This morning I got the following question through our website regarding this week’s memory verse and my comments on John 6:44-45:
Why does your exegesis stop at 45b? Isn’t there room for a descriptive understanding of 45b that wraps things up in this section by stating that those who chose (implicit but a natural understanding from the previous verses, context, that say the Father is “teaching”)to listen to and learn from the Father) are those that are lead to Jesus?
In a word, “no!” Why would anyone want to read this text backwards? Do we read other texts backwards? Do you read the Sermon on the Mount backwards? Do you read the Carmen Christi of Phil. 2:5-11 backwards? Why turn this text on its head? The Lord is dealing with unbelievers here (6:36), and the same group will be offended throughout the discourse and end up walking away (6:66). He is explaining their unbelief in stark contrast to those who find in Him the words of eternal life (6:68). He puts the difference between the two groups wholly and completely within the sovereign grace of God: the giving of the Father to the Son of the elect (6:37); the Son’s perfect obedience to the Father in their salvation (38-39); the result of being given (coming, looking, believing, 37, 40), the Father’s drawing of those thusly given to the Son and their being raised up (44) and then the description of the nature of this drawing, that being the teaching of God. Those who listen and learn are identical to those who look and believe in v. 40, and in each (note the use of the term “all” in these descriptions) the result is the same: coming to Christ. The divine is always first, the human response is always second. The divine never fails, so, it cannot be that the human response determines the divine action’s success. The text is balanced, consistent, and completely harmonious. The Lord Jesus knew how to craft His words, and thanks be that He has preserved them for us so that we may know His truth this day.
So I truly have to ask, what is it in the “previous verses, context” that would lead one to turn Jesus’ words upside down? How do you go from “no man is able” to an “implicit but natural understanding” that it is, in fact, man’s will, man’s desires, man’s choices, that are determining who is coming to Christ? One is truly left to wonder, though I see this all the time. “Oh, it’s just an implicit thing, don’t you see it?” Yes, I see it: it is called the nigh unto universal tradition of man’s religion called human autonomy. It has nothing whatsoever to do with exegesis or the text at hand, but it has a lot to do with the philosophical assumptions men bring to the text to rob God of His freedom and glory in the gospel. So in response to the above question, “No, there is nothing in the context that would lead one to such a conclusion at all.”
Another “way around” was suggested by another writer yesterday. In this version the entire discourse is sharply divided, and the drawing of John 6:44 is actually only in reference to those who are already saved, and they are being drawn and chosen for discipleship, not for salvation. Someone else even mentioned someone who said this text is “only for Jews.” This kind of machete-style “interpretation” is not interpretation at all. It’s simple textual abuse. Arbitrary distinctions without textual basis normally appear to defend a pre-existing system or tradition, and such would be the case here. No foundation can be found in the text for making such distinctions, and as such, they must be rejected. Of course, only those who seek to honor the Word by listening to it carefully, and hence understand the need for sound textual basis for their views, will be concerned about foundationaless assertions. Those who are seeking to maintain their traditions find such concerns “narrow” and “unloving.” No, I have not found any way to disturb the peace of those who are content with traditional eisegesis: that requires the work of the Spirit in the heart.