
Josh Caudill