All Scripture quotations are from the World English Bible (WEB).
John chapters 6 and 10 are key chapters in understanding the doctrine of election. Is election conditional or unconditional? Is it corporate or individual, or is it both? Did Christ die for certain elect, or did He die for every individual who comes into the world? In other words, is the atonement of Christ limited or unlimited? Does it apply to everyone, or only to certain elect?
I believe a comparison between John 6 and 10 answers those questions. Chapter 10 interprets chapter 6. This will not be an extensive study of the two chapters, but will serve as a brief interpretation of John 6:37,44-45. For an extensive study on John 10, I encourage you to read my commentary on that here.
John 6:37-45; 64-65
37 All those whom the Father gives me will come to me. He who comes to me I will in no way throw out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. 39 This is the will of my Father who sent me, that of all he has given to me I should lose nothing, but should raise him up at the last day. 40 This is the will of the one who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son, and believes in him, should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
41 The Jews therefore murmured concerning him, because he said, “I am the bread which came down out of heaven.” 42 They said, “Isn’t this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How then does he say, ‘I have come down out of heaven?’” 43 Therefore Jesus answered them, “Don’t murmur among yourselves.
44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up in the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘They will all be taught by God.’Therefore everyone who hears from the Father, and has learned, comes to me.
64 But there are some of you who don’t believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who didn’t believe, and who it was who would betray him. 65 He said, “For this cause have I said to you that no one can come to me, unless it is granted to him by my Father.”
37 – “All those whom the Father gives me will come to me.”
44 – “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him,”
45 – “They will all be taught by God.”
45 – “everyone who hears from the Father, and has learned, comes to me.”
64 – “there are some of you who don’t believe.”
65 – “For this cause have I said to you that no one can come to me, unless it is granted to him by my Father.”
39,40,44 – “I will raise him up in the last day.”
Note: Jesus equates going to Jesus (“will come to me”) to believing. In other words, those who are “given and drawn” by His Father, are those who believe. (see also Jn 17:2)
I first want to address the idea that those who are “given” and “drawn” to Jesus, refer strictly to Old Testament Jewish believers of His day who would all hear His voice and His call to follow Him. In other words, it’s the interpretation that there’s a transition going on in the day of Christ from the Father to the Son, from Old Covenant to New Covenant, and that the OT believers would hear the voice of the Father in the Son — thus, those are the ones whom the Father gives to His Son. While that is certainly true, while there certainly was this transition going on at that time, this passage cannot refer to them only. That is not what the context reveals. The context actually reveals that in the midst of that transition to the New Covenant, it was the whole world that is in view in this passage. That’s exactly what the New Covenant applies to. We see this in the following verses:
(John 6:32) – 32 Jesus therefore said to them, “Most certainly, I tell you, it wasn’t Moses who gave you the bread out of heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread out of heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”
This verse serves as the introduction to John 6:37,44-45. In verse 33 Jesus reveals that He “gives life to the world” as the “bread of God which comes down out of heaven.” Jesus applies this Old Testament reference of bread (Ex 16:33-35; Ps 78:23-24), to Himself, and is still in view throughout this passage in John. This is the context that Jesus is speaking from. Thus, John 6:37,44-45 is part of that same discussion and must be interpreted within that context. That the whole world is in view, is confirmed by the following verse:
(John 6:51) – 51 I am the living bread which came down out of heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. Yes, the bread which I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
Jesus reveals that He gives His life for the world before and after verses 37-45. Therefore, the whole context in which Jesus spoke the words of these verses, requires that we interpret what Jesus said with the people of the whole world in view, and not just the believing Jews of His day. So to be clear, the “giving” and “drawing” to Jesus cannot be limited to the Jews who were already believers during the time of Christ’s ministry. Yes, they are included, but it was the whole world that Jesus was talking about.
We must conclude, then, that the “giving” and “drawing” of verses 37 and 44, and the “hearing” and “learning” of verse 45, cannot be limited to the time of Christ — but applies throughout the Church era of the New Covenant.
With the understanding that we gained regarding John 6:37-45, we need to go to John 10, because Jesus reveals in that chapter who it is that are “given” and “drawn” to Him. In my commentary on John 10, I make the case that the sheep of that chapter are elect sheep, foreknown by God — that Christ’s sheep come into the world as His elect. In my commentary, I make the argument that John 10 is not about the life of the Christian as His sheep or about the call to become His sheep, but rather, it’s about the call to His elect sheep for salvation. In other words, it’s about the call to salvation rather than about Christian discipleship.
What follows is a condensed version of my commentary on John 10. It provides a basis for the interpretation that the “giving” and “drawing” of John 6 refer to the giving and drawing of Christ’s sheep of John 10.
24 The Jews therefore came around him and said to him, “How long will you hold us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you don’t believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name, these testify about me. 26 But you don’t believe, because you are not of my sheep, as I told you.
This ties in with John 6:64-65:
64 But there are some of you who don’t believe……”
65 He said, “For this cause have I said to you that no one can come to me, unless it is granted to him by my Father.”
Based on John 10:25-26, we see that it’s only the sheep of Christ who are granted access to Jesus. It’s the elect sheep who are “given” and “drawn” to Jesus. These are the ones who believe unto salvation.
Taking a closer look, verse 26 (Jn 10:26) is one of the most revealing statements in the whole chapter, because Jesus reveals that if these people were among His sheep, they would have believed — referring to the initial call to believe in Christ as Lord and Savior.
The interpretation that the reason these Jews didn’t believe is because they weren’t post-conversion sheep, makes no sense. Think about it. That’s like saying, “I don’t believe because I’m not a believer,” or “I believe because I’m a believer.” That really doesn’t tell us much. This merely describes that which characterizes a believer and non-believer. Yes, a believer in Christ believes, but that is not the reason he believes. Likewise, it’s true that an unbeliever doesn’t believe in Christ, but that is not the reason he doesn’t believe in Him. It’s the reason these Jews didn’t believe that Jesus was addressing. In other words, He was revealing why a person doesn’t believe in Him. Jesus provides a very clear revelation, that the reason a person doesn’t believe in Him is because they are not among His sheep. Only the elect sheep hear His voice and believe unto salvation. This is in harmony with John 6:37,44-47,64-65. Indeed, it reveals who it is that are “given” and “drawn” to Jesus. It’s His elect sheep.
Consider those who may have been there who were not already believing Jews, but upon hearing the truth of Christ’s words for the first time, did believe. This was likely a common situation during Christ’s ministry. Based on Jesus’ words, we can only conclude that they believed because they were His sheep — His elect sheep whom He foreknew.
Only those who hear, believe. Only His sheep hear:
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (Jn 10:27)
It bears repeating, based on the overall context of this chapter, Jesus is not primarily talking about the walk of a follower of Christ after conversion. He’s primarily talking about the call to salvation, the call to follow Him as Lord and Savior. Those who are His elect sheep will hear His call and believe, and they will be given “eternal life,” which is the very next statement:
28 I give eternal life to them. They will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” (Jn 10:28-30)
Note the statement: “My Father, who has given them to me.” This is the same giving of the Father that we see in John 6:37 and John 17:2. Thus, we know that those given to Jesus are the sheep in this passage, whom we know now are elect sheep — those chosen by God for salvation. When one considers the overall message of this chapter (John 10), it makes interpreting John 6:37-45 a lot easier to interpret. It’s these elect sheep chosen out of “all flesh” (Jn 17:2), out of the whole world, that the Father “gives” and “draws” to Jesus. It’s these that are given understanding — those who “hear and learn” (Jn 6:45). It’s these who hear the voice of the Savior. Only the sheep truly hear the truth of the gospel message — that is, with understanding, with full conviction of the truth. Everyone who truly hears and understands, go to Jesus. They do this willing, because sheep naturally follow their Shepherd when they hear him call. That means when the elect sheep are drawn to Christ, they are not forced. They follow the shepherd because that’s what sheep do by nature.
Since Jesus died specifically for His elect sheep, their redemption is assured. Their salvation is forever secure. Accordingly, it’s not possible that they be “snatched” out of the hands of the Father or Son, but will be “raised up the last day” (Jn 6:39,40,44). The atoning sacrifice of Christ accomplished exactly what it was meant to accomplish. Redemption was not just a possibility, because it was specifically for the purpose of saving His elect sheep — all of them.
Again, consider that there must have been many Jews at that time who were not yet true believers, but turned to Christ when they heard Him preach and saw His miracles. They too would still be sheep, because it’s only His sheep who hear His voice. Otherwise, how would they hear the initial call of the Shepherd to follow Him? Hearing Christ’s voice begins with the initial call to receive Him as Lord and Savior.
Note also that Jesus is the door of salvation:
(Jn 10:7-9) –7 Jesus therefore said to them again, “Most certainly, I tell you, I am the sheep’s door. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters in by me, he will be saved, and will go in and go out, and will find pasture.
Jesus reveals that it’s those who are already His sheep that enter through the “door” and are “saved.” Jesus makes it clear that He is not talking about His sheep after conversion, but about those who are His sheep before they walk through the door of salvation.
In conclusion, I think the evidence is powerfully persuasive that the Bible teaches Unconditional Sovereign Election.
For a more comprehensive treatment of John 10, I again invite you to read my commentary on that chapter: