Jesus Was Rejected for Teaching Predestination

Jesus Was Rejected for Teaching Predestination March 2, 2018

John 6:22-71 is truly a fascinating passage in many ways, as it deals directly with Christ’s claims to divinity amidst a crowd who simply didn’t see Him for who He was. It is no small coincidence John includes the narrative of Christ performing such magnificent miracles in the preceding verses. These miracles not only demonstrate His mastery over the elements, but serve a larger point to show His mastery over all Creation. Within this same measure, Jesus uses these miracles to demonstrate the greater miracle given to mankind is Himself. Yet what often gets shoved to the side in this passage by non-Calvinists is the Scripture’s clear teaching on predestination.

While the overarching point of this passage highlights the divinity of Christ, it is readily apparent several underlying, Calvinistic themes emerge in the text. In fact, it can be argued that Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, and Irresistible Grace are all present themes in this passage. Rather than focus on trying to make these theological points fit in the text, I am simply going to draw out particular instances where predestination is present. It should be obvious that the full teachings of these doctrines are not present, but it is important that we catch glimpses of them here. What becomes clear as we examine this in the passage is that these teachings were a large part of the reason why many “turned back and no longer walked with Him” (vv. 59, 66). As in our own day, the topic of predestination was not well-received.

The Clarity of Predestination in this Passage

When we take a step back and look at Christ drawing the parallel to God providing Manna from the heavens in Exodus 16 and Himself, an interesting observation can be made. In Exodus 16:4, the Lord speaks of testing His people through the provision of Manna. For what purpose? To see if they will walk in His instruction. Yet of particular interest is their continued grumbling against the Lord’s provision throughout the whole of the passage in Exodus. For anyone familiar with the text itself, we know it obviously doesn’t end well for the grumbling Israelites.

Back to our text in John 6, we see Jesus pick up this same theme from Exodus 16 to draw out that He is the greater “bread from heaven” that gives life to the world. What is unique in this is that without even touching on predestination to begin with, Christ immediately brings focus to God’s providence through His Son. Not only will those who come to Him never hunger, but they will also never thirst; it is an eternal sustenance found solely in the person of Christ.

Yet this sustenance has a particular people in mind, as He moves on to say that the ones who will come to Him are those whom the Father has sent (v. 37-38). Everyone, meaning every literal individual given by the Father, will come to Christ – and Christ shall never drive them away. Why? Christ came down from heaven as the Bread of Life to do the will of the Father (v. 38). If this were not clear enough, the very next verse defines what the will of the Father is: that I shall lose none of those He has given Me, but raise them up at the last day (v. 39). Again, if this were still not clear enough, in verse 40 Christ reiterates this teaching by declaring that any who look upon the Son and believe in Him shall have eternal life and be raised on the last day.

I bring this out with the particular focus of John 6:41 and following, as the theme of grumbling arises once again. Their response is verbatim to how their ancestors responded to Moses; God provides life-giving sustenance, this time in a measure which cannot be surpassed, and they grumble. Christ initially responds, “Stop grumbling among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” Rather than shying away, He doubles down on all that He just said and even becomes more controversial in teaching they must eat of His flesh and drink of His blood.

What is astounding here is that all throughout His presentation of this truth, Christ never shies away from demonstrating that He is God, the Father draws those whom will be saved and raised on that last day, and that rather than rejoicing, the Israelites grumbled. John draws attention to their grumbling three times in this passage (vv. 41, 43, and 60), as well as the result it produced (vv. 59, 66). Of particular interest here was Christ’s keen observation all the way back in verse 36, where He states, “…you have seen Me and still you do not believe.”

What this plainly indicates is that they were not those whom the Father drew to Christ for salvation through Him. They did not see God – because they were not His children. They were not those whom the Father had drawn to Christ, for if they were, they would have come to Him (v. 37, 44). In opposition to this we find the words of Peter when Christ asks if he wanted to leave Him too: “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.”

The disparity of these two reactions serves to demonstrate effectual belief in the Son of God is conditional to the work of God. However, it also clearly indicates the content of this teaching is at the heart of their rejection of Christ. It is not simply a matter of perceived cannibalism, which no doubt would have struck many Jews with a sense of disgust due to Mosaic Law. It is the matter of God providing the means of eternal sustenance in the person of Christ, and God drawing whom He wills to this same Christ, which they grumbled over.

Predestination Highlights God’s Mastery Over All Creation – Even You

With all of this in mind, I wish to bring out the beginning of this chapter once again, particularly, in reflection of this narrative’s placement among two other miracles. I believe John is highlighting a third, greater miracle, being the effectual drawing and sustaining of God’s elect. The purpose of miracles within the New Testament serve to demonstrate Christ’s superiority over all of created order, and in this instance, this includes the heart of man.

Just as John pens Christ’s miraculous ability to heal the lame, replicate a meager meal to a feast for thousands, His ability rebuke the winds and calm the sea, and Christ’s ability to walk on water – the apostle highlights He is greater than all these things. However, we cannot divorce this from the teaching of predestination all throughout the teaching of Christ’s divinity in this chapter. It is intermingled throughout the passage in such a way that John truly wishes for us to see the fullness of His might over creation.

It must be stated that to see such miracles, it would be readily obvious to all that this was the Son of man. In fact, we have numerous examples where men exclaim this very thing upon seeing His demonstration of that mastery over creation. However, in the midst of this, there are thousands who witnessed such things and still rejected the person of Christ. How else might one make sense of this if it were not for the fact that these men were not those whom the Father predestined and gave to the Son, especially when the text so clearly shows this?

Yet a greater teaching comes from this in that no created thing can thwart the purposes of God. Often, men will ascent to this truth, yet scarcely will they lump in their autonomy as part of what God has jurisdiction over. Christ, in the full measure of His deity, performs the miraculous as only the Son of God can. Even the hardened heart is turned from stone to flesh; is this not an act of God bending the will, as only the Potter could? Shall we say He is unjust? By no means! The Potter has right to do what He wills with His creation, which according to this passage, is to draw those whom He sent to Christ, so that Christ will not lose even one.

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  • Salvatore Anthony Luiso

    I can see why parts of John 6:22-71 are cited in support of the doctrines of Unconditional Election, Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints, but I respectfully disagree with the title of the article: “Jesus Was Rejected for Teaching Predestination”.

    In Exodus 16, the Israelites grumbled because they were in the wilderness and did not have enough to eat. In response, the LORD blessed them with manna, and they stopped grumbling–for a time.

    In John 6, Jesus and many disciples were in the synagogue of Capernaum (verses 59-60). The first time some in His audience grumble, it is not because they are hungry, but because He said “I am the bread which came down from heaven” (verse 41). They did not understand how He could say that of Himself, because they knew His parents (verse 42). The second time they grumble, it is after He spoke about giving His flesh “for the life of the world”, and about eating His flesh and drinking His blood (verse 60-61).

    One could argue that the reason why many grumbled and left Him is because they were not predestined by God to be among the elect. However, I see no indication that any of them grumbled because of what the Lord said in verses 37-40 and 44, which you cite in support of doctrines of predestination. Teachings about predestination were not a cause of objection: claims of heavenly origin and about eating flesh and drinking blood were.

    • Gilsongraybert

      I didn’t say he was explicitly denied for just predestination in this context, but that it was surely a part of that teaching which was rejected.

      I find it more than a little problematic to divorce that from the context and say it has nothing to do with their rejection of him. It is no small thing such teaching is embedded within that same exact portion of the text which John writes the hearers said was too hard of a saying.

      • Salvatore Anthony Luiso

        I do not advocate that one “divorce” any of the teaching from its context–just that one examine the immediate context of the grumbling, and what is explicitly said about its cause. It’s a long passage, and I don’t assume that the grumbling was over everything the Lord says in it.

        Notice that just after verses 37-40, in which the Lord teaches the doctrines which you have cited in support of predestination, the audience grumbles–but not about those doctrines, but about His claim of heavenly origin, which He he spoke in verses 32-35. It is as they didn’t ever hear verses 37-40 because their minds were occupied with verses 32-35. The second occurrence of grumbling occurs much later–right after He has again spoken of Himself as the “bread which came down from heaven”, and “he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever” (verse 58).

        • Gilsongraybert

          I’m not disputing much of what you’re saying here; I fear this may be an element where we are speaking past one another. I am simply saying I believe John had a purpose in including this here, beyond just sprinkling it to demonstrate they were not the elect for the reader.

          • Matthew Conroy

            I think Salvatore is merely saying this article’s title is misleading. Yes, there are shades of predestination, but that doesn’t appear to be the main reason the people rejected him and this teaching.

          • Gilsongraybert

            I’m quite aware of what he is saying, I am merely saying to make one of these teachings a “primary cause” doesn’t adequately deal with the text..

          • Richard Worden Wilson

            I’m inclined to think you are not just dealing with the text but rather reading too much into it.

      • pnutbutter3

        What I have learned about Calvinists over many decades is their insistence on finding Calvin in virtually anything and everything.

      • Richard Worden Wilson

        If was a part of why he was rejected it would either need to be explicit or speculative. To merely speculate doesn’t make for a very firm conclusion.

    • Steven

      The calling and election refers to the cross. The calling ( many are called) is to teach in WORD, this the hands nailed to the post of judgment. The election [FEW are chosen, (First Ever Witness)] is to teach by example the WORD of TRUTH, this the feet nailed to the beam of justice. Made sure is to stand upright in MERCY and TRUTH Isaiah16:5

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Jesus is not teaching predestination in this passage, which is largely incompatible with it.
    Verse 37 is in the present tense, not the past tense. If Jesus were referring to a predestined elect he would have to have said “all that the Father has given / gave me”. The giving is ongoing according to who believes.
    In verse 39 the Greek perfect tense is used of “given” which according to my Greek grammar refers to the present effect of past actions so it either means “all the Father has presently given me up to this point” or, to make sense, “all the Father will have given me as of the last day”. Neither understanding is anything to do with predestination, and Jesus immediately contradicts any notion of predestination by stating those who are saved is everyone who believes, not a predestined elite.
    John says specifically why there is grumbling: because Jesus calls himself the bread of heaven. You are denying the plain words of the Bible to support a theology not contained within it.
    In verse 44, Jesus days no-one comes unless the Father “draws” him. This is a aorist subjunctive, which again according to my Greek grammar refers to an undefined or future event, and the verb means to lead or win over. Jesus actually states in the following verse that all shall be taught by the Father, and all who hear and learn will come. That isn’t predestination it is flat-out, unequivocally Arminian. The point is reinforced later in verses 50 & 51 where Jesus says anyone who eats of the bread will be saved. Not only is this passage expressly clear that it was because Jesus claimed to be the “bread of heaven” that he provoked opposition, not due to any purported teaching of predestination, he does not teach predestination in any event.

    • Sam Lam

      You might want to get up to date on Greek grammar before you try to base an argument on it. I’m not saying you are wrong, just that your knowledge of Greek needs work.

      • Iain Lovejoy

        I am going on a basic but recent Greek grammar and an online dictionary. Nothing I am saying involves anything complicated or anything other than basic Greek.

    • pnutbutter3

      Thank you.

    • Steven

      First of all the shewbread refers to the drama of war, this in the tabernacle of the holy and holy of holies. As for he that shall be raised up the Son references Revelation 3:21

    • Richard Worden Wilson

      All good points here as far as I can see.

  • OldArmy

    I side with Mr Lovejoy who seems to take the Bible to mean what it says without reading something into it.

  • Steven

    The tablets of stone in the ark of wood, are these the material for false gods, gods of war? The flesh refers to these false gods now the commandments of men

  • Starla Anne Lowry

    Old fashioned Baptists teach that there is a certain time in a person’s life when God will call him or her to repentance (conviction). It is at that time that a person feels the urging of the Holy Spirit to be saved and that no one can be saved until the Holy Spirit “convicts” him. They also believe that the Holy Spirit will call each person to salvation at least one time.

  • David

    But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. 2 Corinthians 2:14-17. Jesus was commissioned by God, and no peddler of God’s word, and no one was more sincere – but most still rejected him. Many of us Christians find the same sort of response to our evangelism. It’s largely a question of the will: you either want God or you don’t want God. The will drives most things.

  • Rod Bristol

    The sovereignty of God is much greater than Augustine and Calvin admit. God alone can create humans with the freedom to choose. God alone can reconcile to himself humans who have chosen badly. God alone can both justly and mercifully save sinful humans. God has done everything. I can trust him or defy him, but God wants NO ONE to perish, (2 Peter 3:9) The philosophy that assumes God can’t make room for his creatures to act against him or surprise him came from Greece, not the Bible.

    John 6 proclaims the work of God, including that he draws people to himself, by the person, work, and teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus confronts those who were rejecting him with the fact that they are thereby rejecting God, whom they regarded as Father. To his disciple, Philip, Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) When he tells them to stop grumbling, Jesus is inviting them to reconsider; he is not assigning them to the damned. When the Israelites were admonished and punished for grumbling, it was to call them to repentance, not merely to demonstrate that they were beyond hope.

    Intelligent human beings can see Calvinism as if it were the clear teaching of scripture, but that perception of clarity stems from apparent confirmation of what one is predisposed to see. Augustine and Calvin and their disciples would repudiate Gnosticism, but they have been seduced by the appeal of “special knowledge” available only to the privileged. In that mindset, agreement with Calvin will be evidence that you are specially privileged (elect), and those who disagree are merely among the unfortunates who are not privileged (elect).

  • zionred

    Wow. Only a Calvinist could twist scripture like this.

    • Richard Worden Wilson

      Most of us are pretty good at twisting scripture to conform to our own reasoning–it is not just Calvinists. This particular issue is difficult because there are so many “literal” texts that seem to speak of divine determination of all sorts of things. The real challenge is to look at the evidence and understand what is said from the historical context of those who wrote and read scripture rather than our more rationalizing modern perspective. It is tempting to go too literal and suppose that biblical authors thought God controlled everything and everyone (think “God hardened his heart.” We ought to think a bit more holistically realistic than that and step back from the too absolutizing conclusion one might grasp to imagine the world ancient believers inhabited in which one could believe everything that happened was the result of God’s will without be “determined” by him. Ancient Jewish understandings of the issue no doubt ranged from the altogether deterministic to the altogether free will dynamic; but ISTM that most ancient Jews were more than willing and able to square that circle, put the square peg in the round hole and be content with the paradoxical assertion of both. There are a variety of theological and intellectual strategies for parsing the dynamics of the paradox, but going all out for the God controls everything rationalization is a bridge too far to cross, at least for me, and I pray it is for you too.

  • Jun Valmores

    This is indeed one of the go to passages for predestinarians. But they miss the context of the entire passage and impose their systematic.

    It is well established that the Jews were under what theologians call Messianic blindness, for had they known that Jesus was the Messiah they would not have crucified Him. Thus, Jesus was referring to the chosen disciples whom the Father had drawn to follow Him, who were not blinded but drawn to the Light revealed. The audience of the passage were the hardened Jews.

    Furthermore, verse 44 says that no one can come unless the Father draws him. It does not say that all who are drawn, come. Hence, even applying this in a general sense does not lend support to calvinistic predestination. Then a few verses down, Jesus emphatically speaks those “whoever” statements, such as “if anyone eats this bread”, thereby telegraphing a libertarian understanding that the Jews operated under, as opposed to a later theologically imposed determinism.

  • Jeffrey Mackey

    What a disappointment. “If I be lifted up will draw all men unto me. . ..” Does this fit in the discussion? Previous comment excellent.

  • Theodore A. Jones

    “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13

  • Rod Bristol

    As stated in the article above, “effectual belief in the Son of God is conditional to the work of God.” This fits what John says in John 3:16-19 as well. No one comes except those whom God loves. No one comes except those God sent his son to save. John 3:16-19 declares unambiguously that God has done everything needed to save the world–each and every person in the world. The same passage also declares unambiguously that “whoever” [yields/is drawn/believes] in response to the work of God will be saved and that whoever does not yield is condemned. Every believer has God to thank for God’s call to belief, on the merits of Jesus Christ. No one can take credit for salvation.

    If Apostle John had agreed with reformer John Calvin, he would never have written “whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:18) It would have been very simple for John to have said that whoever does not believe is condemned already because God had predetermined their condemnation. John says nothing of the sort and Christians substitute human philosophy for the gospel when they say it.

  • Dennis

    For a non-Calvinist interpretation of John 6, see these links:
    There are many others. But what always puzzles me about Calvinists, such as Grayson Gilbert, is that they believe predestination is a wonderful doctrine because it highlights God’s mastery over all creation. However, Calvinists are reluctant to spell out all of the ramifications of their doctrine of election and double predestination, but one ramification is certainly this scenario: God allows the non-elect to live out their entire lives without God ever attempting to truly love them and draw these people toward him. They have no chance of salvation from the moment they were born, and God somehow takes pleasure in this because he was the one who unconditionally (i.e. not based on the condition that God foresaw what kind of lives they would live–evil or good) chose not to elect them for salvation.