Drawn by the Father

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. (John 6:44)

The discussion which Jesus had with the Jews who followed Him, recorded in John chapter six, is one of many passages in Scripture that are often neglected by preachers. But certain verses or parts of verses from this passage are often quoted out of context. One of them is verse 44, “ No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him…” The late Dr. Graham used to use this verse at crusades, during his famous invitations. He said, “God is drawing you right now.” Dr. Graham believed in freewill. He once said, “Don’t pray for these people who are making their decision for Christ at this time. It is fine if you prayed for them before and it is fine if you pray for them afterwards, but right now the decision must be theirs and theirs ALONE.” He understood these words to teach the necessity of grace, but not the particularity or efficacy of grace. In his view, grace only makes it possible to choose Christ, and freewill must do the rest. But such a view does violence to the words of the text, as I shall try to show.

Here’s a typical treatment of the text by a “freewiller”. This is the answer to the question, “How does the Father “draw” people to His Son?”

I think that we have to balance Jesus’ words against the commission he gives to the disciples to preach the gospel to all; the hearers being free to accept or reject it.

Mark 16:15 ‘And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned’ (condemned).

It cannot be that free choice is just a ‘front’ and that God actively (and supernaturally) draws some and not others. We need to look for an alternative way to understand it.”

But there is no contradiction between the words of Mark 16 and what is taught here, and no necessity to look for a way of understanding Jesus’ words in John 6 any other way than how they are written. What does the Word say?

Let’s examine the words in their context. And first of all, we need to be aware that the theme of this whole discussion between Christ and the Jews, from v. 26 of this chapter to vs. 58 is that Jesus is the true bread of God, that gives eternal life to believers. The conversation begins in this way:

John 6:26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. 27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.

And it ends with these words of Jesus:

John 6:58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.

This is the theme, as I said, of the whole conversation. It develops in this way:

28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

30 They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? 31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.

32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.

Now, Jesus makes his doctrine explicit with this bold claim:

35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. 36 But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. 37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. 38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. 39 And 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. 40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

I count 19 times that Jesus refers to Himself in vss. 35-40. In this passage, Jesus asserts that He is the one who possesses eternal life within Himself and bestows it on His people. He is the one sent by the Father on the mission of saving and preserving all of those given to Him by the Father. He will not fail in this mission. He will infallibly raise up every one of His people at the last day.

Now, let’s examine these words of Jesus, the immediate context of the statement about those who are “drawn of the Father”. And the first thing that I would draw your attention to is that in these verses, Jesus speaks of being “raised up” at the last day. We know that all men will be resurrected at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ; but Jesus speaks of those who will be raised unto the enjoyment of eternal life, and not those whose souls will be raised up out of hell, in bodies of corruption, to be punished in the body with the second death. To be raised up at the last day is to be glorified with Jesus by receiving new “spiritual” bodies, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter 15.

Notice how these persons are described:

35 he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

39 And 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.

40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

These are all the same people. To “come to” the Son is the same as to “believe on” Him. They are also described as those whom the Father “gives to” Jesus (v.37) and those whom He “hath given to” Jesus (v.39). I will divide these descriptions into two categories: those which describe what they do, and those which describe what is done to them. We can call them the active and passive references. To “come” and to “believe” are actions. To “be given” is to be passive. But these are only different ways to refer to believers.

The proof of this is that these are obviously parallel statements. In each case, the saints are referred to; and in each one eternal life is said to be theirs.

For just as the four verses refer to the saints, although different terms are used to describe them; in the like manner each verse refers to eternal life, though using different terms:

35 he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

39 And 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.

40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

Jesus is saying, with great emphasis, that his disciples will certainly be saved; and that nothing can prevent that from happening. The reason for that is that the father has given a commission to the Son that He will give to Him certain persons whom He will be responsible to save:

38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. 39 And 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. 40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

What connects these active and passive references is the connection of causality. By this I mean that it is the will of the Father and His giving of them to the Son that is the reason why they come to Christ. V. 37 “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me…” is not just a statement of coincidence; but of causation. It is the giving of these people to Jesus that results in their coming to Jesus. And should there be any doubt about this, His answer to the Jews in the following verses should remove it:

41 The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. 42 And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?

43 Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. 44 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. 45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. 46 Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. 47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.

These words tell us several things:

First, no man has the native ability to come to Christ.

Second, he can and will come to Christ if the Father draws him.

Third, those who are drawn by the father and who come to Christ as a result will be raised up by Jesus in the last day.

Fourth, that, according to the teaching of the prophets, all who are saved will be taught of God.

Fifth, that every one who is taught of God in this way, that is, who hears the Father’s voice and learns the truth of the gospel from Him, comes to Christ.

It should be clear that Jesus taught, in these words, something entirely different from the popular doctrine of the freedom of the will. There are implications to this doctrine that go far beyond the scope of this essay. My purpose is simply to explain the true meaning of the statement in v. 44, “ No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him…” If you remember, in my introduction I called attention to the fact that these words are commonly explained as if God exerted an influence on people who hear the gospel that gave them the power to repent and believe, if they chose to do so. God draws men by pulling on them from a distance, like a magnet attracts iron, trying to make them come to Christ – but whether they come or not is up to each one’s own free will. But that is a mistaken view of the subject. The open-minded reader will see by now that such an interpretation is against the whole context.

But it also gives a meaning to the Greek word rendered “draw” in our English version that it cannot bear.

Those who deny that God can save us without our consent usually interpret the word to mean, “attract” or “exert a force” or “pull on” something – but that is not what the word means. Here is the evidence.

The word is identified by its place in the standard Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance:

Strong’s number: G1670

ἑλκύω / ἕλκω

helkuō / helkō

Thayer Definition:

1) to draw, drag off

2) metaphorically, to draw by inward power, lead, impel

There are eight occurrences of the word in the New Testament:

John 6:44 No manG3762 canG1410 comeG2064 toG4314 me,G3165 exceptG3362 theG3588 FatherG3962 which hath sentG3992 meG3165 drawG1670 him:G846 andG2532 IG1473 will raise him upG450 G846 at theG3588 lastG2078 day.G2250

John 12:32 And I,G2504 ifG1437 I be lifted upG5312 fromG1537 theG3588 earth,G1093 will drawG1670 allG3956 men untoG4314 me.G1683

Passing by the first two for the moment, I want you to notice the force of the word in its usage elsewhere.

John 18:10 ThenG3767 SimonG4613 PeterG4074 havingG2192 a swordG3162 drewG1670 it,G846 andG2532 smoteG3817 theG3588 high priest’sG749 servant,G1401 andG2532 cut offG609 hisG846 rightG1188 ear.G5621(G1161) TheG3588 servant’sG1401 nameG3686 wasG2258 Malchus.G3124

John 21:6 AndG1161 heG3588 saidG2036 unto them,G846 CastG906 theG3588 netG1350 onG1519 theG3588 rightG1188 sideG3313 of theG3588 ship,G4143 andG2532 ye shall find.G2147 They castG906 therefore,G3767 andG2532 nowG2089 they were not ableG2480 G3756 to drawG1670 itG846 forG575 theG3588 multitudeG4128 of fishes.G2486

John 21:11 SimonG4613 PeterG4074 went up,G305 andG2532 drewG1670 theG3588 netG1350 toG1909 landG1093 fullG3324 of greatG3173 fishes,G2486 an hundred and fifty and three:G1540 G4004 G5140 andG2532 for all there wereG5607 so many,G5118 yet was notG3756 theG3588 netG1350 broken.G4977

Act_16:19 AndG1161 when herG848 mastersG2962 sawG1492 thatG3754 theG3588 hopeG1680 of theirG848 gainsG2039 was gone,G1831 they caughtG1949 PaulG3972 andG2532 Silas,G4609 and drewG1670 them intoG1519 theG3588 marketplaceG58 untoG1909 theG3588 rulers,G758

Act_21:30 AndG5037 allG3650 theG3588 cityG4172 was moved,G2795 andG2532 theG3588 peopleG2992 ran together:G1096 G4890 andG2532 they tookG1949 Paul,G3972 and drewG1670 himG846 outG1854 of theG3588 temple:G2411 andG2532 forthwithG2112 theG3588 doorsG2374 were shut.G2808

Jas_2:6 ButG1161 yeG5210 have despisedG818 theG3588 poor.G4434 Do notG3756 rich menG4145 oppressG2616 you,G5216 andG2532 drawG1670 youG5209 beforeG1519 the judgment seats?G2922

Do you see it? In every one of these cases, the word means to pull on something or someone with enough force to make it actually move in the direction that you choose until it comes to the place that you have chosen.

John 18:10 Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.

Peter drew his sword out of its scabbard. He did not merely try to pull it out. He forced the sword to come all the way out.

John 21:6 And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

They were unable to pull the net up onto the boat or to the land. They were exerting a great deal of force on the net; but they could not “draw” it – that is, they could not move it.

John 21:11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.

Peter drew the net to land. He moved it from the sea to land. He “dragged” it from one place to another.

Acts 16:19 And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers,

These missionaries were dragged by a mob into the marketplace against their will.

Acts 21:30 And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut.

Once again, it is clear that the word means “to drag”.

James 2:6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?

The English of the 17th century used the word, draw where we would say drag or compel. That is one reason why people are misled about the meaning of John 6:44. The other cause is that they, for whatever reason, do not accept or understand that God’s grace is sovereign, distinguishing, effectual, and omnipotent. It is the free exercise of the divine prerogative to do with sinful men as He will – whether to show mercy or or execute judgment. He has the right to distinguish between men in the distribution of His gifts. He is able to overcome the resistance of our sinful hearts and get us to come to Christ by giving us the gifts of faith and repentance. He has unlimited power to save and keep us in time and for eternity.

Jesus said,”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.” How clear can you get? Let’s just receive these as the words of our Lord Jesus – admitting that they are not subject to our approval. They are true whether we like it or not. Many objections have been raised, and are raised, to this truth; but the Word of God will stand in spite of the difficulty that men may have with it. I for one am glad that my salvation does not depend on me doing the right things. I am glad to know that the reason I believed is because God chose me from the foundation of the world to be an heir of eternal life; and no one can take that away from me!

Praise God!

Howard Douglas King

Last Revised April 21, 2020