Rev. Gise Van Baren
The idea that the death of Christ assuredly will save
those for whom Christ died, is not a popular idea in our day. Christ is
presented as a beggar. He makes promises; He pleads; He threatens. But
He appears powerless to accomplish that which apparently He longs very
much to do. One might be inclined to ask, "Who is this Christ who is
compelled so to beg for the co-operation of the sinner?" Is He indeed
the Son of God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit?
Did He truly pay for sin on the cross—and if so, why all this begging
and pleading? Yet this presentation is common and considered proper in
order to save sinners.
Open Up Your Heart?
There is a
group of old gospel-hymns which present Christ as such a beggar. I would
like to quote a few to show you how true this is. One song states,
the door of my heart long the Saviour did stand;
And He knocked many times with His nail-pierced hand;
But at last I gave heed, and I opened it wide,
and I asked Him to enter and with me abide.
Behold, at your door He doth stand and knock;
any His voice will hear, and, heeding the call, will their door
He'll enter and bless them there.
song expresses it this way:
Behold, a Stranger at the door!
gently knocks, has knocked before;
Has waited long, is waiting still;
You treat no other friend so ill.
Rise, touched with gratitude divine;
Turn out His enemy and thine—
that soul-destroying monster, sin;
And let the heavenly Stranger in.
Or, to quote
but one more, we hear,
you are tired of the load of your sin,
Let Jesus come into your heart;
you desire a new life to begin,
Let Jesus come into your heart.
Just now, your doubtings give o'er;
Just now, reject him no more;
Just now, throw open the door;
Let Jesus come into your heart.
What must one say of such songs? Is this the Jesus
who died on Calvary who so pleads? But such a Jesus is weak; He is
ineffectual and lacking in power. He is completely dependent upon the
willingness of the sinner to allow Him to enter into the heart.
In harmony with the above, one hears over the radio
and in evangelistic crusades a constant begging and pleading by the
preacher that the sinner accept Christ before it is too late. In order
to put the sinner in the proper frame of mind, the organ plays softly,
and the choir soothingly sings. And all this time the plea goes forth,
"Open your hearts. Let Jesus come in now. Don't wait for
tomorrow—tomorrow may never come!"
Again a Christ is presented who is weak and helpless.
His atonement can not accomplish what it was designed to do—unless the
sinner himself is willing. Does not such a presentation at times trouble
you greatly? What sort of Saviour is that who can not accomplish what He
so badly wants to do?
The Christ of the Scriptures
The fact is that Scripture does not present our
Saviour in this way. The Bible presents the powerful work of Christ on
the cross as irresistible.
There are some passages in Scripture that seem, on
the surface, to present a pleading Saviour.
Revelation 3:20, "Behold I stand at the door, and knock; if any man
hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup
with him, and he with me." It is evidently upon the basis of this text
that many songs speak of opening up one's heart's door. Evidently the
picture of Jesus standing at the door of the sinner's heart is based
upon this text. But is that what the text teaches? Read carefully that
Revelation 3:14-22. Christ is addressing the church of Laodicea,
located in Asia Minor. This church, according to the passage, was
neither hot nor cold; it was lukewarm—so that Christ was to spew them
from His mouth. It was an apostate church. This church boasted in its
material wealth—but it was spiritually poverty-stricken. Their
situation, spiritually speaking, was hopeless. These would no longer be
counted as church of Jesus Christ. However, there were in that church
yet some who still feared God and loved Christ. Their number was very
small. To them does Christ speak in verse 20. Christ knocks at the door
of the church in Laodicea and assures His people remaining in there,
that He can not have fellowship with them in this church. If they are to
enjoy truly Christ's fellowship, they are called to leave that faithless
church and thus enjoy once more Christ's blessings. This is the plea of
Christ addressed to confessing believers who reside yet in the false
church. And these do listen to Christ and come out at His command! But
this is a far cry from the distorted presentation which is heard in our
There are many passages which show that the Saviour
is not a beggar, but rather the all-powerful God. He speaks in
Isaiah 65:1, "I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found
of them that sought me not ..." It is this truth which Jesus emphasizes
in His own instruction to the disciples in the gospel accounts.
Jesus says in
John 6:37 and 39, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me;
and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out ... And this is the
Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I
should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day."
Notice that Jesus emphasizes strongly that the Father gives a specific
people to the Son—and those that are given shall come.
Negatively, Jesus emphasizes that of those given, He shall lose
nothing. That this point be not misunderstood, Jesus says again in
verse 44, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me
draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." I ask you, where
does one find here a begging Jesus? Where is the suggestion that
salvation is dependent upon the willingness of the sinner to open his
heart's door? Does not Christ emphasize exactly the contrary: that He
will surely draw and save His own? He needs not to beg nor plead.
So also does Jesus teach in
John 10:16, "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold;
them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there
shall be one fold, and one shepherd." The same truth Jesus declares in
verses 27-29 of this chapter, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them,
and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life; and they
shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My
Father, which gave them to me, is greater than all; and no man is able
to pluck them out of my Father's hand." Now, that is very clear, is it
not? Christ's sheep are given to Him; they hear His voice; they follow
Christ; they shall never be lost. Such does indeed beautifully portray
the power, the irresistible power, of the cross.
God Opens the Heart
Nor is this all. Scripture teaches that it is God who
opens the heart of the sinner. We read in
Acts 16:14, "And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of
the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the
Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of
Paul." Jesus did not knock at Lydia's heart, begging her to open to
Him—but the Lord opened that heart. The same truth is emphasized
Philippians 1:6: "Being confident of this very thing, that he which
hath begun a good work in you will perform it unto the day of Jesus
Christ." So then, the beginning of the work of salvation is of God—even
as is its completion.
All these passages surely emphasize the truth that
the cross of Christ is effective: it accomplishes that which God
determined. Those for whom Christ died shall surely be saved. There can
be no question about that.
This truth must be faithfully proclaimed in the
world. It has been asked whether there will be any who come to Christ if
they are not begged. The preacher and his church ought not to ask such a
question. The calling of the church is to proclaim faithfully the whole
Word of God. That Word must not be compromised. And God will surely
accomplish His purpose through the preaching of His Word. Tell the
sinner that Christ dies for the sins of His people—and they shall surely
be saved. Tell the sinner that Jesus preserves His sheep so that no man
can ever snatch them from His hand. Tell the sinner that whosoever
believes shall surely and eternally be saved.
"Come Unto Me ..."
Christ Himself so tenderly declares in
Matthew 11:28, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy
laden, and I will give you rest." He speaks to the labouring and heavy
laden. These are deeply conscious of their burden of sin and guilt. God
has worked in their hearts: God has opened their hearts, so that these
believe the testimony of Scripture that by nature they are dead in sin.
Wicked man refuses to recognize and confess the burden of sin. He goes
about claiming that he has no burden; he is not labouring and heavy
laden. But Christ calls powerfully those who are brought to a
consciousness of their sin to come to Him for rest. These do surely come
and obtain the rest they desire. Thus must the church speak to the
labouring and heavy laden—pointing them to Christ who certainly and
surely gives rest.
God's Word declares too in
Isaiah 55:1, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters,
and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine
and milk without money and without price." Here again, the thirsting one
is addressed. Not all recognize their thirst; only he does whose heart
God opens. But such an one confesses that he has no money to buy. He
cannot merit or earn the blessings of salvation. But there is the wonder
of grace: one without money can obtain it. Jesus surely provides these
thirsty ones with His own life. They consciously come to Him and are
And what great comfort this scriptural truth gives to
the child of God! If my salvation depended in any way, or in the
smallest degree, upon myself, I would surely be lost forevermore. There
would be for me no hope. How discouraging it must be to one who thinks
that he must persuade sinners to accept Christ. Those who are eloquent
and forceful appear to have a measure of success—those speak of the
souls they saved. But others seem to save none. They appear to be
failures. How hopeless one must feel when he is told that he must
accept Christ—when he begins to see that he is such a sinner that of
himself he will never accept Christ. But the Word of God assures us that
it is Christ who is both the Author and Finisher of salvation. Christ
saves sinners. Christ opens the hearts of sinners. Christ brings them on
their knees in repentance and confession of their sins. Christ preserves
them and directs them in a righteous walk. Christ finally brings them to
everlasting glory and life. Christ does it all. He fully saves.
What assurance this truth gives to the child of God.
He is in the protection of the hand of God. Many enemies there are who
would destroy him. The devil, the world, and one's own flesh conspire to
prevent the salvation of the sinner. With all of these forces against
one, there could be no hope of salvation—if that salvation depended upon
the action of man. Forces of evil can threaten, mock, persecute, but no
man can take these sheep out of Christ's hand. He holds them securely
while they walk through this earth—till finally they are glorified with
Wonderful, is it not, to know by faith that those for
whom Christ died shall assuredly enter into everlasting glory and life.
That is the wonder of the power of the cross. Do you too enjoy this
glorious assurance given to all those who love the Lord?