Does God “Draw” Us?
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:44).¹
Does man have freewill to choose or reject eternal life? Or does God, by some arbitrary method, select ahead of time those whom He will “draw” to Himself, while at the same time leaving everyone else in their own unbelief?
Or, to put it another way, is every individual “predestined” either to life or death. Is it all out of our hands?
Take the verse above, for example. By itself, without context, it seems to say that salvation, and the steps leading to salvation, are entirely in God’s hands, and entirely out of our control. But is this so? Must a person wait passively while God, by some unknown and unknowable method, “draws” him to Christ? Or does God draw men and women by means which require them to make choices of their own?
Jesus uses the same Greek word, translated “draw,” in another passage in John: “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” (John 12:32). This verse seems to say that God, through His Son on the cross, “draws” all men to Himself.
But since all men do not come to Christ, there must be a self-selection process along the way. That is, God must “draw” a man before he can be saved, but the man himself must choose to be drawn also, if God’s offer is to be validated. This idea of drawing is in keeping with the overall context of John 6: “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (v. 37).
This would be meaningless if the “coming” were not an individual choice. “My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life.” (v. 40). So again, the individual’s free response (e.g., “looks to,” “believe in”) is necessary. “It is written in the prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God'” (Isa 54:13). “Every one who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.” (John 6:45).
The calling process involves two essential things: (1) God teaching, and (2) man learning. Once again, there must be a freewill response to God’s offer:
- The person is “taught” by God (v. 45);
- The person “listens” to the instruction (v. 46);
- The person “learns” (v. 45), i.e., he “sees” (v. 46);
- The person “comes” to Christ (v. 45), i.e., “believes upon” him (vv. 40,47); and finally
- The person receives everlasting life, being raised up on the “last day” (vv. 47,54).
We see, then, that God’s “calling” is open to all mankind, and “inclusive” for all, if the invitation is acted upon.
Here there is a proclamation, broadcast to all who will listen—just as Jesus said in Matthew 11:28,29: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, and you will find rest for your souls.”
In these words of God and His Son, there are no restrictions placed upon men, except what they may place upon themselves. When Jesus commissioned the disciples to preach the good news about his resurrection, there was the same universality in the offer of salvation: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” (Mark 16:15, 16).
Who will do the preaching now?
Paul and the other disciples interpreted this to mean that the good news was offered to all, without reservation and without exception: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Joel 2:32). “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Rom 10:13, 14).
So, the responsibility rests upon all those who hear the message, to respond to it, and to accept it when they are convinced. And finally, to share that message with others along the way.
Jesus cannot do that directly. The apostles have all died. It must be up to us to pass along the same message: “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” (Rev 22:17).
Those who hear the message, and act upon it, are also obligated to pass the message along. “I have heard the wonderful news! You should come to hear it too!” God uses regular men and women— like you and me—to pass along His message. We are, and should be, partners and coworkers with Christ to carry this precious treasure to others. Is it frightening? In some ways, yes. Is it amazing? Most certainly.
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” (1 John 3:1) The Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians: I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” (1Cor 9:19-23).
Austin Leander Ecclesia, TX
Note: In a later article, we plan to consider the idea of “predestination.”