Article 6

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What we Believe







"Can the Dead Eat and Drink?"

"Then said Jesus unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you" (Jn. 6:53).

Is our Lord teaching that those who are spiritually dead must partake of Him to first have spiritual life? This is a very important question, for to miss the truth here is to plunge one's self into error. Our Lord's words of "eating his flesh" and "drinking His blood" are certainly of a spiritual nature and not physical. This has nothing to do with the Lord's Table and the partaking of unleavened bread and wine. The partaking Christ is speaking of is that of coming to Christ (vv. 35,37,44-45,65) and believing on Him (vv. 35,40,47,64). Coming and believing are not two separate fruits of grace, that is, a person does not come to Christ as an unbeliever and then believe on Him. Coming and believing is the two-fold result of the elect being regenerated by the Spirit and then converted by the truth of the gospel. By the grace of God's sovereign election and the work of the Spirit in regeneration men and women come to Christ believing when they hear the truth of the gospel, and thus they partake of His flesh and blood.

For what reason then is it that they come believing on Christ the Lord? It is not to get life but because life is a present reality in them by the grace of God (vs. 47). Note that our Lord said: "He that believeth on me HATH (not gets or receives) everlasting life." It is then the spiritually living who comes believing Christ (vv. 44-45,65). "It" must be given for a person to come, but what exactly is the "it" which is given? To say the coming is given is correct, but this is an over simplification of the profound truth expressed here by our Lord. In what state are men when they come according to this passage? spiritually dead or alive? This truth goes to the heart of the doctrine of the grace of God in Christ. Since no man can come except the Father first draw them, then their total lack of ability to come is a reality. The answer of scripture to this is that men and women are spiritually dead, thus totally unable to come believing on Christ. The fact that our Lord told some of the Jews: "And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life" (Jn. 5:40) is not that dead men can come to get life but rather that they will not because they are dead. If only they had a will able to come believing they would, but the will to come believing is what God must give since they cannot. The "it" is the will able to come believing. The giving of a will able to come believing is the direct fruit of regeneration.

This is the truth behind our Lords words in John 6:53. The spiritually dead will not eat and drink because dead men cannot eat and drink. In John 6:53 our Lord is not speaking of the initial impartation of life but the manifesting and continuing nature of that life which God gives sovereignly. Those who eat and drink not of Christ "have" no life in them. The only way we can truly know of life from God is to have been enabled by God thus actually coming to Christ believing. The error behind most of the preaching in our day is that they are trying to force-feed Christ to men and women who are dead.

Any person who thinks their preaching can cause the dead to eat and drink know not the truth. Spiritual things do not necessarily produces spiritual things. Spiritual preaching does not produce spiritual persons, only spiritual persons will respond to spiritual preaching, and it is the Spirit Himself who produces these persons (I Cor. 2:11-15). Our Lord said: "It is the spirit [should be "Spirit" to signify the Holy Spirit for it is a proper noun] that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit [breath], and they are life [vitality -- or, they are the life force and the vitality]" (Jn. 6:63). Since it is the Holy Spirit that quickeneth and the flesh [human nature itself] has no profit, then only those quickened by the Spirit will hear the words spoken by Christ [yea even the life force and vitality of the words now recorded in the scripture, both of Old and New Testaments] and partake of the life therein. The living live by the words spoken by Christ; but the dead cannot, will not, and do not live by the words spoken by Christ. Did the words of Christ profit all who heard them at that time? No! But why? It was because they could not come believing for the Father had not given it to them to come believing (vv. 64-65).

Our Lord here taught much more than sovereign election. He taught man's total depravity and the absolute necessity of sovereign regeneration as well. If the preaching of the gospel is the means of regeneration then all the elect would immediately respond under gospel preaching at first hearing. If this is not so then it is God who hinders one elect person from believing, while another hears at the same time and does believe, rather than their depravity being the cause, for the might of that message to save [or quicken] one should have been mighty enough to save the other. There is no escape from this reality. As Christ lived by the Father, even so do does the partaker of Christ live by Christ (vs. 57). Did Christ live by the Father as one dead then made alive by hearing God's word? No! Christ lived by the Father as one who was sent by the Father. It was life unto life, not death unto life, and even so it is with the believer and Christ. Men and women, chosen by God the Father before the world was, do not hear, come and believe to be made alive. Neither must they hear, be made alive by the hearing, then come believing. Our Lord's words allow for neither of these. The elect are made alive so that they might spiritually hear, come and believe, and live by Christ. These may first hear (physically -- we have ways for even the deaf and blind to actually understand words) and then be made alive by the Spirit, then remember spiritually what they previously heard physically, or hear again physically and for the first time hear spiritually, and come believing to live by Christ; or they might be made alive by the Spirit, then hear physically with a spiritual ear and come believing to live by Christ. Even James, the brother of our Lord through Mary and later called an apostle and servant of Jesus Christ, did not believe at first. Were the words of God (yea even Christ) less spirit and life at first than they were later? No! But once it was given to him to come (life from God) then he came to his brother believing Him as the Christ of God.

Again I say, dead men do not eat and drink. This is true in the spiritual realm as well as the physical. The elect are not in some spiritual coma and need only to be fed and tended to with the gospel until they awaken; they are spiritually dead and must be raised from the grave of total depravity to hear the words of spirit and life, and eat and drink Him who is life. All soul winning done by men is the flesh, for how can a man who is dead in trespasses and sins have his soul won? He needs not be won but raised from the dead, and those raised are won by the Christ whom they hear about in the gospel. It is Christ the Lord Himself who holds the affections and devotion of the hearts of the living, and it is Christ Himself who sustains the life of the believer who lives as he feasts upon the Person of the Living Word as revealed in the written word. While those who are spiritually dead but professors only will go back and walk no more with Christ (Jn. 6:66) those who are alive by the Spirit will cry out: "To whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life" (Jn. 6:67). To feast upon Christ the Bread from heaven is the privilege of the living only! What a privilege indeed to feast upon Him!

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