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Insight #349 – Calvinism Examined #1 – How Does God Draw Us?

Jesus once told His followers, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). How does God draw us to Jesus?

“Draw Us?”

That verse doesn’t explain it. But Calvinism “draws” us into the Greek meaning of “draw” (“elko,” Strong’s #G1670). Calvinism points out that in Acts 16:19; 21:30; and James 2:6 the “drawing” is clearly people “drawing” other people by force. For that reason, nearly all versions translate “elko” in those verses as “drag.” “There you have it,” says Calvinism; “John 6:44 teaches that divine compulsion is required to remove a person’s ‘total depravity.’ Only then, can one be capable of coming to Jesus.”

But wait a minute. Just as the English word “draw” has many shades of meaning, so does the Greek word. Greek lexicons give a range of meanings to “elko,” from “influence-attract” to “drag-compel” depending on the context. Thus, while nearly all versions render “elko” as “drag” in some verses, the same versions render it as “draw” in John 6:44. No version renders it as “drag” or “compel” in that verse. Not only that, but Scripture even promises: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8).

The Missing Verse

The verse containing “elko” that is not mentioned in this Calvinist view is actually the most helpful verse. While John 6:44 offers no explanation as to how God draws people to Jesus, John 12:32 does! Jesus said “‘I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ But he said this, signifying by what kind of death he should die.” Of course, since the Father and the Son are one, and since the Father sent the Son to die for us, the Father drawing and the Son drawing are all one and the same.

Jesus predicted that His death would “draw all people” to Himself. Fantastic prediction! “All people,” that is, innumerable multitudes of all nationalities, races, social levels, etc. Who is not drawn by the fantastic love of the Son of God hanging on the cross for us! Imagine. We even joyfully sing about His death, His cross, His blood. A favorite song even says the cross “has a wondrous attraction for me.” Precisely what Jesus predicted. Compare that to Romans 2:4: “The goodness of God leads you to repentance.” Compare it to 1 John 4:19: “We love him, because he first loved us.” God doesn’t force us with “irresistible grace” as Calvinism says. No. His goodness, His love, His dying Son upon the cross attract and draw us to Jesus.

The Missing Context

As we began, Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” How? In the very next verse, Jesus continued: “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.” Put the two verses together. How does someone come to Jesus? By listening to God’s prophets and learning from them. As Paul later wrote, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).

How are we drawn by God? Scripture nowhere says it is by a supernatural act of God to change a supposed totally depraved nature. Rather, Jesus says it is by listening to God and learning from Him. God draws us to Jesus when we listen, read, study, believe, and follow God’s Word, the Bible. It is there that we learn of His Son on the cross and are drawn to Him.

The Takeaway

Citing John 6:44, Calvinism teaches that God divinely compels those whom He has chosen to come to Him. However, John 6:44 does not tell us how God draws us to Jesus. Verse 45 tells us that the way we come to Jesus is by opening our ears and listening to God’s Word. Other verses tell us that we are drawn to God by His goodness, especially being attracted by the amazing love we see in Jesus dying upon the cross for our sins.

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NOTE: The purpose of this series is to biblically examine various aspects of the Calvinistic acrostic, TULIP: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints.