In a recent posts over at Craver's blog (see link on the right) he has been discussing T.U.L.I.P. and election. [TULIP is an acrostic for Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints. Otherwise commonly known as the five points of Calvinism.] In comments over there I made mention of John 6:44-45. I want to take a little time here to have a deeper look at John 6 and how it relates to a Reformed understanding of salvation.
As background, when I talk about salvation, while I think we are saved from many things by Jesus, I am primarily referring to being saved from the wrath of God. Some don't like to see salvation in terms of the wrath of God, but Paul says it is God's wrath that is coming on the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 5:6
) and it is God's wrath from which he says Jesus delivers us (1 Thessalonians 1:10
- see also 2:16
). I believe, therefore, that the Bible is clear that we all deserve the wrath of God. We do not deserve and we cannot earn salvation. God is obligated to save no one and would be perfectly just to condemn everyone to Hell. That He does save anyone is completely undeserved mercy. So if God chooses to save none, one, ten, a hundred, a great multitude, or all, He could do so and still be righteous.ContextJohn 6
begins with John's account of the feeding of the 5000. The result of this is that the crowd wants to force Jesus to become king, so He slips away. The disciples enter a boat and begin to cross the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus walks across the water to meet them. The crowd therefor has to search to find Him the next day, and when they do Jesus rebukes them for seeking Him only for the food he provided (there's a message in this for many evangelical Christians, including me).
As part of this rebuke, Jesus tells the crowd that He is the bread from Heaven (the true manna). Then in v. 37 He makes the following pronouncement:
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
Briefly, three of the five points in T.U.L.I.P. can be seen in this verse, if not completely established - (1) the Father gives
is an expression of election; (2) that these will come
is an expression of effectual calling (irresistible grace); and (3) that Jesus will never cast
out is an expression of eternal security (perseverance of the saints). The last point receives additional support from the verses that follow.Central Passage
The crowd is stirred up by what Jesus has said about being the bread of life. In response to the crowd's unrest, Jesus utters the following (John 6:43-45):
43Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45It 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—
After commanding the crowd not to grumble at what He had said, Jesus then adds four things:
(1) No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.
(2) And I will raise him up on the last day.
(3) It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’
(4) Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me
Let's consider each statement.(1)
Jesus tells the crowd that not only is it true that those that the Father gives come to Him (v. 37), but that no one comes apart from the drawing of the Father
. This is the other boundary to v.37. All that the Father gives come, and none come that the Father does not give.
Some would disagree with that and interpret drawing here as the Father "wooing" us. They would claim that this is reference to a general call that goes out to everyone. In other words, the Father draws everyone, but not everyone comes. But the word draw here that John uses is the picture of water being drawn from a well. If you have never had the pleasure of drinking water drawn fresh from a well, fresh, cold water from a deep well is a great pleasure; but the water has no participation in being drawn and cannot refuse to be drawn. It is the work of the drawer which makes the water come.
Leon Morris in his commentary on John writes of the word "draw":
“There is not one example in the New Testament of the use of this verb where the resistance is successful. Always the drawing power is triumphant, as here.”
Those uses include John 18:10
; and Acts 16:19
Also, Jesus is clear that one who is drawn is saved. The evidence is in the assurance that they will be resurrected. So being drawn is not a momentary attraction to Jesus; it does not refer to those who may follow Him for a time and then leave - as many in this crowd and throughout the centuries have done (1 John 2:19
) - but to those who are truly saved. None can come according to (1) apart from the Father's drawing, but those who do come are raised. Jesus is restating v. 37 to say that not only is it certain that all those given will come, but it is only the ones given who come.(3)
Jesus now turns to the Scriptures and quotes Isaiah
. In the context of Isaiah this is a promise to the the Suffering Servant (Jesus) that every one of His children
will be taught by God. Jesus is saying that Isaiah's prophecy is being fulfilled in Him, and therefore the Father teaches those who are truly disciples.(4)
And as all the children are taught by the Father according to (3), so, Jesus says, everyone who hears and learns comes to Him. James Boice says this about this verse in his commentary on John:
Why is it that you and I can present the gospel to some people and never seem to get anywhere, even when the circumstances seem entirely favorable? And why is it that others with maximum problems and limited understanding believe? The only answer is that God has taught the one person and has not taught the other. Moreover, all whom God has taught do come to Jesus.
Think about it this way. There are two boys who grow up together and have largely the same experiences. Both of them hear the gospel proclaimed and one responds and becomes a Christian while the other one rejects the gospel. Why? Why does one receive the good news when the other one rejects the good news?
You have two basic options. Either Jesus is saying here that only one is taught by God and therefore only one comes to faith, or He is saying that both are taught by God and only one hears and learns though God attempted to teach both. But if the latter is true, then there is something in the one that receives the gospel that allows him to be able to hear and makes him a better learner. So either salvation is all of God, or the one boy received the gospel because of something in himself - he contributed to his salvation.Pulling It Together
Notice that in v. 37 and 44 the singular activity of people is coming to Jesus. All other activities are done (or not done) by Jesus or the Father. The Father gives, the Son does not cast out. The Father draws and the Son raises. The emphasis is on what God does. God is the primary actor in salvation.
But are there not some that are drawn but do not come? Does not the Bible say that many are called, but few chosen? Sure, some hear the gospel call and do not respond. But Jesus is not talking about the call that is given in evangelism. That call is an activity of man. Jesus is speaking about the work of the Father.
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
Not some that the Father gives, but all that the Father gives come. And none can come apart from the Father drawing them to Jesus. How is this drawing done? The parallel in v.45 says that those who come are those who learn from the Father. What do we learn? Much, but especially that we are sinners under His wrath who only find safety by hiding in Jesus and His righteousness.A Word of Application for Young (and Some Old) Calvinists
It is frequently charged that Reformed Christians are arrogant and prideful. Too often this has been true. I have seen it in myself and others. Once my eyes were open to see election in the Scriptures, I could not understand why others did not see it. I was sure with the enough time and preparation, I
could teach them.
But if we grasp what Jesus says here (that salvation is all of God and election is marked by learning from God), then I have no grounds for any boasting. Let us assume for a moment that regardless of how well I have defended the doctrine of election, that it is the truth. Then what I know I know not because I'm smarter, more spiritual, or better in any way than any one else. I know whatever I truly know about Jesus and my salvation because the Father has chosen to teach me about Jesus and my salvation. In spiritual matters, we are all terrible students. But God is a great teacher, and can overcome even my learning disability.
This does not mean we are not to study and think (I have other posts around here that deal with that, I think). But it means our study should be saturated in prayer and it means our knowledge should be wrapped in humility. For apart from God revealing Himself to us, we could know nothing
Praise be to Him who has shown the light of the gospel into our darkened hearts.
Labels: atonement, election, gospel, resurrection, Scripture, Truth