I want to begin this morning with an important quote from J. I. Packer. This quote is worth our understanding and meditation. To understand this quote is to gain a huge advantage in your study of the Bible:
We do not start our Christian lives by working out our faith for ourselves; it is mediated to us by Christian tradition, in the form of sermons, books and established patterns of church life and fellowship. We read our Bibles in the light of what we have learned from these sources; we approach Scripture with minds already formed by the mass of accepted opinions and viewpoints with which we have come into contact, in both the Church and the world… It is easy to be unaware that it has happened; it is hard even to begin to realize how profoundly tradition in this sense has molded us. But we are forbidden to become enslaved to human tradition, either secular or Christian, whether it be "catholic" tradition, or "critical" tradition, or "ecumenical" tradition. We may never assume the complete rightness of our own established ways of thought and practice and excuse ourselves the duty of testing and reforming them by Scriptures. (J. I. Packer, Fundamentalism and the Word of God, [Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1958], pp. 69-70.)
Believer, we must test everything we believe by the text. The beliefs you hold must come from the text. And we must be open to allowing the text to shatter our false ideas. If you are an Arminian and believe that man comes to Yeshua by his own free will, I beg you to listen to this text, examine this text, pray over this text. John chapter 6 decimates the Arminian View, it totally and undeniably destroys Arminianism.
For the first thirteen years of my Christian life I was an Arminian. I knew that man's will was free, and if he came to Christ it was because he decided to. I guess you could call this "decisional regeneration". What changed my mind was the text. My downfall was that I taught verse-by-verse and at the time I was going through James.
Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. James 1:18 KJV
My first question here was, "What about my will?" And as I studied this out I found myself believing in election by the sovereign grace of God.
Many in churchianity, and even many believers, do not like the Biblical truth that God sovereignly chooses who will be saved. To them the decision of salvation is totally up to man and his free will. So in their view God's hands are tied to actually save anyone, because He can't override man's free will. This is a humanistic doctrine that elevates man over God.
As we look at our text this morning, we must keep it in context. Calvinists will often pull several verses from this chapter to support their view, but these verses are much more powerful when seen in context.
Yeshua had miraculously multiplied five loaves of bread and two fish and fed a crowd of some 20,000 people which had followed Him because He had been healing the sick. Amazed, the people had recognized that Yeshua was the fulfillment of some of their Messianic expectations, and so they wanted to make Him their King. This causes Yeshua to send away His disciples and withdraw to a mountain to be alone. Overnight, He walked on the sea to His disciples who were stuck in a storm and fearing for their life. He got into their boat, calmed the storm and teleported the boat to Capernaum. In the morning, the crowd He'd fed had crossed over to Capernaum looking for Him.
When the crowd found Him, Yeshua pointed out that their motivation in seeking Him was the satisfaction of their physical hunger, and He exhorted them to seek for that which eternally satisfies by believing in Him. Then they asked Him "for a sign" to prove that He was God's authorized representative as He claimed to be, pointing out that Moses had given their forefathers manna in the wilderness for forty years. If Yeshua would call them to trust in Him, He would have to win that right by out-performing Moses. The Jewish expectation of that time believed the Messiah would renew the gift of manna. Yeshua responded by saying it was the Father, not Moses, who gives the true bread from heaven which gives life to the world.
I think that Lazarus is presenting Yeshua as the new Moses who will lead the new Exodus. He will lead His people out of bondage to sin and death. Yeshua is the promised prophet of Deuteronomy 18:18-19. But what Yeshua is offering is spiritual not physical. The bread that Yeshua speaks of brings eternal life, but the crowd was only thinking in physical terms, and so they responded:
Then they said to Him, "Lord, always give us this bread." John 6:34 NASB
This is where we ended last week. The use of "Lord" here simply means "sir," they do not see Yeshua as Lord. The crowd was under the mistaken impression that the true bread from heaven was an actual, edible bread like the manna their ancestors had eaten. They wanted some new type of physical bread from then on that would never spoil. They are saying, "Be like Moses, just keep on giving us the bread of God, the manna that fills our stomachs. Yeshua, however, identifies Himself as this true bread:
Yeshua said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. John 6:35 NASB
The Jews asked for something from Christ: He offers them Himself. "I am the bread of life"—it's not that Yeshua gives the bread of life, but He is the bread of life. He offers spiritual food that will completely satisfy man's hunger. Bread here is metonym for food, nourishing food that gives life and sustenance. Just as physical life depends on food so spiritual life depends on Yeshua.
We'll come back next week and look more in depth at Yeshua's statement here, but for this morning we are going to focus on several statements that are made in the remainder of this chapter that teach the sovereignty of God in salvation.
"He who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst"—what I want you to see here is that "coming to Yeshua" and "believing in Yeshua" are synonymous concepts. These are parallel terms, coming to Christ is the same as believing in Christ and vise versa. This is very important in understanding this text.
"But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. John 6:36 NASB
Don't mistake the crowd's having sought out and followed Yeshua as being an expression of faith in Him. Remember, just moments before the crowd had asked Yeshua for a sign as proof that they should believe in Him in the first place, and that was in response to His having told them they must believe in Him. They have already seen Him in a Messianic function at the feeding, and yet did not see the sign in His miracle, and so did not truly see Him or believe in Him. It's crucial that we remember this as we examine these verses. Yeshua is addressing the crowd's unbelief.
So Yeshua tells them that even though they have seen Him perform miraculous signs, they don't believe in Him. Then He says:
"All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. John 6:37 NASB
Remember that two verses earlier Yeshua had connected "coming" to Him to "believing in Him." So, since the crowd does not believe in Him, they have not "come" to Him. It is this unbelief, then, which Yeshua is addressing in this verse. So an unasked question that Yeshua may be answering here is, "Why is it that Jews, the very people of God are not believing in their Messiah." Or, "Is Yeshua's ministry a failure? Since the very people He came to, do not believe in Him." Not at all, Yeshua is in effect saying, "Your unbelief notwithstanding, the Father's will is perfect and undeterred. ALL the Father gives Me WILL come to Me."
David Brown in his commentary on John writes:
"This comprehensive and very grand passage is expressed with a peculiar artistic precision…'ALL THAT THE FATHER GIVETH ME SHALL COME TO ME'—that is, 'Though ye, as I told you, have no faith in Me, My errand into the world shall ino wise be defeated; for all that the Father giveth Me shall infallibly come to Me.'…This 'shall' expresses the glorious certainty of it, the Father being pledged to see to it that the gift be no empty mockery."
Why does any one come to believe in Yeshua? It is only because He was given by the Father to the Son. So the reason that anyone does not believe is because they were not given by the Father to the Son.
Remember "coming to Christ" and "believing in Christ" are synonyms. So who believes in Yeshua? "All that the Father gives to Yeshua"—the ability to believe on Yeshua requires divine enablement. It is only those whom "the Father" enables to believe that "come to" Yeshua in faith. These are "all" the people whom "the Father gives" to the Son as gifts. Yeshua viewed the ultimate cause of faith as God's electing grace, not man's choice.
Arminians, the order here is crucial. "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me"—Yeshua does not say that all who come to Him will then be given to Him by the Father. We do not determine by our response who will be the Father's gift to the Son. Rather our response is determined by the prior election of God.
The word "gives" is a word of destiny. It's divine sovereign election. The concept of the elect being a love gift from the Father to the Son is taught throughout Scripture. Notice what Isaiah writes:
Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion. Isaiah 8:18 NASB
Who is speaking here? The Epistle to the Hebrews quotes these words as the distinct words of Yeshua:
And again, "I WILL PUT MY TRUST IN HIM." And again, "BEHOLD, I AND THE CHILDREN WHOM GOD HAS GIVEN ME." Hebrews 2:13 NASB
Speaking of Isaiah 8:18 The IVP Bible Background Commentary states:
"These are not the words of the prophet, speaking of himself and his natural children, nor of his spiritual children, his disciples, called sometimes the sons of the prophets; but of Christ, who has a seed, a spiritual offspring who are given Him of God, in the covenant of grace."[IVP Bible Background Commentary].
The Tanakh Scriptures represent the Father as promising the Son a certain reward for His sufferings on behalf of sinners:
But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. 11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. Isaiah 53:10-11 NASB
"He will see His offspring"—this is a reference to the elect of God. God has given the elect to Christ, we are children of promise. Notice, that it says "He will see it and be satisfied," and not frustrated.
So when Yeshua says, "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me"—He is saying, "Though many may reject me, all that have been given me by my Father will believe in me." How can Yeshua be sure that those who the Father has given Him will come to Him? What if their will is not to come to the Son?
"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 6:44 NASB
Notice the words "come to me" as we have noted this can be translated, "believe in me." Some have tried to interpret the word "draw" here as "call or invite." Some people would go so far as to say God calls or invites everybody equally and at all times. They would say that the Father draws everybody, and everybody can choose to refuse.
This view distorts the text. If this is all that Yeshua is trying to say, His words make no sense in the context of the discussion in which He spoke them. His words only make sense if the implication is that His objectors may not have been drawn.
There are three things I want to point out here. The first is the phrase "no one." This is a "universal negative." That is to say that the phrase "no one" includes both classes of people, Jews and Gentiles. Second, are the words "can come to Me"—this has to do with the ability of man. Yeshua was saying, "No one, neither Jew nor Gentile, has the ability to come to Me." Lastly, there is the word "unless." This word is a "necessary condition." Yeshua said that the necessary condition for someone coming to Him was God giving it to them. What does God give them? Ability. Simply put, God gives man the ability to come to Christ. Man, on his own, does not have that ability.
Let's look at the word "draws," the Greek word translated "draws" is helkuo, which means: "to drag." It is used eight times in the New Testament. To understand what it means, let's look at a few of its uses:
Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave's name was Malchus. John 18:10 NASB
The word "drew" is helkuo; does "call or invite" make any sense here? Did Peter invite or call his sword to come out? No! He grabbed it, and pulled it out. What did the sword have to say about being drawn? Nothing!
But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities, Acts 16:19 NASB
The word "dragged" is helkuo; does "call or invite" make any sense here? They did not invite Paul and Silas to the market place, they grabbed them and dragged them:
But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? James 2:6 NASB
The word "drag" is helkuo. The usage of this word makes it very clear that helkuo means: "to draw by irresistible superiority." Please take the time to look up all eight uses of helkuo in the New Testament. They all have the idea of dragging, not inviting or calling:
Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn. John 21:11 NASB
The word "drew" is helkuo. Do you think that Peter invited the net full of fish to the land?
There, I gave you five of the eight so you only have three to look up on your own. Well let me give you one more that may be controversial:
"And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." John 12:32 NASB
Some point to this passage as proof that if helkuo means to draw by force, then everybody must come to Yeshua. The "all men" here does not refer to everybody. It means all kinds of people, Jews and Gentiles. Be Bereans and look up the other uses of helkuo. I have seen many Arminians fall on this verse.
This definition of helkuo, to drag by irresistible superiority, also holds true outside of Scripture, in secular literature:
"And he drew [helkuo] the bow, clutching at once the notched arrow and the string of ox's sinew" (Homer, Iliad, 4.122)
"But Sarpedon with strong hands caught hold of the battlement and tugged [helkuo], and the whole length of it gave way" (Homer, Iliad, 12.398)
When a drawstring is pulled back or when a battlement is tugged and made to fall, these things are not invited, or called. They are forced back and forced over. The meaning of the word cannot be clearer. Nobody is capable of coming to Yeshua unless the Father by irresistible superiority draws them.
So, in John 6:44 Yeshua is saying that no one can come to Him "…unless the Father who sent Me draws him!" This is what Calvinists call "Irresistible Grace or Sovereign Grace." It is not that God drags those who don't want to come. It is that God makes willing by His grace. In regeneration, God gives us spiritual life which includes a desire for Him. If God gives us a desire for Christ, we will act according to that desire and we will choose Christ.
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. Romans 8:29-30 NASB
This is often referred to as the golden chain of salvation. All whom He foreknew He predestined to be like His son. All He predestined He called, all He called He justified, all He justified He glorified. These verses teach us two things: 1. God must not call everybody—everybody will not be justified. 2. The call must be irresistible—everyone who is called is justified.
Some who resist the doctrine of Sovereign Grace hold to what is called Prevenient Grace. It is normally defined as a work that God does for everybody. He gives all people enough grace to respond to Yeshua. That is, it is enough to make it possible for people to choose Christ. If this prevenient grace is merely external, than it fails. What good is prevenient grace if offered outwardly to spiritually dead creatures? If it doesn't give life, it's no good. But if it did give life, than everybody would be saved. The 10 dollar question for advocates of prevenient grace is why some people cooperate with it and others don't? Are they smarter, or better people? Why? The 10,000,000 dollar question for advocates of prevenient grace is, "Does the Bible teach such a doctrine of prevenient grace? If so where?" It sounds nice, but it's not Biblical.
Since the reformation, people have departed from the sovereignty of grace. Most professing Christians are liberal, but of those who really are Christians most have departed from the reformation in this way. All of the Reformers—Luther, Calvin, Zwingly, Knox, Cramner; The German reformer, the Swiss reformer, the French reformer, the Scottish reformer, the English reformer—everyone of them believed not only in Grace but sovereign grace. The majority of believers today try to have the grace without the sovereignty of the grace. All the reformers believed that grace was not only provided, but applied. Evangelical Christianity is trying to hold on to grace provided, while rejecting grace applied.
It is not that God drags those who don't want to come. It is that God makes men willing by His grace. In regeneration, God gives us spiritual life, which includes a desire for Him. If God gives us a desire for Christ, we will act according to that desire, and we will come to Christ. I received Christ because I wanted to! And I wanted to because God gave me a new heart!
A sinner absolutely cannot come to Christ until God first does something in that sinner's nature. That "something" is what the Bible calls "regeneration," or the new birth, and it is the exclusive work of God, the Holy Spirit. Man has no part whatever in regeneration.
So to be "given" is to be part of the elect of God. Yeshua says it again in:
"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. John 6:39 NASB
Who is it that receives resurrection life? All that the Father has given Christ. Isn't that what it says? If the Father "gives" them, the Son will raise them at the last day. All who are given are raised. God the Father has given the elect to Christ as a love gift. Yeshua says it again in:
And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father." John 6:65 NASB
Four times in this chapter He tells unbelievers that they cannot believe in Him unless they have been given to Him by the Father, who will draw the given. Now I'm sure that you realize that this truth is not isolate to John 6. We see this same idea in:
The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, "How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly." Yeshua answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father's name, these testify of Me. "But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. John 10:24-26 NASB
Here again, those Jews do not "believe" on the fact that Yeshua was their Messiah. Why? Yeshua said it was because they were not His sheep, they had not been given Him by the Father. Notice that Yeshua did not say they were not His, because they didn't believe. He said the proof that they were not His was their unbelief. Simply put, if they believed, they were already His. But since they didn't believe, they were not. Christ's sheep are identified by their faith.
Christ tells these Jews that they did not believe, because they were not His sheep. These verses point clearly to the "Doctrine of Particular Redemption" or Limited Atonement. Christ died not merely to make possible the salvation of all mankind, but to make certain the salvation of the elect, His sheep, those who the Father has given Him.
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will 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. John 10:27-29 NASB
Are you starting to see the picture? The Father gives, the Father draws, and all who are given are secure in Christ. Let's back up a little in John 10:
"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. John 10:14-15 NASB
Yeshua said that He laid down His life for the sheep. Who are the sheep? Is every human being a sheep, or do the sheep only refer to God's elect?
"And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. "Then the King will say to those on His right (the sheep), 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you (sheep) from the foundation of the world. Matthew 25:32-34 NASB
Those who are of the sheep inherited the Kingdom, but the goats were cast into "everlasting fire." As we saw in John 10:15, Yeshua laid down His life for the"sheep," not the "goats." Christ died only for His sheep.
The concept of believers being the gifts of the Father to the Son forms a central element of Yeshua's high-priestly prayer in John 17:
Yeshua spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. John 17:1-2 NASB
Who does Christ give eternal life to? He gives it to all those that the Father has given Him, the elect.
"I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. John 17:6 NASB
"I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; John 17:9 NASB
Who is it that Yeshua prays for? He prays for those that the Father has given Him. He doesn't pray for the world.
"Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. John 17:24 NASB
Those given to Yeshua by God the Father are children of promise. God is selective in salvation. Over and over again, "You gave them to Me."
And just in case you think this is only taught in the Gospel of John:
"And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Yeshua, for it is He who will save His people from their sins." Matthew 1:21 NASB
There are two things in this verse that we must understand. First, Yeshua did not come to save all men, He came to save "His people." The Reformers called this "Limited Atonement." That does not mean that Christ's death was limited in power, but was limited in scope or purpose. In other words, He did not die for all of humanity. He died for "His people." Next, is the phrase "Will save His people" —notice that the angel did not say, "He will offer salvation to His people." Offering salvation implies that it could be rejected. This verse plainly states, "He will save His people," emphasizing a complete work for His people only, accomplished by Christ, and Christ alone.
Yeshua taught that He was not going to die for all of humanity:
just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28 NASB
for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. Matthew 26:28 NASB
Yeshua said He came to give His life as a ransom and pour out His blood for "many," not "all."
The church today is being flooded with a new Gospel, a humanistic gospel. The Gospel is always, and essentially, a proclamation of Divine Sovereignty in mercy and judgment. It is a summons to bow down and worship the mighty Lord on whom man depends for all good, both in nature and grace. Its center of reference is Yahweh. But in the new gospel, the center of reference is man. You choose, you decide, you initiate salvation. The chief aim of the Gospel was to teach men to worship Yahweh, but the concern of the new gospel seems limited to making them feel better.
Our minds have been conditioned to think of the cross as a redemption which does less than redeem, and of Christ as a savior who does less than save, and of God's love as a weak affection which cannot keep anyone from perishing without their help, and of faith as the human help which God needs for His purpose. This is not the gospel, the Gospel is "God saves sinners."
"Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure'; Isaiah 46:9-10 NASB
Yahweh has given the elect to Christ as a love gift. And all that He has given to Christ will believe in Christ and have eternal life. His purpose will be established!