by Brian Wagner, PhD
Reasons from Context and Grammar that John 6:44 Does not Mean Irresistible Grace to An Eternally Elect Few
John 6:44 ουδεις δυναται ελθειν προς με εαν μη ο πατηρ ο πεμψας με ελκυση αυτον και εγω αναστησω αυτον τη εσχατη ημερα
John 6:44 No one is able to come to Me unless the Father who sent Me should draw him; and I, I will raise him up [in] the last day.
John 6:44 is not a gotcha verse if one recognizes that the one drawn is not logically guaranteed in that grammatical construction to either come or to be raised up just because he is drawn. Only the one drawn and who comes is promised to be raised up. Even if “drag” is used here or in John 12:32… the meaning is only to drag to a location… There is no change made in the person just by being drawn. Once they are brought to the location or before the person, like Christ… they have to make a decision what to do next and how to respond to the options they have in that location or before that person!
The same Greek word for “drawn” is used in the LXX in Neh 9:30… and that group of Israelites, though drawn by God to the opportunity to obey Him, did not do it. The Hebrew word for “drawn” used in Neh 9:30 is also used in Hos 11:4-5, which again is showing that Israel was “drawn” by God with love to Himself, but they refused Him. Paul recalls this kind of drawing with love, using the words of Isaiah where God said – “All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people” Rom 10:21. Does God only play act His love already knowing it will only be rejected? Not my God.
Paul and Silas were “drawn” before the rulers of Philippi and then thrown into prison (Acts 16:19)… there they were free to either groan and complain or pray and sing! We know what they freely chose to do! I actually prefer the idea of “drag”. God graciously “drags” us to a place of decision. We cannot escape that “grace”, and we are responsible for how we freely respond to it… making us clearly without excuse at the final judgment of God!
Reasons from Logic
If you are somewhat familiar with logic… the phrase, “no one can come” is distributed. But the phrases, “unless the father draws him” and “I will raise him up the last day” are not distributed.
There might be other prerequisites to coming not mentioned in this verse… so drawing is not said to be the only one… just a necessary one. And there may be others raised up who have not been drawn or who haven’t come… like infants who die before their conscience matures, for example.
That’s why you cannot make a verse say more than it says. It does not say all who are drawn come, or all who are drawn will be raised up. That might be true… but the verse doesn’t say it. And other verses like Neh 9:30 clearly show that being drawn does not always result in coming.
Drawing is necessary to be “able” to come. But the “him” that is raised up is not logically connected to just being drawn or just to being “able” to come, but to the one who actually comes.
There is an assumption being made by both sides who argue this verse. One side thinks drawing must result in coming and the other side thinks drawing only enables coming but that there are also other conditions that must be met before his coming and being raised up. The context reveals those other conditions.
John 6:40, 44, 54 NKJV – “I will raise him up at the last day”
40 “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” …
44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. …
54 “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
So according to context, what are some of the prerequisites for being raised up at the last day? Seeing the Son, Believing in Him, Having everlasting life, Being drawn by the Father, Being able to come to Christ, [Coming to Christ], Eating Christ’s flesh, Drinking His blood, Having everlasting life… right?
The brackets around Coming to Christ as an assumption. Was that appropriate and assumed in Jesus’ words? Isn’t it false to assume just being drawn by the Father guarantees being raised up, and just being able to come to Christ guarantees being raised up? Isn’t Jesus saying those drawn who do come are the ones that will be raised up? Or is He really saying that all who are drawn and made able to come must irresistibly end up coming. Is that a grammatical choice open to question in Jesus’ words?
I believe the listeners would have never thought – “Oh Jesus just promised that all who are drawn will have to come and then will be raised up”. They would have thought, I believe, “Jesus just said the Father must draw if we are going to be able to come… and if we come (responding to and not resisting that drawing), we will be raised up.”
The “him” of “draw him” is a personal pronoun that makes one have to ask what is its antecedent that this “him” is relating to. The antecedent would be an understood “him” of the one who actually comes. And the “him” who will be raised up must therefore be tied back to the understood “him” who actually comes also.
The interpretation is just plain wrong that breaks this connection between each “him” with the understood “him” who actually comes, and then makes the false assumption that the “him” who is raised up relates only to the “him” that is drawn. It is also a false assumption that the “him” who is drawn doesn’t have an antecedent.
And you cannot grammatically divorce the “him” in the last clause phrase from the “him” in the second clause, and you cannot grammatically divorce the “him” in the second clause from the “no-one can come” in the first clause. Ask any grammarian at your church!
Listening Without Calvinist Headphones
The real issue is not trying to make the passage say more than it does. But Calvinists do just that, trampling all over the rules of logic. To get exactly what they want from this verse in a very clear way, Jesus would have had to say it this way. “Only those the Father draws are able to and will eventually come to me, and the one He draws I will raise up in the last day.”
I know the Calvinist thinks he hears Jesus saying those very words, because he has his special Calvinist headphones on that distort what’s being said to make it fit his deterministic theology. But Jesus is speaking to a crowd of unbelievers, telling them how important it is to see Him as not just someone to give them food that perishes, but that He is giving His flesh for “the life of the world”. He is telling them how important it is to come to Him and believe in Him, and that the Father is personally involved in making that possible. The context is wooing an unregenerate crowd, not teaching a bunch of reformed theologians!
The Calvinist indeed has trouble fitting his fantasy regeneration into John 6:44. If drawing is after this fantasy irresistible change of will, why does the Father need to still “drag” the person. If the drawing is before this fantasy irresistible change of the will, wouldn’t that be a waste of time dragging someone supposedly dead and with total inability? Why drag them and with what does God supposedly drag someone before regeneration?
True Love Relationship
The Calvinist wants his “regeneration” to be like a drug given to a woman who consistently refused the proposal of a man, even hated him… but when the drug is given, she immediately and irresistibly accepts his next proposal. That doesn’t sound like how a true love relationship is formed to me.
Even if everyone is born with a disposition to eventually hate God, if God does not ever intervene, that does not mean God is so impotent that He is unable or unwilling to make Himself sufficiently desirable to each person at some time in their lives, giving them a free-choice whether to pursue a relationship with Him or not. That He does make Himself sufficiently desirable to each person at some time in their lives, giving them a free-choice whether to pursue a relationship with Him or not, is exactly how a true love relationship is formed. And that is consistent with what Scripture teaches about what God does in pursuing such love. Praise His Name that God does reach out sufficiently like that in love, to each person a few times in their lives, and willing to be rejected (Job 33:14-30, John 1:9, Acts 17:26-27, Rom 1, 2, 10:18, 11:32, Heb 3:7-8, 2Pet 3:9).
The Calvinist just cannot believe God would be able to suffer any kind of relational loss or rejection like that. The Calvinist wants to believe that if God wanted the love of His creatures, He would sovereignly make it certain to happen before even creating the will of the creature. The Calvinist has a hard time believing God can even experience grief, which is related to loss. But the Scripture clearly teaches God can suffer grief and loss and has suffered grief and loss (Gen 6:6) to make such a free-will love relationship possible! And He does grieve when He is rejected! Praise His Name!