This is a hard saying who can listen to it?

By Mike Ratliff

Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? John 6:59-61 ESV)

One theologian that has helped me a great deal in my journey into the truth, out of darkness into light, is Dr. C. Matthew McMahon at A Puritan’s Mind. He was the pastor of Christ Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church in South Florida. I subscribed to his podcast of his sermons and eagerly listened to his expository preaching that both edified me and brought me to repentance over many things in my life that God’s Word exposed as His light shown in the darkness of my heart.

However, over the last several months, the podcast sermons ceased. I wondered what had happened. Today I heard another podcast from Dr. McMahon’s Wild Boar radio cast. In it he explained why the doors to Christ Covenant had come to be closed. It was a long explanation, but the reason for what happened to that church could be boiled down into one succinct statement, “The people there could not endure sound doctrine.”

Dr. McMahon explained that he never did, nor would he ever, compromise on the truth from God’s Word. From the beginning, people in that church had a problem with the uncompromising nature of what was preached and taught there. The church was organized according to the Westminster Confession with no “modernization” or attempts to bring in “entertainment” or lighter sermons. In the end, only he and his wife were left. Then he explained that what happened there is also an indictment against the state of the “Protestant” or “Evangelical” church in America as a whole. God’s truth is non-compromising. It is pure light and cannot be mixed with subtle compromises and remain the truth. Also, the truth, as presented by our Lord Jesus Christ, always brings people to the point of decision. Do I obey God or not?

The passage I placed at the top of this post along with the title are taken from the Jews reaction to Jesus’ sermon, “I am the Bread of Life.” It begins in John 6:22 and runs to 6:59. Why were they upset?

On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” (John 6:22-25 ESV)

At the beginning of chapter 6 we see Christ feeding the 5,000 from five loaves and two small fish. They sought Him, but could not find Him until they returned to Capernaum in their boats. Were they seeking Him or what He could give them?

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” (John 6:26-27 ESV)

Jesus, who knows all things, knew that their motive for following after Him was to have their “felt needs” met. What was His response? He rebuked them. Is this how a Pastor builds a church? I mean come on! If you rebuke those who seek you then won’t they drive people away. Aren’t you supposed to do all you can to satisfy them and keep them coming? Our Lord told them to quit seeking to have their “felt needs” met as the priority in their lives, but to seek Him as Saviour, the author and finisher of their faith. He rebukes them, basically telling them that they will never get anywhere in God’s Kingdom unless they seek the eternal rather than the temporal.

Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (John 6:28-35 ESV)

They then ask Jesus what must they be doing to be eternally focused. He then replied that the only “work” that would qualify is to believe in Him (Jesus) whom He (God) has sent. This is quite clear. We cannot work our way to God. The only thing that we can do to be in right standing with the Father is to believe in the Son whom He sent. What was the Jews response to that? It was as if they refused to believe in Him unless He did something miraculous like Moses giving them manna in the wilderness. It is as if they have already forgotten the bread and fish from the day before. However, that is not what is happening. They saw the food and remembered it, but they wanted Jesus to prove Himself to their fleshly eyes by continually feeding them food from no where as he did the day before. Jesus then sets them straight. He tells them that God sent the manna, not Moses. Then He alliterates that the true bread from Heaven is Himself. The manna was symbolic of God giving His people living bread unto eternal life through the Son. Did they get it? They ask for “this bread always.” No, they were still equating bread to the manna, not manna to Jesus. Then He tells them plainly, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” The hunger and thirst that is removed from those who believe in Jesus is referring to the spiritual regeneration that comes to those who are saved in Christ.

But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:36-40 ESV)

The first thing Jesus tells them after telling them that He is the bread of life is that they do not believe. They are in unbelief. Then He tells them plainly that only those that the Father gives to Jesus will believe and come to Him. All who come to Him in belief will never be cast out. Why? Jesus came down from Heaven to do the will of God, which is to lose nothing of all that He (God) has given to Him (Jesus) and those will be raised up on the last day. The will of the Father is that all who look on the Son and believe should have eternal life and be raised up on the last day.

So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 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 who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:41-58 ESV)

Once again the Jews our Lord is speaking to prove that they are in unbelief by their words. Then our Lord plainly tells them and us, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” Here our Lord ties this statement back to the earlier passage from 6:36-40. Those that the Father draws unto the Son are the same ones that He has given to the Son. They are to be raised on the last day. Then our Lord relates these truths to those spoken by the Prophets in what we call the Old Testament. In v45 Jesus quotes from Isaiah 54:13, Jeremiah 31:34 and Micah 4:2. He says that God Himself will teach those who come to Him in belief. Everyone who comes to Jesus does so because of God teaching them the truth about Him. All who believe in Jesus because of this education from God have eternal life. All who eat of the bread of life will never die eternally. Yes, all die physically, but those in Christ have eternal life because they have partaken of the true food of Christ’s blood and flesh. This is symbolically speaking of the blood Covenant that will be cut when Jesus died on the cross. Those who believe in Him have eternal life and are partakers of this Covenant. They have been resurrected from death to life. They are New Creations. They will live forever.

Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. (John 6:59-66 ESV)

Again, Jesus words divide those in unbelief from those who do believe. Those who do believe were those given to Him by the Father. Those who refuse to believe are laboring according to the flesh and it is of no avail. Those who want to be part of this religion, but who are in unbelief will not tolerate hard sayings. They will not abide sound doctrine. They will want compromise and something they can do in their abilities in order to come to God instead of conforming to God’s truth. They will leave those who preach uncompromising truth and seek out teachers who preach what they want to hear. Therefore, churches that are committed to never compromising will never be large churches.

So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67-69 ESV)

Peter was right. Jesus is the only source of eternal life. Those who, like Peter, know that Jesus is the Holy One of God and no one comes to the Father except through the Son, are also called and therefore believe. The 21st Century church is very sick. It is fast moving into apostasy. It is becoming man-centered instead of God glorifying. It is full of people in unbelief. The statements by our Lord in the passages we read here from John 6 are mostly ignored by most professing Christians. Why? It is very clear that only those God calls and draws and teaches come to Christ and they are given to Him. They are all saved eternally. This means that salvation is not a work of Man, but of God. Those who are drawn believe and are saved. However, this would mean that men could not schedule revivals or plan for conversions or follow a formula to see people get saved. Our part in this plan is simply to preach the Gospel and preach the truth from God’s Word as we are supposed to do. It is God who saves, not us. Also, and most damning, it means that man-focused “church” is not of God.

20 thoughts on “This is a hard saying who can listen to it?

  1. AAAAAMEN Mike! Preach it!! :) THIS is what the so called ‘churches’ need to hear out there in the world. But when they do preach it, the doors close? Wow, who would of thought that our generation would be the ones to see all what Jesus said would happen would be in our time? Look up!! So as a writer Mike, how would you say that this is exciting but a little scary too?

  2. Paul,

    I would say that I look at the signs of Apostasy in the visible church and that makes me look to the Lord and the encroaching darkness with both trepidation and sorrow for those in darkness while wanting with my whole heart to see my Lord return in victory. I am convinced that we will see Him return in our lifetime. Things are going to get scary, but that means we need to get serious about preparing our hearts with our obedience and total submission and surrender to our Lord. Come soon Lord Jesus!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  3. Amen Mike,
    Very good message! It is pretty clear that people don’t seem to care. It is scary but Jesus already overcame this world so we know how it ends. He will be coming on a cloud !! In the meantime I don’t really know what’s going to happen. The world will get more evil, right? Bless you Mike for keeping us alert..We need to be. It’s easy to get distracted from this.

  4. Mike, I appreciate the explaining you have done here on these passages from John 6. We can never be directed too often to gaze at the wonder and awe of Jesus, the Bread of Life. It is safe for the Christian to do and it is the faithful call to the unregenerate (safe for the unregenerate, too).

    Thank you

  5. It is very easy to become distracted from this Deb. You are right. Things are going to get worse, but according to Romans 8:28 that all things work together for the best unto them that love God. So, we are in His hands. His will be done!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  6. This is a very good write-up. In fact, this was the subject of a message we received at our church this weekend. The time is here right now where people detest sound doctrine, preferring spiritual junk food. I thank God that my pastor boldly declares that he will never compromise the truth for fellowship or growth (You may want to hear him speak here: . The paradox is amazing: at a time when the so-called gospel is spreading around the world like never before, the true gospel has never been more under attack more than now.

  7. Paul C.,

    I rejoice with you that you have a Pastor like that. Amen! Yes, the “gospel” is spreading around the world, but much of it is the man-oriented, man-focused non-gospel of easy believism. I would hate to be those people who are spreading that one when they stand before our Lord in Judgement.

    Thanks for the link brother!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  8. While so many of my family and friends, even those who are believers, are fearing for all that is going on in the world right now, I am rejoicing and excited and in awe at what we are seeing being fulfilled in His word. We must continue in the fields for the time is short

  9. Mike…
    from reading this Pastor’s site, he seems very “angry” at what happened. Does he ever wonder if it wasn’t others but him? Does he ever wonder what would happen if he stayed to preach instead of close up shop?

    I don’t know, but his whole tone sounds a bit over the top for me. Seems to focus on what HE has done and what the people didn’t do, maybe there needs to be more inner testing before going as far as he has done.

    In my humble opinion…but I also don’t know the man, but he doesn’t come across very loving or caring.

  10. Seth,

    I suggest that you listen to some of his sermons that are also archived there. How could he stay and preach if no one is there? I have heard his sermons and they are very good. I think the tone of his voice on that piece reflected the “hurt” of being rejected for telling the truth. If we tell the truth, fully, holding nothing back it will always divide people. That is something I have experienced to some extent here as well. My reaction to it is very hard to define in simple words. It is very devastating, yet there is a sense of knowing God is in it and this is how Our Lord felt when his disciples no longer walked with Him.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  11. Yeah…but to be disdained for the Gospel is one thing, but to die on a hill for the RPW and Westminster Confession is way off base in my view…

    I would rather worship with those who I know love Christ and uphold His word than fold up shop and call out the whole southern state as backsliders, or worse, pagans…

    did you read his rant on the site?

    very cold and very seemingly hateful, not because of the Gospel but because of the RPW and Westminster.

  12. Seth,

    Yes, I caught that and I agree with you about that. I was attributing much of his anger to the rejection. I think we need to pray for this man to forgive those who have hurt him.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  13. Mike, I am so glad you and Seth have talked about praying for Dr. McMahon. I have been in prayer for him off and on through the day, since I read the statement called Reformation Repudiation. The tone deeply troubled me for him. As well, what seemed to be a wrong emphasis of offence. And wrong words seemed to be captitalized giving them a special status that is beyond biblical.

    I tried to comment about this earlier but was just too wordy and too unclear in what troubled me. So I limited my comment to being thankful to what you had wrote (which I am.)

    I wanted to ask you, too, if where he refered to covenanted believers, which he capitalizes, is he meaning the regenerate?

    And when he is talking about vows made… do you know what that is refering to? I can think of no situation given in the New Testament that either instructs or examples the taking of vows with regard to the church (meaning the body/bride of Christ).

    I rejoiced in reading of the reverent worship service he described. I did not know what the “Regulative Principle” was, and was glad to have learned of it. Seems biblical and God honouring in design.

    I realize that I have asked you questions that you possibly cannot answer since you did not write the statement. Kim T

  14. Kim,

    Yes, when I listened to him read the Reformation Repudiation yesterday it was different than how the document read in that I could tell the man was hurt, deeply hurt, by what had happened. I remember when those things like that happened to me and it is really devastating and can lead to bitterness if it isn’t handled with forgiveness all in God’s grace.

    As far as what covenanted believers and vows, I believe the former is referring to those in the blood covenant with our Lord so they would have to be regenerate in that sense, but I think he may be referring to professing believers who claim to be in that covenant whether they really are or not. In any case I think he is referring to Reformed Christians. The latter, the vows, is referring to the vows of accountability to the body of believers at that particular church. All of this comes from the Westminster Confession with which I am not that familiar. I am a Baptist and I believe my theology is Reformed, but I have never been part of the Presbyterian movement. I believe I need to check this out.

    So, yes, let us pray for Dr. McMahon. He is hurt and when we are hurt like that we say things that are hurtful and not really what we should say so let us simply lift the man up in prayer and also for his congregation that God will reconcile them at least as brothers and sisters in Christ.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  15. Thanks Seth. I am very glad that he has repented and is seeking forgiveness. He has really helped me in the past. We need to continue to pray for him.

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