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Lazarus Raised — Irresistible Grace
“And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.” (John 11:1-12:11)
Do you know anything about the love-calls of our omnipotent Savior? It is impossible not to know them, if you have ever heard them. The soul that hears the voice of the Son of God, though he never heard it before, knows the sweet sound of the Shepherd’s voice. When the Savior speaks to a sinner dead in trespasses and sins, he speaks with…
· A Loud Voice that Cannot be Missed (John 11:43).
· A Powerful Voice that Cannot be Resisted — “The voice of the Lord is powerful: the voice of the Lord is full of majesty!” (John 11:44; Psalm 29:3-11)
· A Still Small Voice that No One Hears but the One Called (1 Kings 19:9-14).
· A Sweet, Loving, Winning Voice that Causes the One Called to Arise and Seek the Lord (Song of Solomon 5:2).
· And A Personal Voice that Causes the One Called to Know He is Called (Luke 19:5).
It is the responsibility of God’s church and of every Gospel preacher to preach the Gospel to all men as the Lord gives them opportunity (Mark 16:15-16). I recognize that the greatest privilege that has ever been bestowed upon a man is the privilege of preaching the Gospel to men, to speak to men on God’s behalf. The highest calling in the world, the greatest privilege that can be given to a mortal man is to be sent of God to proclaim the Gospel of redeeming grace to perishing men. But, while this is the greatest privilege in the world, it is also the greatest responsibility in the world. It is an awesome thing to speak to men with immortal souls on the behalf of the eternal God.
In fulfilling this responsibility, basically, three things are required of a man: sincerity, simplicity, and steadfastness. The preacher must be sincere in his motives, free of deceit, serving the souls of men, not himself. He must preach the Gospel with simplicity. To preach with simplicity is to preach with bold decisiveness, with clarity, the singular message of redemption accomplished by the sin-atoning sacrifice of Christ. To preach the Gospel with simplicity is to preach so as to be understood. And we must be steadfast, never allowing ourselves to be turned aside or diverted in any way from our purpose and our message.
It is the responsibility of all who hear the Gospel to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 6:1-2). — “God commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” I rejoice to declare to all men everywhere, that any sinner in all the world who calls upon Christ in true faith shall be saved. It is written, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” I know that all are responsible before God to believe that which is plainly revealed in his Word. And I know that all who believe on Christ shall be saved (Acts 16:31). Indeed, if you believe, God has saved you! — “He that believeth on the Son of God hath everlasting life!”
Yet, I know that no man by nature can or will come to Christ. Fallen man has neither the desire nor the ability to trust Christ (John 5:40; 6:44). It is not within the realm of man’s power, and it is not within the scope of his heart’s desire to come to Christ. Unless God does for a sinner what that sinner cannot and will not do for himself, he will perish. None can believe, except God himself create faith in them and cause them to trust his Son.
And we know that true saving faith is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8; John 6:37-40). This is our Savior’s doctrine. — No one can come. — Anyone may come. — Someone shall come. — “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power!” — And all who do come to him shall be saved forever! — “Blessed is the man whom thou choosest and causest to approach unto thee.”
If any man comes to Christ, believing on him unto life everlasting, he does so because God has drawn him to Christ by the effectual power and irresistible grace of his Spirit. True faith is the result of, not the cause of, Divine grace. Saving faith is created in a man’s heart by the mighty, sovereign operations of God the Holy Spirit in omnipotent, saving grace We who believe, believe “by the greatness of his power” and “according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ Jesus when he raised him from the dead” (Ephesians 1:19-20). The faith that we have and exercise in Christ is performed in us by “the operation of God” (Colossians 2:12).
This creation of faith in the heart, by which a person is drawn to Christ, is what we call “Effectual Calling,” or “Irresistible Grace.” The effectual calling of the Holy Spirit is that sovereign, gracious, irresistible work and operation of God the Holy Spirit, which changes a man’s heart and will, causing him to come to Christ and be saved by faith in him. Effectual calling is the tender influence, overpowering love, compelling grace, and irresistible power of God the Holy Spirit which causes a person to gladly and willingly receive Christ as Lord and Savior. Those who by nature, if left to themselves, would not come to Christ, are made willing to come to him in effectual calling.
There are many, many pictures of this effectual calling and irresistible grace in the Scriptures, pictures that beautifully illustrate this blessed act of God’s grace by which chosen, redeemed sinners are made to experience that grace that was given to them in Christ Jesus before the worlds were made, many pictures of grace, by which God illustrates the Gospel message of salvation by grace alone. One of the most instructive of these pictures is the resurrection of Lazarus. In the 11th and 12th chapters of John’s Gospel, the Holy Spirit tells us five things about Lazarus and his call from death to life that picture God’s irresistible grace in the salvation of his elect.
First, Lazarus’ condition is plainly declared in John 11:14. Lazarus was dead. — “Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.” That is the state of all human beings by nature, spiritually dead, dead in trespasses and sins, incapable of either knowing or changing their condition (Romans 5:12). The dead cannot move toward God. The dead have neither will nor ability to come to Christ. The dead do not desire God’s salvation. The dead cannot see. The dead cannot understand. The dead must be raised from death to life by the power of God; that resurrection is the new birth, the first resurrection (John 5:25; Ephesians 2:1-10; Revelation 20:6). As Lazarus’ sickness and death was “for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby” (v. 3), so our sin and death in our father Adam was “for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.”
Look at John 11:43 and you will see Lazarus’ calling. That is the second thing I want you to see. Lazarus’ calling was a picture of our calling, the effectual, irresistible call of God’s omnipotent grace by which all who are saved are saved. — “And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.” When the Lord Jesus cried, “Lazarus, come forth,” the dead man arose to life.
There is a general call which goes out to all men whenever the Gospel is preached; but this was not a general call. This was a personal, particular, powerful call, irresistible, effectual, and distinguishing. The only way any sinner will ever be saved is if the Son of God, by the power of his Spirit, calls him from death to life. And all who are called by him live by him, with him, and in him (John 5:25). Our election and redemption are made manifest and made sure to our souls by this act of God’s omnipotent mercy (1 Thessalonians 1:4-5).
“And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.” — Once he was called, Lazarus was converted. His conversion was both immediate and gradual. He was immediately changed from death to life. But he was gradually freed from his “grave clothes”. And sinners saved by grace are immediately transformed into a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). But throughout our lives we are being saved, gradually, from the “grave clothes” of sin and unbelief, legalism and self-righteousness, and religious customs, traditions, and rituals (2 Corinthians 7:1). The Savior’s command is, “Loose him, and let him go” (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1). And by the preaching of the Gospel, saved sinners are loosed, not bound with fetters of law, but loosed in the blessed liberty of grace.
Fourth, in chapter 12 we see Lazarus sitting at the table with the Lord Jesus in sweet communion. — “Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him” (vv. 1-2).
Soon after his resurrection, Lazarus is found sitting at the table with his Savior. Do not miss this: — The house and the table belonged to Lazarus; but the Master of the house was Christ. Lazarus surrendered all to his Lord (Luke 14:25-33). The believing, surrendered heart is the heart with which Christ holds sweet communion. I can almost hear Lazarus’ heart, as he sat there at the table with the Lord Jesus…
“I am Thine, O Lord! I have heard Thy voice;
And it told Thy love to me;
But I long to rise in the arms of faith,
And be closer drawn to Thee!
Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord,
By the pow'r of grace divine;
Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope,
And my will be lost in Thine!”
Fifth, in John 12:9-11 we find Lazarus in the midst of terrible conflict, with men trying to kill him. Because of Lazarus, many others believed; but the Jews sought to kill him. Why? Because he had been raised from the dead. That is all. He had been the blessed recipient of God’s great grace, and they had not. Therefore, they sought to kill him. This is the last we hear of Lazarus. His life with Christ was a life of unceasing conflict in this world. And all who believe will find it so with them. That is the way it was in the beginning; and that is the way it shall be until the end (Genesis 4:1-8; John 16:33).
“The Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.”
The Lord God said to Cain, “If your worship is evil, sin lies at the door of your guilty conscience still, tormenting you. Abel’s love for you has not changed. He still desires you as his brother. He still respects you as his elder brother, as the firstborn of your father.” Still, Cain murdered Abel, for just one reason. Abel was accepted of God in and by Christ. Abel believed God; and Cain, trusting his own righteousness, was still guilty before God. And he knew it.
Abel was chosen. Therefore Abel was redeemed. Being chosen and redeemed, Abel was called. Because he was called, Abel believed. Believing on the Son of God, Abel was justified. Justified in Christ, Abel was accepted and his conscience was clear before God.
Do you know anything about the love-calls of our omnipotent Savior? How I thank God for that sovereign, free, irresistible grace by which I am called! How I praise him that when he called me, he would not take “No” for an answer! O blessed Holy Spirit, call out chosen sinners! O Lord Jesus, blessed Friend of sinners, let the dead now hear your voice that they may live!
“Am I called? And can it be?
Has my Savior chosen me?
Guilty, wretched as I am,
Has He named my worthless name?
Vilest of the vile am I,
Dare I raise my hopes so high?
Am I called? I dare not stay,
Cannot, must not disobey:
Here I lay me at Thy feet,
Clinging to the Mercy-Seat:
Thine I am, and Thine alone;
Lord, with me Thy will be done.
Am I called? What shall I bring
As an offering to my King?
Poor, and blind, and naked I,
Trembling at Thy footstool lie;
Nought but sin I call my own,
Nor for sin can sin atone.
Am I called? An heir of God!
Washed, redeemed, by precious blood!
Father, lead me in Thy hand,
Guide me to that better land,
Where my soul shall be at rest,
Pillowed on my Savior’s breast.”