Bible Question and Answer
by Robert C. Veil, Jr.
Question: What is meant by Jesus’s statement that no one can come to the Father unless God draws them? Doesn’t this teach that only those who are pre-destined by God to be saved can be saved?
Answer: No, but that is often the mistaken conclusion, especially by our Calvinistic friends. Notice what this verse actually says: “No man can come to me, except the Father that sent me draw him: and I will raise him up in the last day,” (Jn. 6:44). This statement is made in a context which must be carefully kept in mind. The Jews, particularly their religious leaders, were murmuring and disputing concerning Jesus. Jesus had been getting increased attention, and was growing extremely popular among the masses. The Jewish leaders saw this as a threat to their pompous power, and they were busily trying to find fault with Jesus and undermine his work. They had already accused him of violating the law of Moses by healing on the sabbath, by being inferior to Moses, and of wrongly making himself equal with God, (Jn. 5:18; 6:30ff).
Their next objection concerned the teaching of Jesus that he is the “bread of life” which “came down out of heaven,” like the manna of the Old Testament, (John 6:41). In mockery, the religious leaders questioned his origins, and said “is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?” (Jn. 6:42). They were trying to prove that he had no heavenly Father, that he was merely a man, and that his claims were presumptuous and should be rejected. He could not be from God because he had an earthly father. They would later imply that he was an illegitimate child, “born of fornication,” (John 8:41). All of this was done to discredit his teaching.
Jesus knew that the religious teachers of his day held great power, and that many people derived their sense of religious security from this corrupt, hierarchical structure. They achieved status in the religious community by their loyalty to certain sects and parties, such as the Sadducees and Pharisees. He bypasses all of that by showing that true righteousness and acceptability to God does not come from a person’s standing in man-made religions or traditions. The way to the Father is by doing the Father’s will, serving him and honoring Jesus Christ. In other words, we must use the lifeline God has provided, not try to invent some other. “No one can come to the Father unless the Father draws him.”
The “drawing” process of God is explained in numerous other passages as our obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is God’s means of salvation, and it is his only means. Paul would later clarify this as follows: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth…,” (Rom. 1:16).
That this is the proper understanding of the passage in question becomes clear by looking at the verse which follows: “It is written in the prophets, And they shall all be taught of God. Everyone that hath heard from the Father, and hath learned, cometh unto me,” (John 6:45). The Father “draws” people to him by means of the gospel. As we hear and learn the gospel, we submit to his power and are drawn to him. Hearing the gospel is the beginning of faith, because faith comes by hearing the word of God, (Rom. 10:17).
Today, when a person humbles himself, opens the Bible, and “receives meekly” the word of God, God is able to save their soul, (Jas. 1:21). God “draws” people who humbly submit to his word. Being teachable is the first step of salvation! But as long as we stoutly cling to our own ideas and methods, we are rejecting God’s sole lifeline.
As long as we trust in our own traditions or opinions, (or the “teaching of the church” vs. the word of God), we are acting like the religious leaders of Jesus’s day. We cannot be drawn to the Father if we refuse the only lifeline he has extended, namely Jesus Christ. And if we recognize Jesus as our Lord, take hold of that lifeline and submit our lives to him in obedience, the Father draws us to him, and Jesus will raise us up in the last day.
With this beautiful image of a saving life-line, Jesus simply reaffirms the same lesson he has been teaching in various other ways: That he is the son of God, our only means of salvation!
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.