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Puritan Catechism Question of the Week
Q 16. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A. The fall brought mankind into a state of sin and misery.

Name: Mike
Location: California, United States
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Monday, January 16, 2006

John 6:44 and Irresistible Grace

John 6:44 "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 is a great pillar text for Reformed theology. The reasoning should be clear. In verse 44 there is a universal negative claiming that nobody can come to Jesus unless the Father draws them. Earlier in verse 37 there is a universal affirmation that says "All that the father gives to me will come to me." Finally in verse 65, in the event that anyone has forgotten, Jesus reminds us, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father."

However, there has been substancial disagreement about this so-called "drawing" that we see in verse 44. What is the nature of the drawing here. Is it a luring or a wooing, as is often suggested, that a person then can equally choose to accept or reject the drawing?

Some may be shocked to learn that "draw" is not the main definition of the greek word here (elkw). The standard definition, if one were to look it up in any of a number of lexica would be "to drag". It is at this point that we may get a glimpse at the Father's irresistible grace for his elect. However, there is no need to take my word for this. The Scriptures provide us an excellent set of verses that bring home this point. There is only one verse, which I will save for the end, that requires any real explanation. All other verses should make this point exceedingly clear.

Here is every verse that uses "elkw":
Remember, this is the verse we are looking at.
"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

Now, other verses that use the same greek word:
John 18:10 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 21:6 And He said to them, "Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch." So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish.

John 21:11 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.

Acts 16:19 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 21:30 Then all the city was provoked, and the people rushed together, and taking hold of Paul they dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut.

James 2:6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?

In every event we have a person in control of the situation bringing out their desire by some means of exertion (generally physically). Paul and Silas were not wooed out of the market place. The poor people who were being oppressed were not being lured into the courts. Peter did not plead with his sword to jump out.

Now, for the last verse that does take a little explanation:

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

This, at first glance, is a major problem for so-called "Calvinists". It seems to throw a wrench in the entire system because we cannot have this irresistible grace that seems so evident from the other verses for "all men". However, this is simply the Arminian fallacy. We have too quickly assumed that "all men" means each and every person to ever walk the earth. Now, context, context, and context is important here.

The paragraph that John 12:32 exists in begins in verse 20. Depending on what bible you have, you might have a bold heading that says something like "Jesus predicts his death". Whatever the event, we must first start at verse 20:

20Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast.

Well this is interesting, we might have to pay attention to these Greeks who want to worship.

21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. "Sir," they said, "we would like to see Jesus." 22Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

Hmm.. now they want to see Jesus (and Jesus is informed about it). This is beginning to become important context for our passage.

23Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

Jesus begins to talk about Eternal life, following him, etc.

27"Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name!"
Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again." 29The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.
30Jesus said, "This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." 33He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

Now we have Jesus saying He is going to be glorified and the Father confirming this fact. There is going to be a time of judgment on the world as the prince is driven out (allusion to the His coming death) but when He is lifted up he will draw all men to himself.

Now, the key is that we have Gentiles coming to Jesus in the presence of the Jews. Jews, as you might know, believed themselves to be the People of God (with good reason) and considered themselves superior to the Gentiles. This continues even into the early church (as can be seen in Acts, Romans, Galatians, etc.). However, Jesus makes it clear from the beginning that he is going to break down the dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles. Jesus, here, is making a bold proclamation that he is going to draw all, meaning both Jews and the Gentiles (namely the Greeks who were seeking him).

When John 12:32 is read in context we have no reason to read into it that every single person will be drawn to him. This is not the obvious message that Jesus was intending. His message was in the context of a Jewish feast with Jewish rulers with visiting Greeks.

Once we have this straight in our mind, we can now turn our attention back to "draw" which we know is actually "drag". In every verse we have a person in utter control weilding their force on an object that cannot resist. A sword would not resist Peter. The nets were under the control of the disciples. The poor man was at the whim of the rich man. If language is to be intelligible at all, words must have meaning. The clear meaning of this word removes the possibility of "luring", "wooing", "pleading", etc.

Rather, the evident meaning is that God demonstrates His irresistible grace in effectually calling us to Himself. That is the reason why Jesus can confidently state that"All that the father gives to me will come to me" (John 6:37).

There is one note of caution that should be given here. There is often a perception of Calvinism that shows God dragging in sinners kicking and screaming who do not want to see him while keeping out those who are desperately seeking him. When we speak of this irresistible grace this is not the sense in which we mean. The way in which God works is so that he takes a dead heart who is staunchly opposed to Him and gives it new life and new desires (namely to Love him). So then, this is not dragging a person kicking and screaming, but rather performing Heart Surgery so as to effectually give new life (Spiritual life) to a once dead and wretched man.

In Christ alone,


Blogger Daniel said...

Yeah, "draw" can be mean "drag." But the context determines the meaning. Just look up "draw" in the English dictionary and see how many different meanings you get. You can't just pick the meaning that you like the most.

4:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Garner said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:37 AM  
Blogger Mike Garner said...

The question isn't regarding what "draw" can mean. Whether it can or cannot mean "drag". The question is what does the Greek word "Elkw" mean here. The word, in the New Testament, overwhelmingly means "to drag". Again, we are defining Greek words here so we would not look at an English Dictionary.

Also, you are correct in stating that we cannot just pick the meaning that we like the most. That is exactly what people are doing when they suggest that this word means "draw" in the sense of "to lure", "to woo", "to entice", etc. Those concepts are completely foreign to the word at hand and consequently is a matter of reading one's own interpretation into the text rather than drawing meaning out of the text.

In Christ alone,

2:46 AM  
Blogger Puritan Belief said...

Great Post Mike.

I remember when the Lord was dealing with me about these verses. Before I hated it and when he showed me for the first time it was so great.

There is great strength in trusting the Lord in all parts of salvation.

6:34 PM  
Blogger Nathan White said...

And don't forget that Jesus hasn't finished the sentence when He says: "No man can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me (drags) him..."

For He continues: "and I will raise him up at the last day."

If it really comes down to it, it doesn't matter whether draw means draw or drag, for all who are *drawn* will be raised, and no one will be *drawn* who will not be raised.

But I'm sure you guys all knew that (I know Daniel does). :)

Great post Mike.


1:17 PM  

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