Ordo Salutis V: God Speaks To The Dead
John 6:44-47 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—not that anyone has seen the Father except he is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.
When God calls out, he is never speaking to hear himself speak. His words are never idle (Isaiah 55:11) but they have the power to give sight to the blind, for the lame to walk, to set the captives free, to save souls. In other words, to make dead people come alive. This is the gospel, this is the calling: the calling of God is drawing those to himself through the bloodshed and broken body of Jesus Christ by the power manifested in His Spirit.
This is the first instance of the calling: the breath of life.
Genesis 2:5-7 When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
When God breathed his essence into our original parents, it wasn’t just simply oxygen filling our lungs, it was His Spirit. This is what made us different from all of creation and it is why Paul says that we “who have the firstfruits of the Spirit” (Romans 8:23) because God breathed his life into our bodies, giving us the very fullness of life. He was in us and we were with him.
Then the Fall came. We did not believe the truth of God’s word that gives life and sustains life. He spoke his perfect plan to us. We chose not to believe that plan and instead, exchanged it for our own plan of peace. In that fateful exchange, all of creation shattered. At that moment, we went from destiny of life and peace to a destiny of death and destruction (Romans 8:6).
Despite our folly, despite our wickedness, despite our wickedness and despite our iniquities, God still calls out the gospel to our original parents:
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
And upon hearing God’s promise that he will do everything to make everything right, correct, perfect and peaceful again, Adam and Eve believed in God and because they believed God again, he clothed them in His provision (Genesis 3:21). And if you see any time in the Bible that one is clothed by God, it is always clothed in righteousness. (Job 29:14, Psalm 132:9,Isaiah 59:17, Isaiah 61:10 Cf. Luke 15:11-32, Ephesians 6:14)
Let’s keep going down the list.
Romans 3:23 declares all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Genesis 6:5 starts out by God seeing the wickedness of man on the earth, not only in their actions but at the root level of their hearts and minds where all they did was think evil thoughts continuously. Verse 6, God says, “I am sorry I have ever made man and verse 7, God decrees “I am going to wipe out every breathing thing on the earth because I am so sorry I have made them.”
Yet in God’s overwhelming mercy and beautiful grace, he saves one wicked, depraved, horrible, sinful man and his family to be saved. “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8) You know the rest of the story: God tells Noah, “I am going to wipe everything off the earth. I need you to build a boat. Not a canoe, not a kayak, not a clipper, I need you to build a really really big ship: an ark. Yea, I know it has never rained—don’t worry about that so much.” Noah, upon hearing the calling of God, believes and now has the power to be obedient.
One last point before the horse is truly beaten. There was this Gentile, pagan, living life like any other sinner would: not worshipping God, not seeking him, not chasing him… just living life. And God calls out to him, “Abram, I need you to leave your dad’s house and your country. I am going to guide you where you are going to go. I am going to use you, you really old man, and through your offspring, I am going to build a nation of my people.” Which wouldn’t be that big of a deal except Abram and Sara have no children. Yet, from God’s calling and by His power, Abram believed.
Four times in the New Testament by Paul and James they will simply quote Genesis 15:6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
But what is the truly awesome power of the effectual calling of God? These guys were basic living, with ears that can hear and an intellect to process such words and had the power to discern what is true or not, whether they came from God or not. Except that Paul will quote the Psalm in Romans 3:10-12 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Paul will go one step further in Ephesians 2 and states emphatically, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:1-3)
Was Paul using strong language in saying that we were basically dead? Yet God gives us the perfect analogy:
Ezekiel 37:1-14 The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.”
So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.
Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.”
Not only it is the perfect historical account of God’s breath and God’s words bringing life in Genesis, God’s calling used for salvation throughout the Bible and theologically proven by the prophecies of Ezekiel and the accounts of Paul, the Word himself, Jesus Christ, shows us this way in John 11.
John 11:1-44 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”
Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
John 11 is the clearest, boldest, truest example of our salvation. Like Lazarus, we were dead. Yet, God loved us even we could not love God because dead men cannot truly love or have the capacity to fully love. God came to us because dead men cannot walk to God. In his compassion alone, in his mercy alone and having nothing to do with our will and our exertion because dead men cannot will and exert themselves in order to save themselves (Romans 9:15-18), the Almighty God, who alone has power to create and make the dead now alive, calls out to each and every single one of us,
“Come forth! Come to the cross. Lay your sins upon me. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden by the weight of sin and iniquities, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest and peace for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Romans 8:10–11 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.