“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
“As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him” (John 17:2).
The supreme goal in the life of Christ was to bring glory to the Father. By so honoring the Father, glory was also given to the Son. In John 17:2 the Lord makes two statements of eternal significance.
First, the Lord declares that He has all power or authority over all flesh. The word flesh is used in the Bible to refer to humanity. It is a word found hundreds of times (cf. Matt. 16:17; 26:41). Because He has all power over all flesh, Jesus can do what He will to and with “all flesh.”
The Lord declares that He had determined to give eternal life to His sheep. Theologians refer to this action as particular redemption. The Lord does not give eternal life to everyone, for there is a hell that is populated with the souls of the damned. But Jesus does give eternal life to as many as the Father has given to the Son. The startling statement is plain. The Father has determined that a definite number of “flesh” shall not be destroyed, but shall be given to the Son as a reward for His work of redemption, and the Son shall give to them eternal life. From this simple statement a number of important truths are set forth, the first of which is that salvation is for a particular people.
The doctrinal illustration of a particular redemption is constant throughout the Scriptures.
There is the story of the Great Flood whereby eight souls were saved (Gen. 6-8).
There is the illustration of the Shepherd and his flock in John 10:11-15.
There is the image of the marriage bond. Ephesians 5:25-27 “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
The statements of a particular redemption are very plain in Scripture.
“You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore, I will punish you for all your iniquities” (Amos 3:2).
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29).
“As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom. 9:13).
The objects of the Father’s love are particular, definite, and limited. So are the objects of Christ’s death. What this means is that the death of Christ has tremendous significance. The Bible declares that by His death Jesus accomplished definite objectives.
Christ made a substitutionary sacrifice for sins as Hebrews 9-10 teaches.
Christ propitiated, or satisfied the righteous wrath of God.
“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (Rom. 3:25).
“Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17).
“And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
Christ reconciled His people to God by removing the enmity, or hostility, between them and the Father.
“For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Rom. 5:10).
“Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).
Christ redeemed those for whom He died from the curse of the Law.
“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Gal. 3:13).
The conclusion of the whole matter is that Jesus Christ did not come to make a potential substitute. He did not come to make a potential propitiation for sins. He did not come to make a potential reconciliation for the elect. He did not come to make a potential redemption but an actual one. To believe in a definite purpose for the death of Christ, and a certain accomplishment of that purpose does not negate the fact that God freely and sincerely offers salvation to everyone as the following passages indicate.
“Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Ezek. 33:11).
“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” (Isa. 55:1).
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
“Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” (Isa. 45:22).
On the night of his conversion C. H. Spurgeon heard these words expounded. He believed, and he was saved. Mr. Spurgeon never tired of that hour that heaven came down and glory filled his soul. Listen now to his simple testimony of redeeming grace.
“In my conversion, the very point lay in making the discovery that I had nothing to do but to look at Christ, and I should be saved. I believe that I had been a very good, attentive hearer; my own impression about myself was that nobody ever listened much better than I did. For years, as a child, I tried to learn the way of salvation; and either did not hear it set forth, which I think cannot quite have been the case, or else I was spiritually blind and deaf, and could not see it and could not hear it; but the good news that I was, as a sinner, to look away from myself to Christ, as much startled me, and came as fresh to me, as any news I ever heard in my life. Had I never read my Bible? Yes, and read it earnestly. Had I never been taught by Christian people? Yes, I had, by mother, and father, and others. Had I not heard the Gospel? Yes, I think I had; and yet, somehow, it was like a new revelation to me that I was to ‘believe and live.’ I confess to have been tutored in piety, put into my cradle by prayerful hands, and lulled to sleep by songs concerning Jesus; but after having heard the gospel continually, with line upon line, precept upon precept, here much and there much, yet, when the Word of the Lord came to me with power, it was as new as if I had lived among the unvisited tribes of Central Africa, and had never heard the tidings of the cleansing fountain filled with blood, drawn from the Savior’s veins.
When, for the first time, I received the gospel to my soul’s salvation, I thought that I had never really heard it before, and I began to think that the preachers to whom I had listened had not truly preached it. But, on looking back, I am inclined to believe that I had heard the gospel fully preached many hundreds of times before, and that this was the difference, — that I then heard it as though I heard it not; and when I did hear it, the message may not have been any more clear in itself than it had been at former times, but the power of the Holy Spirit was present to open my ear, and to guide the message to my heart…
I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair until now had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm, one Sunday morning, while I was going to a certain place of worship. When I could go no further, I turned down a side street, and came to a little Primitive Methodist Chapel. In that chapel there may have been a dozen or fifteen people. I had heard of the Primitive Methodists, how they sang so loudly that they made people’s heads ache; but that did not matter to me. I wanted to know how I might be saved, and if they could tell me that, I did not care how much they made my head ache. The minister did not come that morning; he was snowed up, I suppose. At last, a very thin-looking man, a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach. Now, it is well that preachers should be instructed; but this man was really stupid. He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had little else to say. The text was, —
‘LOOK UNTO ME, AND BE YE SAVED, ALL THE ENDS OF THE EARTH.’ He did not even pronounce the word rightly, but that did not matter. There was, I thought, a glimpse of hope for me in that text. The preacher began thus: — ‘My dear friends, this is a very simple text indeed. It says, “Look.” Now lookin’ don’t take a deal of pains. It ain’t liftin’ your foot or your finger; it is just, “Look.” Well, a man needn’t go to College to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. A man needn’t be worth a thousand a year to be able to look. Anyone can look; even a child can look. But then the text says, Look unto Me.” Ay! said he, in broad essex, ‘many on ye are lookin’ to yourselves, but it’s no use lookin’ there. You’ll never find any comfort in yourselves. Some look to God the Father. No, look to Him by-and-by. Jesus Christ says, “Look unto Me.” Some says, ‘We must wait for the Spirit’s workin’.” You have no business with that just now. Look to Christ. The text says, “Look unto Me.”’
Then the good man followed up his text in this way: — ‘Look unto Me; I am sweatin’ great drops of blood. Look unto Me; I am hangin’ on the cross. Look unto Me; I am dead and buried. Look unto Me; I rise again. Look unto Me; I ascend to Heaven. Look unto Me; I am sittin’ at the Father’s right hand. O poor sinner, look unto Me! Look unto Me!’
When he had gone to about that length, and managed to spin out ten minutes or so, he was at the end of his tether. Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I dare say, with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger. Just fixing his eyes on me, as if he knew all my heart, he said, ‘Young man, you look very miserable.’ Well, I did,; but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made from the pulpit on my personal appearance before. However, it was a good blow, struck right at home. He continued, ‘and you always will be miserable — miserable in life, and miserable in death, — if you don’t obey my text; But if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved.’ Then, lifting up his hands, he shouted, as only a Primitive Methodist could do, ‘Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothing to do but to look and live.’
I saw at once the way of salvation. I know not what else he said, – I did not take notice of it, – I was so possessed with that one thought. Like when the brazen serpent was lifted up, the people only looked and were healed, so it was with me. I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard that word, ‘Look!’ what a charming word it seemed to me! Oh! I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away. There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that instant, and sung with the most enthusiastic of them, of the precious blood or Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to Him. Oh, that somebody had told me this before, ‘Trust Christ, and you shall be saved.’…
It is not everyone who can remember the very day and hour of his deliverance; but, as Richard Knill said, ‘At such a time of day, clang went every harp in Heaven, for Richard Knill was born again,’ it was e’en so with me. The clock of mercy struck in Heaven the hour and moment of my emancipation, for the time had come. Between half-past ten o’clock, when I entered that chapel, and half-past twelve o’clock, when I was back home again, what a change had taken place in me! I had passed from darkness into marvelous light, from death to life. Simply by looking to Jesus, I had been delivered from despair, and I was brought into such a joyous state of mind that, when they saw me at home, they said to me, ‘Something wonderful has happened to you;’ and I was eager to tell them all about it…
I have always considered, with Luther and Calvin, that the sum and substance of the gospel lies in that word substitution, – Christ standing in the stead of man. If I understand the gospel, it is this: I deserve to be lost forever; the only reason why I should not be damned is, that Christ was punished in my stead, and there is no need to execute a sentence twice for sin. On the other hand, I know I cannot enter Heaven unless I have a perfect righteousness; I am absolutely certain I shall never have one of my own, for I find I sin every day; but then Christ had a perfect righteousness, and He said, ‘There, poor sinner, take My garment, and put it on; you shall stand before God as if you were Christ, and I will stand before God as if I had been the sinner; I will suffer in the sinner’s stead, and you shall be rewarded for works which you did not do, but which I did for you.’ I find it very convenient every day to come to Christ as a sinner, as I came at the first. ‘You are no saint,’ says the devil. Well, if I am not, I am a sinner, and Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Sink or swim, I go to Him; other hope I have none. By looking to Him, I received all the faith which inspired me with confidence in His grace; and the word that first drew my soul — ‘Look unto Me,’ — still rings its clarion note in my ears. There I once found conversion, and there I shall ever find refreshing renewal.
And so, you and I go forth to offer free grace to a needy world, believing that the free offer of the gospel to the whole world, without distinction, is a sincere and legitimate offer. But we must understand something. God is not offering the gospel to men who are neutral in their thinking. By nature, and by choice, men are openly hostile to God therefore it is certain that the natural man will always and consistently reject the gospel apart from overpowering grace. Man is defiled and depraved. He is an enemy of the Cross-and therefore a child of eternal wrath. That anyone is even considered for redemption is a testimony to infinite mercy and grace.
In this whole matter, it must not be thought that God is reluctant to save. No sinner has ever pleaded with God for salvation and gone to hell. If a person finds himself the object of redeeming grace, the soul should fall down and ask in wonder,
“Lord, how did I come to salvation?”
Why me Lord?
What have I ever done,
to deserve God’s own Son?”
The Biblical answer is this. God says to ever soul that becomes the object of saving faith, “You are saved because I chose you by my grace.” Those who are saved are saved because the Father gave them to the Son, and the Son has given them eternal life.
The Lord in John 17:3 defines eternal life. “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.” The question that determines our eternal destiny is this.
“Do you know God?
Do you know His Son Jesus Christ?”
Many years ago, a young Billy Graham was invited to appear on the Jack Parr Show. Later, Johnny Carson took over, and made the Tonight Show famous, but Jack Parr was the first host, and he was somewhat of a comedian. With great tact and grace Billy Graham was able to handle the superficiality of the show and ask Mr. Parr on national TV the most important question: “Do you know God?” “Are you right with God?”
Jesus wants believers to understand. If anyone knows God, it is because we were given to the Son by the Father.