- Love and Liberty
Drawn By God
"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."
After corresponding with someone about this verse I thought I would dig and elaborate more on the concept of God drawing men to Christ. Many people wonder what it means for God to draw us. Hyper-determinists claim that Christ was teaching that no one can come to him unless he is drawn by God by an irresistible force. In their theology, a man is like a dead corpse that cannot respond to God and cannot obey the voice of God, thus God must, in his grace, use his irresistible force to draw mankind to himself. Of course, to hyper-determinists, the reason why all aren’t saved is because God chose in eternity past not to draw certain people with his irresistible force. They never had a chance, but that’s ok, God is all-wise, and he needed some people he could create for the purpose of damnation so he could show how good is he is for saving some. (This is the equivalent of a man bringing ten children into the world, digging a pit and filling it with fire, putting the children into a vehicle and driving it toward the pit, pulling three out, choosing to send the other seven into the fiery pit, then telling everyone how great he is for his mercy.) Though the Bible says that God calls all men to repentance, it only means all kinds of people, not really all people, these people claim. We must be able to tell the difference between God’s hidden will and his revealed will, and to do that you must ask a Calvinist which is which, and the answer of course is whatever aligns with the doctrines of Calvinism. These teachings and others led John Wesley to say of Calvinists that they make God out to be worse than the devil.
“Let it be observed, that this doctrine represents our blessed Lord, “Jesus Christ the righteous,” “the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth,” as an hypocrite, a deceiver of the people, a man void of common sincerity. For it cannot be denied, that he everywhere speaks as if he was willing that all men should be saved. Therefore, to say he was not willing that all men should be saved, is to represent him as a mere hypocrite and dissembler. It cannot be denied that the gracious words which came out of his mouth are full of invitations to all sinners. To say, then, he did not intend to save all sinners, is to represent him as a gross deceiver of the people. You cannot deny that he says, “Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden.” If, then, you say he calls those that cannot come; those whom he knows to be unable to come; those whom he can make able to come, but will not; how is it possible to describe greater insincerity? You represent him as mocking his helpless creatures, by offering what he never intends to give. You describe him as saying one thing, and meaning another; as pretending the love which his had not. Him, in “whose mouth was no guile,” you make full of deceit, void of common sincerity;….
…..Such blasphemy this, as one would think might make the ears of a Christian to tingle! But there is yet more behind; for just as it honours the Son, so doth this doctrine honour the Father. It destroys all his attributes at once: It overturns both his justice, mercy, and truth; yea, it represents the most holy God as worse than the devil, as both more false, more cruel, and more unjust. More false; because the devil, liar as he is, hath never said, “He willeth all men to be saved:” More unjust; because the devil cannot, if he would, be guilty of such injustice as you ascribe to God, when you say that God condemned millions of souls to everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels, for continuing in sin, which, for want of that grace he will not give them, they cannot avoid: And more cruel; because that unhappy spirit “seeketh rest and findeth none;” so that his own restless misery is a kind of temptation to him to tempt others. But God resteth in his high and holy place; so that to suppose him, of his own mere motion, of his pure will and pleasure, happy as he is, to doom his creatures, whether they will or no, to endless misery, is to impute such cruelty to him as we cannot impute even to the great enemy of God and man. It is to represent the high God (he that hath ears to hear let him hear!) as more cruel, false, and unjust than the devil!” (Sermon – Free Grace)
In other words, the devil only tempts us; but God, according to Calvinism, forces us to sin (but still says we are responsible) and destroys us for it.
Though Wesley and I have some doctrinal differences, I hold him in high regard and consider his critique of Calvinism to be accurate. I despise the Calvinistic interpretation of predestination, and as I told a young man this past week at my place of employment (a young man that claims to be a Calvinist), Calvinism is a poison, and it slanders God. It is indeed blasphemous, and I do not respect their soteriological interpretations. They teach, and will not deny it, that the worst crimes imaginable originated in the mind of God and God caused people to commit them. What utter blasphemy. I do not respect those who charge God with predestinating all suffering and sin for his own glory, and choosing to save some while damning most, and their mouths must be stopped, yet many of them have an arrogancy about them and they are critical of the rest of us because we are stupid and can’t comprehend the truth. Why try to convince us otherwise? God’s decree determined whether we would believe like them or not. Why evangelize? Because the God who chose the end chose the means to the end? Nonsense. There has never been a poison introduced into churches like these satanic doctrines. They flatly contradict the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Others teach that this drawing from God is some kind of mystical force that can be resisted, and that a person can only be converted when this force is in action, so a person better not walk away when it is happening. During these windows of opportunity, God gives us the power to respond to him, so it is said. I reject this as I do the teaching of Calvinism. I believe we are born with the natural ability to respond to and obey God. What sense would it make for God to call all to repentance, and for God to demand obedience, and for God to condemn people for failing to do so, if they are unable? We might as well be condemned for not being able to fly like a bird. Imagine God saying: “Start flapping your arms and fly to the moon, or you will be destroyed.” We would consider that tyranny. It would be no different than commanding us to repent and obey if these are impossible and that he has to do it for us. A good book to read that deals with this issue is “The Natural Ability of Man: A Study on Free Will and Human Nature” by Jesse Morrell.
Arminianism generally teaches that in eternity past God looked through the corridor of time and saw who would come to Christ and who wouldn’t, so he chose them as his elect, not arbitrarily, but because he saw in advance, they would choose Christ. Never mind that the Bible teaches we must continue in the faith once we first yield to Christ thus making our final salvation dependent on us remaining in Christ. Never mind that God calls all men to repentance; God knows most won’t come. So why would God use his mystical force to try to convert them, knowing they will not turn to him? Wouldn’t this make God out to be insincere? Would he trifle with people like this? Would he deceive his followers who see anyone and everyone as people that Christ died for and that he is calling to repentance? What absurdities are heaped upon God in theology.
No, God elected there would be a body, first the children of Israel, then the Church, and he draws people to an obedient faith. The elect are those who are joined to the elect body through faith. Who would be in the elect body was not pre-determined, nor foreknown, though those in the body were predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. That is God’s purpose for working in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
So how does God draw men to Christ?
The Lord Jesus said:
"It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me."
First, it is important that we understand the context of these verses and who Christ’s audience was.
The Lord said: “It is written in the prophets.” He was directing the minds of the Jews to the Hebrew scriptures. He continued: “They shall all be taught of God.” Who are the “all” mentioned here? “Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” The word tenses are important here. The Lord did not say: “Every man therefore that hears, and learns of the Father, cometh unto me.” He said every man that hath heard and learned, past tense. I will get to the drawing of people in the present day, but I want to address the specific context here. The Lord was speaking to the Jews. Those who were not following God would not receive his Son. In John 5:39-47 the Lord told the Jews to search the scriptures, for they believed the scriptures contained the words of eternal life, yet the scriptures testified of him, and they were rejecting him. Why? Because they did not have the love of God in them, they were not following God. These had not learned from the Father and were not taught of God, therefore they did not come to Christ. Remember, this is he who “came unto his own (the Jews), and his own received him not” (John 1:11). “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12). Who are those who received him? Those who had learned of the Father and been taught of God. Those are the “all” being drawn by God in John 6. Those who had listened to and learned from the Father would listen to and learn from Christ. Dr. Craig Adams (cited by Leighton Flowers in the comment section of one of his articles) said:
“The context here has to do with the relationship of the Father and the Son. Jesus is claiming that the Jews are rejecting him because (in actuality) they have rejected the Father. So, the context of this passage is not a discussion of whether God has chosen to send the mass of humanity to an eternal Hell, while choosing to arbitrarily save (by compulsion: “dragged”) a few. The context concerns why these particular Jews have not been drawn to Jesus as Messiah and Son, while others have. And, Jesus asserts here that it is because they have first rejected the Father and the testimony of the Scriptures. Jesus denounces their claim to knowledge of the Father. He asserts that their resistance to the Father (and) the message of the Scriptures is the reason they have not subsequently been drawn to the Son. The point is made repeatedly. “And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form…” (John 5:37).“You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf.” (John 5:39). “How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God?” (John 5:44). “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?” (John 5:46, 47). And, earlier in chapter 5 it is stated the other way around: “Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” (John 5:23). Thus the point is that the Jews who are rejecting him are doing so because they have first rejected the Father. But, Jesus asserts that those who acknowledged the Father were “drawn along” into acknowledging the Son.”
So those being drawn in John 6 were already believers in God. They were already followers of God. The ones who rebelled against the Father and refused to believe Moses were not being drawn by the Father to Christ. They had hardened their hearts against God and were being left in the dark due to their rebellion. Mankind in general is not the focus of John 6. That’s not to say that no Gentiles were saved during the Lord’s earthly ministry, some were, but the emphasis of the Lord’s ministry and the emphasis of John 6 is that the Jews that were taught of God and had learned of God were coming to Christ and others were not. The Jews that had been rejecting God were continuing in their rebellion by rejecting Christ. At this particular time it was believing Jews who were being drawn. Only after the resurrection did the worldwide drawing by the Son begin (John 12:32).
Salvation was meant for all people, but the gospel was first revealed to the Jews before it was revealed to the Gentiles (Romans 1:16; Matthew 10:5-6; Matthew 15:24, Acts 13:46). If the Jews had believed Moses they would have believed the Lord Jesus. They would not believe in him because they were not the Father’s sheep. All throughout the Book of John we see that those who were refusing to follow the Father were refusing to follow the Son, even though they claimed to believe in God. They were instead following the religious hypocrites, the Pharisees. Calvinists claim that people are saved because God chooses some, arbitrarily, and gives them to Christ. It is true, the Father was giving people to Christ, but it wasn’t arbitrarily, it wasn’t for a hidden or secret reason, he was giving Christ those who had already been following him.
Notice in John 12 that some could not believe in him.
“But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him. Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (emphasis added)
Yet is also says that “many believed on him.” So people could believe in him, but not until they “repented toward God”, which many of them would not do. They rested in their Jewish lineage and adherence to Jewish rituals, thus God was hardening them. The Bible doesn’t say they could not believe because Adam sinned and they were all born spiritual corpses with a sinful nature, it doesn’t say they could not believe because God decreed in eternity past for them to be born unable to believe. They were not in that condition because God rejected them before they were born or because God caused them to be rebellious. They were in that condition because they refused to listen to their own scriptures. They had refused to listen to Moses. They had rejected the Father’s rule over their lives. Israel was being hardened in their rebellion, as Paul reiterates in Romans 9 through 11. So, the message was taken to the Gentiles.
So, many of the Jews did not believe in Christ because it was not granted to them to believe in Christ. The reason was not because of “the awful decree”, but because they were not the Father’s sheep to draw and give to his Son. It was a giving, drawing, and granting of faithful Jews to come to Christ. No special mystical force was needed, no mystical drawing, no regeneration was needed for them to be able to believe in Christ; they simply needed to hear the gospel, and being faithful to God they would submit to Christ.
So John 6:44 is a drawing of Jewish believers - those who believed Moses (John 5:46), who had heard and learned from the Father (John 6:45) and whose father was God (John 8:42). There is no such thing as an inborn inability to respond to God and Calvinists have twisted the Word of God and blasphemed him.
Significantly, we can also see that the Lord’s purpose was not to fully reveal his identity to the world until after his death and resurrection (Matthew 16:20; Matthew 8:4; Matthew 9:30; Mark 8:30; Luke 8:56). Before this, he was not yet drawing all men unto himself, he was drawing the Jews. Notice what the scriptures say:
“And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour. Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.
The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him. Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes. Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (emphasis added)
Once Christ had died and rose from the dead, he commissioned his disciples to preach the gospel to every creature. Much of what is written in the gospels must be understood in context, or it will not be understood at all.
So, Christ speaks of drawing ALL men unto him, after the resurrection, contrary to the teaching of those who claim he only draws the elect.
How are we drawn?
God draws mankind by influencing our minds with truth. God has given us the ability to learn by creating us with a conscience that approves of what is right and disapproves of what is wrong (though we silence this witness by ignoring it and forming a character based on doing what is right in our own eyes), through creation, through natural moral law (our interactions with others), and of course through the scriptures. But if we refuse to listen, if we refuse to be teachable, if we refuse to obey, we cannot learn of God and God cannot reveal his truth to us. It's not that sinners are unable to learn, it’s that they are unwilling. The Spirit of God influences us to turn from our unwillingness; we do not need new capabilities they did not have before.
Again, as for Christ’s immediate listeners, those who were rejecting him had also been rejecting the Father. Those who were following God positioned themselves to follow Christ because they had been receptive to his truths and had been learning from God. Acts 13:48 says...."and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." This verse must also be understood in its context. The gospel was being preached to the Jews but they were rejecting it. Acts 13:46 says:
“Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.”
So Acts 13:48, far from being a statement that teaches that God predestined who would be saved and who wouldn’t, teaches that some (Gentiles) had positioned themselves, or aligned themselves, or had the disposition, that gave them the readiness of mind to submit to Christ, God’s beloved Son. They had responded to the light they had, and it positioned them to go forward into more light. They had responded favorably to the influence of God and submitted to Christ. If they had not had a teachable heart and been drawn by God, they would have never come to Christ. Their circumstances were unique during this transitional period, but the truth is clear, those who had teachable hearts and were taught of God came to Christ.
Since that time, people have been living in the days of God’s full revelation and we are not dealing with transitional truths. We are able to look at the truth as it is found in Christ, so there are differences in the sphere of knowledge, but God still draws us the same way; he draws us by influencing our minds with truth. When the truth has its intended effect on our minds we submit to Christ. The Spirit draws us by influencing our minds, and we must draw ourselves to the Lord:
“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”
The Adversary blinds the minds of those that believe not with lies. God seeks to turn us by influencing our minds with the truth of his goodness. This is why Christians are so very important to the rest of the world - we are the Lord’s voice, hands, and feet, and we have the words of eternal life.
God begins speaking to us in our youth, attempting to teach us, making headway with some, and he continues in various ways, even through the human experience of suffering. As C.S. Lewis stated:
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Unfortunately, many remain blind and deaf, and only knowing what pleases the flesh, they harden their hearts toward God, and the conscience becomes seared.
We do not have to wait for God to do something miraculous. He commands us to repent, and we should repent with urgency. Do not tell sinners to wait! Tell sinners to surrender their lives to Christ! Don’t lie to them by telling them they do not have the ability to turn to Christ. They are able. Their rebellion is their own fault, not God’s because of a fictitious inability to do otherwise. So many sinners have been told to wait for God to do for them what God has commanded them to do. He has given us many good reasons why we should submit to him. There is no good reason not to.
Run to him and do not delay.
To read more sources on this subject, go here:
See Albert Barnes' notes on John 6:44-45
Finney on Ability and Inability