First, a quick introduction: My name is Adam Robles but when I engage in theology discussions I go by AD Robles, because everyone knows the best theologians only go by their first two initials! I live in New York, am 31 years old, and have a wonderful wife of 2 years. I have been walking with the Lord for 3 years and John invited me on the blog to discuss theology from the reformed perspective. I am looking forward to the next few posts to demonstrate the biblical proverb that “iron sharpens iron.”
In John 6 our Lord Jesus Christ teaches about the sovereignty of God in the unconditional election of sinners to be saved through faith in him. Unconditional election is a biblical teaching that has two components: 1) God chooses who He will save. 2) His choice is not based any kind of merit in the individual He saves. This is not to say that salvation is unconditional. According to biblical teaching salvation is contingent on having faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and His atoning death on the cross. Jesus makes the condition for salvation clear in verse 40 (ESV), “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” The teaching of unconditional election is that God unconditionally chooses those who will be conditionally saved through faith in Jesus.
That God chooses who will be saved is clear from Jesus’ line of thought starting in verse 35:
“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Jesus is addressing a crowd of unbelievers. He explains their unbelief in this passage. In verse 35, we see that “comes to me” and “believes in me” are used interchangeably. Jesus proclaims that all that the Father is giving to him (present tense) will come (future tense) to him. The verb tenses indicate the giving of the Father comes before the coming to Jesus. He goes on to say that whoever comes (a better translation might be “the one coming” since it is a present participle in the Greek, indicating ongoing action) he will never cast out (subjunctive tense in Greek). The subjunctive tense in Greek can be used to denote a sense of uncertainty or possibility, and I have heard it argued that here it means that the “casting out” may or may not happen. This is not a possible reading because of the form of negation found in the text. The Greek rendered “never” in English is actually a double negation; the two words ou and me. The double negative works to add emphasis in Greek and when combined with the subjunctive speaks to the absolute negation of even the possibility of a casting out happening. This is known as the emphatic negation subjunctive, and is the strongest form of negation (See here for a discussion of this grammar).
Jesus goes on to confirm that what he is describing is the will of the Father: “that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” Some have suggested that this sentence refers specifically to the twelve apostles, since “given” is in the perfect tense, indicating a completed action in the past. The argument is that because “gives” is in the present tense in verse 37, it cannot be the same group in verse 39. The text however gives no indication that such a change in focus has taken place. As we have already seen, the “giving” does occur before the “coming” so this past tense is an appropriate usage. Jesus then reiterates that he will not lose those who are given, but he will raise them up on the last day. He goes on to further explain the will of the father in almost the same language. This time he replaces “that he has given me” with “who looks on the Son and believes in him.” Both “looks” and “believes” are present participles in the Greek. Jesus is equating those that the father has given him (past tense), with those that are looking and believing on him (present). Again we see the giving comes before the believing/coming. This is the unconditional election, to a conditional salvation.
Remember, Jesus is addressing a crowd of unbelievers. He explains their unbelief by proclaiming that all that the father gives him will be saved. The implication is clear. They do not believe because the Father is not giving them to Jesus. This crowd is so offended by what Jesus teaches here that eventually they just leave. Jesus responds, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” (Verse 65) This is Jesus making explicit what he had implied earlier. These men were not being given by the Father and so, tragically, they went their own way, still in their sin. But for the grace of God we all would do the same thing.