I am back to examine John 10. We’ve already seen in my last post that Peterson’s claims about reprobation regarding John 10 are highly suspect. What I’m gonna do in this post is demonstrate that Peterson’s exegesis of this passage is wrong when you take into account the chapter itself, as well as the surrounding chapters of John’s Gospel and the other three Gospels. I will not cover every little statement in every Gospel, but will give at least one or two examples (maybe more) from the other three Gospels to aid our understanding of John 10.
Let’s reprint the quote from John 10:
‘I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, BUT YOU DO NOT BELIEVE BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT MY SHEEP. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish’ (John 10:25-28 NIV).
Peterson quotes John 10:26, but disregards verse 25: “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, THEY BEAR WITNESS OF ME.”
What work is Jesus referring to? In the immediate context, the work refers to “opening the eyes of the blind” (Jn. 10:21), which Jesus performed in John 9.
Jesus rebukes them in verse 25 because they plead, “How long do you keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, TELL US PLAINLY” (v.24). They act as if they desire to know, but they’ve seen all the miracles...and yet, do not believe it. If the miracles didn’t convince them, then neither would Jesus’ confession.
Go back to John 10:25-28 (above). Notice that Jesus gives characteristics of His sheep? “My sheep LISTEN TO MY VOICE...” Jesus was telling the Jews that if they were His sheep, if they clearly desired to follow Him, then they would have seen the miracles and believed them. Instead, what do they do? “Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him” (v.31). And they do this “because You, being a Man, MAKE YOURSELF GOD” (v.33). They demonstrate through their actions that they are hard-hearted and do not care to believe. It is their actions that prove they are goats---but they are goats because they do not want to believe, not because Jesus damned them from the beginning!
In John 10 itself, there is proof that Jesus was willing to give eternal life to all who believe:
“I am the door. IF ANYONE enters by Me, HE WILL BE SAVED, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9, NKJV).
Why then, would He turn around and declare to the Jews that He damned them from the beginning---if He really wanted “anyone” and everyone to come to Him for salvation? Peterson’s analysis of this text doesn’t make sense within John 10 itself, not to mention the rest of the Gospel material.
How does Peterson’s analysis stack up for the rest of John’s Gospel? As he himself says, the idea of unbelief as the cause of damnation is “overwhelmingly” present in the Gospel of John. Let’s look at John 3:
“For GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD that He gave His only begotten Son, that WHOEVER believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For GOD DID NOT SEND HIS SON INTO THE WORLD TO CONDEMN THE WORLD, BUT THAT THE WORLD THROUGH HIM MIGHT BE SAVED” (John 3:16, 17).
If God really loved the world and gave His Son for the world, and desires that the world would be saved, then He really is “Savior of all men” (1 Tim. 4:10). John 3:18 tells us that “he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” The unbeliever is not condemned because God condemned him, but because he refuses to believe.
We have these words in John 5:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (Jn. 5:24).
John 5 is even stronger against the Calvinist position with these words:
“Yet I do not receive testimony from man, BUT I SAY THESE THINGS THAT YOU MAY BE SAVED” (Jn. 5:34).
Wait a minute! Jesus is now stating to the Jews that He desires their salvation. But this doesn’t agree with Peterson’s interpretation of John 10. If Christ desires the salvation of the Jews, why would He then turn around and tell them that He damned them from the beginning? Peterson’s exegesis doesn’t just go against John---it contradicts common sense.
In verses 38-40 of the same chapter, Jesus shows us where to place the blame:
“But you [the Jews] do not have His word abiding in you, because WHOM HE SENT, HIM YOU DO NOT BELIEVE. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO COME TO ME that you may have life” (Jn. 5:38-40, NKJV).
The Jews not only have unbelief, but they are not willing to come to Christ; in addition, the very Scriptures they read testify to Christ---and yet, they see Christ in the Scriptures but refuse to come to Him. As I just mentioned, if Jesus desires their salvation (Jn. 5:34), then the blame lies with the Jews and not God Himself.
There are a host of other verses in John’s Gospel that speak out against the Calvinist position; but instead, I am now going to turn to one pivotal verse in the other Gospels. The verse itself is located in the Gospel of Luke:
“And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers REJECTED THE WILL OF GOD FOR THEMSELVES, not having been baptized by him” (Luke 7:30, NKJV).
Notice that the Pharisees and lawyers “rejected the will of God for themselves,” which means that God willed something for them (salvation) that they refused to accept (salvation). In other words, they opposed God’s will. If God wanted them to be saved (according to Luke 7 above and John 5:34), then how could Christ have damned them from the beginning?
Peterson must answer these questions if he desires to make his exegesis stick. However, I don’t think his interpretation of John 10:25-28 has merit...simply because, as John Calvin said it, “Scripture interprets Scripture.”