A listener to the
Dividing Line sent in a URL and asked me to respond to
the presentation contained therein.
is here. As the argumentation is sadly common, I
hope others are benefited by the continued demonstration of
the consistency of God's Word over against the traditions of
men. My replies are in bold purple and indented.
John 6 is one of Calvinism's alleged
"bullet-proof" texts. So, in fairness to
Calvinists, we should examine this passage.
would think simply developing a fully biblical theology
would be the reason for examining the text, actually. There
are few passages more central to Christ’s teaching on the
nature of soteriology than this one.
37 "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one
who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.
38 "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will,
but the will of Him who sent Me.
39 "This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He
has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at
the last day.
40 "And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who
sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life;
and I will raise him up at the last day."
41 The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, "I am
the bread which came down from heaven."
42 And they said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose
father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, 'I
have come down from heaven'?"
43 Jesus therefore answered and said to them, "Do not murmur
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.
From these passages Calvinists claim to get their doctrine of
total depravity (no one can come to Christ unless the Father
draws him). Also, perseverance of the saints is inferred from
Jesus statement that He will raise all who come at the last
Actually, Calvinists say that here the Lord Jesus touches upon
such divine truths as total depravity, sovereign election,
irresistible grace, and, as a result of the preceding, the
perseverance and preservation of the saints. The fact that
the central aspect of the argument of v. 37, that being divine
sovereignty in election, is not even noted is somewhat
troubling to be sure.
Let me lay the groundwork for my arguments first, so you will
know where I am coming from and I can refer back to them in
the remainder of this article. I want to raise two issues that
I believe Calvinists miss in this passage, as well as Romans
9, Eph. 1, and others.
While these other passages are important, I simply note that
the response offered here does not begin with exegesis: a sure
sign of tradition (here, some odd form of dispensationalism)
determining the actual outcome.
The first issue is the distinction between a general statement
in Scripture, and a specific (all inclusive or all exclusive)
statement. Often in Scripture we find statements that are
generally true, but if you take the language extremely
literally, these statements are not true. Pressing such
statements to the extreme causes many misunderstandings. Let
me give a few examples just to illustrate.
There is no argument here, as we often have to point out the
misuse of the term “all” by those who wish to press a
universalistic meaning to the term, and utilize the same
passages cited by this author. However, it does not follow
that all such passages can be limited thereby, if the
context demands otherwise.
These kinds of generalizations are common in Scripture. But,
lets narrow this down to John 6. Here is an example directly
from the chapter we are considering. Compare the following
39 And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of
all WHICH HE HATH GIVEN ME I should lose nothing, but
should raise it up again at the last day.
12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy
name: those THAT THOU GAVEST ME I have kept, and NONE
OF THEM is lost, BUT THE SON OF PERDITION; that the scripture
might be fulfilled.
Now let us consider something at this point. The author is
here completely missing the most basic exegetical issues in
the text. The phrase “all” in 6:39 has a context: it began in
v. 37, when the Lord said, “All that the Father gives Me will
come to Me, and the one coming to Me I will never cast out.”
This is in contrast to those who are not coming to Him and
believing, the ones He has identified as unbelievers (v. 36).
So, we already have established in the text differing
groups, and when you have specific and contrasting
groups in a context, the term “all” becomes significantly more
important. Further, in v. 37 the “all” then, as a result of
being given, do something, that is, they come to
Christ. Obviously, “all” in v. 37 cannot be placed in the
“general” category, but is instead governed by the descriptive
“that the Father gives me.” This is a very specific
usage, and this is not even noted by the author.
Furthermore, v. 39 likewise contains internal exegetical
data ignored by the author. The “all” here is descriptive:
all of what He has given me. The author ignores the use of
the neuter which makes the group a generic entity, an “it” so
to speak. Christ says He loses none of “it,” but
raises “it” up on the last day. Obviously, the suggested
“all” idea offered by the author founders at each of these
points, for none of the examples provided are, in fact,
analogous to the usage here. This is a specific group, the
elect of God, given by the Father to the Son, and saved
perfectly by the Son. Hence, the author’s argument founders
at its inception.
The Calvinist has a real paradox here. If we insist that
statements in John 6 are "all inclusive," and there can be no
exception to the rule, then what do you do with the exception
that Jesus specifically mentioned in John 17? It matters not
whether we argue that Judas was not really saved. The language
Jesus used of His 12 disciples (those whom the Father gave
Him) is the same in both John 6 & John 17! And Judas is
clearly included in those who were given to Jesus by the
Father! If you argue that Judas was not really saved, then
none of those given Jesus by the Father in John 6 are
necessarily saved. If Judas WAS really saved, then the case is
closed! If Judas can fall away, so can you! The answer is that
Jesus made a general statement.
This is a common, but very poor, argument. It painfully
ignores the context of the two statements, similar to the vain
attempt to leap to John 12:32 from John 6:44. Those given by
the Father to the Son in eternity past (John 6:39) are given
to Him for a specific purpose noted in the text itself: the
Father’s will is that the Son raise them all up at the last
day. It was not, obviously, the Father’s will that the Son
raise up Judas, and the “giving” to the Son of Judas was not
in the context of salvation, but in the context of being one
of the twelve, the one through whom the necessary betrayal
into the hands of the Jewish leadership would take place.
This is even noted in John 6:70-71. Nowhere does the text say
it was the Father’s will for the Son that He save Judas and
raise him up at the last day: the consistent description of
Judas is that he was the son of perdition, destined by
sovereign decree to his role in the saga of redemption. The
section of the Lord’s High Priestly prayer cited is about the
apostles in particular. The author misses this particularity
in the text, extrapolates an unfounded connection, and creates
a conundrum out of whole cloth as a result. There is no
contradiction if the texts are allowed to remain in their own
We should also note that when biblical writers wish to make a
statement that is absolute (all inclusive or all exclusive),
they typically use specific language that requires this
interpretation. For example, when Paul wanted to be specific
regarding "all have sinned," he wrote "there is none
righteous, no not one."
And in John 6, Jesus did exactly that, as we noted above.
When John wanted to indicate that every single person has
received light from God, he says "which lighteth every man
that cometh into the world." Unless such clear specific
language is used, the statement CAN be a general statement and
not necessarily all inclusive or all exclusive.
No question; however, this is not the case in John 6, which
contextually demands the specificity of the “all” of a
specific group, i.e., the elect.
In other words, while the statement is generally true, it
leaves open the possibility of occasional exceptions to the
rule, particularly if other passages lay out these exceptions
clearly, (such as those that speak of falling away). So, my
first premise (which I think I have proven from the
illustrations) is that such statements in John 6 MAY be
general, and permit exceptions to the rule UNLESS the language
specifically forbids this.
And the language and context does forbid this, as we have
seen. The author has failed to establish the very beginning
of his argument. We could, if need be, stop here, but for the
benefit of others, we press on, despite the lack of foundation
of what follows.
My second argument will center around the peculiar historical
circumstances of this discourse in the general dispensational
For most, this is a clear indication that the text itself
cannot be refuted outside of the adoption of some external
matrix, here, dispensationalism.
This discourse occurred in a Jewish setting, BEFORE Christ
died on the cross. There was a specific dynamic occurring
during Jesus' public ministry that is NOT occurring now. That
dynamic is the partial blinding of Israel so that the
crucifixion could occur. John 6 must be understood against the
background of the following passages.
Why? Why must it be understood in such a context? Does the
text tell us this? Surely it does not. Here we see
the direct insertion of eisegetical external considerations,
resulting in the complete overthrow of the meaning of the
text. Such reasoning could be used to overthrow any
specifically soteriological teaching prior to Calvary, as if
Jesus’ teaching on the subject is somehow only relevant to a
particular time and place. And yet, the truths of John 6
clearly transcend the synagogue in Capernaum, do they not? Is
it not true that Jesus is the bread of life throughout all
ages? Of course. So this is an artificial means of
explaining away the plain meaning of the text, and should be
rejected by anyone who takes the exegesis of the text
10 And when he was alone, they that were about him with the
twelve asked of him the parable.
11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the
mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without,
all these things are done in parables:
12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing
they may hear, and not understand; LEST AT ANY TIME THEY
SHOULD BE CONVERTED, AND THEIR SINS BE FORGIVEN THEM. ...
33 And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as
they were able to hear it.
34 But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they
were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.
Jesus spoke to the Jewish crowds in PARABLES for the expressed
purpose of keeping them in the dark! He spoke in riddles. But,
He expounded the true meaning of these parables to His
disciples! Why? If not, the crowds might have believed on Him!
And having the crowds on their side was necessary for the
religious leaders to carry out the crucifixion. Also, if the
religious leaders had understood the Mystery that God had
hidden, they would NEVER have crucified Him!
John likewise notes the judicial blinding inherent in the
preaching of Christ in John 12:37-43. But there is no reason
to insert this truth into some dispensational context and come
to extended conclusions that are then used as a lens through
which to read the text.
Paul states this clearly in the following passage.
1 Cor 2:7-8
7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden
wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they
known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
The crowds had a lot of power. The leaders were afraid of the
crowds. And any uprising of the people would most certainly
bring down the wrath of the Romans on the Jewish leadership!
That is why the Pharisees had such heartburn on Palm Sunday,
when some of the worshippers cried "Hosanna" at Christ's
entrance into Jerusalem for Passover. The ONLY WAY the
crucifixion could be carried out was IF the crowds and the
leaders rejected Jesus! So, Jesus' words and actions were
designed to force the Jews to reject Him! This is very
apparent in John 6. The RIDDLE about eating His flesh and
drinking His blood, and about His being the "bread from
heaven" was more than most could bear! The whole "Bread of
Life Discourse" was intended to DRIVE AWAY the crowds!
Intended to drive away the crowds? An amazing conclusion, but
one that misses the real issue: the truth offends those who
are not subject to it. Jesus drove away all false “disciples”
by pressing the truths concerning Himself. He is the sole
source of spiritual nourishment and sustenance: an offensive
concept to those who still trust in their own
self-righteousness and goodness. A person who has yet to see
their need of a Savior will always be offended at being told
they are nothing without Him. The crowds are indeed driven
away, but they are driven away by truth. The same thing
happens today when the same truths are proclaimed.
Now, this may seem absurd, given the fact that God desires to
save all men.
Of course, that assumes a particular understanding of passages
such as Matthew 23:37, 1 Timothy 2:4, or 2 Peter 3:9, which I
have addressed in The Potter’s Freedom.
But, let me quickly point out that after the crucifixion and
resurrection, this situation no longer existed, and many of
the Jews who had been hardened against Jesus, who were part of
the mob that cried "away with him, crucify him," were also
converted on the Day of Pentecost, and 3000 of them were
baptized and added to the Jerusalem Church! This is proven
from Acts 2.
This situation no longer existed? I am left wondering, then,
if this author would say that we should not preach John 6
today? I have encountered the very same rejection of God’s
sovereignty when preaching John 6 that the Lord Jesus did in
Capernaum. This is what happens when dispensationalism
becomes a traditional filter through which the text is forced
22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a
man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and
signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye
yourselves also know:
23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and
foreknowledge of God, YE HAVE TAKEN, AND BY WICKED HANDS HAVE
CRUCIFIED AND SLAIN:
24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death:
because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.
36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that
God hath made that same Jesus, WHOM YE HAVE CRUCIFIED, both
Lord and Christ.
37 Now when they heard this, THEY WERE PRICKED IN THEIR HEART,
and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and
brethren, what shall we do?
38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every
one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of
sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to
all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall
40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort,
saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and
the same day there were added unto them about three thousand
No longer did God blind the Jews! (Although many of them
continued willfully in their blindness). Some of the very same
Jews who abandoned Jesus in John 6, and cried "away with Him,"
turned to Christ and were saved on the Day of Pentecost. John
6 MUST be understood within this framework.
Notice that an entire truck-load of unwarranted, eisegetical
conclusions are being inserted into the text at this point,
all in the vain effort to avoid the actual text of John 6
(which has not yet been touched by the author). The only
reason I can see why the text MUST be seen this way is that if
it isn’t, the author’s system falls apart! Where does Acts 2
make any connection to those in the synagogue in Capernaum?
It doesn’t, of course. Acts does tell us about God’s
sovereignty in salvation (Acts 13:48, 16:14), but it surely
does not provide any foundation for the construction of this
utterly a-contextual, elaborate, dispensational framework that
removes the relevance of Jesus’ teaching about His own
centrality as the sole source of spiritual life from the
modern preaching of the church.
God elected certain Jews to be saved during Jesus' ministry,
as the core of His church. He spent three years preparing them
to be missionaries to the whole world. All the while, He kept
the crowds and the religious leaders in the dark about what
His real purpose was, by using parables. Mark said that
without a parable He did not speak to them! In this way they
were "blinded" to the Gospel. This dynamic is also important
to understanding Paul's teaching on election in Romans and
Ephesians. But, we'll save that for another article.
My apologies, but, “I can hardly wait.”
Now lets look at the Calvinists alleged "proofs" from this
passage. Verse 37 says, "All that the Father giveth me
shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise
cast out." Calvinists often claim that this means God
draws only the elect. But, that is not what it says. It says
no one can come unless called. But, Jesus also said, "Many
are called, but few are chosen (elect)" (Matt. 22:14). And
as we shall see later, ALL are called!
Actually, no meaningful discussion of v. 37 is going to
involve “calling.” First you start with what the text says:
it says all that the Father gives to the Son will, as a
result of being given, come to the Son. Calvinists say
God the Father gives the elect to the Son. The drawing
issue is found in verse 44, not verse 37. The author then
again throws context to the wind by pulling in a completely
different context from Matthew 22:14, without even attempting
to demonstrate that a different author is using the same word
in the very same fashion. (One is tempted to say, “Oh, but
that was before the cross, so it really doesn’t matter”). As
to the assertion, “ALL are called,” does the author refer to
the general call of the gospel, or to the effective call that
results in salvation? If he does not make this common
distinction, how then does he explain Romans 8:30 which says
that those God calls He justifies? Is our author a
universalist? Surely not.
Calvinists also claim that God's giving the elect to Christ
prior to their coming shows that the work of grace precedes
our choice to come. But, elsewhere we learn that God's giving
them to the Son is based on His foreknowledge. It occurred
BEFORE WE WERE BORN, before the foundation of the world. (Rom.
8:29 & 1 Pet. 1:1,2).
Again, a very common claim, but one that has been refuted for
many centuries. See the relevant sections in The Potter’s
Freedom. The author shows no familiarity at all with the
exegetical errors upon which his system is based, such as
confusing the substantive “foreknowledge” at 1 Peter 1:2 with
the verbal form at Romans 8:29. The fact is the grammar and
syntax of John 6:37 does indicate the giving of the Father
results in the coming of those given; how, then, can God’s
action be based upon this unbiblical concept of
“foreknowing”? We are not told, for it is obvious the author
is operating on the basis of extra-scriptural tradition, not
exegesis, at this point.
4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation
of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before
him in love:
He is not speaking of some imaginary renovation of the heart
prior to salvation, but of God's election, based on His
foreknowledge. Of course that occurs before we come.
The term “foreknowledge” does not appear in Ephesians 1:4 To
found God’s actions in eternity upon some passive taking in of
knowledge of actions in time is to not only rob God of His
sovereignty (and to misunderstand the action of foreknowing),
but it turns each of these texts on its head. The reader
should note how far from the text of John 6 we have now
traveled! This is necessary in order to overthrow its plain
Calvinists also point out that we cannot be cast out, claiming
this proves the "perseverance of the saints." But, cast out of
what??? This is a figure of speech. He was saying that those
who come to Him He will not turn away. Jesus was not speaking
of perseverance, but of acceptance by Him of all who come.
Furthermore, even IF He was speaking of being cast out of the
family of God (which is not implied in the text), this in no
way precludes one's voluntarily leaving and forsaking God! God
NEVER casts anyone out of His family. But, they can leave of
their own free will.
It is truly a testament to the power of tradition that one can
look at John 6:37-39 and miss the direct connection to the
last two verses. Jesus reveals the will of the Father for
Him: that He lose none of those given to Him. Here is
“eternal security” to the nth degree, but it is based upon the
perfection of the work of the Savior, not upon the “free will”
actions of men. Jesus gives eternal life to His sheep, and
they shall never perish. “Choosing” to lose one’s life in
apostasy is just as much a means of perishing as any other.
Needless to say, our author is simply repeating his traditions
here: the text is being used only in a surface manner.
Next, they point to verses 39&40 as proof that none will be
lost. "And this is the Father's will which hath sent me,
that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but
should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will
of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and
believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise
him up at the last day."
But, what about Judas?
Obviously, Judas was the son of perdition, and was not given
to the Son by the Father for salvation.
Jesus said clearly in John 17 that Judas was given Him by the
Refuted above. Note how the text is ignored by immediately
fleeing to some other supposed issue.
Yet, Judas was lost. Jesus said so! Furthermore, the passage
is NOT an all inclusive statement! Jesus said that it was the
Father's WILL that none be lost and that He raise all up at
the last day.
I get the distinct feeling the author has never seriously
considered any Reformed exegesis of the relevant passages.
See the chapter in The Potter’s Freedom.
This sets the stage for the rest of the verses in this chapter
which speak about raising up the saints at the last day. They
are understood in light of this statement, that such is the
Father's WILL or desire. Jesus used the same word (will) when
He said, "NOT MY WILL but thine be done." Peter said "God is
not WILLING that any should perish!" And Paul said that it was
God's WILL that we "should abstain from fornication."
Yet, many Christians have fornicated. In each of these cases,
the will of God was not totally carried out.
More common exegetical errors, as if the term “will” has the
same meaning wherever it is found! This is basic level
material! What is more, the terms translated “will” in the
above passages are not even identical in the original
Again, Calvinists point to verse 44, "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."
But, God draws ALL MEN at some time in their lives (John
This common error is refuted in The Potter’s Freedom as
well, and is indicative of the shallow nature of the
argumentation of this author. There is no exegesis of the
text, just eisegetical leaping from passage to passage
Jesus was merely saying that it is impossible to come without
the intervention of God. He is NOT excluding ANYONE from this
drawing. He did NOT say that ALL who are drawn will be saved,
only that coming requires first being drawn. The Father's
giving some to Christ is strictly speaking of election based
on foreknowledge, NOT on an actual act preceding one's
As I have demonstrated elsewhere, the author is ignoring the
fact that those who are drawn are also raised up. See the
relevant chapter in TPF.
Jesus had just said that His raising up believers at the last
day was the Father's will or desire. (And we saw that God's
will is not always carried out). The rest of the verses in
this chapter that repeat part of this statement imply what was
stated in verse 39, that none perishing, and all being raised
at the last day, is God's will or desire, but that is not
necessarily a universal fact!
That is the problem with Calvinists! They want to press the
language to the literal extreme when it suites them, like here
and in Rom. 8, but do precisely the opposite when it comes to
God's drawing all men, or that the atonement is for all, or
that God desires to save all!
We shall end our reply here, since there really is nothing
of substance left to refute. The author failed in his
initial attempt to establish his argument, and has added to
that failure a large dose of common, traditionally-driven
eisegetical errors that have little if anything to do with
the actual text. And now we find him, having made numerous
errors in his handling of the language, saying “that is the
problem with Calvinists!” Well, it is painfully obvious it
is the author who has not done his homework, either in the
text, or in the writings of those he dismisses. The
teaching of John 6 stands firm, with yet another failed
attempt at escaping its teaching left upon the scrap heap of