Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What John 6 teaches about the Saved

Sometimes it is asserted that John 6:37-65 teach irresistible grace and that God only desires some to be saved; hence, only those whom God has chosen are saved, and the others will all perish. I think it is important we understand exactly what is being said by Jesus in these verses. A brief overview and some conclusions will be drawn. Jesus secures the salvation of those who believe in him.

John says, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” So we see that every member of the set of those who are given to God also come to God the Son. Further, every member of the set of those who come is saved. Therefore, every member of the set of those who are given also comes and is saved.[1]

John 6:39 says, “And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” To be thorough we should point out every member of the set of those given are also raised up at the last day (an allusion to the final resurrection and judgment at the end of the world as understood by first-century Judaism). Because all of the members who are given also come, and all who come are also saved, then all who come and all who are saved will also be raised up at the last day. Remember this, as we will be coming back to it.

John says, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” Calvinists typically use this verse to show that those who are drawn are raised up at the last day. Is that correct? It seems not. First, as one will recall, v. 39 seems to indicate it is those who are given, and hence those who come and are saved, who are raised up. Second, it is noteworthy that the Greek word for “all,” παν, is not utilized. This is because this verse is not meant to teach all who are drawn are saved, but all who are drawn and come are saved.

In case one is not convinced consider the following example: suppose the state of Florida passed a law that says, “No one can have a driver’s license unless they pass the driver’s test and are at least 16 years of age.” No one would conclude that all those who are 16 are guaranteed to pass the driver’s test and hence receive a license. It is only those people who fulfill the conjunction of both conditions who receive the benefit. Similarly, it is only those who are drawn and come who are saved. It is simply reading into the text something that is not there to say “all who are drawn are saved.” It may ultimately be true that all those who are drawn are saved (which I do not believe), but this is not the text that shows it.

John 6:65 says, “And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.” This is in complete accord with v. 44. How? Since all who come are saved, and all who come are given, it follows there are no saved who are not given. Who are the given? This text does not specify; what it does teach is that the Pharisees (v. 41) and some of Christ’s followers (vs. 60, 66) were not given. Why? Because of their unbelief (v. 64)!

It is a theological leap not present or justified by the text to say those who are drawn ultimately come to Christ. While the “saved flow chart” would look like this: savedàcomeàgivenàdrawn, and while the number of the saved, come, and given are identical, no logical or textual maneuvering results in the number of the drawn being identical to the number of the first three groups. What can we learn about the saved from this passage? It seems John 6 actually intended us to learn more about the unsaved. Let us stick with that for now.

                [1] This can be viewed symbolically as: If all As are Bs, and all Bs are Cs, then all As are Cs.

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  1. I agree with you that those who are given come to Jesus, and those who come to Jesus will be raised up, which means that those who are given will be raised up. But I disagree with you about some other things.

    I think John 6:44 DOES imply that all those who are drawn will be raised up. It's not necessary for the passage to use the word 'all' ('pan') to make this point. It could've made that same point in a variety of ways. It could've said, "He who is drawn will be raised." It could've said, "Anyone who is drawn will be raised." It could've said, "The one drawn will be the one who is raised." Any of those would've made the same point.

    What it actually says is, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." Who is it referring to when it says "I will raise him"? Who is the 'him'? Well, it's the same him as the previous part of the sentence where it says, "draw him." So if the father draws him, then he will raise him. Both 'him's refer to the same person. So this is essentially saying the same thing as "the one who is drawn is the one who will be raised." That's why Calvinists think this is saying that all those who are drawn will be raised.

    I agree with you that John 6:44 entails that all who are drawn AND COME are saved. Where we seem to disagree is in whether it's possible to be drawn and NOT come.

    Your analogy with the drivers license doesn't work because your sentence doesn't quite parallel with John 6:44.

    You say that the reason the Pharaisees and some of Jesus' followers were not given is because they did not believe, and you cite 6:64 as your proof text, so let's look at that. Jesus said, "There are some of you who do not believe." Then he went on to explain, "FOR THIS REASON I have said to you that no one can come to me unless it has been granted him from the Father." So the reason Jesus told them that no one can come to him unless the Father grants it is BECAUSE some of them did not believe. Jesus was EXPLAINING their unbelief. The reason they did not believe is because the Father did not grant it. The Father has to grant it BEFORE they can believe. But you say they must believe before they can be given, which 6:64 doesn't tell us.

    Your point of view seems to give us this "saved flowchart": All are drawn/given, some of those drawn/granted will come/believe, all of those who come/believe are given, all those who are given are raised up. So according to your point of view, one must come/believe before they are given. I do not think John 6:37 allows that. It says, "All the father gives me will come to me." So the giving precedes the coming. If you are given, then you will come. Notice the tenses of the verbs. All the father GIVES me WILL COME to me. So if you are given, then you WILL COME.

    to be continued...

  2. I think that Jesus is explaining in John 6 why it is that some believe and some don't. The reason is because the Father gives some people to Jesus but not others. Look at verses 36 and 37 together (paraphrasing for simplicity):

    36: You have seen me and not believed.
    37: All that the father gives me will believe.

    Jesus is making a deductive argument here:

    1. If the father gives you to me, then you will believe in me.
    2. You do not believe in me.
    3. Therefore, the father did not give you to me.

    So clearly the father must give you to Jesus before you can believe in him. Jesus makes the exact same point in John 10 when discussing the parable of the good shepherd. He says in verse 10:26, "But you do not believe because you are not my sheep." So you have to be Jesus' sheep BEFORE you can believe in him. In other words, you have to belong to Jesus before you can believe in him. Believing doesn't cause you to become one of Jesus sheep. It's the other way around. So how DO we become Jesus' sheep? We become Jesus' sheep by the Father giving us to Jesus. 10:29: "The Father, WHO HAS GIVEN THEM TO ME..." So the order goes like this: The father gives people to Jesus, thereby becoming his sheep. As a result, those people come/believe in Jesus. It's all up to the Father.

    Interestingly, in 10:16, Jesus says he has other sheep, and that he must bring them, and that they WILL hear his voice. He is referring to people who have not heard his voice yet, but who are ALREADY his sheep. They ALREADY belong to him. That means the Father has ALREADY given them to him. And it is BECAUSE the Father has given them to Jesus that guarantees that they WILL hear Jesus' voice.

  3. I wrote a couple of blogs on John 6 and 10 in case you're interesting.

  4. Hi Sam, you've posted a lot here! One thing you said was that you thought both "hims" refer to the same person. I am in full agreement. Who does the first "him" refer to? The one who has come. With logical entailments, they can be represented as if-then material conditionals. The problem is that denying the antecedent doesn't get one the denial of the consequent. So, while it follows that if one is saved, he has come, and if one has come, he is given, and if one is given, he is drawn, so that we can say if one is saved, he is drawn; it does not follow that if one is not saved, he is not drawn. Similarly, by giving each term a symbol, say A-D, we don't see anywhere in the text where every member of D is in A, B, or C (even though all in these three sets are a part of each other and a part of D). All my point is here is that it is eisegesis to read into the passage's teaching that all who are drawn are saved.

    I'm also unclear on why you think the analogy does not work; it demonstrates exactly what it sets out to do: that the construction of the rule is such that only those with the conjunction of the conditions receive the benefit, which is what you apparently agree with!The structure of both is: no A can X, unless Y and Z (the Father and Jesus are incidental--we're not wondering about how the conditions are fulfilled, just that they are at all).

    Also, the most natural interpretation of vs. 64-65 is just that they cannot come because they do not believe. The Greek words behind these are not parallel. You come by belief, but they're not identical. All that follows is that if you do not believe, you cannot come! Those who cannot come, cannot come because it is not given. But who are the given? John 6 doesn't say the given are all those who are drawn, as we have seen.

    Your counterexamples are question-begging, if only because they would fit into the given motif perfectly: that is, God doesn't give anyone who does not believe, so if they do not believe, they are not given. It's simply question-begging to insist that God's giving of them causes belief. As these passages only teach the unsaved do not come without being given, it is logically fallacious to infer that therefore all who are drawn are given. Since this passage does not and cannot prove the set of all who are drawn are identical to those who are given, I think the case stands.

  5. With your argument in 10:16, it runs perilously close to some kind of eternal regeneration, whereby everyone who will be is saved from birth; it's just a matter of when they start believing themselves. This makes belief incidental to salvation, or an entailment of it, rather than salvation being appropriated by belief, as taught in the rest of Scripture.

    Scripture often speaks of events yet future as already accomplished; there's no need to build a theological case around it. For instance, did the Romans crucify Jesus at the beginning of the creation? No. Yet the Bible speaks of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Do we, the saved, now have our glorification, as Romans teaches? No. In fact, I believe it was Peter who said it does not yet appear what we are to be. So is there a contradiction? Hardly. We need not regard the manner of speaking of future events as literally already accomplished. However, God does happen to be omniscient, and he may so regard all things that are true! :)

  6. I also want to reiterate that my post above here explicitly denies given and drawn as identical, just to clear that up. Since v. 39 is Jesus saying all those who are given are raised, and prior to that all who are given come, it's well within reason to suggest v. 44 entails both conditions with respect to the one who is being raised. They are drawn and they come.

    Not only is it reasonable, but I find it textually likely. After all, in verse 42, the Jews had just complained that Jesus couldn't be from Heaven, as they knew his father and mother. It would be truly odd for someone hearing this to understand verse 44 to mean "oh, you mean you will raise whomever you draw" and not think anything at all about actually coming to Christ in that verse. But if it is the conjunction that Christ intended (which is not only reasonable but likely), then it's simply theological insertion into the text to say all who are drawn are given, and so on and so forth.

  7. One more brief thing that may help. It is clear all who come are drawn. So:

    1. If X comes, X is drawn.
    1A. If X is not drawn, X does not come.

    But it doesn't follow that
    2. If X does not come, X is not drawn.
    2A. If X is drawn, X comes.

    These are the inverse and the converse, respectively, of the individual proposition. These are only true in the cases where there are identical sets between the antecedent and the consequent.


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