JOHN 6:37, 44 – A CALVINIST PROOF-TEXT
EXEGETICALLY EXPLAINED BY JESSE MORRELL
I have greatly enjoyed using My Facebook as a ministry tool, as it has provided great opportunities for biblical discussions that edify believers in the service of Christ.
I recently published on this blog an article, which I then posted on My Facebook, called: Do Men Need to Repent of Sin or Just of Unbelief and Self-Righteousness? Are All Good Works Filthy Rags? Antinomianism Refuted by Jesse Morrell
On Facebook, someone quoted from that article on their status:
“But biblical repentance for the remission of sins is not self-righteousness, as it is not a choice that we make independent of God all by ourselves, but a choice that we make under His divine influence. It is a choice that we made under the influence of the gospel. So it is not self-righteousness, but a change of mind about sinning brought about by the grace of God.
“Also, self-righteousness is when you think that you are righteous on your own, by your works, without God and without Jesus Christ, and therefore do not deserve hell but deserve heaven. Self-righteousness is not when you have been changed and transformed by Jesus Christ, having been brought to repentance by the gospel of His grace. To classify the born again experience as self-righteousness is to misrepresent and misunderstand both the born again experience and self-righteousness.” Jesse Morrell
Now, I am often harshly attacked by Calvinists and Antinomians on Facebook and elsewhere. These Calvinists and Antinomians have said things like:
“What happened to the days when you could burn these people?”
“My only hope is that you will mutilate yourself.”
“People like this should have their tongues ripped out.”
These statements of course are not in the Spirit of Christ, but the spirit of John Calvin. And as Calvinists have also attacked men like the Early Church Fathers, John Wesley, Charles Finney, William Booth, Leonard Ravenhill, Mark Cahill, and others, I feel that I am in good company!
Well, sure enough, after someone posted that quote of me on their Facebook a very staunch Calvinist named Don Harman started attacking me. Don Harman is a leader in the Calvinist open air ministry called JeremiahCry Ministries. JeremiahCry Ministries is a ministry started by Jeff Rose and is known for being hostile toward non-Calvinists.
Don Harman said:
“Morrell preaches another gospel. This guy’s a rank heretic and enemy of Christ.” Don Harman – JeremiahCry Ministries
He then tried to defend Calvinism and posted this:
Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:37, 44). In context what is Jesus saying?
I take these attacks from Calvinists to be a blessing, as they encourage me to address the error of Calvinism and provide me with an opportunity to give a proper exegesis of their proof-texts. I take this as an example of how God will work all things for the good of those that love Him and are called according to His purposes (Rom. 8:28). For this opportunity to correct their error, I am thankful to Don Harman and JeremiahCry Ministries.
First of all, allow me to start by saying that there is a problem in the Church today of people reading the Bible with Calvinist glasses on. They have preconceived ideas of predestination and election and they interpret the Bible by those presuppositions instead of understanding the scriptures for what they are actually saying. A common example of this is John chapter 6, which is a typical proof-text that they use to support their notions of eternal election and reprobation. However, they are superimposing their views into this text, a practice known as eisegesis, as opposed to getting their view from the text, a practice known as exegesis. Calvinists always take these verses out of context and therefore they do not comprehend their actual meaning.
The context of this passage is about how men were rejecting Jesus, the Son of the Father:
“The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?” John 6:41-42
Jesus said that he was the bread of life that came down from Heaven (Jn. 6:33), who was doing the will of the Father who sent Him (Jn. 6:38), nevertheless these Jews “believe not” (Jn. 6:36). The context is therefore Jesus addressing and rebuking their unbelief.
“All that the Father gives me”
The word “giveth” is “δίδωσίν” and it is in the present tense, active voice, and indicative mood. Therefore, this giving is not referring to an eternal decree where God predestined certain individuals to come to Christ in eternity past, but that right then and there at the present time the Father was giving men to Christ. And those that the Father was giving to the Son were those that were believers in the Father, who were hearing and listening to the Father – Jn. 6:45.
Jesus had said,”For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.” Jn. 5:22-23
The word “δίδωμι” that Jesus used when He said “All that the Father giveth me” is the same word that Jesus used when he said “but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.” The stem word for both is the same. The only variation is that the Father giving all judgment to the Son is perfect active indicative, meaning it has already taken place, whereas the Father giving His people to His Son is present active indicative, meaning that it was then taking place. Jesus was speaking of a transfer from the Father to the Son, not only of authority but of possession. The right to judge which belonged to the Father was transferred to the Son, and the people that belonged to the Father was being transferred to the Son.
We can see then that Jesus was not teaching that there was an eternal decree that elected or reprobated specific individuals, but only that what had belonged to the Father was now being given to the Son.
Again, the problem is that these Calvinists look at the Scriptures through the eyes of John Calvin, or with their Calvinist glasses on, and therefore cannot see the scriptures clearly and properly understand them. Their scriptural vision is impaired as their presuppositions fog their comprehension. Unfortunately, many Calvinists have gotten their understanding of Scriptures like this one, not from the Holy Spirit, but from Calvinist teachers like John Piper and John MacArthur.
“will come to me”
Those that hear from the Father and choose to learn from what they are taught will come also to the Son – Jn. 6:45. If a man listens to the Father, they will come also to the Son, but if they do not listen to the Father, neither will they listen to the Son. All those who are listening to the Father belong to the Father, and all those who belong to the Father are being given to the Son, and those who are being given to the Son will come to Him. If they are listening to the Father, they will listen also to the Son and come to Him.
This is the key verse in untwisting the Calvinist confusion:
“It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” John 6:45
The word “heard” is “ἀκούσας” and it is in the active voice. The word “learned” is “μαθὼν” and is also in the active voice. The active voice means that the subjective is the doer or performer of the action. They are not passive, as if it was being done to them, but they are active in that they are choosing to perform it. The word “cometh” is “ἔρχεται” and it is in the middle/passive deponent voice, which means that it too is understood in the active voice. It is also in the present tense meaning that it is presently occurring.
In other words, Jesus was saying that every man that has chosen to hear and to learn from the Father is now choosing to come to the Son. The reverse would be that those who have chosen to not hear and learn from the Father are not choosing to come to the Son.
In context, Jesus was saying that these Jews did not believe in Him, the Son of God, because they were choosing not to listen and learn from the Father either.
“That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me…” Jn. 5:23-24.
“Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.” Jn. 8:19
The relationship between the Father and the Son is such that if a man believes in the Son, he also believes in the Father. But if a man does not believe in the Father, neither will he believe in the Son. As Jesus said: “he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me” (Lk. 10:16). These Jews therefore did not believe in the Son because they did not truly believe in the Father, and since they were choosing not to listen and learn from the Father, the Father was not giving them to the Son. Only those who belonged to the Father, who were listening and learning from Him, were being given to the Son.
This is the overall context and repeated theme, that if you believe and receive the Father you will believe and receive the Son also, but if you do not believe and receive the Son you have not believed and received the Father either:
“And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.” Jn. 5:37
“And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.” Jn. 5:38
“But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” Jn. 5:47
“Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.” Jn. 7:16
“Howbeit we know this man whence he is; but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is. Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me.” Jn. 7:27-29
“I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me. Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.” Jn. 8:18-19
“Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.” Jn. 8:42
“Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.” Jn. 12:44-45
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.” Jn. 13:20
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” Jn. 14:1″Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayeth thou then, She us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me…” Jn. 14:8-11
An example of this was a Jewish man named Simeon. Simeon was a man with faith in God, who believed the promises of the coming Messiah, who was told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen Christ. And when Christ was presented to him after he was born, even before Christ had ever done any miracles or preaching, Simeon believed in him (Lk. 2:25-30). So those Jews who belonged to the Father were being given by the Father to the Son, as those who believed the Father also believed the Son, and those who rejected the Father also rejected the Son.
Another example of this is the Gentile Cornelius. Cornelius was a man who was in submission to the light that he had in regards to God.
“But they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews…” Acts 10:22
And since Cornelius was not in rebellion against the Father, when the gospel of the Son was presented to him he immediately received it (Acts 10:44-48).
Men like Simeon and Cornelius belonged to the Father and therefore they were given to the Son.
These Gentile believers, like Cornelius, is whom Jesus spoke of when He said:
“And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” Jn. 10:16
This also explains what Jesus meant when He said:
“But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.” Jn. 10:26
His sheep are those who have chosen to hear and learn from the Father, and therefore choose to come unto Him and follow Him as their Shepherd, but those who choose not to hear and learn from the Father will not believe in the Son, and since they choose not hear and learn from the Father they are not given to the Son to be part of His fold.
“and whosever cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”
Those that have chosen to listen and learn from the Father and have consequently chosen to come to Christ, Christ will not turn away. When a sinner comes like to Christ like a beggar seeking pardon, Christ will not turn the poor man away, as many treat beggars at their door by casting them out. Christ will receive those that the Father gives to Him.
The term “cometh” is “ἐρχόμενον” and it is in the present tense. The phrase “in no wise” is “οὐ μή” and is a double negative to be emphatic. This means that Christ will absolutely not cast out those who are coming to Him, who have chosen to hear and learn from the Father. He will accept or receive them and not send them away.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
This verse in particular has caused much confusion relating to man’s natural ability to repent and believe the gospel and is often taken out of context to teach the doctrine of natural inability. The proceeding verse is what explains the meaning of of the drawing in this verse, but this context is almost never quoted by Calvinists who attempt to use these verses for their doctrine.
This is the verse in context:
“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” Jn. 6:44-45
These Jews who were rejecting Christ could not come to Christ, because they were choosing not to hear and learn from the teaching/drawing of the Father. They did not come to Christ because they were resisting the drawing of the Father. Had they chosen to hear the Father and learn from Him, they would have come to Christ. If they had belonged to the Father, they would have been given to the Son. But as they were not given to the Son, this shows that they did not belong to the Father.
The Calvinist interprets “no man can come to me” to be in reference to a natural inability on the part of the sinner. Augustinian doctrine, which John Calvin studied and promoted, taught that free will was lost by Adam’s original sin and therefore the unregenerate did not have the constitutional ability to do anything good, like choose to come to Christ. Therefore, a sinner needs to be drawn by the Father, which they necessarily understand to be irresistible grace that regenerates a person’s constitution or nature so that they receive this ability – a monergistic regeneration where the sinner is passive.
However, the context shows that the drawing of the Father is through teaching – resistible teaching as it requires the choice or consent of the one being taught. As we already saw, heard and learned are in the active voice, not the passive voice. And since the drawing of the Father is through teaching, which men need to choose to hear and learn from, this drawing cannot be a monergistic regeneration of the sinner’s constitution. Obviously they already have the power of choice before the drawing of the teaching, as they must choose to hear and learn from the drawing/teaching when it is presented. The purpose of the drawing or the teaching therefore cannot be to give them the power of choice.
And this drawing cannot be a monergistic regeneration of the sinner’s constitution because the transformation of a person’s constitution would require omnipotence force, not mere teaching. Teaching has the tendency to change a person’s character and overcome their unwillingness, as it influences their will, but it cannot recreate their constitution itself.
Albert Barnes said:
“In the conversion of the sinner God enlightens the mind John 6:45, he inclines the will Psalms 110:3, and he influences the soul by motives, by just views of his law, by his love, his commands, and his threatenings; by a desire of happiness, and a consciousness of danger; by the Holy Spirit applying truth to the mind, and urging him to yield himself to the Saviour. So that, while God inclines him, and will have all the glory, man yields without compulsion; the obstacles are removed, and he becomes a willing servant of God.”
“Shall be all taught of God – This explains the preceding verse. It is by the teaching of his Word and Spirit that men are drawn to God. This shows that it is not compulsory, and that there is no obstacle in the way but a strong voluntary ignorance and unwillingness.”
Therefore, given the context which reveals the modus operandi of the Father’s drawing, specifically that of teaching or enlightening the mind, this verse cannot be teaching the doctrine of the natural inability of man’s constitution which needs to be regenerated by the Father before the sinner can come to Christ. Rather, it is teaching that these Jews could not come to Christ because of their unwillingness to hear and learn from the Father. It was an issue of moral unwillingness, not constitutional inability.
John Wesley said,
“He draws us first… not by compulsion, not by laying the will under any necessity; but by the strong and sweet, yet still resistible, motions of his heavenly grace.”
It is by the drawing or teaching of the Father that men see their need of Christ, and if they do not listen to the teaching of the Father they will not see their need of Christ. And if a man does not see their need for Christ how can they come to Him? The man who comes to Chris must first see their need to come to Him, and so the drawing of the Father must be antecedent to coming to Christ.
As I said in my book The Natural Ability of Man: A Study on Free Will & Human Nature:
“If verse 44 was talking about a constitutional change, it could not be brought about by teaching as verse 45 says. Teaching has no tendency or ability to change the constitution of man. But if the drawing is brought about by teaching, as verse 45 says, then the drawing in verse 44 must be an influence upon the will of man. Truth influences the will and therefore, teaching the truth has the ability to change the will of man. Coming to Jesus is a choice of the will, which is brought about by the drawing of the Father’s teaching.
This passage does not deny the choice of man’s will in salvation. It doesn’t say “no man can come,” but “no man can come, except…” The choice of man is a consequence of the drawing of God. The choice to come to Jesus Christ is brought about by the enlightening influence of the Father. God does not draw us to Himself through some irresistible force, but through the influence of truth.”
But if the Father is drawing a man and that man chooses not to hear and learn from the teaching of the Father, then he cannot choose to come to Christ. And they cannot come to the Son because they were unwilling hear and learn from the teaching of the Father.
We can understand these verses as saying this: No man can come unto the Son, unless he first chooses to hear and learn from the teaching of the Father. If a man refuses to hear and learn from the teaching of the Father, there is no way he can come to the Son, since to receive the Son is to receive the Father and to reject the Father is to reject the Son.
In this way we can see how Jesus was not giving a lecture on predestination and election in light of their unbelief, as Jesus would upbraid people for their unbelief (Mk. 16:14) and command men to believe (Mk. 1:15). Jesus marveled at unbelief (Mk. 6:6) and rebuked men for not believing (Mk. 16:14; 9:19; Lk. 24:25). Christ was not justifying or excusing these Jews for rejecting Him, by teaching that they simply didn’t have the constitutional ability to come to Him because God has not monergisticly regenerated their constitutions since they were not predestined and elected to be His. Rather, Christ was confronting and rebuking these Jews for their sin by saying that the reason they were rejecting the Son was because they were not choosing to hear and learn from the Father either. They could not come to the Son because they were refusing to hear and learn from the Father.
“And I will raise him up on the last day.”
Those that choose to hear and learn from the Father and consequently choose to come to Christ will be accepted or received by Him, and granted that they persevere unto the end in the faith and holiness, He will raise them up to eternal life on the last day (Dan. 12:2; Mk. 13:13; Jn. 17:2; Col. 1:23).
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