EXCEPTional Bible Verses, Part 3

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John 6:44

 

Jesus’ own words on the issue of following Him look like this:

No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him…  (John 6:44  KJV)

This single statement makes plain that nobody comes to Jesus unless God draws them.  Put another way, nobody wakes up one day thinking, “Gee, I think I’ll get saved today.”  That person must be drawn by God to make that decision;  he cannot make it on his own.

Well, this proposition is fraught with difficulties for the thinking person.  Why bother with altar calls at all if it is God who does the drawing?  What’s the point in sending missionaries to the far-flung corners of the world if those lost people will come to God if He calls them anyway?  Why bother witnessing to the unsaved when they can’t get saved unless God calls them to?   Not to mention the great difficulty of reconciling the God of love and justice who will punish the unrepentant sinner for not doing something they could not possibly do in the first place!

These questions, and many others, have been asked forever by people who don’t have a firm understanding of Biblical theology.  Or who like to cause arguments.

So, what did Jesus mean when He spoke those words?  Let’s examine this EXCEPTional Bible verse in the context it was given.  You might be surprised by its meaning and its implications.

1.  Setting the scene

It all started with this verse:

Then the Jews began to murmur against him because he claimed to be the Bread from heaven.  (John 6:41  TLB)

The Jews that had heard Jesus teaching this day were getting madder by the moment.  What sparked their murmuring was this particular teaching:

They replied, “You must show us more miracles if you want us to believe you are the Messiah. Give us free bread every day, like our fathers had while they journeyed through the wilderness! As the Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven.’ ”

Jesus said, “Moses didn’t give it to them. My Father did. And now he offers you true Bread from heaven. The true Bread is a Person—the one sent by God from heaven, and he gives life to the world.”

“Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day of our lives!”

Jesus replied, “I am the Bread of Life. No one coming to me will ever be hungry again. Those believing in me will never thirst.”  (Luke 6:30—35  TLB)

But what really got them going was this:

Jesus replied, “The truth of the matter is that you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you believe in me.”  (John 6:26  TLB)

Jesus told them, “This is the will of God, that you believe in the one he has sent.”  They replied, “You must show us more miracles if you want us to believe you are the Messiah. Give us free bread every day, like our fathers had while they journeyed through the wilderness! As the Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven.’ ”  (John 6:29—31  TLB)

That’s right.  This bunch had been following Jesus around for the free food!  They had been miraculously fed before, and now they wanted to be miraculously fed again.  When Jesus confronted them about this, He didn’t pull any punches and told them the way it was:  following Jesus for what you can get out of Him is the wrong reason to follow Him.   Our Lord encouraged the crowd not to expend so much energy chasing after such temporary things, but rather seek after spiritual, eternal things:

“But you shouldn’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. No, spend your energy seeking the eternal life that I, the Messiah, can give you. For God the Father has sent me for this very purpose.”  (John 6:27  TLB)

But these people were stubborn.  If they were going to follow Jesus for that right reason, then He had better get off the dime and prove to their satisfaction that He really is the Messiah.  As if being fed wasn’t enough, they wanted even more proof.  Here are people who can never be satisfied!  They wanted Jesus to feed them continually, like the Israelites had been fed during their desert wanderings by Moses.  No doubt they thought they were very clever quoting Scripture in an effort to get Jesus to do what they wanted Him to do.  But Jesus set them straight again:

“Moses didn’t give it to them. My Father did.  And now he offers you true Bread from heaven.  The true Bread is a Person—the one sent by God from heaven, and he gives life to the world.”  (John 6:32  TLB)

Jesus wasn’t about to be distracted from His purpose:  to show these people that He was the Messiah, and they needed Him.  They thought they needed breakfast, but what they needed was the salvation Jesus offered them.   Still, it seems they were not convinced and they “murmured.”

2.  The right kind of thinking

They wanted bread, but Jesus offered Himself to them as the “Bread of life,” come down from Heaven.  In spite of all the teachings, all the miracles, and the free food, these people just didn’t “get” Jesus at all.  Some did, but many did not.  This prompted Jesus to utter one of the most discussed verses in Bible colleges and seminaries:

But some will come to me—those the Father has given me—and I will never, never reject them.  (John 6:37  TLB)

Some scholars see free will in this verse, others see only election.  In truth, we see both man’s free will (some will come) and God’s election (those the Father has given) at work.  God the Father gives sinners to Christ for salvation, but these sinners have to come to Christ.  If we belong to Christ, we belong to Him, not because of anything we have done, but because God the Father determined to win us to Himself.

The “elect” are simply those who have come to Christ, and we have Christ’s Word that anybody who comes to Him will never be turned away!   That’s theologically “right thinking!”  Salvation is wholly a work of God, but man does bear the responsibility to “come.”  There is co-operation being taught in these verses:  the Father gives sinners to the Son, sinners come to the Son, and the Son welcomes them with open arms.  But God the Father is the great Prime Mover in this; salvation begins with Him.

…[God] is not willing that any should perish, and he is giving more time for sinners to repent.  (2 Peter 3:9b  TLB)

Of course, Peter is not teaching a kind of “universal salvation” in this verse.  God wants—desperately, to use a human word—all people to come to Jesus and be saved.  But the reality is, many will not.

For many are called, but few are chosen.  (Matthew 22:14 TLB)

The truly exciting part of John 6:37 is the last part:  Jesus rejects NO ONE who comes to Him!  How is that possible?  The answer is in the very next verse:

For I have come here from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to have my own way.  (John 6:38  TLB)

It’s simply God’s will to save all those who come to Jesus.  Period.  Whom God saves, Jesus keeps!  Jesus taught this in verse 39 but Jude also taught it in his letter:

…he is able to keep you from slipping and falling away…  (Jude verse 25  TLB)

But in a subtle way, Jesus is also teaching His Jewish listeners that when they murmur and question His authority or oppose His Work in any way they are really opposing the work and will of God the Father.

3.  Drag me to heaven!

Jesus said what He had to say, but the people remained unmoved.  They just couldn’t get passed what they could see with their own eyes.  This “man” who claimed to be the Bread of Life from Heaven was, as far as they knew, merely the son of a carpenter named Joseph, verse 42.  What these people really objected to was the “from heaven” part:  that is, His virgin birth.  Like so many people today, these people had no problem with God; they readily acknowledged God the Father.  They even “wondered” about Jesus, but what they refused to believe was His divinity.  This just went against their sensibilities.  People are like that today.  They talk about God (except on public land!) and have no issue acknowledging a “Higher Power,” but Jesus Christ is just plain offensive to them.

Such is the power of unbelief.  Man in his natural mind is incapable of believing in Jesus and in His Work.  And that leads us to our EXCEPTional Bible verse:

Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves.  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.  (John 6:43, 44  KJV)

Here again we see man’s responsibility:  stop murmuring.  This is something only a man can do for himself.  God won’t stop you from murmuring; God won’t change your behavior.  God won’t force you to do or to stop something.  It’s up to you.  It’s your responsibility.  But then Jesus talks about something only God can do:  He draws the sinner to His Son.  In fact, it’s more than just “drawing.”  The Greek word really means “drag!”  It’s a strenuous word.  God actively and effectively influences the mind, the heart, the entire personality of the sinner to get him to come to Jesus.

As it is written in the Scriptures, ‘They shall all be taught of God.’ Those the Father speaks to, who learn the truth from him, will be attracted to me.  (John 6:45  TLB)

What is Jesus speaking of here?  Many times in the writings of the prophets we read things like this:

And all your citizens shall be taught by me, and their prosperity shall be great.  (Isaiah 54:13  TLB)

Darkness as black as night shall cover all the peoples of the earth, but the glory of the Lord will shine from you.  All nations will come to your light; mighty kings will come to see the glory of the Lord upon you.  (Isaiah 60:2, 3  TLB)

These are prophecies; statements of things that have yet to occur.  Jesus is telling these Jews that someday THEY will come to Him; they, the Jewish nation, will be fully restored.  Malachi 4:2—

But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.  (TLB)

Jesus had spent considerable time trying to get through to these people that He was the Bread of Life; that He came down from Heaven; that His Father is God the Father.  God the Father wants everybody to be saved; so much so that He will actually work behind the scenes to get them to believe in Jesus, the only Way to heaven.  It’s God’s will!  It was foretold in the words of their very own prophets.

Every person, Jew and Gentile alike, that hears the Word of God concerning Jesus the Son will be drawn by God the Father.  It is God who draws before man comes.  It is God who speaks before man hears and obeys.  If God stands passively by and leaves man up to his own devices, no man will be saved.  This is why we say salvation is as work of God!  Every person who hears the Word and responds to God’s drawing will come to Jesus and be received by Him.  God’s grace always triumphs!

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