Thursday, November 5, 2009

Effectual Calling and Grace, Part I: John 6

“Jesus’ statement in [John] 6:45 (‘Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me’) only reinforces his point in 6:44 by stating again its complementary truth. As 6:44 had stressed that no one can come apart from the drawing of the Father, 6:45 reaffirms the truth Jesus already presented in 6:37, namely, THAT ALL THOSE GIVEN BY THE FATHER DO COME. As Augustine puts it:
‘What is the meaning of “Every man who has heard and learned from the Father comes unto me” [John 6:45] except that there is none who hears from the Father, and learns, who comes not to me? For if everyone who has heard from the Father, and has learned, comes, certainly everyone who does not come has not heard from the Father or learned; for if he had heard and learned, he would come...’
These two truths (i.e., only those drawn can come, and all those drawn do come )serve together to require the ECG doctrine of Calvinism. Jesus’ repeated affirmations of both truths, along with his rejection of universalism, make this doctrine undeniable”
(Bruce Ware, “Effectual Calling and Grace,” from “Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge, and Grace” by Thomas R. Schreiner & Bruce A. Ware, eds. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000, pages 217-218).

Bruce Ware gives what seems to be an impressive take on John 6. However, there are a few errors in his assessment.

First, in using John 6:45, he leaves John 6:45a out of his analysis. John 6:45 in its entirety is:

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

What 6:45a emphasizes is that EVERYONE will be taught by God. This verse, referenced
from Isaiah 54:13, shows that “all your children,” meaning “Israel’s children,” the Jews, would be taught by God. Here, Bruce Ware leaves this little piece of information off of his analysis. This is so that when he arrives at 6:45b, he can claim, as he cites Augustine, that everyone is not taught and doesn’t learn from God. But to come to Ware’s conclusion is a direct contradiction of John 6:45a. EVERYONE is taught of God. Whether or not they come is another matter.

Verse 44 shows us that the Father draws people to Himself; but then Jesus states, “no one can come to Me.” We see here that the Father draws people to Himself, but then hands them to Jesus. This is why Jesus says in John 6:37,
“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (Jn. 6:37, NKJV).

What Jesus is saying is that if those people receive what the Father has given, they will then come to Jesus. When they come to Jesus, they will be part of the “all persons” that the Father hands over to Jesus.

When Jesus is telling them about being taught of God, He is doing so because in the midst of chapter 6, Jesus is teaching them about the words of the Old Testament, which he cites in John 5:39 as one of the witnesses to His Godhood. Jesus teaches them of the words of Scripture by discussing their example of manna in the wilderness:

“Therefore they said to Him, ‘What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? Our fathers ate THE MANNA IN THE DESERT; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’” (Jn. 6:30-31, NKJV).

The crowd itself cites the example of manna in the wilderness, given to the Israelites by the Father Himself. This reference comes from Exodus 16:4.
Jesus responds to this example:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (Jn. 6:32-33).

Exodus 16:4 confirms that the Lord God told Moses that He would send manna from heaven. Jesus confirms here in verses 32 and 33 that the Father gives “the true bread” from heaven. This bread, however, is not the “bread” of the wilderness: “for the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” The True Bread of which Jesus speaks is HIMSELF!

The crowd requests the true bread by saying, “Lord, give us this bread always” (6:34). Jesus responds by saying, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who BELIEVES IN ME shall never thirst” (v.35).

In verse 42, the Jews demonstrate their disbelief: “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’? This confirms what Jesus said about them earlier: “But I said to you that you have seen Me and YET DO NOT BELIEVE” (v.36). It seems, then, that the problem with the crowd is not that they haven’t received the truth, or haven’t been “taught of God” (v.45), but that they haven’t “heard” and “learned” or received Jesus’ teaching or that of the Scriptures.

Jesus goes into more detail about His identity:

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I AM THE LIVING BREAD WHICH CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world” (John 6:48-51, NKJV).

The Jews cannot understand this (“how can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”—verse 52); neither can some of Jesus’ own disciples (John 6:60-61).

Let’s look at verses 39 and 40. I want us to see the parallel structure between the two verses:

(1) This is the will of Father who sent Me (v.39)
(2) This is the will of Him who sent Me (v. 40)

First, we see that the beginning phrases are very similar: the “Father” of verse 39 is the “Him” of verse 40. Let’s look at the last two phrases and see how they add up:

(1) “that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing” (v.39)
(2) “that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life” (v.40).

Before commenting on these two phrases, let’s look at the similarity or identical nature of the last two:

(1) “but should raise it up at the last day” (v. 39).
(2) “and I will raise him up at the last day” (v.40).

The last two phrases immediately above show us that “it” and “him” are the same thing, seeing that the phrases are identical.

Look at the middle two phrases: “all He has given Me” and “everyone who sees the Son and believes.” The Father gives those who have “heard and learned from the Father” to the Son as His possession (Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9; Ephesians 1:11, 14). This is why Jesus says the “all the Father gives to Me will come to Me”—because all that have been taught, heard, and learned from the teachings of the Scriptures (then the OT) will be given by the Father to Christ. But then Christ says, “And the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37). He says this because after being given to the Father through the Scriptures, they would next come to the Son and receive Him. As Jesus says in John 5,

“Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—MOSES, IN WHOM YOU TRUST. 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?” (John 5:45-47, NKJV)

Bruce Ware would like for us to get preoccupied with all the verses about “learning” of the Father and being drawn by the Father, etc. However, within these verses in chapter 6 is also Jesus’ judgment on the crowd because they wouldn’t believe in Him.
The emphasis then, is belief, not some arbitrary election (6:29, 35, 36, 40, 47, 51, 53-58, 64, 69).

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