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),