The following is a response to material found within the Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible & Christianity (4th Edition), a work which was edited by Baptist missionary David W. Cloud and which claims on the cover to be “Based upon the King James Bible and written from an uncompromising, Bible-believing position.” Specifically, the material to be examined comes from the article “Elect” and can be found on pages 188 and 189.
This is the second in a series of responses to Brother Cloud, in which I will deal with his notes on John 6:44 and a handful of related verses that Brother Cloud mentions. His original text will be block quoted while my responses will be in standard type.
John 6:44 “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.” This verse is used by Calvinists to support their doctrine of Unconditional election, that only those sovereignly chosen by God can be saved.
The previous verse we looked at, John 6:37, established quite well that those the Father gives to Christ will with certainty come to Christ and be saved. John 6:37 is an absolute statement and truth, and if it were possible that some who the Father gave to Christ didn’t come to Christ, the verse is made a lie.
The situation is similar here, with John 6:44. However, the issue this time is not one of “Irresistible Grace” but of “Unconditional Election,” and Brother Cloud’s definition of it will suffice.
John 6:44 begins by saying that there is no one that can come to Christ unless they are drawn by the Father. That word translated as the verb “to draw,” like an Altoid mint, is curiously strong. It literally means “to drag.”
I have often heard it preached, usually in a style of speaking specifically used to invoke an emotional response, that the lost in attendance should give in to the “wooing of the Spirit” and choose Christ. I’m going to be very blunt with this, but the only “wooing” that the person is giving into in such a case is that of the speaker at the front of the building repeatedly beckoning people to the altar with promises of eternal life and reminders of our own mortality.
That is not at all the picture we see here, nor is it a picture which we should expect. For salvation to occur, the Father must drag us to belief. It isn’t always a picturesque journey either–when Paul was brought to belief he was struck blind for several days as part of it!
So we can see from the verse that no one can come to Christ unless the Father drags him there. If you need a reason for this, it is simply a matter of fact that there are none who seek after God, no, not one (Romans 3:11). If God waited around for us to come to Christ of our own accord, no human being would ever set foot in Heaven. We would sooner make up our own idols to worship than to know the true God. Such a relationship must be initiated by Him first, and He draws us into it through a process we know as conversion.
Just as John 6:37 contained truths pertaining to Irresistible Grace and Unconditional Election, John 6:44 contains truth pertaining to Unconditional Election as well as Perseverance of the Saints. As the verse continues, we see that not only can people not come to Christ unless drawn by the Father, but we also see that those whom the Father gives to Christ will be raised in the last day by Christ. As with much of what Jesus said, that is an absolute truth and leaves very little wiggle room.
To recap John 6:44, no one can come to Christ unless the Father drags him to Him, and those who the Father drags will be raised up on the last day. Calvinist teaching is consistent with this biblical teaching. If you reject Calvinism, then I point out that you cannot reject its teachings without rejecting many very clear biblical statements.
The problem with this is twofold: (1) Christ said He would draw all men to Himself (Jn. 12:32; 1:9).
No disrespect is here meant to my Savior, but what has that got to do with it? John 6:44 (and 37, for that matter) are not talking about a call sent out by Christ. They are talking about a calling and drawing on the part of the Father.
If the call of John 12:32 was the same call spoken of in John 6, would not everyone then be saved? After all, Christ said that everyone given to Him and everyone drawn to Him would be saved and be risen up on the last day! In Brother Cloud’s rejection of Calvinism, he unknowingly skirts universalism.
However, while John 12:32 does state that Christ would draw all to Himself, it does not specify what the “all” refers to. The “men” in the King James Version is denoted as being added by the translators. Christ was raised up from the earth to draw all to Himself, but who are the “all”? If the drawing here is the same as in John 6, meaning it is irresistible, then it is only a matter of looking at who comes to Christ to determine who the “all” is. If I had to replace the “men” added in that verse with something a little more true to reality, perhaps “elect” or “His sheep” would work better? Christ was risen up from the earth, and He draws all His sheep unto Himself.
Still yet, if “all men” is here meant in John 12:32, it should be pointed out that Christ is the Good Shepherd, as portrayed by John 10. He lays down His life for His sheep–not the goats–and His sheep hear His voice. If in John 12:32 a universal drawing is meant, it is effectual only for those who are His sheep, who can hear His voice and respond to it.
Brother Cloud may be able to write off the plain meaning of John 6:44, but he seemingly has not considered the implications of his counterarguments.
(2) The Bible says God desires all men to be saved (1 Tim. 2:3-4; 2 Pet. 3:9).
Then why aren’t all men saved?
I’m not arguing that God doesn’t love the whole world. I’m not saying He doesn’t desire all to be saved. I’m not claiming anything like that at all.
But John 6, the very words of our God and Savior Jesus Christ, affirm that there is only a select group which will be saved and that that group is comprised solely of those drawn to the Son by the Father.
There is a vast difference between desire and decree, and whatsoever God decrees will come to pass. Creating the universe was a trivial matter for the Almighty. We should not think it possible that a mere human could resist the Father’s dragging Him to the Son. (And such a thought is impossible, knowing that everyone God thusly brings to Christ will be saved and raised up on the last day.)
Thus while it is true that no man can come to Christ except that he be drawn by God, it is equally true that all men are being drawn…
As we have seen above in the verses cited by Brother Cloud, that isn’t the case at all.
…and that those who are rejected are those who reject the truth and do not believe (2 Thess. 2:10,12)…
And who is it that will reject the truth and not believe? Would it not be those who the Father is not drawing? We know that all those He does draw will be saved, so that is the conclusion we are left to draw.
…and He has ordained that the gospel be preached to every creature (Mark 16:15).
With that, I wholeheartedly agree with you, Brother Cloud. After all, it is not for us to know the hearts of men. Neither you nor I know who the elect are, and so we must diligently preach to all that a few will be saved. This too is in accord with the Scriptures, which state that many are called, but few are chosen (Matthew 20:16; 22:14).