After walking on water to meet up with His disciples on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus arrives in Capernaum. Shortly thereafter, some Jews (who had eaten at the feeding of the five thousand) caught up with Jesus there; sparking a conversation where Jesus gets a little tangled up in His own metaphorical language. This study continues on with that same conversation, but with a special focus on exclusivity.
By Invitation Only
Previously, we saw Jesus having a conversation with some Jews, where He explained that He was the "bread of life" sent by God to give eternal life, and people would have to eat His flesh and drink His blood to live (John 6:25-59). During that conversation, another theme emerged: exclusivity.
John 6:37-38 states that Jesus will accept anyone who is sent by God, the Father, which naturally implies that there are those not send by the Father, and therefore not destined for Salvation. The truth of exclusivity is more clearly claimed in John 6:44-45 where Jesus says:
"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from Him comes to Me." NIVSo you must be drawn by God to the "bread of life," Jesus, to be Saved. There is a little ambiguity which seems to imply that God may speak to some people who do not listen to Him, but that apparent loophole will be closed soon enough. After all, who can resist the will of God?
With God selecting and drawing specific people to Jesus, it appears that any follower of Jesus is Saved, but that is not the case. After Jesus tells the Jews about how they must consume Him for Salvation, some of His own disciples are offended by His teaching (John 6:60). Jesus replies to the disciples in such a way that "many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him" (John 6:66).
(Note: Be careful when reading the Gospels, because "disciples" only means "students," not necessarily the Twelve Disciples/Apostles which are often thought of when the term "disciples" is used.)
What did Jesus say which turned many disciples away? Jesus reply in John 6:61-65 is, in a word, confrontational. In John 6:61-62, He starts by mocking their whining and attacking their lack of faith in His authority. Jesus begins His next thought with the "Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing," and states that the words which He had spoken were Spirit and life (John 6:63). Jesus knows, however, that some of them do not believe Him (John 6:64), which is why we find these parting words in John 6:65:
[Jesus] went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless the Father has enabled him." NIVTake just a moment to reflect on what this teaching means. You can choose to follow Jesus, out of your own free will. Yet you will not be able to believe in Jesus in a manner which leads to Salvation unless God also chooses to let you believe. The flesh, your choice, counts for nothing.
This teaching is a natural consequence of the teaching that God, the Father, is the one who chooses people for Salvation, because if God is the one leading people to Jesus, how could anyone subsequently leave Christianity, making God's actions result in failure? The solution to that conundrum is to establish the theological concept that some people will choose to become Christian, but are not really Saved, because God did not choose them. This is predetermined fate, not an outcome of freewill. God chooses who will be saved and who will perish, not us. This same sentiment is echoed in Romans 9:16-21:
It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden.Funny how you do not hear much about this teaching in modern pulpits. It is psychologically much easier to blame a person for rejecting God, than to blame God for rejecting that person.
One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist His will?” But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? NIV