Election Texts - Part II
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” (Carson, 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
Etemity 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 Saviour of your soul” (Murray, 3:207).
John 10:14-16, 24-30
"I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock with one shepherd. . . . The Jews therefore gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, ‘How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father's name, these bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one."
In this paragraph Jesus uses a familiar metaphor to describe his relationship to those whom the Father has given him (v. 29). He is the “good shepherd” and they are the “sheep.” He “knows” them and they “know” him (v. 14). There are others, however, unbelievers, who are not his sheep. But the distinction between those who are sheep and those who are not is more than a distinction between believers and non-believers. A person does not become a sheep by believing in Jesus. Quite the opposite is true. One believes in Jesus because one is already a sheep. Jesus himself asserts this in verse 16: “And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock with one shepherd.” Clearly Jesus reckons as his sheep many who have not yet come to faith. Their identity as sheep is not dependent on their faith. Rather, their faith is the result of having been made Christ’s sheep by divine election.
The same holds true in the reverse sense for those unbelievers who are not Christ’s sheep. In verse 26 Jesus says, “But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep.” If Arminianism were true, Jesus should have said the opposite. He should have said, “You are not of My sheep because you do not believe.” You may recall that, according to the Arminianism, one enters the ranks of the elect, that is, one becomes a sheep, by fulfilling the divinely imposed condition of faith. But according to John 10:26 the opposite obtains. If these do not believe in Jesus, it is because they are not elect/sheep. But, then, of course they do not want to believe, much preferring their status as “goats.”
“And the next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy, and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For thus the Lord has commanded us, “I have placed you as a light for the Gentiles, that you should bring salvation to the end of the earth.’” And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”
What a marvelous and forthright declaration of unconditional election this is. Having been spurned by the Jews, to whom the gospel was first proclaimed, Paul and Barnabas preached to the Gentiles. They preached to all the Gentiles, universally and indiscriminately.
Who responded to the good news by believing in Jesus? Luke tells us in no uncertain terms that “as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” How many believed? Neither more, nor less, believed, than the number of those whom God had appointed to life. Some have suggested that the word translated “appointed” should be taken in the sense of “inscribed” or “enrolled” (See F. F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles: The Greek Text with Introduction and Commentary [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975], p. 275). If so, the idea would be akin to that which we find in Revelation 13 and 17, where reference is made to those whose names were inscribed or written down in the book of life in eternity past.
Were these individuals appointed to eternal life because they believed, as the Arminian insists? Or did they believe because they were appointed to eternal life, as the Calvinist contends? Was their belief in Jesus the condition in view of which God appointed them to life? Or was their belief God’s instrument for bringing them into possession of what he had decreed in eternity past should be theirs?
Does not Luke himself answer this question for us? He does not say, “And as many as believed, God appointed to eternal life,” as if to suggest that their belief led to or was the cause of their appointment to life. Rather, he says, “As many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” Faith, it would seem, is the fruit of God’s gracious appointment. If I may be permitted to use the imagery of John 10, we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow him, because by grace we are already his sheep.