Examining John 6:44, a Calvinism “proof text”…

This post is for the two friends of mine that were unable to come to Bible class two weeks ago. One of them asked me for a copy of my notes…and my notes are so messy uniquely decipherable by yours truly, that I thought this might be a better way of “catching her up” on what we learned. To anyone else happening to read this, maybe you’ll learn something new, as I did. And maybe you’ll disagree. Either way, we can chat about it more in comments.

So our study at the evening service these past weeks has been on understanding Calvinism. I will say up front that I am not a Calvinist, nor an Arminian, I am a follower of Christ and His word. However, there are some passages Calvinists use to prove certain of their points, that can be downright confusing if you don’t rightly divide the word of truth. I’m not attempting here to refute the five points of Calvinism, aka, TULIP. I’m simply sharing class homework with fellow truth seekers…so here we go!

John 6:44 is a verse that, taken by itself, has stumped me in the past. A Calvinist will read this as supporting evidence for their belief in the total depravity of mankind, which basically means that wicked mankind is totally incapable of responding to the gospel, and further, their belief that Jesus only died for the “elect”, or the “chosen”, while the rest of humanity is damned to hell. Here is the verse:

“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”

One thing I’ve learned in this Bible study, is that to get “light” on scripture, you must read the context, and cross-reference certain key phrases. This is all part of “rightly dividing” the word, and comparing spiritual things with spiritual as we’re told to do in 1 Cor. 2:13. So if you would, read John 6, and see what Jesus said on both sides of verse 44. Verses 35, 36, 37, 45, 47 and 51 jump out at me:

“And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” (vs. 35)

“But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.” (vs. 36)

“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. ” (vs. 37)

“It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” (vs. 45)

Notice that phrase “cometh unto me“…it is in verses 35, 37, and 45, the verses directly surrounding the one we’re studying. Jesus just said in verse 44, that “no man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him”… So this verse sheds great light on the verses surrounding it! How does God draw us to him? Verse 45 tells us, by our response to hearing the gospel, or being “taught of God”! Here we have simply been reading in context, and this key phrase “come/cometh to me” keeps popping out at us. The Bible will define itself every time! 

On to the other verses in this context that grabbed my attention.

“He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” (vs. 47)

“I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (vs. 51)

Notice the words in bold. Keep in mind that to Calvinists, there are two groups of people: the elect or “chosen” ones, and the non-elect. Also remember their premise of “total depravity,” that mankind is incapable of responding to the gospel, unless they are of the elect. Yet, Jesus says, “He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” Believing is responding. And in verse 51, “if ANY man eat of this bread” is also an action in response to Christ available to ANY man seeking to partake of it. And his life was given for the world! Not just the elect few…

Before we go any further, I have to say that I believe God calls everyone to Himself, but many reject the gospel, or haven’t heard the gospel, and these people don’t respond by believing in Christ. The scripture passages we are focusing on today, support this belief. It’s important to draw attention to the times in these passages where Jesus draws a distinction between those that “believe” and those that “believe not.” John 3:18 says this:

“He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Unbelief is the only roadblock to salvation. As long as you continue in unbelief, you have a ticket straight to hell. Do nothing, and you are condemned already. So we have two camps of people here, those that believe and come, and those that believe not or come not. Here are some verses that support the doctrine of man’s having the free will to believe in God, or to reject God:

Romans 6:17, “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.”

(This is a really good verse to read in context…it’s leading up to the famous Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death…” ie: servants of sin, get the wages of sin, but if you are obedient unto righteousness, then the gift of God is eternal life…wonderful passage!)

John 5:40, “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.”

I love that these two verses refer distinctly to our John 6:44-45  theme that God draws mankind to him by teaching them of Himself, and after hearing and learning about God, men either “come to him,” thereby “obeying that form of doctrine” or they “come not” and thus never receive life in Christ Jesus.

But this gets really exciting when you look up John 12:32:

“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all [men] unto me.”

Wow! There is that word again, “draw”–same word we saw in John 6:44–“No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him…” And here Jesus is saying he will draw ALL men unto him…the phrase “if I be lifted up from the earth” refers to his being lifted up on the cross (John 3:14), that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:15).

The study of the context and cross-references of John 6:44 is full of incredible truth! And John himself tells us, in the second to last chapter of his book, why he wrote this gospel account. John 20:31 sums it all up very clearly:

“But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” 

Pretty straightforward, after all.

Another key thing to consider, is, would God devote so much time in His word to telling mankind to “believe” if mankind “can’t” believe, or is unable to believe? For God to tell men to believe, if they can’t, is unjust. The God of the Bible is not looking much like the God of Calvinism.

Well, I only got through one of the verses from last week’s class! I have 4 or 5 more to go…and will post more as I have time. Loving this excuse to rehash it all in my own mind and heart.

As always, in awe of His word (Psalm 119:161),


14 thoughts on “Examining John 6:44, a Calvinism “proof text”…”

  1. We’re going through the Gospel of John in our family devotions and I’m surprised just how much support for the Calvinistic argument is in the book. Reading the book through as we are, there are multiple times when Jesus refers to being unsaved as spiritual blindness. He talks about how certain people are not His. He speaks of sheep that are His, and that will hear His voice.

    John is a hard book to build support for a non-Calvinist viewpoint. Whereas John 3:16 and other verses imply “whosoever will”, there are many that also imply that some have been chosen.

    I personally believe the truth is somewhere in the middle– and perhaps Jesus is simply for-knew the state of the Pharisees? It’s also possible that there is some decision point that comes (that perhaps we’re not aware of) and after that is reached you’re either drawn to God or hardened like Pharaoh. That last bit is something I’m mulling over as I type it, so don’t quote me on that one.

    In any case, definitely a fascinating, if not controversial, topic.

  2. Actually, Min, “whosoever will” is not a correct rendering. The Greek of the text is:
    3:16 Οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλ᾽ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον
    πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων – all believing

    And this is pretty exclusive.

  3. Hi ya’ll… :O)

    To my Swedish friend, Ann–good to see you over here again! Sorry it’s relative to a subject we disagree on…but I’ll always listen in love to what you have to say. My thoughts on the Greek are…you have the right Greek words (Textus Receptus) in your comment, but not the right rendering…in my Greek-English NT, the Greek-to-English for “whosoever” reads “everyone who believes” rather than “all believing”…not sure which Greek text you were using, there are around 30 different Greek study texts out there from what I understand. Kind of confusing. However, the Greek in your comment matches up with the Textus Receptus backing the KJV. “Everyone who believes” is not any different from “whosoever believes” in my opinion. “Whosoever” is used in both John 3:15 and John 3:16, both from the same Greek words meaning “everyone who believes.” Whosoever is more poetic, maybe, and easier for memorization purposes.

    God has taught us through the apostle Paul in Romans that “Even the righteousness of God [which is] by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon *all them that believe*:” We are not left in doubt about how many are offered this gift, for Paul adds, “for there is no difference, For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:22,23). The “all” who have sinned are offered without distinction the gift of Christ’s righteousness if they will believe and submit to His love. The passage means nothing unless all sinners have the ability to choose to believe in Christ.

    Min–Taken at face value, yes, there are some difficult passages in John, but the study of them is so rewarding. I’ve personally found that simply reading it through doesn’t do it for me…I have to take my time and take those hard passages to the mat! ;O)

    You are totally onto something with your last thoughts…I will add to them the following things to think about b/c this is a very key study to understanding the truth about God and hardened hearts…since I mentioned John 12 in this post, that is a good place to start.

    Take John 12:37-43, in verse 37, “But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him.” We see here that they rejected Christ continually. The “Therefore” of verse 39 is referring back to this point: “Therefore they could not believe…” First they chose not to believe, later they *could not believe*. They reached a point of no return.

    2 Cor. 4:3-4 says, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath *blinded the minds of them which believe not*, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” They believed not, thus were prime candidates for being blinded.

    Another good passage is John 9 where Jesus healed the blind man…lots of good spiritual truth to be found there (verse 31 for example). It continues into chapter 10, where Jesus has to get really explicit with the Pharisees in verse 25, “I told you, and ye believed not (there is that phrase again) the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.”

    And this one in 1 Chron. 28:9 takes the cake: “And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.”

    Free will proponents have got to love that reference to a “willing mind”, huh. This verse illustrates all in one place that the LORD knows the hearts of men, whether they are committed to him or have forsaken him…if they’ve forsaken him, they’ll be cast off, or have their hearts hardened.

    One last one on hard hearts, because someone is sure to bring up Romans 9:17-18, where God says, “For the scripture saith unto Pharoah, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore, hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” This passage is referring to Exodus 9, if you’ll go read it. Take note especially of how Pharaoh did not fear the Lord, he said the “right things” but in his heart, he did not respond. Verses 34 and 35 say this, “And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the LORD had spoken by Moses.” Who hardened Pharoah’s heart first? He did. Ex. 10:1, the very next verse, confirms this. Other places that speak of Pharoah hardening his own heart are found in Ex.8:32, and 1 Sam. 6:6, “Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? when he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed?” Pretty convincing stuff.

    Definitely a fascinating topic, and while I agree that God in his omniscience foreknows everything, biblically, election is an altogether different thing from predestination, yet Calvinists use these terms inter-changeably. Discerning what God says on the matter, is all that matters to me.

  4. Ah my dear! Was that supposed to be a compliment? ;O) Please do not label me what I would not label myself. Surely you agree that there is nothing wrong with just believing the Bible, and following Christ, rather than man, whether that man be John Calvin, St. Augustine, or Jacob Arminius? 1 Cor. 1:10-18 addresses this very thing…who do you follow? Paul or Apollos or Cephas? Only Christ. Do we lean more to Calvinism or Arminianism…no, we *stand* on God’s word. We must know the “real thing” so that when counterfeit doctrines show up, we can discern truth from error. Col. 2:8, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world and not after Christ.” Are we to measure everything by the writings of Calvin, or Arminius, or God? That’s all I’m attempting to do in this post, use God’s word as a measuring stick for all the interpretations of it that abound.

    You’ll notice I’m only using scripture in these posts, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. I’m not naive enough to claim to know it all, by no means…but I do believe that God and his word are very clear, and “the entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” Psalm 119:130

    God’s glory is celebrated. Yet it is not glorying in man, or arrogant to believe 1 John 5, especially verse 13, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may *know* (not think, or hope) that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” How could it be arrogant to trust Jesus Christ who alone, is good enough?

    I appreciate the heart behind your link and book recommendations…however, I have already read some of James White’s books and will leave it at that.

    Hugs to you, friend…I want no quarrel with you, you know that, right?

  5. I cannot find your post in which you plan to work on Romans 9. However, before you endeavor on this topic, listen to this
    One more thing: Mary, you know I love you as a dear sister. When you appeal to mine and Min’s feelings, by writing that you are a human being, it works two ways. By presenting biased anti-calvinistic opinions, especially such penned by Dave Hunt, who has no idea what he is talking about, you offend our intellect, too, in a way.
    Another thing: Jean Cauvin is not the creator of Calvinism. This is a basic error all anti-calvinists commit. The Reformed Thought was the main motor of the Reformation, suffice to say – go and read about it, go and read what Luther wrote in his “Bondage of the Will”, go and read Wycliff, Tyndale, Hus even. There was nothing else BUT the pure biblical understanding of the Sovereignty of God and depravity of man. Then came the Remonstrants, after Cauvin’s death, and proposed their five points of Arminianism, to which the reformed theologians responded by the Five Points of Calvinism. Most unfortunately the whole movement got the label after the name of one theologian, who, at the time of the said events, was long gone in his grave. It saddens me that in their eagerness to fight against the reformed thought people choose to put a blind eye on the historical facts.
    I know you do not want to listen to James White. God knows why. But if you use such words as “biased” against what I kindly quoted (concerning Dave Hunt), I may equally put the same label on you, Mary.
    In Peace

  6. Dear Ann,
    My Romans 9 post isn’t ready but it’s in my head. :O) I have a busy day ahead, so I will hope to get it up tomorrow. Thanks for the link, I will have to try it again, it stalled out about 3 minutes into listening to it.

    I will attempt to explain briefly why I don’t have much respect for James White’s writings or ministry. In the past 12 months, during my research on the subject of Bible translations, I read White’s book, The King James Only Controversy. It was supposedly one of the best books on the sides of the modern translations, refuting KJV “onlyism”. I carefully read his 1995 edition, and his 2010 edition of the same title, and could not believe the conjectures, the lack of accurate historical representation and worse, lack of attributing to God any credit for being the author and preserver of His book. Add to that, the fact that I also read many books written to refute this book of White’s, and there are *thousands* of pages of rebuttal available proving that he simply doesn’t have a leg to stand on in that debate, I just haven’t got any confidence in his going to the Bible and saying, “What saith the scriptures” on any subject now, much less the matter of Bible translations. I would rather listen to John Piper, in all honesty, if it comes to that.

    I realize that there are strong feelings here, and that we both believe strongly that we understand what God is saying in His word yet we’ve formed different conclusions. I deleted the post that had the quote by Dave Hunt, not because I changed my mind about it being accurate, but because I do want to keep my posts on this subject to what God says in the Bible. I feel very strongly about this, yet I felt there was benefit to reading those quotes to see a bigger picture of the dangers of viewing God this way. I’m sorry that we find ourselves on opposite sides of this divide. I do take issue with the idea of a Calvinistic God, because I don’t see that at all, in the God of the Bible. I also believe it is important to “remove” any biases as I sit down to read God’s word, but that is hard to do. For instance, if you or I are approaching His word with our minds already made up, we could argue this subject till the “cows come home” and never see eye to eye. But if we take God’s word as a whole, and rightly divide it, I believe that is when we see a bigger picture. Not slamming your intellect at all, or mine, as these are difficult passages, thus the many strong feelings and varied interpretations. That said, I do agree in man’s sinful depravity, and the absolute sovereignty of God…as you know if you read my latest post “On Total Depravity”. I just believe that a lot of liberty has been taken, considering the whole counsel of God’s word on the subject.

    In the future, I will skip the quotes by Dave Hunt, etc, if you will stop referring me to outside links. I really would prefer to have scripture-based answers here in comments. Then we can explore what God says, which is really all that matters anyway.

    But Ann, what I really want to ask of you, is, as a Reformed Baptist, do you believe we can have assurance of salvation? And what are your thoughts on evangelism, does it make a difference, if a certain number are predestined to heaven and hell anyway? These are the biggies for me in this debate.

  7. 1 John 2:2 And ‘He'[Jesus Christ] is the ‘propitiation'[Atonement] for our sins: and not for ‘ours'[Believers] only, but also for the sins of the ‘WHOLE’ world.

    Hebrews 2:9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that He by the grace of God should taste death for ‘EVERY MAN’.

  8. Excellent scriptures, Jason! Thank you for contributing them here! He died for every man, to say He died only for the “elect” is to redefine the words in this scripture. My favorite here lately is Ezekiel 33:11, “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and this verse has free will written all over it…

    If that’s not enough, 2 Peter 2:1 tells us He shed His precious blood for false teachers and Christ-deniers: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.”

    Hallelujah what a Savior!

  9. Thankyou Mary for this entry on Calvinism. I am a King James bible believer who is studying Calvinism for the first time. I am in my first conversation with a lady who is a pastors wife, and a Calvinist, and she brought up John 6:44 tonight. Your comments and insights here have been a blessing, can’t wait to read more…. Scripture only!

    I used to believe that predestination and freewill could somehow work together. But now that I have gone to scripture only, I am concluding that God has not spoken in vain, that anyone can call out to Him and He will answer.

    God is capable of making us capable to be able to believe in Him. 🙂 Katie.

  10. Thank you, Katie, for taking time to comment here. It’s always a blessing to hear positive feedback. I, too, had a lot of questions about certain Calvinist proof texts until our pastor did an intensive study on what scripture really says, when you read it in context. It pays to be a student of the word, ever learning and coming into knowledge…truth is worth the digging and cross referencing! Yet I love it in the Psalms where we’re told that His word gives understanding to the simple! I appreciate your encouraging words here!

    Thanks again,

  11. Christ is not theology but a person. Paul taught not to discuss questions that only give birth to strife within the body. I can’t stand labeling doctrines…none of us fully understand. We know nothing as we should and all our knowledge of the flesh is just worthless, absolutely worthless. If it brings division in the body of Christ – it is worthless, earthly knowledge. The Knowledge from Christ – edifies, builds up, strengthens and brings together His disciples in love.

    We are all great sinners who don’t care as we should for one another and we continually, through ignorance and our own misguided theology, cast stumbling blocks before one another.

    Love one another…and stay away from man made doctrines…follow the bible…the word of God. Knowledge makes you prideful but love edifies.

    Why did Jesus hand pick fishermen, tax collectors, children and doctors for His apostles and not those who studied the old testament from cover to cover?

    Acts 4:13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.

    The knowledge of the Pharisees and the scribes was turned into an idol that made themselves seem more important than those who where around them…

    John 9:34 They answered and said to him, “You was altogether born in sins, and do you teach us?” And they cast him out.

    …look at the blindness of the Pharisees and scribes here…this man who was healed from blindness spoke to them of Christ and there ignorant knowledge, which had blinded them to the truth, had made them prideful. The tradition of men was more important than the word of God…even the living word of God – Jesus their King and Saviour.

    What should we do? Look to each person around you as much more important than you, lift them up and let yourself become lower before them. Love them, care for them and let yourself be wronged even when you maybe right – win them and not the argument. Jesus said – be a servant and worship me in “Spirit and in Truth”. That is “Love God and your neighbour (Spirit) and teach Christ (Truth)”

    Jesus taught on the sermon on the mount – Not all that say “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of Heaven but only them that do the will of my Father Who is in heaven. What is the will of the Father – here it is:

    Micah 6:8 He (God) has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly (do that which is right and not sinful), to love mercy (because mercy rejoices against judgment James 2:13) and to walk humbly with your God (He that humbles himself will be exalted and he that exalts himself will be made humble mat 23:12, luk 14:11)

    Lets do this…Sometimes put down your bible and talk with God (the early Christians always did this because they didn’t have a bible!) and not only talk with Him but listen and do what He wants us to do…Walk round your village or town and help those who need help, love your neighbours and show the love of Christ and talk about Him.

    God bless
    Colin recently posted..Sermon on the mount

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.