(This post is part of a series; to read the first post click here.)
John 6:37, 44 and 65
All that the Father gives to me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
We concluded the last post by noting:
“Jesus came to Israel as a representative of the Father; he did not come in his own name. He came speaking the words of the God of Israel. Those that were following the God of Israel would recognize the voice of their God, but those who only pretended devotion to God would reject the Son just as they had always rejected the Father. Those who were faithful members of the Old Covenant would naturally transition to the New Covenant. Those who were submitted to the Father would gladly submit to the Son. The coming of Jesus Christ to Israel distinguished ‘the remnant’ of true Israelites from the false (Jn. 1:47, Rom. 11:2-6, Rev. 2:9, 3:9).Understanding this basic paradigm in John’s Gospel helps us to understand other passages that are often misinterpreted by Calvinism.”
In this post we will look at some of those passages as well as their Old Testament counterparts. We will also give a clear interpretation of John 6:37.
I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob; I will gather the remnant of Israel; I will set them together like sheep in a fold, like a flock in its pasture, a noisy multitude of men. He who opens the breach goes up before them; they break through and pass the gate, going out by it. Their king passes on before them, the Lord at their head.
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.
Israel was expecting God their king to come and gather the remnant of Israel into his fold. At the time of Jesus arrival many different groups claimed to be the “remnant” that God said he would save (Rom. 9:29). But Jesus came on the scene saying that he was the Shepherd of the sheep. He was confident that the faithful remnant, his sheep, would hear his voice. The religious leaders of the day had a large following, but he called them “thieves and robbers.” The true sheep would not follow them because they didn’t hear the voice of God speaking through them. They recognized that the leaders of Israel were no longer faithful representatives of the God of Jacob. Jesus said that when the true Shepherd came on the scene the sheep of God would follow him because they would recognize the voice of their God. And he knew that his Father was the “gatekeeper,” he had access to the hearts of the sheep. Since Jesus came in the name of the Father he knew that God would open the door to the sheep pen so the flock could follow him. That is, he knew that the father would give to him all those that belonged to him.
He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay my life down for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord. Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord. “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is my righteousness.’
Jesus makes a clear distinction between the “hired hands” and the “Good Shepherd.” These false shepherds of Israel didn’t care for the flock and had caused them to be scattered. Due to the sins of the false shepherds in Jeremiah’s day the sheep were scattered all around the world. In Jesus’ day many had returned to the land of Israel but many others remained dispersed throughout the world. And those that were living in Palestine were led by leaders that didn’t care about them. These hirelings caused the people of Israel to become like sheep without a shepherd. But now the Good Shepherd had come. Unlike the hirelings that cared nothing for the flock, Jesus was willing to give his life for them.
Jesus did not only come for the Jews that were living in Palestine, he also cared for those who remained scattered throughout the world. He was also committed to gather these “other sheep.” And like those in Israel, he knew that they would follow his voice because it was the voice of the God of Israel whom they faithfully followed.
Before moving on we should take a moment to remember what this all means for the original readers of John’s Gospel. The religious Jews of their day were rejecting them as God’s people. Both Jewish and Gentile Christians were being rejected and persecuted by the unbelieving Jews of John’s day. For this reason he writes down the opposition Jesus faced and how he responded to that rejection. He is using Jesus’ rebukes to the Jewish authorities of his day to encourage them that that believers in Messiah are the “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16).
But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not only for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.
Fear no, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.
And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
In John chapter 11 we read of an interesting prophecy ignorantly given by the Jewish high priest. He prophesies that Jesus would die for the “whole nation” of Israel. Jesus was not only going to die for those that were already his sheep, but also for the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” He was the sacrificial atonement for the people of Israel; he was the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement. But he wasn’t going to stop with dying for the nation, he was also going to “gather into one the children of God” who were “scattered abroad.” We see this played out in the ministry of Paul in Acts chapter 18. God told him not to be afraid of harm during his ministry there because there were many faithful Israelites in that city who would naturally accept the testimony about God’s Son.
In Acts chapter 10 we read about a man who though he wasn’t a total convert to Judaism, was nonetheless “a devout man who feared God with all his household.” God sent an angel to him who told him that his faithful service to God had “ascended as a memorial before God.” Because of his faithfulness to the God of Israel Peter was sent to him and his household to lead them further in the truth. Cornelius belonged to God. And so when Peter shared the Gospel with him and his family, they became believers in the Son before Peter even finished his message! The Father gives all those that belong to him to Jesus; and all those that the Father gives to him will come to him! (John 17:6, 6:37)
We must not think it strange that God had followers before the arrival of Jesus. We shouldn’t forget that God has always had followers since the beginning of the world: from Seth, to Enoch, to Noah, to Abraham, to Moses, to Samuel, to David, and right up to Simeon, Anna and Nathanael. There have always been those who walked in faith and submission to the living God. And in Jesus day, everything that they had been hoping for began to come to pass (Heb. 1:1-2).
All that the Father gives to me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
What has been said up to this point should make John 6:37 abundantly clear. Those that were faithfully walking with God under the Old Covenant at the time of Christ’s first coming belonged to God. God gave them to Jesus. And since Jesus came in the name of the Father and spoke the words of the Father, those faithful followers naturally placed their trust in Christ, the Son of God. And those who didn’t serve God, but instead followed the desires of their father the devil naturally rejected Christ. Many of them were blatantly wicked, but others like the religious leaders seemed to have a form of godliness, but their response to Jesus revealed their true ancestry. They were not descendants of faithful Abraham, but of the rebel Satan. To read the Calvinistic doctrines of irresistible grace and unconditional election into John 6:37 is a blatant disregard of the historical and Scriptural context of the verse.
To Be Continued…