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Does Jesus Teach Calvinism (Total Depravity/Irresistible Grace)?

August 2, 2012

Scott Whynot

Before looking at the words of Jesus, here are some statements from the Westminster Confession of Faith that I find to be a relevant definition of the calvinistic terms:

Total depravity

Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.

 The Westminster Confession of Faith 9.3

 Irresistible grace

All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.

The Westminster Confession of Faith 10.1

Keeping those definitions in mind, let’s look at the words of Jesus.

Background – Jesus had just fed five thousand people with five barley loaves and two fish.  The people follow Him after He crosses the Sea of Galilee.  The people then ask for a sign so that they would believe in Jesus as Jesus discusses that He is the bread of life.

“But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.  All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.  This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”

  John 6:36-40, NASB

Jesus goes on to explain their unbelief.  He states that the Father gives Him a certain group of people, they all come to Him, and He does not cast them out.

Jesus also assures that He will not lose those who are given to Him by the Father.  All of those given to Him will come to Him and will receive eternal life.

Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven”…Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves.  No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day”

 John 6:41, 43-44, NASB

Not surprisingly, his previous words offended some people.  Jesus here explicitly states the inability of man to come to God apart from His drawing.

Once again, Jesus assures that those who come to Him will be raised on the last day (given eternal life).

Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?”…For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him.  And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted Him from the Father.”

John 6:60, 64b-65, NASB 

Again, not surprisingly, this whole discourse caused some upset among His followers.  Here, Jesus again explains unbelief by citing that only those drawn by the Father are able to come to Him.

As this whole passage is too long to quote in its entirety, I strongly encourage you to look at all of John 6 for yourselves.  As you can see from the pieces I have provided, Jesus paints a picture of salvation that:

I –     No one can come to Jesus unless the Father gives them to Jesus/draws them

II –    All of those who are drawn will indeed believe

III –   Christ will not lose the ones who are drawn and will raise them up on the last day/give them eternal life.

Furthermore, it is obvious that not all are drawn to Christ as Jesus repeatedly uses these sayings to explain unbelief, not belief.

In dispute of this, some turn to John 12:32 where Jesus says that He will draw all men to himself.  However, if we look at the larger context from verse 20 and on, we will see that Jesus is referring to all kinds of men (Jews and Gentiles).  Besides, if you take the view that all are drawn to Christ in this same manner as described in John 6, universalism is unavoidable.  Clearly, that is the wrong interpretation.

So, do Jesus’ words teach total depravity and irresistible grace as defined above?

For more information about calvinism, check out our posts on unconditional election and limited atonement.  We’ve also got a brief overview of reformed theology.

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4 Comments
  1. Anonymous,I don’t think there is any doubt that this is manipulative lnaguage on the part of Jesus. Are you suggesting that Jesus had no intention of the listeners making a behavior modification as a result of this teaching?For the sake of discussion, let’ assume your notion that God created those words. Let’s also assume there is an afterlife with some kind of “better” status or “reward”. Then, let’s use the most manipulative of the variations of the statement (Mark as opposed to Matthew, neither of which is written exactly as you paraphrased them).Wouldn’t God already know this is manipulative? Wouldn’t that be the point? How would the reality of the reward make the words any less manipulative? How does a reference in scripture change the nature of the proposition? Are suggesting that a God, who in that scenario created a system of reward and punishment for particular behavior, would then deny that this system exists? Are you suggesting God would lie about the system if/when we inquired about its existence?The reality or fiction of the reward does not change the manipulative nature of the proposition. The only question up for grabs here is who is doing the manipulation. Is it God, is it Jesus, or is it the author of the text who places the manipulative proposition on the lips of Jesus.I vote for the latter.

  2. jean permalink

    Jesus came to save the ‘world’. God happens to be the Alpha and the Omega, nothing is hidden from Him…He knows who are His because He knows what our CHOICES are before we have made them, before we were even born. Remember King Saul…so loved by God in the beginning…so hated in the end. Saul once was saved and lost favor. Same with NT, Simon who became a disciple of Jesus, a believer, then was rejected for thinking the Holy Spirit could be bought with a price. You can lose your salvation for an unrepentant heart, he asked Peter to ask God for forgiveness instead of asking for himself, a requirement of humility before God, repenting of sins for restoration.

    Exodus 32:33 is clear ‘And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever has sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.’ If one is blotted out, one was once written in. God already knew who was His, but He’s letting them know His holiness and the consequences of unrepentance.

    His teaching is clear.

    Romans 3.5 is the positive side where one is not blotted out because they did well.

    God is love. A God that chose some and sent most to hell could not be about love at all. He died for you, me and the whole world…the ‘choice’ is ours to choose to receive His amazing gracious eternal Love or foolishly reject it…

    • Jean,

      Thanks for the comment! I would wonder how you would interpret these verses in John chapter 6.

      I’m quite familiar right now with the Acts story so I’ll make a brief comment about Simon. Acts chapter 8 mentions that Simon believed and even was baptized. However, the rest of the chapter and his response clearly shows this was a false belief (like the false faith that James talks about). Simon’s future actions proved that his heart was rocky soil all along (Luke 8).

      Regarding Exodus 32, I’m not sure what you are trying to say. What do you consider to be God’s book?

      Lastly, I find it interesting that you put these restrictions on what God can and cannot do with His creation. I encourage you to check out Romans 9:10-24 where Paul clearly presents the freedom of God in His dealings with His creation.

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