Saturday, August 25, 2007

John 6:26-66, Part Two

Verses 44-45

The Jews completely lost Him at the “I am the bread that came down out of heaven” part and start to grumble to each other (v.41). They thought that His origin was completely human since they knew His parents (v.42). Because they totally missed Christ’s point about the giving by the Father to the Son as the explanation to their unbelief, he tells them to stop grumbling (v.43) and proceeds to explain in clearer terms the reason for their unbelief:

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.” -John 6:44-45

Verse 44 is a simplified restatement of verses 37, 39, and 40. By paralleling these statements, their equivalent parts are:

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me” (v.37) = “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing” (v.39) = “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life” (v.40) = “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (v.44; this verse is the negative form of the others, and as such, it shows the fulness of the doctrine discussed)

“I…raise it up on the last day” (v.39) = “I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” (v.40) = “…and I will raise him up on the last day.” (v.44)

From this, we infer that the “giv[ing]” by the Father to the Son is the equivalent of the “draw[ing]” in verse 44. Seeing that verse 44 is in the negative form of what Jesus has already stated, we can see the full picture. Those “given” by the Father are those “drawn” by the Father, and those not “drawn” were not “given” to the Son so that they might come, believe, and be raised on the last day unto eternal life. The implication is that those who will *not* be raised up on the last day unto eternal life were never drawn by the Father!

Jesus then (v.45) backs this up with Old Testament teaching, Isaiah 54:13, a quote speaking about what the other major prophets called the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:33-34 and Ezekiel 36:26-27). The ‘teaching’ by God is not simply knowledge of God or the proclamation of the gospel, but rather, it is the writing of the law on the heart. It is the act of regeneration!

Again, the stated reason for their unbelief had nothing to do with their rational decision making. Rather, the stated reason for their unbelief was that THEY HAD NOT BEEN DRAWN BY THE FATHER! [Again, before you start yelling the typical counter-arguments at the screen, leave a reply, and close out this window, see the “Exegetical Errors” just below this. This section will cover the objections to vv.44-45.]

Exegetical Error A

The first exegetical error to this section is to make an appeal to John 12:32 in order to intepret the extent of the “draw[ing]” in verse 44. John 12:32 states:

“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." –John 12:32

The non-Calvinist argument is that though the Father does not draw men now, once Christ is crucified, He will draw every last human being to Christ. The problem with this is that it takes 12:32 out of its context.

The context is that Greeks had come to seek Jesus (vv.20-21), and when told by Andrew and Philip, Jesus starts to speak of His imminent crucifixion ending with the statement in verse 32. The crowd around Him is confused about the “Son of Man” and “lifting up” in Jesus statements (v.34). Christ then repeats a similar statement from previous chapters about Him being the “Light of the world” which men must believe in lest they walk in darkness (vv.35-36; cf. John 1:4-9, 8:12, 9:5, etc.). Jesus then hides Himself from the crowd (including the Greeks) (v.36), and there lies the text’s own interpretation of 12:32. At that time before the cross, Jesus had only revealed Himself to the Jews since during His earthly ministry He was “sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). Thus, the “all men” in verse 32 does not refer to every last human being on earth, but rather, it refers to all people groups or ethnicities. The dichotomy is not between a select few and every last human being; rather, it is between “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9) rather than just “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). Once Jesus is crucified, He will draw every *people group* (but not necessarily every person within that people group) as opposed to His earthly ministry in which He revealed Himself to the Jews alone. This interpretation agrees with what Jesus says elsewhere in John (John 10:16 and 11:21-52). Thus, the force of the non-Calvinist objection to John 6:44 is empty seeing that it presupposes a definition of “all men” in 12:32 which the context of chapter 12 will not allow. [This is a common error in non-Calvinist interpretations of the Bible’s use of the words “all”, “every”, and “world” since all of these words can, depending on the context, refer to a universal of subsets rather than an absolute universal.]

Secondly, a real problem with the interpretation of “all men” in 12:32 as meaning every single human being is the next few verses, namely, John’s commentary on the dialogue that had just happened (emphasis mine):

“But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT? AND TO WHOM HAS THE ARM OF THE LORD BEEN REVEALED?” For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, “HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM.” ” –John 12:37-40

From the begginning of the history of Israel, there was a constant cycle of falling into sin followed by national repentance whenever there was a major crisis. This repentance was a repentance out of self-preservation, not a repentance out of contrition and love for God. God would, because He is bound by His covenant promises (Hebrews 6:17-18 and 2 Timothy 2:10), take back His punishing hand. However, when there was prosperity, the Israelites would fall back into sin, testing God’s patience, and the cycle would begin again. God, in His long-suffering allowed this cycle to endure time after time until He decided to spiritually blind the unregenerate from seeing the threat of the Assyrians and Babylonians. As such, they never saw the need to repent (out of self-preservation) since their heart was hardened against it, and because there was no repentance, God was not bound by covnenant promise to protect them from the instrument of destruction which He had ordained (Isaiah 10:5-19).

This is what Isaiah 6:10 is speaking of: God’s judicial hardening and blinding of the unregenerate in Israel so that He could destroy them and bring back only the regenerate, the Remnant, to the land of Israel.

In John 12:40, John quotes this passage and applies it to the situation with Jesus. God hardened the hearts of the unregenerate Jews so that they would not recognize Christ as the Lord of Glory (1 Cor. 2:8; also, see Isaiah 52:13-53:12, the Fourth Servant Song, which is cited in John 12:38) and as a result, kill Him (Acts 2:23, Acts 4:27-28, etc.). Because of the murder of Jesus, God would take the kingdom away from the Jews and give it to the regenerate (Matthew 21:33-45). As Paul says, “What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; just as it is written, ‘GOD GAVE THEM A SPIRIT OF STUPOR, EYES TO SEE NOT AND EARS TO HEAR NOT, DOWN TO THIS VERY DAY.’ And David says, “…LET THEIR EYES BE DARKENED TO SEE NOT, AND BEND THEIR BACKS FOREVER” (Romans 11:7-10; bold mine).

The point is this: God did NOT draw every single last human being since He hardened the Jews from believing in Christ even after the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension (Romans 11:7-10)! If the “all men” of verse 32 is understood as referring to certain men *out of* “all” ethnicities (Revelation 5:9), however, the passage makes sense. In conclusion, the force behind the non-Calvinist appeal to John 12:32 has no power and cannot be used to say that Jesus will draw every human being after his resurrection, and in fact, the Calvinist hermeneutic of this passage makes more sense.

[Note: While God is hardening an already unregenerate heart, this still presupposes the antithesis of libertarian free-will since it teaches that the unregenerate would not be able to have trusting faith in God to begin with. Otherwise, God would not have hardened their heart on the chance that it might be softened by that person’s own willpower.]

Exegetical Error B

A second exegetical error committed by non-Calvinists in their interpretation of John 6:44-45 is to argue that while the ‘teaching’ is the sole initiative of the Father in salvation, it is up to the hearer to listen and learn. Thus, those who listen and learn (i.e. respond in faith using their libertarian free-will) to the Father’s teaching will be drawn by Him and risen up on the last day unto eternal life.

The first problem with this, as I noted in the main discussion of vv.44-45, is that the ‘teaching’ from the Father is not simply the proclamation of the gospel but the act of regeneration (see the above discussion of v.45 in the main section before the exegetical errors). To be “taught of God” is to be regenerated by His power. Verse 45 is saying that only those who are regenerated by the power of God come to Christ. This is the opposite of the Arminian/non-Calvinist order of regeneration which places coming to/believing in Christ as first followed by being born-again (i.e. regeneration).

The second problem with such an interpretation is that the “hearing” frequently used in John is not that of physical hearing or intellectual understanding, but rather, it is a spiritual “hearing”:

“Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.” –John 8:43-47 (emphasis mine)

Notice that Jesus says that His opponents’ unbelief was caused by their being “not of God”. It was not as though those particular people made a libertarian free choice (i.e. capable of deciding either way) not to believe in Christ, and the result was that their spiritual state was “not of God”. Rather, the unregenerate spiritual nature of the unbelievers determined their inability to “hear” (i.e. believe) Jesus’ words. They *could not* believe because their spiritual nature allowed them to freely make only one choice in response to Jesus’ claims: the choice of unbelief. This is fully in accord with compatibilist or semi-compatibilist freedom but is the antithesis of the non-Calvinists’ belief in libertarian freedom. [See also John 10:25-29.]

The final problem, like all the exegetical errors of vv.37-40, is that it fails to explain why the so-called “followers” don’t believe, and in fact, such an interpretation of libertarian free-will undermines Jesus’ claims. [See “The Common Exegetical Error to All Non-Calvinist Objections” under the discussion of vv.37-40.]

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