Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Election of the Gospel of John-- Part I

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 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. 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.’ Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, ‘I am the bread that came down out of heaven.’ They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’? Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me” (John 6:35-45,NASB).

In this post, I’m tackling another key passage quoted by authors Robert A. Peterson and Michael D. Williams in their book, “Why I Am Not An Arminian.” The Calvinist authors spend a great deal of time focusing on what they take to be “election” passages from the Gospel of John. This is what they say regarding John 6 above:

“The Father’s giving people to the Son is s picture of election. In addition, the Father’s giving people to the Son PRECEDES their believing in Him for salvation. Election is not based on foreseen faith; it precedes faith and results in faith” (Robert A. Peterson and Michael D. Williams, “Why I Am Not An Arminian,” page 50).

This is the Arminian response to the Calvinist claim:

“…the Calvinist reading likewise fails to account fully for the context. Jesus is locked in strenuous debate with religious leaders who claim special knowledge of and standing with God. From this privileged position, they seek to discredit Jesus completely. Their implied charge essentially involves an attempt to SEVER JESUS FROM GOD, AFFIRMING THE LATTER WHILE REJECTING THE FORMER. In doing this, they wish to establish the right to claim, ‘We know God intimately, but you are utterly alien to us! We stand in right relationship to God, but we completely reject you” (Jerry Walls and Joseph Dongell, “Why I Am Not a Calvinist,” page 74).

Prior to this quote, Walls and Dongell demonstrate that when Jesus said that no one could come unless the Father drew him, He was saying that the Jews couldn’t come because the Father wasn’t drawing them! However, Christ was not affirming some arbitrary election of those who would come to faith. We’ll get into that for a minute…

Walls and Dongell above tell us that the Pharisees claimed to know God and believe in Him, but rejected Jesus (who also is God). Scripture confirms this:

“For this reason, the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. But He answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.’
For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also WAS CALLING GOD HIS OWN FATHER, MAKING HIMSELF EQUAL WITH GOD” (John 5:16-18, NASB).

It is because they refuse to believe Jesus that Christ also said these words: “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He HAS GIVEN ALL JUDGMENT TO THE SON, so that ALL WILL HONOR THE SON EVEN AS THEY HONOR THE FATHER. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (Jn. 5:22-23, NASB). Christ was saying that if they honored the Father, then they would honor the Son, because the Father sent the Son. Jesus also goes on to tell the Jews, “And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me…YOU DO NOT HAVE HIS WORD ABIDING IN YOU, for you do not believe Him WHOM HE SENT” (Jn. 5:37-38, NASB). Not only do they not honor the Father, they don’t have the Father’s words inside of them, remaining with them. The Father’s words have not taken root in their heart, because they refuse to believe on the One that the Father has sent to testify of Himself.

In John 5:39-40, the Lord tells the Jews,

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; IT IS THESE THAT TESTIFY ABOUT ME; AND YOU ARE UNWILLING TO COME TO ME SO THAT YOU MAY HAVE LIFE.”

And in John 5:45-47?

“Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; THE ONE WHO ACCUSES YOU IS MOSES, in whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, FOR HE WROTE ABOUT ME. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

Look at John 5:47—

“But if you do not believe his [Moses] writings, how will you believe My words?”

Regarding this verse, Jerry Walls and Joseph Dongell write:

“In this question posed by Jesus we discover the key principle: REJECTING GOD’S FIRST OFFERINGS OF TRUTH WILL UTTERLY BLOCK FURTHER ILLUMINATION. God will not offer more truth or manifest his full glory (the eternal Son) while light at hand is being spurned. In other words, we can’t actively reject the Father and at the same time have any chance of accepting the Son…the Jewish opponents’ inability to come to Jesus did not lie, then, in the hidden, eternal plan of God but IN THEIR OWN TRACK RECORD OF TRAMPLING PRIOR LIGHT, OF HAVING ALREADY DENIED GOD HIMSELF AND SPURNED GOD’S CORRECTIVE PUNISHMENT. Had they received Moses fully, thereby coming to know the Father to the degree possible at that time, they would already have belonged to the Father’s flock…since they did not belong to the Father’s own flock, THEY WOULDN’T BE PART OF THE TRANSFER OF SHEEP ALREADY TRUSTING THE FATHER INTO THE FOLD OF THE SON (Jn. 6:37, 39)” (“Why I Am Not A Calvinist,” pages 74-75).

John chapter 5 shows all the witnesses to Christ’s deity: John (vv.33-35), Christ’s own works (v.36), the Father’s Word (vv.37-38), and Moses’ writings (vv.45-47). And Jesus tells us the problem with the Jews in John chapter 6:

“It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me” (John 6:45, NASB).

Why does the Lord begin the end of His speech to the Jews in this manner? Because He was trying to let them know that the Father’s words through John the Baptist, and the Law of Moses should have been enough to open their understandings. However, “You do not have His [Father] word abiding in you, FOR YOU DO NOT BELIEVE HIM whom He sent” (Jn. 5:38, NASB). If the Father’s words were truly in the Jews, they would have believed the One the Father sent to tell of Himself. However, instead of believing Christ, the Jews rejected Him at every turn and even rejected His Godhood.

The Jews lacked understanding in the same way that Nicodemus did in his encounter with Jesus by night (John 3). Jesus uses the Old Testament with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and “ruler of the Jews” (Jn. 3:1)—

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life” (John 3:14-15, NASB).

This reference comes from Numbers 21, which gives detail into the journey of the Israelites in the wilderness. In the Old Testament passage, the children of Israel had openly opposed God—and He caused serpents to come upon them and kill some of the nation. In response, they go to Moses and ask him to pray for them, that God would remove the serpents. Moses goes to God, and God tells him to make a bronze serpent to set on a pole; and all who looked at that bronze serpent would live. The people looked on the serpent and were healed.

Jesus was saying to Nicodemus that He, like that bronze serpent, must be lifted up for all to see—so that those who see Him and BELIEVE will live. How would He be “lifted up” for all to see? He would soon be crucified, and He would hang there on that cross at Calvary for all to see. He would be publicly shamed—in order that mankind would be redeemed. In John 3, unlike John 6, the Lord explains to Nicodemus that He is the summation of everything Moses wrote in the Law as well as John’s testimony.

John also served as a witness to Christ:

“For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:34-36, NASB).

John here testifies to the fact that the Son (Jesus) has been verified by the Father Himself (the Father has given everything over to Him, including eternal life). Consequently, to not believe in Him is to forfeit life eternal. Funny—this is what the Pharisees believed—that they could reject the Son and have eternal life!!

The interpretation of Walls and Dongell holds firm. The Jews had rejected the words of John and the Old Testament writings—so what else was there for them? Nothing. If they didn’t believe these things, as Jesus asked, how would they believe Him?
In contrast to the Jews, however, the Samaritan woman understood Scripture:

“The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.’

Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He’” (John 4:25-26, NASB).
All Jesus had to do was tell the woman He was the Messiah, and this was her response:

“So the woman left her waterpot, and went into the city and said to the men, ‘Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?’” (John 4:28-29, NASB)

When Calvinist exegetes attempt to twist Scripture, it’s a sad affair. We’ll tackle more on the issue of election in John in the coming days.

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