John’s Gospel: 6:64-65 (“no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father”)

(John 6:64-65 ESV)  64 “But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)  65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

Jesus seemingly changes the subject by speaking of faith, but, of course, the entire lesson had been about faith. And he knew that some did not believe.

“Granted” is literally “given,” not “enabled.” The gift is not necessarily an enabling. But it surely sounds kind of Calvinistic, doesn’t it?

Is Jesus saying that Judas (and others!) are damned because God did not draw them toward Jesus (by irresistible grace)? But we just saw that the drawing in context is the drawing of God’s overwhelming lovingkindness comparable to how God drew Israel to the Promised Land.

Did Judas experience that? Certainly. He walked with Jesus for three years. God cared for him while he didn’t have to work or beg for his support. He saw the Savior do all the amazing things we read about in the Gospels — and much more. Yes, God extended his lovingkindness toward Judas (and surely the others being mentioned).

Did Judas hear the message? Was he blessed to be offered the opportunity to believe, the opportunity that so many never receive? Of course.

So are we saying that God deliberately closed his heart to make sure he was damned? That God denied him any chance at salvation?

If so, then there was no drawing.

(Jer 31:3 NIV)  3 The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

But Jesus was alluding to a passage in which God promises to draw all of Israel.

(Deu 7:7-9 ESV)  7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,  8 but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.  9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations

It’s just not conceivable that Jesus can allude to Jeremiah 31, which refers to Deuteronomy, and mean that God does NOT draw all Jews with his lovingkindness and intends that some be damned.

Parallel to Jeremiah 31:3 is —

(Hos 11:1-4 KJV)  When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.  2 As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.  3 I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them.  4 I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid [food] unto them.

God so loved the world … Repeatedly, we’re being told that it’s God’s desire that all be saved. God showed lovingkindness to all of Israel. All of Israel was drawn with “bands of love.” Therefore, Judas was drawn by God.

(John 3:16-17 ESV)  16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

(John 6:40 ESV)  40 “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Do these verses mean that God intentionally hardened the heart of Judas (and unnamed others) so that they wouldn’t believe and be saved? Is that really the theme of John? If so, then God sent his Son into the world so that Judas and others would be damned. Right?

We’re obviously missing something.

The classical Arminian position is that no one can believe without the Spirit opening his heart, but everyone’s heart is opened in response to the gospel being preached — but some refuse to believe despite having had their hearts opened. Maybe true, but that view hardly explains how God supposedly failed to give Judas (and others!) what he (they!) needed to believe.

(John 6:34 ESV) They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

(John 6:65 KJV) “And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.”

“Given” in v. 65 is the same Greek word as “give” in 6:34. What must be given to someone so that he might believe? Bread. What is bread? The words of Jesus. The miracles of Jesus. The person of Jesus.

In truth, countless millions have never been given the bread of life and so have not come to Jesus. But what about Judas? And the unnamed others who would not believe? Well, they may have had the bread offered to them, but they never received the words. They were offered but never received. The bread was offered but not given.

Is this consistent with the grammar of John? Indeed, “given” is dedomenon, which is also found in —

(John 3:27 ESV) John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.”

— where John distinguishes something being given from being received. Nothing can be received until it is given. But it has to be both given and received. Salvation was given to Judas, but he refused to receive it.

God offered Judas and the other unbelieving Jews the bread of life. They had not only the words of Jesus but also Jesus himself. God gave them the unspeakable blessings of his lovingkindness. He drew them.

They rejected what was offered them. They had blessings denied to countless millions. They walked with Jesus in the most literal of ways. The bread of life was theirs to eat.

But they chose not to eat it. God offered it, but it was not given because it was not received.

No other explanation fits the overarching flow of John and all that it teaches.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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3 Responses to John’s Gospel: 6:64-65 (“no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father”)

  1. furdog says:

    It’s interesting that you skip over the ” no one CAN…” and spend a majority of your time on the word ” given”. The truth is, the phrase, ” no one can..” is a universal negative implying ability not permission. It’s like the classic ” can” versus ” may” humorous anecdote. The Scripture is clear, no one, nobody can come to Jesus unless ______.

  2. Christopher says:

    Well, what does the scriptural evidence tell us? Who were those who didn’t believe? They were baptized disciples. So was Judas. What was the former’s stumbling block? Apparently thinking Jesus was teaching cannibalism. What was Judas’ stumbling block? Love for money – so much so that he had been stealing from their treasury and was willing to sell out Jesus for 30 talents of silver. So I suppose they both had the wrong sort of faith, they believed for the wrong reasons. Maybe God doesn’t “grant” us the ability to come to Jesus unless we are really seeking Him (rather than food that perishes or something else) – seek and you will find, draw near to Him and He will draw near to you. I suspect these men were, like the unmerciful servant, initially forgiven. So what does Jesus mean by “coming” to Him? What did He mean by the He and the Father coming and making their home in somebody? What did He mean by knocking at the door, ready to come in an dine with us? Are these three things related?

  3. Monty says:

    “With many other words he pleaded with them and warned them..” save yourselves from this perverse generation’….and they that gladly received the word were baptized. To “receive the word” was to place faith in Jesus by obeying Peter’s command to be baptized into the name of Jesus to receive the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. There was no one there that day of Pentecost who “received the word” but were not baptized. That speaks volumes. Jesus said, “I stand at the door and knock and if “any ” man will open, I will come in and sup with him.” Sounds like an open invitation to all who hear the Gospel.

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