Was Jesus a Calvinist?
John 6:37-40,44,65 (see also 17:1-2,6,9,24)
"All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not 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 of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day. . . . No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. . . For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father.'
On several occasions in John's Gospel divine election is described in terms of God the Father giving certain persons to God the Son (6:37, 39; 10:29; 17:1-2,6,9,24). In each of these cases the giving of men to Christ precedes and is the cause of their receiving eternal life. Those who are given to the Son include not only the present company of disciples who believe in Jesus but also the elect of future ages who will come to faith through the gospel. Jesus looks upon them as already his (John 17:20-21; see also John 10:16; Acts 18:10), even though they have not yet believed in his name. They are his because they were given to him by the Father in eternity past.
What is of special importance to us is what Jesus says about how those whom the Father has given to him come to him and whether or not those who come can ever lose their salvation. It will prove helpful to look at this in terms of three impossibilities.
The first impossibility. Jesus says that it is morally and spiritually impossible for a person to come to Christ apart from the "drawing" of that person by God the Father (6:44,65). May I strongly emphasize the words morally and spiritually. The reason people do not come to Christ is not because they lack a will, or a mind, or feelings, or even lack opportunity and occasion. Their not coming to Christ is due to their moral and spiritual refusal to do so, a refusal in which they willingly and freely delight. If they cannot come it is not because God will not let them. It is because it is their nature not to want to come.
The second impossibility. Jesus also says that it is impossible for someone whom the Father "draws" not to come to him. He says in verse 37, "All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me"' In other words, just as it is impossible for a person to come to Christ apart from the Father drawing him/her, so also is it impossible for a person not to come to Christ if the Father does draw him/her. Two crucial elements are involved here. On the one hand, if a man is to be saved he must come to Christ. An active, willing embrace of Jesus Christ in faith is essential. On the other hand, this active, willing embrace of Jesus Christ is guaranteed by virtue of the Father having given certain people to Jesus Christ. John Murray explains it this way:
"Jesus does not say: all that the Father giveth me are brought to me. He uses the term that denotes motion on the part of the person - 'will come to me.' Coming to Christ is the movement of commitment to Christ, coming that engages the whole-souled activity of the person coming. It is not that he may come, not that he has the opportunity to come, not that he will in all probability come, and not simply that he is empowered to come, but that he will come. There is absolute certainty; There is a divine necessity; the order of heaven insures the sequence.'
John Murray, 'Irresistible Grace', in Soli Deo Gloria: Essays in Reformed Theology, Festschrift for John H. Gerstner, ed. R. C. Sproul (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1976), p. 59. The Greek word translated 'draw' (John 6:44) is found elsewhere in the NT only in John 12:32; 18:10; 21:6,11; Acts 16:19. Some believe that the use of the term in 12:32 indicates that the 'drawing' is not necessarily efficacious in all. But, as D. A. Carson (Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspectives in Tension [Atlanta: John Knox, 1981]) has noted, 'the all' whom Jesus will draw, and the drawing itself, cannot both be taken absolutely, because in the succeeding verses it becomes clear that not all are saved (12:35-41). In the context of the arrival of the Greeks (12:20-22), to whose request for an audience Jesus has not so far responded, the 'all' appears to mean 'all' as opposed to Jews only: Jesus does not talk to the Greeks because that which will draw all men is the climactic event of his own death/exaltation' (p. 174).
Therefore, it is impossible that an elect person, a "given-by-the-Father-to-the-Son" person, might fail to come to faith in Christ. Or to put it positively, all the elect shall come to faith in Christ. God's drawing of them is efficacious. The Father will never fail in drawing to salvation those whom he has given to the Son.
Before we move to the third impossibility, observe one more crucial fact. Since this drawing of people by the Father to the Son is always efficacious, it cannot refer to the so-called enabling grace of Arminianism. Do you recall what the Arminian believes? He believes that God restores in all men a power or an ability sufficient to enable them to come to Christ. Clearly this "universal enablement" cannot be the drawing that Jesus describes, Why not? Because millions and millions of men and women do not, in fact, come to Christ! And yet Jesus says that all who are given by the Father are drawn by the Father and shall come to Christ. There is no escaping the clear and unequivocal language of our Lord Jesus Christ: no one can come unless drawn by the Father; but if one is drawn by the Father he shall come.
Some may want to argue that there is significance in what Jesus does not say: He does not say that others have not been given to him by the Father. However, if in fact all are given, then all shall be saved, for Jesus does say that all whom the Father gives him shall come to him. In other words, if election/giving is universal, so is salvation.
The third impossibility. To the previous two impossibilities Jesus adds a third. He has already said it is impossible to come to him unless the Father draws. He has also said it is impossible not to come if the Father does draw. Now he says that when a man does come through the drawing of the Father it is impossible for him to be cast out. Look again at verse 37: "and the one who comes to me I will certainly not cast out." The point is that those whom the Father gives to the Son, who therefore come to the Son, will be received by the Son and shall never perish.
The verb translated "cast out" in verse 37 is used several times in John (2:15; 6:37; 9:34f.; 10:4; 12:31) and always means to cast out someone or something already in. Thus the emphasis here is not so much on receiving the one who comes (although that is true enough in itself) but on preserving him. In other words, "6:37 argues not only that the ones given to Jesus will inevitably come to him, but that Jesus will keep them individually . . . once there.'(Murray, 'Irresistible Grace', 184).
Who would dare suggest that Jesus Christ would refuse to accept what his Father has given him? If the Father was pleased to make a gift of certain sinners to his most blessed Son, you may rest assured that the Son will neither despise nor deny his Father's gracious generosity. The certainty of ultimate and absolute salvation for those who come to the Son is reaffirmed in verses 38-40. Their life in Christ is eternal and irrevocable because that is the will of the Father; a will or a purpose that the whole of Christ's person and work was designed to secure. What did Jesus come to do? He came to do the Father's will (v.38). What is the Father's will? The Father's will is that all those he has given to the Son be fully and finally saved (v. 39). Oh, what a glorious thought it is, that
"My name from the palms of His hands
Eternity will not erase;
Impress'd on His heart it remains,
In marks of indelible grace."
And still again we sing:
"Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, I will still give thee aid;
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my gracious, omnipotent hand."
"The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake!"
So I ask you, have you experienced the invincible attraction of the Redeemer? Have you been entranced by His beauty? Have you been so drawn to him that you invest your all in Him?? (John Murray, 'The Father's Donation', in Collected Writings of John Murray, 4 vols. (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1976), 3:207). If so, you may be assured that the Father has given you to the Son and that the Son has given himself for you. Therefore, he has drawn you with an everlasting and efficacious love. Therefore, you have abandoned yourself to him in faith. 'This is why his attraction has become irresistible and you have fallen in love with the Savior of your soul' (ibid.).
My conclusion: Yes, Jesus was a Calvinist!