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THE GOSPEL PARADOX

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the combined retreat of Calvary Road
Baptist Church and the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, August 24, 2003


"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).


That is the clear call of Christ. He invites you to come to Him for salvation. But then Christ gives another side of the invitation.

"No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44).

That raises certain questions in your mind, such as this: "I am commanded to come to Christ, and yet I am told that I cannot do it." It appears that there is a contradiction, a paradox. But there really is none. Christ commands you to come to Him knowing full well that you cannot do it on your own.

Why would the Lord command you to do something that you cannot do? The answer is really not difficult. Christ wants to show you that you ought to come to Him, but that you have no human power to do so, because you are "dead in sins" (Ephesians 2:1).

It is only when a lost sinner realizes that he is caught between what he ought to do and what he cannot do by his own strength, that he becomes humbled and awakened to the wretched, horrible position he is in.

Luther, Bunyan, Whitefield, the two Wesleys, and Spurgeon were faced with this seeming paradox - they knew they should come to Jesus, but could not.

Have you ever felt that way? It is good if you have, because it means that the Holy Spirit is convincing you of the horrible grip that sin has on you.

The Devil has a mighty hold on your heart, "who are taken captive by him at his will" (II Timothy 2:26). You have no power in yourself to break free from his grip and come to Christ.

You ought to come to Christ, but you cannot. You are "taken captive by [the Devil] at his will." You are his slave, and you cannot break free and come to Christ, any more than a man chained in a prison can break out to freedom. Your very will is bound up with the chains of Satan and the chains of your own ruined and dead Adamic nature.

In this state of enslavement you are imprisoned, in a dark dungeon of despair. The light goes out and you lose all hope of salvation. You think, "I must come to Christ to be saved." But you also know that "No man can come to me, except the Father draw him." You are trapped, like a caged animal, not knowing how to escape from your prison, and yet knowing that you must escape, or you will perish in Hell for all eternity.

The  Holy  Spirit  puts  you  deliberately  into  this  impossible  position,  because  it  is  He  who

"reproves [convinces] the world of sin" (John 16:8).

And the Holy Spirit puts you in the awful state of mind to convince you thoroughly that you are a lost, helpless, and hopeless sinner. You ought to come to Christ - but you cannot and will not do it.

The first reason you cannot come to Christ, though you ought to, is because the preaching does you little good in your ruined, dead state. You should listen to the preaching, but it will do you little good until you are awakened.

"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (I Corinthians 2:14).

You hear sermon after sermon on salvation, and yet you are not affected, because your mind is, as Charles Wesley put it, "Fast bound in sin and nature's night."

Long my imprisoned spirit lay, Fast bound in sin and nature's night.

("And Can It Be That I Should Gain?" by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788).


Your depraved mind is simply not enlightened or helped savingly by the sermons you hear, because your heart is too corrupt to receive the gospel. You must be awakened first by the Holy Spirit before the sermons can help you.

The second reason you cannot come to Christ, though you ought to, is because your heart is hostile toward God.

"Because the carnal mind is enmity against [hostile toward] God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Romans 8:7).

The hostility and inner anger you have toward God may be covered over with a pretense. You come to church. You sit in the pew and seem to be listening to the sermon. But your rebelliously ruined heart turns to other inner thoughts, sometimes terrible, shameful thoughts. At the very least, your mind wanders away to other things during the sermons because your heart is hostile to God. You would never tell him so, but the preacher often seems like an enemy to you. You hide things from him, sometimes excusing yourself that you "don't want to bother him, or upset him," but the real reason is that your rebellious heart is his enemy since he stands and preaches as God's messenger. All of your problems with your preacher lie in the fact that your heart is rebellious against God.

This is also true with your godly parents and godly friends. You hide things from Christian parents and godly friends because they represent God to you, and your ruined heart is in rebellion against God.

Your prayers, if you pray at all, show that your heart is in rebellion against God. In your prayers you make excuses for your sins. You treat them as unimportant, because you are rebelling against God, who thinks of your sins as horrible, and worthy of eternal damnation. But your rebellious heart disagrees with God.

"Because the carnal mind is enmity against God [hostile toward God]" (Romans 8:7).

Some of you literally hate the Christian education you are given. Your parents spend a great deal of money to give you a superior Christian education, and yet you hate it. Why do you hate it? Because your ruined heart is hostile to God, in rebellion against God.

There are others here who have smoked marijuana, and have drunk liquor, and have looked at pornography. And some of you have done worse than that. Why do you do these things? Because you are hostile to God in your ruined heart. Your heart is in rebellion against God.

"Because the carnal mind is enmity against God [hostile toward God]" (Romans 8:7).

Some of you rebel inwardly against church leaders. You may think, "I'm saved. I'm just not saved the way they say!" What else is this but the proof that your inner heart is in great rebellion against God?

Some of you wish that your parents were not such "strict" Christians. You see others your age running to the beach or to some other activity that seems to be more "fun" to you than spending the whole day in church every Sunday. So, there is a root of bitterness, even of anger, and in some cases, actual hatred of your parents for being good Christians. This is nothing more than the rebellion of your wicked, God-hating heart.

Some of you newer young people wish that you were in a church that is less strict. You hear of those churches where they are not expected to attend every Sunday, and you sometimes think it would be better for you to be in a church that is less strict. Little do you realize that in such a church you would soon be swept away into a ruined life, and never be converted. But that wise thought doesn't enter your mind because your heart is hostile to God, and in rebellion against God.

The third reason you cannot come to Christ, though you ought to, is because you are quite satisfied with your heart as it is right now. You don't see anything wrong with being the way you are. Christian people look at you and are filled with anxiety and horror over your rebellious heart, but you are not bothered by it at all in your unawakened spiritual state. You are content to remain just the way you are, until some day the ground opens, at the graveyard, to receive your body, and you go down to the everlasting flames of punishment with Korah. Then it will be said of you, "Woe unto them! for they have perished in the gainsaying [or rebellion] of Core" (Jude 11).

The paradox, the seeming self-contradiction, is this: you ought to come to Christ, and yet you can't do it on your own. I may be criticized as a hyper-Calvinist for saying this, but I do not subscribe to three of the five points of Calvinism. I do believe that you are totally lost, and I do believe in salvation by grace alone.

But how does grace operate in the salvation of lost sinners? John Newton made it clear in his famous hymn, "Amazing Grace":

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved.
     ("Amazing Grace" by John Newton, 1725-1807).

The "fear" he spoke of is not merely a fear of Hell, although it may include that. But, more importantly, it refers to the convincing work of the Holy Spirit,

"When he is come, he will reprove [convince] the world of sin…" (John 16:8).

Iain H. Murray says,

The real impediment [obstacle] to conversion is the absence of conviction of sin. The preacher's first duty is to address that fact by awakening the conscience to the meaning of sin, and to sin understood not simply as a wrong action requiring forgiveness, but as an evil principle governing man's very heart (Iain H. Murray, Revival and Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism 1750-1858, Banner of Truth, 1994, page 370).

A sinner's knowledge of his own evil heart, and his own inability, is part of the knowledge which leads him to see that he needs Christ. When you are become aware that you are spiritually dead, you will then feel entirely dependent on Christ, the Saviour.

Jesus said,

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).

Dr. Gill points out that "labour and are heavy laden" does not refer to those laboring in the service of Satan and sin, because such people are not burdened with sin or weary of it. They do not desire any rest for their souls. But

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden…"

refers to those who are burdened with the guilt of their own consciences, and have been laboring to find peace until they are weary, and have not been able to find peace no matter what they do (cf. John Gill, An Exposition of the New Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint of the 1809 edition, volume 1, p. 124).

You know that you should come to Christ, but you find that you have no human power to do so. It is only when you realize that you are caught between what you ought to do and what you cannot do by your own strength, that you become humbled and awakened to the horrible position you are in. In this terrible situation, you find yourself powerless and hopeless. You are agitated, and confused - and filled with despair, because you think that you can never be saved. In other words - you are lost. That's what it means to be lost! It means that you cannot save yourself!

You must throw yourself on the mercy of Christ. He says,

"I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).

You can only find rest for your soul in Jesus - the Son of God.


(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: John 6:43-47.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith: "Oh Heavy Hearted"

(by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."