A discussion with a brother about John 6:44.

19 10 2009

I had a conversation on Facebook with a brother in Christ named Wayne.

He was pretty adamant that Calvinism was bunk and the subject of John 6:44 was being discussed. I invited brother Wayne to come and to exegete John 6:44 and to talk and ask questions about it.

So here is installment #1 by Wayne:

Wayne #1

Hi Robert, to continue our conversation earlier…you asked me for my interpretation of John 6 44. No man can come to me accept the father draw him. This presents no problems, I totally agree with the text-In all honesty how could I love our Lord and disagree with it. Without God drawing us by his Spirit there is no way we could come to faith in Jesus Christ. I understand, I agree, I concur.
So while our relationship with Jesus Christ depends upon God’s action, it is equally true that it depends upon our response.
When we talk about God drawing Men, Who are those that God wants to draw.
An examination of John 12v2 shows that Christ wants to draw all men. If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me. So if God would draw all to Salvation and all are not saved is it God’s fault? no. He wishes for none to perish but that all may come to repentance.
What is your view on these Scriptures?
Why would you hold that the will of God is for some to be saved and some to perish, or that Christ only shed his blood for some of Mankind, when the Bible explicitly says he died for the sins of the world?
Would love to here your interpretation of these scriptures, God Bless, Bro Wayne.

******************************************************

Brother Wayne, I said that I’d offer an exegesis of John 6:44 and I’m going to. I’ll be out of town for a day or two so the posting might be a little slow for a day or two.

I’d like to get to your questions after this post if you don’t mind:

Bob #1

Wayne, thanks for coming to discuss this…much appreciated. I don’t think that this kind of thing is just a “side issue” or that it lacks importance. It’s part and parcel of the gospel itself. The fact is; it answers the question: “What were Jesus’ intentions when He died on the cross?” Did he die to “make salvation possible” for everyone who ever lived and it’s up to us to “turn the key” and actualize that “potential salvation” that he gave? Or did he die “for his sheep” and for those whom were “chosen in Him before the foundation of the world” and thereby completing exactly what He set out to do?

I think that John 6 answers that question.

So I’ll begin; here is my assessment of John 6:44 with a short bit of context also. Let’s try and keep this part of it to about 500-600 words or less.

John 6:44 doesn’t appear in a vacuum. It’s part of a larger discourse to a group that have been following Jesus. They’ve witness the feeding of the 5000 and now want “what he’s got” so to speak.

In verse 35 Jesus calls himself the bread of life. He says:

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty.

It’s important to keep in mind that “the one who comes” ho erchomai” is referring to a group of people as is “the one who believes.”
This is commonly taken to mean “everyone has the ability to come” or something similar but in reality; it’s a common phrase in John’s writings. “The one who does this” or “the one who does that.”
It’s simply stating the truth; when a person comes; they will not be turned away. They will not go hungry.
But what Jesus adds is interesting; he says:

Verse 36

“But I told you that you have seen me and still do not believe.”

Notice that he uses a strong adversative “alla” which is to draw a hard distinction between what he just said, and what He’s now going to say…He’s going to explain why they won’t believe even though they’ve been in the presence of the Son of God, and they’ve seen the same miracles as everyone else. He tells them:

“Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never send away.”

The same phrase is used here: “pas ho didomai moi ho pater” which is speaking of a certain group “those that the Father gives to Jesus. It’s not an offer of anything, it’s a statement of who will believe; this group that the Father gives to the Son.

Jesus is juxtaposing them; with the group “the ones who believe”

So the question becomes WHY do they not believe? That’s the context of our verse from Facebook: He’s still explaining the unbelief of these people, and the Jews were grumbling over it.

He says:

43 Jesus replied, “Do not complain about me to one another. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.

So their unbelief; that’s the subject matter. He says that no one is ABLE to come to Jesus…unless the Father draws him. This is a continuation of the previously spoken context…he’s still addressing the inability of them to come.
The word He uses for “able” is “dunamai” which speaks to ability, not permission. They do not have the power to come, they cannot come except something happen…and what is it? That the Father draws them. The word for “draws” is commonly thought of as a “wooing” but it’s actually used of “dragging” or “to move an object by your power.” Cross ref Luke 12:58 where this same form is used to denote “dragging someone into court” and John 21:11 where Peter drags the fish net up on shore”

So all through this discourse; the inability of some to come and believe is the subject matter, and Jesus gives the reason; they have not the ability and the Father has not given them…because the ones that the Father gives to Jesus; they will come. And notice that when they come; Jesus will raise them up on the last day. I mention that because you jumped over to another verse that mentions drawing; John 12:2. If the “all men” means “every one who ever lived and will ever live” then you must affirm universalism because Jesus said he will raise all those who are drawn.

So…please email me with your thoughts about what I wrote; and then we can ask a few questions and maybe look at some other passages.

*******************************************************

Response #1 by Wayne:

I’m back. sorry if these responses are slow but schedule is all over the place.
John 6 44.
Okay brother Bob, have read your response about ten times now, just so I can be sure what your saying. I find it hard to see why you would struggle so much with a simple text like this and why you constantly deny that the word all means everyone; In the Greek it is “Pas” meaning-everyone-Whosoever-all- inclusive-“not exclusive”.  So when Christ says “I will draw all men unto me” it is that same Greek word “pas” meaning all, whosoever, everyone.

So God would draw all men unto himself, that is his action, but to every action there must be a reaction.
So yes no man can come unto Christ except the Father draws him.
But the heart of God is shown to us all through out the scriptures and echoed by John that “God is Love” that is his nature that is who he is. “so God sent his son into the world to be the saviour of the world.
To say that John 6 44 proofs Calvinism is to impose Calvinism upon the Bible.
If this was an explicit text on Calvinism it would read something like this=No man can come unto me except for those who my father has predestined to be saved. that is an explicit text-but it is not in the scripture and certainly not in this text.
This does not mean that I believe in universalism. Not all will be saved.
Jesus tells of a man who throws a feast and invites his friends, they are those called by the host to be at the feast, but when the time comes that they are all bidden they begin to make excuses, this angers the host and he throws the invitation far and wide to all-that his house may be filled,and then says that those that were bidden to the feast (the called ones) will not taste of the supper. Such will be the kingdom of God. not all called will be chosen.
If I am pulling other scriptures into this discussion it is because I believe we have to take scripture as a whole to keep it in context.
Thanks again Bob, speak soon.
************************************************************
Bobs response to  #1 response by Wayne

Wayne,

I’m going to deal with your response a point at a time to keep things simple and understandable.

I’ll start off with your statement:
John 6 44.
Okay brother Bob, have read your response about ten times now, just so I can be sure what your saying. I find it hard to see why you would struggle so much with a simple text like this and why you constantly deny that the word all means everyone; In the Greek it is “Pas” meaning-everyone-Whosoever-all- inclusive-“not exclusive”.

To be perfectly frank and honest; this is a naive and false statement.  You have a presupposed assumption that “pas” means “everyone who ever lived and will ever live” but the problem is is that you have no grounds for doing so. Have you looked up “pas” in the standard lexicons and seen the semantic range that “pas” has? It’s PAGES long.

The fact is that all words have “semantic ranges” and they derive their meaning from their context and “pas is no different. Here is an illustration consider the word “dog.”

What does it mean? Give me your definition. You might have just thought of a furry 4-footed animal…if you did, you’ve “assumed it’s meaning” but did you have any grounds for doing so?

No.
The fact is; I was thinking about the word dog as used in the following way:

“my car is a real dog”

in other words; my car is “less than reliable in its performance.”

Without context; words don’t have meaning…context gives them their meaning.

The word “pas” is the same; it derives its meaning from its immediate context. You assume a universal meaning…but that’s all it is; an unfounded assumption.

Here is the semantic range of the word “pas” as shown in BDAG:

1.) Pertaining to a totality with focus on it’s individual components

2.) Any entity out of a totality

3.) Marker of the highest degree of something

4.) Completeness

5.) Pertaining to a certain class of something; some of all kinds.

Notice that last one; referring to a class of something; some of all kinds.

For example:

In Mat 24:9

Then they will be cruel to you, and will put you to death: and you will be hated by all nations because of my name.

So am I to believe that Jesus was telling the disciples that they would be hated by the people currently living in China at that time? South America? Or was he making the point that they would be hated by people in every place they went? He was describing the magnitude of hat that would be directed at them.

But wait! The word “pas” was used there! The word which you said “always means everyone”

I could bring a hundred examples just like this…but I’ll move on.

The phrase “pas-ho-+-word” is a common construction used many times to refer to a certain group. It’s used 31 times in John’s gospel.

Example:

John 3:8
The wind goes where its pleasure takes it, and the sound of it comes to your ears, but you are unable to say where it comes from and where it goes: so it is with everyone whose birth is from the Spirit.

What is this saying? It’s identifying those whose birth is from the spirit; nothing beyond that.

How about 1st John 4:7
He who has no love has no knowledge of God, because God is love.

This is the exact construction from John 3:16; it’s referring to a specific group; “those who have no knowledge of God.

It’s no different grammatically or syntactically from John 3:16.

Now, I’ve shown you by Greek grammar and syntax; not my “philosophical conviction” why I believe the way I do about “whosoever” in John 3:16. Not only is my interpretation consistent with the surrounding context of John 3:16 and Jesus’ limiting statements about the need to be born again before one can see the kingdom of God. It’s also consistent with the rest of John’s gospel; as I mentioned; John 6:35-45.

Now, my question is: can you bring a solid refutation of my argument for “pas” that is taken from the text itself?

If you cannot; I submit that you’re traditions are so thick that you are having a hard time reading the text for what it actually says; and not what you want it to say.

I’d like to stop here and get your thoughts before we proceed with the rest.

***************************************************

Waynes response to my response (partly)

Bob, let me Just put a few things right before starting, so that people dont get the wrong idea. I never said that the word “Pas” always meant everybody in the whole world-I said that it was meant in reference to our text about Christ drawing all men unto himself. I am quite aware of the Greek-Lexicon and know that there are various meanings of the same word.

******************************************************

This was the end of the exchange…I had sent this to Wayne and he answered me and said that he’d rather not continue.

My response to Wayne

Wayne…
I’d like to continue this via email; It’s a lot of work cutting and pasting into my blog so it’s readable and somewhat organized. Possibly I could post the whole exchange when we are done, but for now….let’s do it this way ok?

A big problem is that my original challenge; exegete John 6:44 went out the window; at least on your side.

Your response to me was more along the lines of a “speech” about how you don’t like Calvinism much, and that all means all in John 12:2 and John 3:16 puts the nail in the coffin of Calvinism.

Let me back track and ask; Do you have an exegesis of John 6;44?
When you read mine; did you see an error in grammar or syntax analysis that you could point out? Context error?

You may not like it; but John 6:44 has it’s own context and John 12:2 has it’s own context. Reading later passages’ assumed meaning of words BACK INTO earlier passages to get meanings is a very poor interpretative method.

so let me start by asking: Specifically anything wrong with my exegesis of John 6:44 and surrounding passages?

Ok then…let me move onto your present comments; I’ll put my comments in red bold to keep them separate visually.

Bob, let me Just put a few things right before starting, so that people dont get the wrong idea. I never said that the word “Pas” always meant everybody in the whole world-I said that it was meant in reference to our text about Christ drawing all men unto himself. I am quite aware of the Greek-Lexicon and know that there are various meanings of the same word.(So you did ascribe a universal meaning to “pas” in John 12:2. On what grounds did you do that? What in the context of John’s gospel led you to do that, especially considering that it’s the ones that God draws that get raised to eternal life in John 6. As I mentioned; that would make you a universalist. Are you a universalist?)

The Problem is we both have different interpretations about the Context. you are approaching this text with a calvinistic view-point, I am approaching it without one.(Actually, I did a nice careful job on John 6:44 and it’s context and you just gave me your opinion of John 12; abandoning John 6 with no exegesis whatsoever.)

Also let me say that you have no basis also for excluding that it could mean everyone in the whole world. (Actually, this is my basis for “concluding” that it’s “men from every tribe tongue and nation” rather than “everyone who ever lived or will ever live”

1.) John has already said prior to that that God draws. When God draws, men come; no question. Not all men come. When they come; Christ will raise them up to eternal life. Not all are raised to eternal life. So, I’m forced to exclude the “universal meaning” of “pas” from it’s semantic range in John 12.

As I mentioned that’s how exegesis is done. Context and flow of thought; front to back. John wrote this letter. He wrote it in order.

If we applied your thinking to every text of this kind we could end up with a problem.
For instance, Romans 3,23 For we have ALL sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
(Now your being silly. I never said that pas NEVER has the sense of “all men” only that it’s not ASSUMED to be universal except for a good reason; like context. The only meaning of pas that is supported by context is the “some of all kinds” or “class” meaning)

Now what should we say about this verse. I mean if we were to stick strictly to the context we would be forced to admit that Paul was here addressing the Church in Rome, so is he just saying that they all have sinned? or could it be that indeed he means everyone in the world from all ages?
(I’m assuming that you are still referencing John 6. Isn’t the subject matter of John 6 Jesus’ discourse about the bread of life? Isn’t he speaking about their lack of belief, and why they don’t believe? That’s the context that the word “pas” is found in.
Are you just grasping at straws or something?)

Or Mark 16 and Matt 28- go ye into all of the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Jesus was speaking at that time to his disciples that were with him-so obviously not applicable to you and me right?
(Again, why are you being silly?)

Having said all of that I come back to my first point that we are seeing texts from different viewpoints. So lets deal with yours.

Calvinism, or should it be called Augustinian ism. I have chosen not to start by attacking its doctrines but by determining what Spirit it is of.
(And why would you just not go right to the word, exegete it in it’s context and make your case. You seemed pretty confident on Face book that John 3:16 put the nail in the coffin of Calvinism. You seemed to think that John 12:2 was pretty clear. Why go on a rant about why you don’t like Calvin? Is that relevant to these verses and their exegesis?)

Almost all Calvinists recognize that Calvin got his teaching from Augustine-A father of the Catholic Church-some have even called him the founder of Catholicism as we know it today. Even Charles Spurgeon said that this is where Calvin got his ideas. Calvin said that he felt so at one with Augustine. A slightly worrying statement, but this probably explains why Calvin still believed in the sacraments and Infant baptism, and not only believed in them but said that they were essential to salvation. Bob this does not sound like Salvation by faith alone, but rather salvation by works, the very thing that Calvinists accuse non-Calvinists of.
On top of this in Geneva over 60 people were put to death under the leadership of John Calvin. Some were put to death for not believing in the doctrine of Infant baptism and the Sacraments. In spite of all his efforts to defy the pope, Calvin was some what of a Catholic himself.
The very spirit of Calvinism is False and therefore its teachings are also false. Why would you follow a man like this. Calvinism appeals to the proud mind and enters the realm of human philosophy. Let every man be a liar but let God be true. I will end here for now Brother Bob and speak soon.

And again I ask; do you have a direct refutation of John 6:44?
Even if Calvin was worse than Adolph Hitler and believed these doctrines, can you see that it’s fallacious reasoning to judge the truth or falsehood of these doctrines on the basis of good or bad human behavior?

Brother, you seem to be getting pretty worked up and your dislike of Calvinism is visible. I’m more interested if you’ve got a good exegetical reason for seeing John 6 differently than I’ve shown.

After that if you’d like to move on and keep in John and see the other passages up to 12:2 thats fine…but I’m interesting in the text itself, that’s where I get my authority.
Grammar
Syntax
Historical Context, Political Context, Writer’s context.
etc.

bob

Waynes response to me

Ouch! out comes that aggressive Calvinistic trademark.

In all seriousness Bob I do not think it a great idea for us to continue playing ping-pong like this.

You ask me for an exegesis on John 6 44, here it is. What Christ means is what he says; No man can come unto me unless the Father draw him. It is a very plain statement and it is true, Not a person in the world can come to Christ without the drawing power of God. I hope you agree as I do.

Another plain scripture is – The soul that sins will die! we have to agree with that statement, but where does it leave us if we just walk away with that one text in our heads? We are then forever lost for we have all sinned and therefore shall all die.

What I am saying is that it is complete folly to take a scripture and isolate it from the whole of scripture, before John chapter 6 we have John chapter 1. that is the begining of the book Bob! and John declares that Christ is the light that lighteth every man that comes into the world. So when you read John 6; 44 it should be with this former statement in mind, Yes no man comes unto me without the father’s drawing but I am the light which lights EVERY man that comes into the world. I believe this fits in with your earlier reasoning?

So I do not need to argue about John 6 44 I know what it means and glory to God it is true.

But I also rejoice in the whole of scripture that tells me that God is just, God is true, God is love and his overwhelming desire is that none should perish.

Am I a universalist? No! No! No!

People will perish, but not because God willed it or desired it.

The blood of Christ was spilt for all mankind and the there is enough in the sacrifice of Christ to save every Man, Woman, Boy and Girl, but alas not all will be saved, for some love darkness rather than light.

Brother Bob I dont see our discussion causing any fruit, therefore I will respectfully withdraw from it.

Thanks for your time and patience and may God bless you in his service, Bro Wayne.

***********************************************

My last response to Wayne. My responses to Wayne’s last email is in red, and his email is in italics.

Quote:
Ouch! out comes that aggressive Calvinistic trademark.

In all seriousness Bob I do not think it a great idea for us to continue playing ping-pong like this.

Wayne,
sorry if I came across as harsh…it wasn’t my intention.
We can stop if you want…I just thought you’d like to discuss it…you seemed very sure of yourself in the Facebook and didn’t make qualified statements, but pretty solid sounding pronouncements….right?

You had done a lot of “proof texting” but no actual “exegesis of the text” which is what I was getting at.

I’ll give some comments about your current email I do agree on a lot of what you said.

Quote:

You ask me for an exegesis on John 6 44, here it is. What Christ means is what he says; No man can come unto me unless the Father draw him. It is a very plain statement and it is true, Not a person in the world can come to Christ without the drawing power of God. I hope you agree as I do.

I do agree. But that’s not the end of his statement is it? This is one sentence in Greek…not disjointed thoughts.
No man has the ability to come unless God draws them.
When God draws them, they will come
When they come; Jesus will raise them to eternal life.

Can you see the conundrum for you? If you say that God is drawing all men…then all men are saved. In Jesus’ mind, there is no drawing without raising to eternal life.

Quote:
Another plain scripture is – The soul that sins will die! we have to agree with that statement, but where does it leave us if we just walk away with that one text in our heads? We are then forever lost for we have all sinned and therefore shall all die.

I also agree with that…but I’m left with…what does that have to do with Jesus’ explaining the unbelief of these Jews? Jesus goes on to say that they don’t believe BECAUSE they are not his sheep….that’s the reason.

Quote:
What I am saying is that it is complete folly to take a scripture and isolate it from the whole of scripture, before John chapter 6 we have John chapter 1. that is the begining of the book Bob! and John declares that Christ is the light that lighteth every man that comes into the world.

I have no problem with that either…it’s in my bible 🙂
But you have to explain what it means to “light every man” and not
assume that it’s equivalent with “drawing” men for salvation.

Quote:
So when you read John 6; 44 it should be with this former statement in mind, Yes no man comes unto me without the father’s drawing but I am the light which lights EVERY man that comes into the world. I believe this fits in with your earlier reasoning?

Again…you’ve assumed the meaning of “lights every man” and applied that to Jesus’ discourse in John 6 where he was actually explaining this unbelief. He said they are not of his sheep. He said that one was “destined for destruction.”
Can you see how that doesn’t comport with “lights all men” as in “same as draws all men”?
Judas was drawn, but destined for destruction at the same time?

Quote:
So I do not need to argue about John 6 44 I know what it means and glory to God it is true.

Without exegeting one bit of it.

I did exegete it however and it’s water tight; the ones who God gives to the son, they come, and the ones who come, are raised to eternal life. No question. Grammatically, syntactically, contextually, all interpreted carefully.
That’s not a “hasty opinion” or “dueling scriptures” that’s careful exegesis.

And if that’s true, and Jesus goes on to talk about not one getting lost EXCEPT the one who was “destined for destruction” then the only interpretation that actually fits is the one I’ve given.
Jesus goes on to pray in John 17; only for those given; not the world, but those given to him OUT OF THE WORLD.
Again, fitting perfectly with my exegesis of John 6.

Quote:
But I also rejoice in the whole of scripture that tells me that God is just, God is true, God is love and his overwhelming desire is that none should perish.

So on what basis do you understand God to have an “overwhelming desire” that none should perish? 2nd Peter 3:9?

if you’d like to exegete that one…I’m fine with that.

Quote:
Am I a universalist? No! No! No!

But if you want to be honest with the actual text, you must do one of two things.

1.) Be a universalist
2.) Show how I was incorrect in my exegesis of the Greek in John 6.

Quote:
People will perish, but not because God willed it or desired it.


So God is trying to do something that He fails at?

The blood of Christ was spilt for all mankind and the there is enough in the sacrifice of Christ to save every Man, Woman, Boy and Girl, but alas not all will be saved, for some love darkness rather than light.

I agree to a degree. I was sufficient for all mankind, but if it was spilt for all mankind, then all man kind is justified…and we know that’s not true.

Quote:
Brother Bob I dont see our discussion causing any fruit, therefore I will respectfully withdraw from it.

Thanks for your time and patience and may God bless you in his service, Bro Wayne.

You too Wayne, I’m sorry that we couldn’t get past the “proof text” opinion stage.
God bless,
bob

So there you have it. Not once did Wayne offer anything by way of actual exegesis though in the Facebook comments section he was sure that Calvinism was wrong, and that “all means all” and that John 3:16 means that God is trying to save all men!

Opinion is not exegesis.

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5 responses

20 10 2009
Born4Battle

Most excellent, Bob.

20 10 2009
rpavich

Thanks Dan,
We’ve probably got a lot more to talk about on this; but this is a start.

23 10 2009
Mark

While I can certainly sympathize with my brother Wayne, man cannot be involved with his own salvation without offending grace alone and much scripture. That said – Man must believe indeed! and when he does it is because of God’s act upon Him. Preach and Teach man must believe all day long, I care not and I would argue Christ does not mind at all, after all He did the same thing.

@Bob – excellent job bro! That said, I am glad you have chosen Christ and to serve Him. We all make choices, and all of our choices are very real to us still living under the sun babbling about Christ from the sincerity of heart and a true concern for those living in the dark.

Let me ask you, would I be “wrong” to say – “write doctrine like a hyper calvanist, but preach like a crazy Armenian” ? 🙂 Blessings bro!

23 10 2009
rpavich

Mark,
lol…I wouldn’t’ say you’d be “WRONG” but I’d say Calvinist can preach like that also… 🙂
The great revivals (for the most part) have all been Calvinistic….

26 09 2014
John Chapter 6 Verse 44 | My great WordPress blog

[…] 12 January 2013)6. John Calvin. The Crossway Classic Commentaries. p.1647. Benjamin Arthur Davis. A discussion with a brother about John 6:44 (Go Share Your Faith; 19 October 2009)8. Galyn Wiemers. Examining John 6:44 (Bible Teaching from […]

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