Drawing People to Faith

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (v. 44).

- John 6:41–44

At first, the five thousand men whom Jesus fed miraculously did not quite understand what He was claiming for Himself. They thought He was presenting Himself as a political savior who would liberate them from Rome just as Moses led them out from Egyptian oppression. Thus, they tried to make Him king (John 6:1–15). Then, after Jesus claimed to be able to give them living bread that would satisfy their hunger, they apparently thought He was talking about permanent physical sustenance of some kind. We may infer that because they asked for this bread, but then Jesus told them that they did not believe Him. What they were asking for was not what Jesus was offering (vv. 16–37).

To make His point even clearer and rid the people of misunderstanding, Jesus then revealed Himself as the living bread from heaven. He was not talking about physical sustenance at all but about being God’s gift of eternal life (vv. 38–40). At that point, the crowd did begin to understand something about what He was claiming for Himself, for today’s passage tells us they started to grumble among themselves about His claims (v. 41). They took offense at His saying that He came from heaven, for they knew His mother, Mary, and His earthly father, Joseph, and they certainly were not special by the world’s standards (v. 42; see Luke 1:48, 52). Of course, there is a great deal of irony here because the crowd clearly did not know the whole story about Jesus’ parents. If they had really known the entire situation, they would have known that Joseph was Jesus’ adoptive father and that His eternal Father was God Himself. They would have seen that there were no problems with Jesus’ claims of divine origin (Luke 1:26–38; John 1:1–18).

Jesus went on to stress again that the reason they remained blind was because God had not opened their spiritual eyes to see Him for who He truly was. He intensified His early claim that all those the Father gives to Him for salvation will be saved by asserting that no one, in fact, can be saved unless the Father draws him to Christ. And this drawing is not a weak exhortation to believe but a powerful act of God, for all of those whom God calls will finally give up their resistance to Christ, and they will be certainly raised up at the last day (John 6:43–44). Dr. R.C. Sproul writes in his commentary John: “In our natural state, we are completely unwilling and morally incapable of coming to Christ. If the Father wants us to come to Christ, He must effectually draw us to His beloved Son.”

Coram Deo

John Calvin comments, “The Gospel, though it is preached to all without exception, cannot be embraced by all … a new understanding and a new perception are requisite; … faith does not depend on the will of men, but that it is God who gives it.” Although only those whom God draws will come to Him, we cannot know whom God has chosen to draw. So, we must preach the gospel to all people, trusting Him to draw His elect from among the nations to Himself.

Passages for Further Study

Ezekiel 11:19–20
Hosea 2:14–23
Matthew 1:18–25
Romans 9:1–26

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.