These wonderful words of Jesus are precious to his followers because they display his electing love for them:
“This showed them that his love was first with them – that he had a love for them when they were dead in sins. And then he showed them that it was love that would make them holy.”
So wrote Robert Murray MCheyne in a sermon he preached in the mid-19th century. He said this text (John 15:16) tells these three truths:
Men naturally do not choose Christ. This was true of the apostles; this is true of all that will ever believe to the end of the world. The natural ear is so deaf that it cannot hear. The natural eye is so blind that it cannot see Christ. It is true in one sense that every disciple chooses Christ – but it is when God opens the eye to see him, when God gives strength to the withered arm to embrace him. Every awakened sinner is willing to embrace Christ, but not til he is made willing.
Christ chooses his own disciples. Christ looked upon them with a look of divine love and said, ‘I have chosen you.’ Christ chooses his own before they seek him. One might ask, ‘Why did he choose me?’ I answer, the very reason why he chose you was the good pleasure of his will. There is no reason in the creature, the reason is in him who chooses. ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.’ See Malachi 1:2, Rom. 9:15-16, Eph. 1.
Christ not only chooses who are to be saved, but he chooses the way. He not only chooses the beginning and the end, he chooses the middle also. Eph. 1:4, Rom. 8. Salvation is like a golden chain let down from heaven to earth. Two links are in the hand of God – election and final salvation. But some of the links are on earth – conversion, adoption, etc. Christ never chooses a man to believe, and then makes him leap to glory. This takes away the teeth out of all the objections raised against this holy doctrine of election. Some may say, ‘If I am elected, I will be saved, I can live as I like.’ No; if you live an unholy life you will not be saved. Some may say, ‘If I am not elected, I will not be saved, do as I like.’ Whether you are elected or not, I known not, but this I know: if you believe on Christ you will be saved.
This is an edited summary of a longer sermon by M’Cheyne, found in The Sermons of Robert Murray M’Cheyne, p. 138ff.