God’s Freedom and Power to Save Whomever He Wills (John 6:35-44)

John 6:35-44 contains these famous words from Jesus: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (v. 35).  Thus we see that those who come to Jesus, those who believe in him, will be satisfied.  He himself will be their bread, satisfying all their spiritual hunger.  But then he goes on to say, “But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe” (v. 36).  There are people standing in Jesus’ presence who do not come to him, who do not believe in him.  In the context, the group of people near him are the same ones he fed when he fed the five thousand men (6:1-15).  That night, Jesus walked on water (6:16-21) to the other side of the sea.  The next morning, “when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus” (6:24).

Then, once they find him, Jesus says to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves” (6:26).  In effect, the crowd is following Jesus not for Jesus’ sake, but solely so that they can have their felt needs met.  They didn’t want Jesus; they only wanted the gifts that Jesus could give them.  They received the bread that he gave to them the previous day but missed the fact that he himself is the “bread of life” (v. 35).  So when Jesus says, “you have seen me and yet do not believe,” (v. 36), he really means that they do not have genuine faith in him.  They do not come to him as the bread of life, but only as a kind of butler who can fulfill their immediate needs.

Now we must ask: Why do some people not believe?  If it’s true that whoever comes to Jesus, whoever believes in him, will find all their satisfaction in him, why do some people not come to him, not believe in him?  How can it be the case that Jesus is the “bread of life” yet there are some who “have seen [him] and yet do not believe” (v. 36)?  Jesus answers these questions with this statement: “All that the Father gives to me will come to me” (v. 37).  This statement functions as an answer because it points out the necessary condition which causes someone to come to Jesus, namely the giving of the Father.  The reason that people come to Christ is because the Father has given those people to Christ.  The Father’s act of giving comes before our act of coming to Christ.  Notice the phrasing of the text: “All that the Father gives to me will come to me.”  All of God’s chosen people will believe in Christ.  The reason that some do not believe is because they are not chosen by God to believe.  But all of those who are chosen, all of those whom the Father has given to Christ, will believe in Christ without fail.

So when Jesus says, “you have seen me and yet do not believe” (v. 36) and then says, “All that the Father has given me will come to me” (v. 37), he is clearly saying that the unbelieving Jews before him do not believe because they have not been given to Christ by the Father.  They have not been chosen to come to Christ, to believe in him.  This is the U of TULIP, unconditional election.  The point is that God saves sinners, not because they believe in Christ, but in order that they believe in him.  And that is the exact teaching in v. 37: people come to Christ, not in order to be chosen by God, but because they are chosen by God.  Predestination, understood biblically, is just the teaching that God’s love for us is not conditioned by anything in us, whether it’s who we are or what we can do; rather, God’s love for us comes out of His free grace and love toward us in Christ.  But we also see the I of TULIP, irresistible grace.  Those whom the Father has chosen will come to Christ.  It is impossible for God’s saving grace to fail to redeem a single one of God’s chosen people; all of them will come to believe in Christ.

Jesus continues: “and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (v. 37).  This clause demonstrates that those who believe in Christ will never be rejected by him.  The Jews in front of him cannot think: perhaps I am not chosen.  If I come to Christ I will be rejected.  They cannot think that because all who come to Christ, all who believe in him, will never be rejected.  They will never be cast out.  It simply is not the case that there are people out there who genuinely want to believe in Christ but nevertheless are not chosen and so cannot.  All who genuinely want to believe, all those who do actually believe, will never be rejected by Christ.  So if we put the whole verse together, “All that the Father gives to me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out,” we see why those who come to Christ will never be cast out: they have been chosen by the Father to believe in Christ!  The first reason that Christ will not reject those who come to him is because the Father has given them to Christ.  The Father has chosen a specific people and given them to Christ, not because they believed but in order that they should believe.  That’s why Christ will never cast them out.

Furthermore, Jesus says, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent me” (v. 38).  The word “for” indicates that Jesus is explaining why it is that he will never cast out those who believe in him.  So the second reason that believers will never be cast out is because Christ has come to do the will of the Father.  And what is that will?  Jesus answers, “that I should lose nothing of all that He has given me, but raise it up on the last day” (v. 39).  So those who come to Christ, those who believe in him, will not be cast out because it is the Father’s will that Jesus loses none of them.  And not only will he not lose any of them, but he will raise the entire group, all those whom the Father has given him, on the last day.

This is further explained when Jesus says that the will of the Father is that “everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (v. 40). Those who look on the Son, which as we have seen are those who have been given by the Father to Christ, have eternal life and will be raised up on the last day. None of them will be rejected. None of them will be lost precisely because Christ himself will fulfill the will of the Father and save His chosen people. This points out both the L and the P in TULIP, limited atonement and perseverance of the saints. Christ does not, indeed cannot, fail to fulfill the will of his Father. The fact that the will of the Father is that Christ should lose none of all that He has given to him should be an incredible comfort to our souls. And this is all that limited atonement is meant to safeguard. The work of Christ on the cross does not merely make it possible for people to be saved, but it actually saves those for whom it was intended. The will of the Father is that Christ should lose none of the elect. And since Christ cannot fail to fulfill the will of the Father, none of the elect will be lost.

And now we see the intimate relationship between limited atonement and perseverance of the saints.  If it is indeed true that Christ’s work actually saves the elect, then it must be equally true that the elect will never fully nor finally fall away from saving grace.  If the elect could ultimately fall away, then the work of Christ does not actually save them.  If you have one truth, you must have the other.  If it is true that the will of the Father is that Christ should “lose nothing of all that He has given him,” then it must also be true that Christ will “raise it up on the last day” (v. 39).  Those who think that our salvation can be lost must necessarily think that Christ could somehow fail to fulfill the will of the Father.  But since we know that Christ and his work will not fail to accomplish all that the Father intends to accomplish by it, we know that our salvation cannot be lost.  Christ will not fail.  He will “lose nothing” of all the Father has given him.  He will raise us up on the last day.

The Jews then “grumbled about him, because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven’” (v. 41).  They think they know who Jesus is, and it offends them that he calls himself the “bread of life.”  They ask, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?” (v. 42).  The Jews basically question the identity of Jesus and ask questions related to his origins.  How could he possibly be the “bread from heaven” if we know who his parents are?

But then, “Jesus answered them, ‘Do not grumble among yourselves” (v. 43).  Jesus knows they are grumbling.  He knows that what he has been saying offends them.  Yet he is about to say something even more offensive to them.  He continues, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (v. 44).  In effect, Jesus is saying that humans do not have the ability to come to him, to believe in him, unless God the Father causes them to believe.  It’s not merely the case that people do not come apart from God’s drawing, but that they cannot.  Jesus here teaches what would come to be known as the T in TULIP, total depravity.  A better name for it might be “moral inability,” which is the truth that fallen humans are morally unable to believe in Christ because they are dead in their trespasses and sins.

Most Christians I know are thoroughly enamored with the idea of “free will,” despite the fact that Jesus here teaches precisely the opposite truth.  We do not actually have free will in the sense that we can either choose to come to God or choose to refrain from coming to Him.  If we did have free will in that sense, it would mean that we could actually come to Christ apart from the Father’s work of drawing.  But Jesus says that no one can come to him, meaning that they do not have the free will ability to believe in him.

Notice also that Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.  And I will raise him up on the last day” (v. 44).  The second clause teaches that all those who are drawn by the Father will be raised up by Jesus on the last day.  We saw previously that Jesus accomplishes the Father’s will in that he loses nothing of all the Father has given him, and here we see that those whom the Father draws, the Son raises to eternal life.  This means that if you are drawn by the Father, you will be raised by the Son.  This points out the relationship between the I and the P of TULIP.  The drawing of the Father here is irresistible; it accomplishes precisely what God intends to accomplish.  No sinner can withstand the saving grace of God, but rather is made willing to believe in Christ when God draws him.  And we see that those who are drawn by the Father will be preserved to the end, they will persevere in faith and obedience, and that Jesus himself will raise them on the final day.  And since we know that not everyone will be raised by the Son to eternal life, we know that the Father does not draw everyone.  Rather, He draws all those who He has given to Christ (cf. v. 37).

What we have now seen is that all five petals of the infamous TULIP acronym are clearly present in John 6:35-44. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (v. 44) signals total depravity. “All that the Father gives to me will come to me” (v. 37) signals both unconditional election (in that the Father gives a specific people to the Son) and irresistible grace (in that those whom the Father has chosen will come to Christ). Jesus says he comes down from heaven to do the Father’s will, which is “that I should lose nothing of all that He has given me, but raise it up on the last day” (v. 39), and this signals both limited atonement (in that the work of Christ actually saves those whom the Father has given him) and perseverance of the saints (in that Christ will not fail to accomplish the Father’s will, but instead will raise up all the elect of God to eternal life on the final day). Praise God that even when we could not believe in Christ, He has drawn us by His irresistible power. Praise God that He gave us to His Son, not because we had believed, but in order that we would. Praise God that we have a powerful Savior, one whose work for us actually saves us and will not fail. Praise God that He is totally capable of keeping us from falling, being able to raise us up on the last day.

Thanks for reading. Have a question or comment? Leave it below!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s