Have you been given to Christ by the Father?

the-last-supper-master-of-portilloTo listen to my response to Dr. James White’s Dividing Line program: CLICK HERE

Have you individually been given to Christ by the Father, or are you one who believed in Christ through the message of those who were given to Christ by the Father?

The Calvinist interprets John 17 to mean that all of us have individually been “given to Christ by the Father” in the same manner that His elect apostles were while Christ was on earth.  Let’s look at the text:

6“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

Clearly Jesus is praying for those he was WITH while on earth, those given the words and the authority to take those inspired words to the rest of the world.  These are individual Israelites selected to fulfill the noble purpose for which the nation of Israel was elected.  They have been given the inspired words of God.  This is what has set them apart as being authoritative in their teachings. Shall we presume that we have been set apart in the same manner as these divinely elected messengers of God?  Is it not a bit presumptuous and maybe prideful of us to assume that we are set apart and given to Christ in the same manner that describes His chosen apostles from the elect nation of Israel?  Let’s continue to read the text:

13“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17Sanctify them byd the truth; your word is truth. 18As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. 

Clearly his prayer is temporal, not universal, in that he is praying while He is “still in the world” for those at that crucial point in human history who have been entrusted with the foundation of His bride, the church.  However, He does not stop there.  He goes on to pray for those who will come to believe through their message, which makes the distinction very clear between the authoritative messengers and those who believe their message.

20“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Notice that he does not describe these who believe in the message of the appointed messengers as being “given to Christ by the Father.”  Should we assume from silence that we deserve that kind of authoritative recognition?CD Album Jacket Titus.ai  Could we be undermining the unique authority of the apostle’s appointment as inspired delivers of God’s truth?  Is it possible the phrase, “given to Christ,” is reflecting God’s selection of messengers who were set apart to ensure the purpose of Israel’s election and given to Christ by the Father while Christ was on the earth?

Consider this interpretation objectively for a moment and notice how many unanswered questions it solves.  When you understand the book of John in its actual context, while Christ was on earth being entrusted with the remnant from Israel to be sent with the inspired truth, it takes on a very clear and unified meaning.  In John chapter 6, as Christ is addressing a large Israelite audience, we get a peek at Christ speaking in a very provoking manner as he tells the crowd to eat his flesh and drink his blood without qualification or explanation.  This is not the first time we witness Christ speaking in difficult and hard to understand language.  We see in Matthew 13, for example, Jesus speaking in parables so as to prevent Israel from understanding and repenting.  Why would that be necessary if indeed all people are born totally unable to willingly respond apart from the effectual calling?  There is no need to blind people who are born totally blind already.  There is no need to speak in parables to prevent faith if indeed the doctrine of total inability is true.

Please understand this perspective, Jesus is purposefully blinding everyone from the truth except a preselected few.  To his divinely selected apostles he has entrusted the mysteries of these parables and hard sayings (Matt. 13:11).  This is also what we see happening in John chapter 6.  Read through it again from this perspective and see if it does not make perfect sense.

The crowd does not understand his flesh eating parable and thinks He is teaching cannibalism so they bail (wouldn’t you?). Could Jesus have stopped them and said, “Wait, let me explain, that is not what I meant?” Of course he could, but he was trying to drive them away, or as Paul teaches in Romans 11, Jesus is “cutting them off” or “giving them a spirit of stupor.”  So, instead of stopping the disgruntled crowd He let’s them leave and concludes by saying, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them” (John 6:65). And then turns to the twelve and asks if they will leave him too, which clearly reveals the contrast between those “given to Him by the Father” and the rest who are being judicially blinded from the truth.  See, Jesus is speaking about coming to Him right then, while he was on earth in the flesh.

Typically when I get to this point in my conversation with a Calvinist I am met with an objection which goes something like this:

“Are you saying none of this applies to us, but that it was all about them at that time?  Are you seriously suggesting there is no application from John 6 for us today!?”

My reply: No, I still believe that no one can come to Christ unless they are drawn by his truth. As Paul states, “How can they believe in one whom they have not heard?”  But one must understand that the Jews of that day were “seeing but not perceiving” because of their being judicially blinded by God (John 12:39-41), not because of a innate disabled nature due to the Fall. heart-god-can-hardened-a-heart It is not until the powerful and enabling truth of the gospel is completed in Christ’s resurrection and He is lifted up that He sends that gospel to be proclaimed in all the earth, thus drawing “all men to himself” (John 12:32). By the way, I’m fine with interpreting John 12:32 to mean “all nations” because even that interpretation fits perfectly with what has been explained regarding the national hardening of Israel.

For this people’s [Israel’s] heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.  Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’  “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen! (Acts 28:27-28)

Israel has become calloused otherwise they might turn and be healed, but the Gentiles, who have not become calloused, will listen to the message.  The means of drawing all men is the gospel and even Calvinists admit that is sent to be proclaimed to every individual. “Faith comes by hearing” and the only reason someone may not “have ears to hear” is if God has purposefully blinded them as He did to Israel at that crucial point in history.  So, unless you happen to come across someone who is being blinded by God from the truth of the gospel so as to accomplish the redemption of the world through their rebellion, you can assume that the gospel is more than sufficient to enable their response to it’s appeal.  who-are-you-to-question-why-your-god-doesnt-want-me-to-believe-in-him-0367fThe gracious spirit wrought gospel truth is the means God has appointed to DRAW all men to himself, so preach it boldly and confidently knowing that it is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16).

Another objection I often hear from my Calvinistic brethren goes something like this:

“Well, how is that interpretation any better than ours?  You still have God blinding Jews from hearing the gospel and blaming them for their rebellion.  Don’t you believe that makes God unfair?”

 I love this question because finally I get to say in response to my Calvinistic friend, “Who are you oh man to question God!?”  And ironically it is probably the first time they have heard that reply where it actually fits the context of the original objection.  What many Calvinists do not realize is that we do allow for the objector in Romans 9, but we just happen to believe it is the same objector Paul addresses in Romans 3:1-8.  It is not the objection of a non-elect reprobate born hated by God and unable to respond to his clear truth.  It is the objection of a Jew who has grown calloused by his own choices, but who now is being blinded by God in that rebellious condition so as to accomplish a greater good for all the world.

That individual Jewish man who hears he has been blinded would say, just as Paul anticipated, “But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us?” (Romans 3:5).  This is the SAME objection Paul addresses in Romans 9, yet Calvinists would like us to believe the objector is a non-elect reprobate, born totally hardened, and unable to ever be saved.  How can that be?  Consider these 3 questions:

  • If the individual who has stumbled has not stumbled beyond recovery, can they be the non-elect reprobate of Calvinism?
  • If the individual who has been cut off may be grafted back in, can they be the non-elect reprobate of Calvinism?
  • If the individual who has been hardened may be provoked to envy and saved, can they be the non-elect reprobate of Calvinism?

The clear answer to all 3 of these question is, “NO!”  Yet in Romans 11:12-32 each one of these potentials are presented for the stumbling, hardened, cut off individuals of Israel.  How, therefore, can the infamous objector of Romans 9 represent an objector against the Calvinistic dogma?  He cannot!  Thus, the objection against Calvinism remains unanswered biblically.  In contrast, the objection against the perspective presented above is answered sufficiently by Paul, thus it is an objection we should be willing to accept as it is clearly afforded by the text itself.  For clarity, here are two objectors side by side so that you may judge which is the one standing against Paul in Romans:

grafted and grateful copyCalvinism’s Objector:  The objector is an non-elect, hated reprobate who God has chosen from before the foundation of the world to pass over and leave to be born in a fallen and completely hardened condition from the time they are born until the time they die and thus without hope of salvation EVER.

Corporate Election’s Objector: The objector is a Jew, who has rebelled in the face of God’s loving patience for generations (Rm. 10:21; Mt. 23:37), but who is now stumbling, being cut off, and hardened in their rebellion so as to accomplish a greater redemptive good through their rebellion.  However, though he has stumbled he has not stumbled beyond recovery (Rm 11:12); though he has been hardened he may be provoked to envy and saved (Rm 11:14); though he has been cut off from the vine he may be grafted back in if he leaves his unbelief (Rm 11:23).

Which objector is the one represented in the text?  You decide.

Finally, the objection regarding the greek word “helko” used in John 6:44 is often raised and it goes something like this:

“God does not force anyone against their wills but the bible does say that God draws some people, which literally means ‘to drag by irresistible force.'” 

John 6:44 does not stand alone.  We need only to look at Christ’s own explanation in order to understand His true intentions.  Jesus’ meaning was made more clear by His own commentary in verse 65, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”  This obviously indicates that one must be “enabled” or “granted” the ability to come.

Does the historical context matter as to what Jesus’ intention was at this point?  Does it matter that the Jewish audience he just drove away are being actively hardened by God, cut off from the vine, and sent a spirit of stupor (not enabled or granted the ability to come to him while on earth)? Does it matter that those who stuck around were referred to specifically as ones “given to Him by the Father” to be the elect messengers from Israel (His remnant enabled and drawn by persuasive signs and wonders to learn from the incarnate Christ Himself) for the purpose of fulfilling God’s chose of that nation thousands of years earlier?  Is it possible that God had not granted or enabled the crowd of Israelites to believe at that time, but instead only reserved a few from Israel to be taught directly by the Messiah incarnate while he was here on earth?  Is that too difficult to believe might be the intention of Jesus given the facts we know to be true concerning the historical context?

NOTE ADDED: Is there any sense in which we too are “given to Christ?” Yes, of course, but not in the same sense intended by the author in that context. That is the point of proper hermeneutics; to answer the question, “What is the intention of the author?”  The intention of the author is to point out that these men were entrusted to Christ by the Father for a special purpose, a purpose that you and I are not entrusted with in the same way they were.

I haven’t meet Jesus in the flesh, have you?  I haven’t walked on water with Jesus, have you?  I haven’t touched his nail scared hands, have you? I wasn’t blinded on a road, were you? I didn’t help start the first church, did you?  I haven’t written a book of the bible, have you? I haven’t preformed miracles, have you?  What makes you distinct from the apostles?  That question must be objectively addressed to deal rightly with this passage and the historical context of the entire New Testament.

To listen to my response to Dr. James White’s Dividing Line program: CLICK HERE

10 thoughts on “Have you been given to Christ by the Father?

  1. RE: “However, though he has stumbled he has not stumbled beyond recovery (Rm 11:12); though he has been hardened he may be provoked to envy and saved (Rm 11:14); though he has been cut off from the vine he may be graphed back in if he leaves his unbelief (Rm 11:23).”
    …………………………………………….
    Reprobate turned ‘elect’; unheard of.
    Thanks; vail lifting.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I believe Arminians are people who are offended by the Gospel. They are similar to Jehovah’s Witnesses, who approach Scripture with rules (God can only be one and there is no hell) and will bend, change, twist, ignore, turn the world upside down to deny the Scriptures that contradict them. But for the grace of God I would be an Arminian. I believe Arminians, because they produce the most subtle counterfeit Christ and gospel are the most dangerous cult in the world. Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses’ gospel is as easy to detect as Monopoly money…the allurement to the flesh of Arminianism, combined with the cunning craftiness of those who are deceived and deceiving others, makes this the false gospel that Jesus warned, if it were possible, deceive the very elect. I take comfort that God will lead all of His elect out of this false system that exalts man to control his entire universe.

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  3. Mr. Flowers stopped at verse 21. I wonder if this was intentional, or by accident. Because look at verses 22 and 23. “And the glory which Thou gavest me I have given them: that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, Thou in me, that they may be perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me.” Wow. Look at verse 23. Here we see that the love of God in Christ is not only to Christ, but also to the believer! Now this is staggering in itself and is worthy of a lifetime of meditation and is unfathomable. I feel like I insult this point to point out this other fact we see in verse 23….the truth that God’s love in Christ extends to, and not beyond Christ and the believer. Notice that the world is only a spectator to this love–not the object. So, this Scripture refutes the notion that God loves everyone the same in Christ, and loves everyone in Christ—it is simply a false belief.
    Finally, In order to understand John 17, you must go back to John 1. In verse 13 we see that all of those who receive Him come only from the group who believe in His name, and most important, all of those who believe in His name come only from those who WERE born of God. Being born of God comes FIRST, believing and receiving 2nd. We see this same emphasis in the Epistle of John 5:1 “Whoseover believeth ((an unfortunate translation in the King James as the tense is left out, and “whosoever” is a word that did not exist until after 1000 AD and has English concepts attached to it….The Scripture accurately translated says “Every believing one” (present action)) that Jesus is the Son of God has been (past completed) born of God. Friends…why does the Word of God tell us this? Why does John repeat this truth? Because it is foundational to our knowledge of our salvation. If you believe in the Lord Jesus of the Gospel of John, it is because you were BEFOREHAND born of God. The Arminian cannot stand this, because they want to imagine a more liberal Christ with a more humanistically appealing love for everyone. So, my dear reader…will you go with emotion? Will you pick your Christ? Or will you go with the one set forth in Scripture?

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    1. Roy keep telling yourself that. By the way I find your comparison of Arminians to JW’s & Mormonism not only insulting but totally uncalled for. Your type is the reason why we are divided on this issue. Instead of doing research you result in attacks unfounded and untrue. Do us a favor actually research Arminianism instead of jumping on the Calvinist bandwagon like a lot of people do because your attitude is unbecoming of a Christian.

      Maybe you’ll learn something.

      By the way if you can’t find a way to have a civil dialog and at least try to refute Pastor Flowers then don’t bother posting. In fact why are you even here unless that’s all you do is attack and belittle a Theology which seems you know little of.

      You don’t see Pastor Flowers coming here and telling folks that Calvinism is like JW’s and Mormonism do you? So why not show the same courtesy and refrain from the ad hominem attacks.

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    2. Wow, I find this line of though very difficult to follow, I really tried to follow the logic..God points out that he loves the disciples, that he loves the world, and that he has a plan for all to,, at least see and partake of his love through the cross of Jesus, and the result of the passion talk of Jesus for the world through his messengers,, is that how amazed you are that God does not love everybody.. I think there must be an esoteric influence there, so as to blind you from plain speech.. Also I see where you accuse those who believe that they must repent and believe in Jesus so as to be born again, a cult. Eph 1.14 gives the order of salvation as does many passages. In fact it is Calvin who insisted on a rebirth before Jesus comes in the flesh, a rebirth according to election in time past when Jesus was not yet manifest, and not according to mans repentance , belief and acceptance of a Jesus who came in flesh on a cross.. Only cults truly switch scripture around, as you did in John 1.. You skipped verse 11, and 12, as many Calvinists do, “”He came unto his own, and his own received him not.Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God”. You truly seem to have a zeal, I pray it doesn’t desist, but that perhaps you would study a little father, and point it in the right direction. Please spend some time tracing your belief. According to Calvinists today they admit this doctrine did not start with the church fathers, but with the guru Augustine.. He was a gnostic monk, perhaps the worst cult this planet has ever seen, seeing as they believed man was set free by Satan giving him knowledge in the garden of Eden. This is why the early disciples and church fathers spent do much time refuting the gnostic heresy.. It was fascinated with the word elect, they used the word choice, to remove choice from man and God, so as to declare themselves a special people, who loved to deny flesh, worship angels and boast in the supernatural,. The disciples of John and Peter clearly refute the belief of Calvin,, as admit the Calvinist preachers of our day,.. .

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  4. Hi Leighton,

    Great article! I have a few questions. I had a rather contentious debate with a person who argues against Calvinism – but who also argues for a “giving by the Father to Jesus” as an ongoing process that continues in our day. She has devoted an entire blog with numerous posts – and feels this is the correct way to refute the Calvinist understanding of the “giving”. In the process of our discussion, I came to realize that the problem is an exegetical one that occurs at the observation level. Throughout our ongoing dialogue, I told her that the contextual “giving” was a unique situation that arose from a specific situation and setting, whereby the Father passed off a group of pre-existing, Jewish disciples who priorly believed that Jesus was the prophecied, coming Messiah, over to the care of the earthly Jesus so that he could disciple them during the time of his earthly ministry for which He had been sent.

    My argument to her was, if there is any “giving” going on today, it would have to align itself with the contextual giving of John 6 (and 17). Her response to my comments always resulted in interpretative arguments that ignored the context. At some point, I angered her and she has since blocked me. FWIW she began to attack me personally when she couldn’t refute what I was pointing out from the text. I mentioned what she was doing and she then accused me of not having ears to ear.

    In any case, in the course of my discussion with her, I came away uncertain as to the identity of the believing disciples in the passage, and specifically if they only included the 12 – or were there others being referred to as well? It would seem that there were more than 12 Jewish people who believed what the OT and what John the Baptist was saying about Jesus – but I would love to hear your take on it. One thing that does indicate that there *may* be disciples in view, is the present continuous “everything that the Father GIVES me” in John 6:36. Her argument to me was that this definitively proves that the giving continues today. I responded that the use of the present continuos tense has an expired date – that being the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry – meaning it is a present continuous tense at the time He said it – but it not so as we read it today. So my point may have defeated her point – but then it, at the same time, *may* indicate that there were more “given” ones that had not yet come to Jesus at that time. Those ones *will* come to Him…

    Secondly, in John 17:20 it seems that it is not completely clear about the demographic of the second group that Jesus is praying for. One possibility is that he is speaking to second generation believers only – given that they are the ones who will believe the word of the “given” ones. Of course, it is entirely likely that Jesus is referring to further generations as well (and therefore the entire universal church spanning time). It seems that if one were to accept this view, however, it would require one to assume that: 1. Jesus was assuming a scenario where the “word” of the given ones would be passed on from one generation to the next and/or 2. Jesus is saying this with the knowledge that some of these disciples will write gospels that will entail people becoming believers because of the *written* word of the gospel writers.

    Very interested to hear your thoughts!

    Peter

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  5. Can you please help explain John 17:2
    In verse 2, Jesus says “As you have given Him authority over ALL FLESH, that He should give eternal life to as many as you have given him.
    I agree with you regarding the verses that follow are talking about the disciples given to him but verse 2 seems to indicate that God gave those who would have eternal life to him.

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  6. Hi
    Just wanted to add the queries here, by saying that from my reading of these verses, the key thing to take away is that, even if the verse of the Father drawing, is specific to that time or extends to the future. It is His will to provide that drawing to All (not an unconditional pre elect before the foundation of the earth). The All being those who are not in that time or ours under a judicial hardening

    39And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
    40And this is the will of him that sent me, that EVERYONE which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

    SO those who are given are those which believeth on Him. And the opportunity is given to everyone.

    Further down in verse 44 it says
    .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.
    45It is written in the prophets, And they shall be ALL taught of God. EVERYMAN therefore that hath HEARD, and hath LEARNED of the Father, COMETH unto me.

    This shows me that the heart of God is that His drawing is available to ALL (that’s God’s promise). Then man’s responsibility is Hear(HEED), LEARN, and causes them to come to Christ or to be given to Christ.

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