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John 6, the Father and the Son, Salvation, and Roman Catholic Apologists

 


James White

"James White Has Been Proven Wrong So Many Times, It Isn't Funny"

So runs part of the headline on Scott Windsor’s “response” to his appearance on our webcast.  I swore I would not even waste my time looking at it.  Many felt I had wasted an entire program a few weeks ago having an amateur “apologist” on the program, Scott Windsor, to discuss John six (click here to listen).  I did so for a reason many could not possibly understand: I have tried, repeatedly, for almost fifteen years, to reason with Mr. Windsor, all to no avail.  I have provided him with resources, information....you name it.  But, Scott simply doesn’t hear the message.  So when I heard that Scott had spent many hours crafting a “response” to our debate (why do folks feel the need to “respond” to debates when they were in them?), I told a friend of mine, “I’m not even going to look.”  And at first, I didn’t.  But Mr. Windsor kept making reference to it, and even sent me an e-mail in which he again asserted he had proven me “wrong” numerous times, so I finally gave in.  Maybe it was a moment of weakness, I don’t know.  But here is the article I looked at:  click here. 

Any person who listens to the program will find the majority of the written “response” most telling.  The problems with its are so manifold it is about as difficult to respond to it as it is to rebut Gail Riplinger: it takes three pages just to set up all the background and context errors made by the author under review, so that any response ends up being an exercise in frustration (let alone as exciting as chewing aluminum foil while watching paint dry).  Some of the alleged errors are simply humorous they are so obviously the result of Mr. Windsor’s lack of comprehension of what it was we were supposed to be talking about in the first place.  But, in the midst of scanning through the article, I ran across a few citations of Robert Sungenis.  In fact, right as I started looking at the article, Scott Windsor himself dropped into our chatroom, so we started discussing the problems with his article.  One of the issues I raised with him was the “24th” error he alleged in my comments.  Here is what his article alleges:

69. Scott:

  • Let's go on to this other point though, Jesus turns to the 12 and I assume you would agree that these are part of the elect, the called, the drawn. (James responds "right.") And He turns to them and says, "Will you also leave?" He gave them a choice! Was He only kidding when He said that?

70. James:

  • Oh, wait-wait-wait-wait-wait! This is where we have to look at what the Scripture actually says. There is a way in the Greek language that you can phrase a question that expects a negative answer, and that is the way Jesus phrased this.

71. Scott:

  • He may have phrased it that way, but He still gave them a choice.

  • "The Greek wording does not use the type of wording used with a rhetorical question."
    (Telephone conversation, Robert Sungenis, February 6, 2001).

  • Obviously it was not purely a rhetorical question, because Peter answered Him!

Now I immediately chuckled since it seems Mr. Windsor is unaware of the difference between a question that expects a negative answer and a rhetorical question.  They are, of course, not the same thing, and his response assumes they are.  We demonstrated in the chat channel that indeed the particle mh when used with a question assumes a negative answer: we cited three different Greek grammars (Mounce, Davis, and Perschbacher) that all said the exact same thing and fully substantiated the assertion I made.  As anyone can see from listening to the program, Mr. Windsor tried to insert the concept of free will into John 6:67, and I pointed out the form of the text does not support his position.  I did not attempt to make any positive point on the basis of the passage: I had already done so in John 6:37ff.

So it was clear that Mr. Windsor, being unable to deal with the original text himself, had decided to depend upon Robert Sungenis.  In fact, when faced with the joint citation of two of the above three grammars, Mr. Windsor commented,

<BigScott> again... I don't know the Greek.... I asked someone who did (actually a couple people who did and both concurred)... so I defer to Sungenis

So Mr. Windsor invests in Robert Sungenis greater authority in the Greek language than established, proven and published grammars.  I’m thankful Mr. Sungenis does not claim such a position for himself, but for some reason Mr. Windsor is comfortable making such a blind leap.  Now while I wish to focus upon a later issue wherein Mr. Sungenis provides a lengthy section of Mr. Windsor’s article, I should note in passing that when I wrote to Mr. Sungenis about this particular issue, I was most surprised by his response.  He attempted to say that mh does not always have to indicate a negative response.  He provided one example that he said indicates a positive response, John 7:31.  However, upon examination, Mr. Sungenis is obviously in error:

But many of the crowd believed in Him; and they were saying, "When the Christ comes, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?" (NASB)

Mr. Sungenis interprets this passage to mean, “Yes, Christ will perform more signs” than those Jesus did.  Yet this is not the obvious meaning of the text at all.  Instead, Mr. Sungenis has completely missed the clear statement that these are the words of believers in Jesus.  They are responding favorably and were saying that surely the Christ would not perform more signs than Jesus had performed, hence, Jesus was the Messiah.  As A.T. Robertson put it,

Will he do? (mh poihsei). Future active indicative of poiew with mh (negative answer expected). Jesus had won a large portion of the pilgrims (ek tou oclou polloi) either before this day or during this controversy. The use of episteusan (ingressive aorist active) looks as if many came to believe at this point.

Whether these were true, regenerate believers or not is not the issue at the moment; their statement is properly translated by the NASB, which recognizes the form of the question.  Not only does Robertson contradict Sungenis regarding the use of mh, but he also recognizes the obvious fact that these people are indeed arguing for Christ, not against Him.  Sungenis is simply in complete error at this point.

With this in mind, I would like to turn to the assertions made by Mr. Sungenis in the body of Mr. Windsor’s “response” to our debate.  I believe his words provide an excellent opportunity of testing both the validity of my oft-repeated claim that consistent Roman Catholics are not able, due to what I might call “epistemological ham-stringing,” to engage the text in its native context (i.e., to engage in meaningful exegesis), and hence that this is supportive of my belief that Rome teaches sola ecclesia, the Church as the highest and final authority in all things.

John 6:37-39 and the Sovereignty of God

Before we can meaningfully examine, and refute, Robert Sungenis’ position, we must first understand what it was I was attempting to say.  One can listen to the program and hear that in the course of five minutes I presented the standard Reformed understanding of this passage.  But, for those who may not have access to the Real Audio recording, I provide here the section I wrote on this passage from my rebuttal of Norman Geisler titled The Potter’s Freedom:

The setting is important: Jesus speaks to the crowds gathered in the synagogue at Capernaum.  They have followed Him there after the feeding of the five thousand the day before.  They are seeking more miracles, and more food.  Jesus does not pander to their “felt needs,” but goes directly to the real issue: who He is and how He is central to God’s work of redemption.  He identifies Himself as the “Bread of life” (v. 35), the source of all spiritual nourishment.  In our modern setting we might not feel the force of His words as they must have felt them that morning.  “Who is this man to speak this way of Himself?” they must have thought.  Not even the greatest prophets of Israel had directed people to faith in themselves!  Not even an Abraham or an Isaiah would claim to have come down from heaven, nor would they ever say “the one coming to Me will never hunger and the one believing in Me will never thirst.”  We must attempt to feel the sharp impact of these words just as they were spoken.

                  The blessed Lord was quite blunt with His audience.  He knew they did not possess real faith.  “But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe” (v. 36).  They had seen Him with their eyes, but unless physical sight is joined with spiritual enlightenment, it profits nothing.  Often the importance of this statement is overlooked.  Verse 36 is a turning point in the chapter.  Jesus now explains their unbelief.  How is it that these men could stand before the very Son of God, the Word made flesh, and not believe?  Anyone who does not take seriously the deadness of man in sin should contemplate this scene.  The very Creator in human form stands before men who are schooled in the Scriptures and points to their unbelief.  He then explains the why, and yet so few today will listen and believe.

                  All that the Father gives Me will come to Me.”  These are the first words to come from the Lord in explanation of man’s unbelief.  We dare not engage in hopscotch across this text and ignore the very order of teaching He provides.  The first assertion is one of complete divine sovereignty.  Every word speaks volumes.

                  “All that the Father gives Me.”  The Father gives someone to Christ.  The elect are viewed as a single whole, [footnote: The neuter form pa'n is used when the entire group is in view; when each individual person comes into view with reference to their response of faith the masculine participle ejrcovmeno" is used, showing the personal element of faith.] given by the Father to the Son. [footnote: Two tenses are used by the Lord in this passage: here the present tense is used, “all the Father gives (divdwsin) Me....”  In verse 39, however, the perfect tense is used, “all that He has given (devdwken) Me....” ] The Father has the right to give a people to the Son.  He is the sovereign King, and this is a divine transaction.

                  All that are given by the Father to the Son come to the Son.  Not some, not most, but all. 

                  All those given by the Father to the Son will come to the Son.  It is vital to see the truth that is communicated by this phrase: the giving by the Father to the Son precedes and determines the coming of the person to Christ.  The action of giving by the Father comes before the action of coming to Christ by the individual.  And since all of those so given infallibly come, we have here both unconditional election as well as irresistible grace, and that in the space of nine words!  It becomes an obvious exercise in eisegesis to say, “Well, what the Lord really means is that all that the Father has seen will believe in Christ will come to Christ.”  That is a meaningless statement.  Since the action of coming is dependent upon the action of giving, we can see that it is simply not exegetically possible to say that we cannot determine the relationship between the two actions.  God’s giving results in man’s coming.  Salvation is of the Lord.

                  But note as well that it is to the Son that they come.  They do not come to a religious system.  They are coming to Christ.  This is a personal relationship, personal faith, and, given that the ones who come are described throughout the passage by the present tense participle, it is not just a coming that happens once.  This is an on-going faith, an on-going looking to Christ as the source of spiritual life.  The men to whom the Lord was speaking had “come” to Him for a season: they would soon walk away and follow Him no more.  The true believer is coming to Christ, always.  This is the nature of saving faith.

                  “And the one who comes to Me I will never cast out.”  The true believer, the one “coming” to the Son, has this promise of the Lord: using the strongest form of denial possible, [footnote: Here the aorist subjunctive of strong denial, ouj mh; ejkbavlw e[xw, “I will never cast out.”  The idea is the emphatic denial of the possibility of a future event.] Jesus affirms the eternal security of the believer.  Jesus is the one who gives life and raises His own up at the last day.  He promises that there is no possibility whatsoever that any one who is coming to Him in true faith could ever find Him unwilling to save.  But this tremendous promise is the second half of a sentence.  It is based upon the truth that was first proclaimed.  This promise is to those who are given by the Father to the Son and to no one else. Of course, we will see in verse 44 that no one but those who are so given will be coming to Christ in faith anyway: but there are surely those who, like many in that audience in Capernaum, are willing to follow for a while, willing to believe for a season.  This promise is not theirs.

                  The promise to the elect, however, could not be more precious.  Since Christ is able to save perfectly (He is not dependent upon man’s will, man’s cooperation), His promise means the elect cannot ever be lost.  Since He will not cast out, and there is no power greater than His own, the one who comes to Christ will find Him an all-sufficient and perfect Savior.  This is the only basis of “eternal security” or the perseverance of the saints: they look to a perfect Savior who is able to save.  It is Christ’s ability to save that means the redeemed cannot be lost.  If it were, in fact, a synergistic relationship, there could never be any ground for absolute confidence and security.

                  Many stop at verse 37 and miss the tremendous revelation we are privileged to receive in the following verses.  Why will Christ never cast out those who come to Him?  Verse 38 begins with a connective that indicates a continuation of the thought: verses 38 and 39 explain verse 37.  Christ keeps all those who come to Him for He is fulfilling the will of the Father.  “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”  The divine Messiah always does the will of the Father.  The preceding chapter in John’s Gospel had made this very clear.  There is perfect harmony between the work of the Father and the Son. 

And what is the will of the Father for the Son?  In simple terms, it is the Father’s will that the Son save perfectly.  “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.”  It is vital to remember that this continues the explanation of why He does not cast out the one coming to Him.  We must see this for some might be tempted to say that the Father has entrusted all things into the hands of the Son, and that this passage is saying nothing more than the Son will act properly in regards to what the Father has given Him.  But the context is clear: v. 37 speaks of the Father “giving” the elect to the Son, and v. 39 continues the same thought.  Those who are given infallibly come to the Son in v. 37, and it is these same ones, the elect, [footnote: Jesus uses the neuter pa'n again to refer to the elect as an entire group, though the fact that this group is made up of individuals is seen in their being raised to life and in their individually coming to Him.] who are raised up at the last day.  Resurrection is the work of Christ, and in this passage, is paralleled with the giving of eternal life (see v. 40).  Christ gives eternal life to all those who are given to Him and who, as a result, come to Him.   

We must ask the Arminian who promotes the idea that a truly saved person can be lost: does this not mean that Christ can fail to do the will of the Father?  If the will of the Father for the Son is that He lose none of those that are given to Him, does it not follow inexorably that Christ is able to accomplish the Father’s will?  And does this not force us to believe that the Son is able to save without introducing the will of man as the final authority in the matter?  Can any synergist (one who teaches, as Dr. Geisler does, that God’s grace works “synergistically” and that man’s free will is a vitally important part of the salvation process, and that no man is saved unless that man wills it) believe these words?  Can one who says that God tries to save as many as “possible” but cannot save any man without that man’s cooperation fully believe what this verse teaches?  It is not the Father’s will that Christ try to save but that He save a particular people perfectly.  He is to lose nothing of all that He is given.  How can this be if, in fact, the final decision lies with man, not with God?  It is the Father’s will that results in the resurrection to life of any individual.  This is election in the strongest terms, and it is taught with clarity in the reddest letters in Scripture.

                  Verse 39 begins with “This is the will of Him who sent Me,” and verse 40 does the same, “For this is the will of My Father.”  But in verse 39 we have the will of the Father for the Son.  Now we have the will of the Father for the elect.  “That everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”  Amazingly, many wrench this verse out of its context, misunderstand the reference to “every one who beholds...every one who believes in Him,” and say, “See, no divine election here!  Any one can do this.”  But it is obvious, when the text is allowed to stand as a whole, that this is not the intention of the passage.  Who is the one “beholding” the Son and “believing” in Him?  Both these terms are present participles, referring to on-going action, just as we saw in “the one coming” to Christ in verse 37.  Jesus raises up on the last day all those who are given to Him (v. 39) and all those who are looking and believing in Him (v. 40).  Are we to believe these are different groups?  Of course not.  Jesus only raises one group to eternal life.  But since this is so, does it not follow that all those given to Him will look to Him and believe in Him?  Most assuredly.  Saving faith, then, is exercised by all of those given to the Son by the Father (one of the reasons why, as we will see, the Bible affirms clearly that saving faith is a gift of God).

This, then, is the position I have presented over the course of the past decade in previous books, in The Potter’s Freedom, and in brief on the webcast with Mr. Windsor.  In response, Mr. Sungenis is quoted as saying:

The perfect tense of dedooken is not crucial. White is taking it to mean that the Father chose everyone without their free will, but the text does not say that.

From our perspective, it is very easy to interpret this as the Father having given to Jesus those who responded to the grace the Father gave them. They respond by their free will.

In fact, the next verse, John 6:40, uses "sees" and "believes" in the Greek present tense, active voice, showing that the people are seeing and believing at the present time, by their own wills (Greek active voice, not passive), and it is the Father's will that each one who does this will be raised on the last day.

This is also significant since the "last day" in John 6:40 is pivoting off of the "last day" in John 6:39, showing that the "have given" of John 6:39 must be related to the those who chose to "see" and "believe" in John 6:40. If anything, there is a dynamic relationship here, not one weighted to the Father making all the decisions.

Also, the verb "give" in John 6:37 ("All that the Father gives to me will come to me") is a Greek present tense, not a perfect, which shows that the action of "giving" is occurring presently, and is not confined to whatever White conceives the perfect tense of 6:39 to be saying. The "give" of John 6:37 is the same Greek word as the "has given" of John 6:39, only a different tense.

Moreover, we can say the same about 6:37 as we did about 6:39, that is, those the Father "gives" to Jesus are those who have responded to the Father's call by their free will. The Father gathers these people and brings them to Jesus.

In the final analysis, one cannot say what period of time the perfect tense of John 6:39 refers to, since the text does not give a reference point. It is very easy to abuse the perfect tense, because we don't always know when the action of the perfect tense starts.

White is assuming that the perfect tense refers to a time long before the coming of Jesus. But all we can tell from the verse is that the action of the perfect tense occurs before the future tense occurrences of "I shall not lose" and "I shall raise him up."

Although it is possible that the perfect tense refers to an event in the mind of God before the world was created, there is absolutely nothing in the grammatical text itself that demands that interpretation. That interpretation is simply commandeered from other passages they see as teaching absolute predestination, which they then place in John 6:39.

That fact, coupled with the present tense didoosin in John 6:37, and the present tense, active voices of "seeing" and "believing" in John 6:40, leans the interpretation to a present interaction between the Father and man, not an exclusive action by the Father in the distant past.

What shall we say in response to this?  A striking  fact to note is that Mr. Sungenis assumes the presence of “free will” in the exact same way an Arminian does (and Mr. Windsor did).  Yet, the text never makes reference to such a concept, and instead denies the very heart of that concept in 6:44.  He asserts, “From our perspective, it is very easy to interpret this as the Father having given to Jesus those who responded to the grace the Father gave them. They respond by their free will.”  Yet, there is nothing about God giving “grace” to anyone, nor is there any reference to “free will.”  The point I made in the program is completely skipped by Mr. Sungenis in his response, that being the fact that the giving of the Father to the Son preceeds the coming of those so given to the Son.  Further, the context of the passage, that being the unbelief of those who are hearing His words, is ignored as well.  Instead, a foreign context of “free will” theology is inserted out of nowhere, and the text is left in a jumbled mess.  In fact, the reader may well notice that Sungenis’ interpretation does not follow the flow of the text: it skips from one section to another, even making 6:40 determinative in the meaning of the words that come immediately before it, rather than following the logical method of realizing that 6:40 is to be interpreted in light of what comes in 6:37-40.  In fact, it is unfair to say that Mr. Sungenis is even offering exegesis here: he is offering Mr. Windsor a way around the offered exegesis, but is not actually exegeting the passage at all.

Now we can summarize this response as follows:  1) the perfect tense does not tell us this took place in eternity (i.e., it could take place as a result of human action); 2) John 6:40 indicates that man actively believes, and 3) the use of the present tense “give” in 6:37 refutes the interpretation White makes of 6:39.  Let’s respond to each of these arguments in turn.

“The perfect tense is irrelevant” argument. 

I emphasized the use of the perfect tense with Mr. Windsor because he was inserting into the text his concept of free-willism, and limiting God to the role of responding to the actions of man. In fact, he introduced a very unusual, very difficult to understand idea of how men are given to Christ “at the last day.”  I pointed out this was impossible, since the action of giving by the Father obviously comes before the “last day.” Look again at the text:

"This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.

Obviously, “raise up on the last day” is a terminal action: the danger of “losing” then must come before the last day.  The giving, therefore, is logically prior to the last day, which contradicts what Mr. Windsor was trying to say.  Further, and naturally, the “giving” would precede the experience of danger on the part of any who might otherwise be lost, hence, it precedes (as is seen in 6:37) any action on the part of those who are so given.

Mr. Sungenis divorces this passage from the context.  As I noted in my exegesis, 6:38-39 explains the glorious claim of 6:37: "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”  Why do all who are given by the Father to the Son come to the Son?  And why will He not cast out the one who comes to Him?  Verses 38 and 39 explain this in the text, but not in the attempted explanation offered by Mr. Sungenis.  He joins Mr. Windsor in reversing the order of the action of 6:37 (i.e., he makes the giving of the Father dependent upon the coming of the believer, when the text says it is the other way around).

The perfect tense makes sense in the context in which it is used: Christ came to do the will of the Father.  Surely Christ knew, when He came to earth, what that will was, did He not?  Are we to actually believe that what Jesus is saying here is that He came to perform a general salvation of an unknown group, so that the text really should say, “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He will give Me upon the basis of their free will action I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day”?  How would that be relevant to the assertion of 6:37?  Remember, Jesus is explaining the unbelief of the crowd: how would this explain their unbelief, since such would involve the assertion that they have the very ability to believe that is denied to them in 6:44 and 6:65?

Instead, the Father’s will is obviously well known to the Son.  He is entrusted with God’s elect, and His unlimited power and salvific ability explain His assertion in 6:37: not only will He never cast those who are given to Him by the Father out, but all who are given will come to Him, since He has the capacity to bring this about!  If this were not the case, nothing in 6:39 would make any sense.

Mr. Sungenis says the perfect tense is not “crucial” to the passage.  Then why does he later lay weight upon the present tense of the same verb, if the verb tenses are not crucial?  (Mr. Windsor said on the program that discussing these issues was really irrelevant anyway.  Mr. Sungenis seems to disagree).  The perfect tense tells us that the Son has already been given, at the time of the speaking of these words, a people.  Mr. Sungenis neglects to note the use of the neuter pa'n as the object of what has been given to the Son.  As I pointed out in my exegesis, it is a people, a whole, that has been entrusted to the Son.  [We will see this helps us to see the consistency of the use of the present tense in 6:37 below as well.]  This people is defined by God’s act of giving, not by any human act of “free will.”  The perfect tense points to a completed action.  Mr. Sungenis says that we cannot tell when this action took place.  That is quite true, but we can surely determine that it took place prior to other actions.  It took place prior to the coming of anyone to Christ; and it takes place prior to Jesus’ action of “not losing” those who are given to Him.  I certainly do believe that this giving took place in eternity past: but as I said on the program, I prove that by direct reference to such passages as Romans 8:29-30 and Ephesians 1:3-11.  The key in John 6 is that the giving results in the actions of coming and believing.

So in summary, the perfect tense is surely very important: it not only refutes the erroneous application Mr. Windsor made (and which Mr. Sungenis did not repeat--we truly wonder what he thought of it), but it does communicate to us vital information concerning the absolute freedom of God in giving a people unto the Son.  The people of God have been given to the Son.  What a tremendous truth!

John 6:40 indicates that man actively believes

                  The single most common means of attempting to get around the meaning of John 6:37-39, which so strongly precludes the insertion of human will and effort into the sovereign work of salvation, is to literally turn the text on its head and read it backwards.  That is, rather than following the natural progression of thought, from the topic of unbelief in 6:35, through the assertion of v. 37, into the will of the Father in 38-39, and then into verse 40, they start with an a-contextual interpretation of 6:40, and then insist that the preceding verses cannot bear their natural meaning because of their assumed, but undefended (and indefensible) interpretation of that one verse. 

                  There is no doubt on anyone’s part that 6:40 clearly presents man as active and believing.  That is not even relevant to the debate, since no one is asserting that man does not believe in Christ as an active agent.  Note the plain assertion of the text:

"For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."

The “free will” argument is clear: “beholds” and “believes” are active verbs.  Men behold the Son, men believe in the Son.  Hence, it is argued, this act of beholding and believing forms the basis upon which God elects.  Such an explanation takes a partial truth (the elect surely come to Christ, behold Christ, believe in Christ) and turns it upside down in clear violation of the text.

                  The careful reader, however, will note that 6:40 follows 6:35-39.  Hence, if the flow of thought means anything, we already have the identity of those who will come, behold, and believe, established in these preceding verses.  Remembering that Jesus is explaining the unbelief of those who have seen Him work miracles, we have the identification of those who do come to Christ as those who are given to the Son by the Father (6:37); the same ones who will be infallibly raised up by the Son as per the Father’s will (6:38-39).  We have already been told in 6:37 that those the Father gives to the Son come to the Son: coming is active.  Believers believe.  Saving faith is a gift of God, given to His elect people.  Indeed, Augustine put it well long ago:

CHAP. 16.--WHY THE GIFT OF FAITH IS NOT GIVEN TO ALL.

Faith, then, as well in its beginning as in its completion, is God's gift; and let no one have any doubt whatever, unless he desires to resist the plainest sacred writings, that this gift is given to some, while to some it is not given. But why it is not given to all ought not to disturb the believer, who believes that from one all have gone into a condemnation, which undoubtedly is most righteous; so that even if none were delivered therefrom, there would be no just cause for finding fault with God. Whence it is plain that it is a great grace for many to be delivered, and to acknowledge in those that are not delivered what would be due to themselves; so that he that glorieth may glory not in his own merits, which he sees to be equaled in those that are condemned, but in the Lord. But why He delivers one rather than another,--" His judgments are unsearchable, and His ways past finding out." (On the Predestination of the Saints)

So it is completely true that every believer believes, every believer comes to Christ.  But the wonder of the passage is that every single one given by the Father to the Son, all, without exception, look to Christ in faith and receive eternal life.  It is a gross misuse of the passage to turn it into a proof-text for “free will” by removing it from its context and turning it backwards.  Such is very much like those who read the words of Jesus in John 8:47: "He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God,” and hear it saying the opposite if what it actually says.  When tradition is allowed to over-ride the text, people hear the text saying the opposite of what it really says: they hear it say, “the reason you do not belong to God is because you refuse to hear,” rather than what it actually says, the reason they do not hear is because the pre-existing condition which allows them to hear, that of belonging to God (being of the elect, being one of Christ’s sheep) is not present.  So too, here in John 6, while verse 40 is surrounded by the testimony of God’s sovereignty (6:37-39, 44-45, 65, etc.), those who exalt man’s will due to their traditions refuse to listen and understand.

The use of the present tense “give” in 6:37 refutes the interpretation White makes of 6:39

                  The final element of Mr. Sungenis’ attempt to derail the exegesis of John 6:37-39 and its witness to the truth of sovereign election and divine predestination is based upon the use of the present tense “give” at John 6:37.  Jesus says, “All that the Father gives (present tense) Me will come to Me.”  Sungenis comments:

Also, the verb "give" in John 6:37 ("All that the Father gives to me will come to me") is a Greek present tense, not a perfect, which shows that the action of "giving" is occurring presently, and is not confined to whatever White conceives the perfect tense of 6:39 to be saying. The "give" of John 6:37 is the same Greek word as the "has given" of John 6:39, only a different tense.

What shall we say to this?  Does the use of the present tense in 6:37 mean the perfect in 6:39 cannot have reference to the same divine act we see in Ephesians 1:4-6?  Not in the least.  So then, why is “give” in the present in 6:37, but the perfect in 6:39?

                  The answer is not difficult to see.  John 6:37 speaks of the person coming to Christ in faith.  All that the Father is giving Him, as a result of being given, will come (future tense) to Him.  This fits perfectly with John 6:44, where the Father is actively (and effectively, without failure), drawing those He has given to the Son to Christ.  Sungenis’ point, however, is fully refuted by simply thinking about the use of the present in context.  In John 6:37, the present tense giving results in the future tense coming.  Sungenis’ idea is that our “free will” decision predicates and informs the “giving” of the Father, so that it is our choice that determines the Father’s choice.  But the text refutes this clearly.  Those who will come will do so not out of some mythological “free will” but due to the gracious work of the Father wherein He will draw them to the Son: and the Father performs this miracle of grace only in the lives of those He gives to the Son. 

Now, it seems Mr. Sungenis is insisting that the present tense here must be emphasizing an on-going action (though, for some reason, the normal meaning of the perfect is said to be less than definitional in 6:39), which while possible, is not the most logical syntactical choice.  In fact, given his position, Sungenis would have to assert a kind of “iterative present” understanding of this present tense verb, since the action of “giving” would be dependent upon the free-will actions of men.  This makes the future action of coming determine the present action of giving, just the opposite of what the text indicates.  Instead, the fact that this present tense is used in tandem with a future tense (gives/will come) throws the emphasis upon the timing of the action into the future, hence the normative translation “All that the Father gives me” (NASB, NIV, KJV “giveth”, NRSV) rather than the unusual “All that the Father is giving me....”  While not fully a “gnomic” present, surely it exists in the same general area, stating a general truth of the Father’s giving of a people to the Son, and the emphasis lies squarely upon the result of that giving, the coming of the elect to Christ.  Contextually this is the point: those who stood before the Lord in unbelief, who, despite seeing miracles, would not come to Him, did not because they were not given to Him by the Father.  This explains their continued unbelief.  To throw the emphasis in 6:37 upon the present tense rather than the future action is to miss the context; to miss the weight of the perfect in 6:39 in defining the will of the Father is likewise an error.  

Mr. Sungenis responded to this article.  Our reply to that response is over 200K in length, and can be read here.


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