No one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him John 6:43-45

No one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him John 6:43-45

None can on The Giving by Cheryl SchatzNo one can come to Jesus unless…

Jesus spoke incredibly powerful words in John chapter 6 that many people are afraid to dig into because of their concern that John 6 might contradict their theology. In fact, Calvinists are quick to challenge non-Calvinists to explain what these verses mean outside of the Calvinist interpretation. This post will engage that challenge because we believe God’s Word is the truth, and we refuse to ignore the text. What is the challenge that we face? John 6:43-45 is a very important passage that Calvinists use to attempt to prove that God only wants some saved and that only some are drawn by God. Because Calvinists believe that all God draws are raised to eternal life, they conclude that God only draws a select few who He has predetermined to save. However, these compelling verses in John chapter 6 are, in reality, a refutation of the standard Calvinist view when we look carefully at the inspired words and grammar. I invite you to take a journey with me into the intense words of Jesus in John 6:43-45 and I challenge you to believe what He said. This post is a detailed account of the specific language that Jesus spoke because Jesus’ words are profound. After we carefully consider each verse, I will provide a summary of the important points and questions for Calvinists to answer; both are at the bottom of this post. I trust that you will find this material thought provoking and that you will consider interacting with the material through our comment section. Please be respectful in your comments. Now let us deal head on with this significant passage.

Jesus responds to the grumblers

In the last post, we saw that the Jews were grumbling in unbelief because of Jesus’ claim that His origin was from Heaven. In response to the Jews, Jesus gives a command:

John 6:43 (NASB)  Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves.

Jesus rebukes the Jews for their grumbling and then He states the problem regarding an impossibility.

John 6:44 (NASB)  “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; …

Jesus said No one. The Greek term means none, not one. What is the thing that is a universal impossibility? No one can come to Me, Jesus said, unless… The word “can” is dynatai in the Greek. The BDAG lexicon in its short form shows dynatai means to be able or capable of doing something. (See screen shot below)

John 6 44 dynamai on The Giving blog by Cheryl Schatz

The extended meaning: to possess capability (whether because of personal or external factors) for experiencing or doing something.

John 6 44 on The Giving blog by Cheryl Schatz

Notice that the ability to do something either resides within a person’s control (a personal factor) or else it resides outside a person’s control (an external factor).If it is an external factor, the capacity to act is not under a person’s control, but it is experiencing something from the influence or control of an outside source. So what did Jesus mean when He said that no one can come to Him? Was He talking about an ability as a power from within oneself (a human power or ability) or was He talking about a limiting factor that is outside the control of man?

The tense of the verb can is present, and the mood of the verb is indicative. Indicative describes the mood in which the action of the verb or the state of being is presented by the writer as real or actual rather than just possible or dependent on the intention.

The grammar shows the impossibility of coming to Jesus is real and actual and is not contingent on the intention.  However, the ability to come to Jesus is contingent on what factor? John explains:

The determining factor

John 6:44 (NASB)  “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; …

Jesus said that the impossible situation has a solution. Jesus said unless the Father, who sent Me draws him.

In John 6:44 the term unless means: to bring to an end the condition that now exists which makes it impossible for one to come to Jesus.

Notice that after the condition, (which is the inability to come to Jesus), there is the identification of the one who has control. Jesus said the Father. It is the Father, not man, who must act to change the impossible. The Father determines the removal of the inability.

What causes man’s inability?

Man’s inability to come to Jesus is caused by an external factor. It is not man that caused the inability, but the Father is the cause. Man’s inability is not determined by the nature of man.  The solution to the inability of man must also come from the actions of the Father, not from the actions of man. God has determined man’s inability so that the inability is God-centred, not man-centred.

John 6:65 is another witness that man’s inability is due to God’s prerogative.

John 6:65 (NASB) And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.

The cause of man’s inability is God withholding from man until God’s timing. When it is God’s time, God removes man’s inability by revealing Himself and His teaching to man; then and only then is a man able to respond to God’s word and come to Jesus. Because man’s inability is resolved by what the Father does, it is highly important to know what the word “draw” does not mean in John 6:44, as well as what the word draw does mean within the context.

What does the word “draw” NOT mean?

The term draw cannot mean “bring alive spiritually.” There is not a single reference in the Arndt, Danker, and Bauer’s standard Greek Lexicon, commonly known as the BDAG, which gives the meaning of the Greek word helkyo/helkyse (draw) as “bring to life.”  God is the source of Jesus’ words, and Jesus could have said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father, who sent Me first brings him to life…”, but that didn’t happen. Instead, Jesus said that the Father must first “draw” a person. (For more information about the term “draw” and how it does not mean “drag” in the context of John 6:44 see my post here.)

What DOES the word “draw” mean?

The term “draw” in John 6:44 means to attract.

John 6:44 meaning of "draw" on The Giving Blog by Cheryl Schatz

When persons are said to be “drawn” in a positive way, they are drawn through attraction into the intended direction.

What does God DO to draw man?

In the context of John 6:45, the word “draw” means teaching.

John 6:45 (NASB) “It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.

Notice that Jesus quotes from the Old Testament that “all” shall be taught. When God draws all, He teaches all.

We can know for sure that not all come to Jesus, so that does mean that God does not draw all people? Let’s look back to verse 44.

Who is raised up on the last day?

John 6:44 (NASB) “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

The one who will rise is the one who comes to Jesus, however, the converse is not true. Not all who are drawn will rise. What is true from Jesus’ words is that the one who comes will rise, however, the coming of a person to Jesus is not the first event; the drawing is first. Let’s have a look at the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament to see this clearly:

John 6:44 On the Path blog by Cheryl Schatz

Everything goes back to the main clause and “no one” is highlighted as the most important element in the main clause. The Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament describes the importance of this highlighted element by saying:

Main clause emphasis- Describes the movement of the most important element(s) of the main clause on a given propositional level to a position of prominence in order to attract extra attention to it using a change in word order.

The word order in Greek shows the place of prominence. Since “no one” is placed first in the sentence, “no one” is given prominence as the most important element of the sentence.

The negative “no one” is highlighted as the most important part of the sentence, and the entire clause (no one is able to come to me) is called the Counterpoint.  The Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament defines the Counterpoint as:

John 6:44 Counterpoint - On the Path blog by Cheryl Schatz

Next is the subordinate point which is a clause that is grammatically dependent upon another clause, which in this case is the main clause. The subordinate point which starts with a marker of contrast that shows the exception that changes everything. The marker of contrast, the conditional “unless” is part of the sub-point “unless the Father who sent me draws him” and it is called the Point. The Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament defines the Point as:

John 6:44 Point - On the Path blog by Cheryl Schatz

Although “no one” is the most important part of the sentence, because it is a part of the entire Counterpoint, the Point (unless the Father who sent me draws him) replaces the Counterpoint (No one can come to me) as receiving the most attention in the sentence. In this way, “no one” is changed to “The one” by the exception clause (the Point clause).

The Father draws men (The Point) so that those who come to Jesus (Counterpoint changed to positive) will be raised by Jesus on the last day (verse 45). The one who will be raised IS the one who comes to Jesus because he is drawn by the Father. Conversely, those who are drawn by the Father but who do not believe God and respond in faith will not receive eternal life on the last day. Considering the grammar, there is no way to make John 6:44 to say “all those who are drawn are raised to life in Jesus.” The conditional statement takes precedence, and the negative gives way to the positive so that it is the one who comes to Jesus who is the one who must be drawn to the Father and who will be raised to life on the last day. Instead of “no one can come to Me,” the conditional Point clause changes this to “One can come to Me when the Father draws him.”

What John 6:44 is NOT saying

John 6:44 is not saying that all who are drawn are raised up to eternal life. It is also not saying that all who are drawn to Jesus will come to Jesus.  The most important element is “no one” but with the exception in place as the Point, (that the Father must draw the person to Jesus) the “no one” becomes the “one who does come.” The raising to life is dependent on “the coming to Jesus” which is dependent on “the drawing by the Father.”

Jesus interprets His own saying in John 6:45

John 6:45 (NASB) “It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.

After stating that one must be drawn by the Father in order to come to Him, Jesus states that ALL shall be taught of God. Jesus then gave man’s responsibility in “the coming” after He reiterates the Father’s will. Jesus said that everyone who has heard (this is God’s responsibility to teach) AND who have learned from the Father (this is man’s responsibility) these will come to Jesus. The Greek term for “learned” in this verse means to gain knowledge as in to learn to know God, and with a related sense to understand. The BDAG lexicon has these meanings:

John 6:45 gain knowledge from BDAG on The Giving Blog by Cheryl Schatz

So what is the problem in John 6:45?

The problem that Jesus revealed in John 6:45 is that there are men who will not take notice and will not learn from God. It is true that God will reveal Himself to all, and He will teach all, but it is up to everyone to take to heart what God has taught him or her. Those who refuse to listen to what the Father has taught will not be given God’s final revelation found in Jesus.

Romans 1:19–20 (NASB) 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

God has made man responsible for what has been revealed to him, so that if man rejects what God has revealed, God is not obligated to reveal more to that man. However, it is also promised by God that everyone who has heard AND learned from the Father WILL come and keep on coming to Jesus.

How does God draw men?

Although I have focused on the revelation of God through teaching, from the context of John 6:45, there are many other ways in Scripture that show how God draws people:

1. God draws through lovingkindness.

Jeremiah 31:3 (NASB) The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.

>Hosea 11:4 (NASB) I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love, …

2. God draws people by revealing Himself to them

Isaiah 19:21 (NASB) Thus the LORD will make Himself known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day. They will even worship with sacrifice and offering, and will make a vow to the LORD and perform it.

3. God opens eyes

Luke 24:31–32 (NASB)

31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight.

32 They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?”

4. God draws people by opening their heart to respond to the word of God

Acts 16:14 (NASB) A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.

5. God draws people by the power of Jesus’ death on the cross

John 12:32 (NASB) 32 “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”

SUMMARY

1.  The inability for man to come to Jesus is not a limitation of his nature (not personal) but is external to himself.  Man’s inability is from God the Father because no one can know God or understand His word unless God, first of all, reveals Himself through drawing man to Himself. Thus, the inability is God-centered and under His control rather than man-centered.

2.  The drawing that God does to man is a positive thing (an attraction), and this drawing is necessary before any man can come to Jesus. God’s drawing is never referred to in Scripture as dragging.

3.  John 6:44 has a Counterpoint and a Point clause that places more importance on the conditional clause “unless the Father who sent Me draws him” that replaces the “no one” in the Counterpoint clause with the positive point “One can come to Me when the Father draws him.”

4. With the inspired grammar of John 6:44, it cannot mean that all who are drawn come to Jesus, neither can it mean that all who are drawn are raised to life in Jesus at the last day.

5. God is responsible for drawing men to Himself. However, man is responsible to respond to God. Jesus said that all those who hear AND learn from the Father will come to Him (John 6:45)

QUESTIONS FOR CALVINISTS

1.  Since the Point clause of John 6:44 replaces the Counterpoint by the conditional Point clause, how can you say that it is “all who are drawn to Jesus” that are raised up rather than “all who come to Jesus” will be raised to life in Jesus?

2.  Where in the Scriptures is the Greek word for “draw” ever used as the term “drag” in a positive way for humans?

3.  Do you believe that our teaching should be God-centered or man-centered? If it should be God-centered than why do you believe, that man’s inability to come to Jesus is something within man when John 6:44 states the solution to the inability as centred in God?

2 thoughts on “No one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him John 6:43-45

  1. Although I am not a Calvinist, I would like to address your questions for Calvinists:

    1. You said that the verse can be rephrased as “One can come to Me when the Father draws him.”, but that affect the Calvinist interpretation. Instead of it being “those that the Father draws will be raised up”, it is now “those that can come will be raised up”; which is the same thing. Which ever way you phrase the verse, it does not say that only those who do come will be raised, but rather all who can come will be raised.

    2. God draws our souls to come to Him (entices if you will) through His Spirit. If He is drawing us, then His Spirit is already inside of us, and therefore we will be raised up at the last day.

    3. While the problem is within man (his nature), the solution is in God. Only God can change a man’s nature.

  2. Seeking truth, welcome to The Giving blog! I appreciate you attempting to answer my questions as you believe a Calvinist would.

    Under your point # 1, I would recommend that you re-read my article as you seem to have missed the point. The point is two-fold, tht the condition for man’s coming is not in man, but within God and that those who do come MUST first be drawn by the Father so that the ones who are raised up are the ones who have been taught and have responded to the Father by learning from Him. There is nothing in the article that says a man can come on his own to Jesus.

    Under your point #2, the Bible does not say that God’s drawing mean He is IN us. It does mean that He is revealing Himself to us and teaching us. If He was already IN us, then John 5:25 would not show that we hear and then live, but we would have to rewrite it to say we live and THEN hear. I would rather just stick to the Bible with the revelation it gives us.

    In your point #3, the passage says nothing about God drawing us by changing our nature. The Greek word that is translated as draw NEVER means to give life to the person. If you think this would be a proper Calvinist answer perhaps you could point to a reputable lexicon that gives that meaning for the word draw. I have never seen it and the standard work BDAG does not list that meaning.

    I would be happy to interact with any findings tht you have. Thanks for dropping by!

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