John 7:37-38 – On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
OK, so last time I cited Jesus, he said that no one can come to him unless it is granted to him by the Father (John 6:65). Now, in John 7, Jesus is making an open call for anyone who thirsts to come to him in faith, and anyone who comes to him in faith will have rivers of living water. Jesus says that anyone who is willing to come to him, believing in him, will receive salvation. Are these two thoughts at odds?
Those who would argue against the sovereignty of God in our salvation would say that John 7:37-38 clearly contradicts the idea that God first chooses those who will be saved. They claim that Jesus could not make such a call for people to come to him if in fact God chooses who comes. But let us recognize that Jesus’ words here say nothing about what God is doing here. Jesus’ open call is a promise that all who come to him in faith will receive salvation. No one who believes in election denies that truth. Nor does Jesus’ call eliminate the necessity for anyone who comes to him to have first been given that desire as a gift from God the Father.
One of the major, repeated, and false arguments against those who believe in predestination is that a belief in predestination eliminates a person’s evangelistic fervor. “If we believe that God chooses who will be saved,” the skeptic argues, “why would anyone actually do evangelism at all.” This is a false caricature of the position of those who believe in God’s sovereignty. Jesus, in John 6:65 said that no one (no person at all) can (has the ability to) come to me (believe in Jesus for salvation) unless it is first (before the belief occurs) granted to him (given as a gift) by the Father (God is the author of all human salvation). But that same Jesus boldly stood up in the next chapter of John’s gospel, and called for all who were thirsty to come to him for salvation. He made this call knowing full well that it would take a miracle from the Father for any of them to have the true thirst that would lead them to belief in Jesus and eternal life. Jesus’ evangelism was in no way stifled by his understanding that salvation, including the ability to come to Jesus in faith, is a gift granted by the Father.
“What about the lost person,” the skeptic cries. This passage as well as John 6:65 tells us nothing about them. Those without a thirst for Christ do not come—they do not want to. Instead, God allows them the perfect freedom to do what they desire. However, since the desire of men’s hearts is naturally to oppose God unless God breaks in and gives them the desire to come to him, no one dare accuse God of wrong doing in the case of those who do not come to him. If someone does not come, they have been allowed by God to live as they desire.
So, whether you are a Calvinist or Arminian, you are called by God to follow the model of the Lord Jesus in this passage. You stand boldly before a lost and dying world, and you call for all who are thirsty to come to Jesus and receive life. The only true question is, when people do come, whom do you glorify? Do you give 100% of the credit and glory to God the Father for saving the lost soul? Or, do you give 99.9% of the credit to God, while saving.1% for the person who, by their will, made the right choice? While I love those who disagree with me on this front and would certainly not find this as a reason for the breaking of Christian fellowship, I also believe that the position that says that salvation is all of God from start to finish offers the most glory to God and holds more faithfully to the Bible.