13 November, 2016

John 12:32—“And I … will draw all men unto me”

And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me (John 12:32).

John 12:32 is often quoted in favour of a universal gracious operation of the Holy Spirit within the hearts of all who hear the gospel. The teaching of the well-meant offer of the gospel especially appeals to this text—the idea in which God goes out in the gospel to many in love and grace, desiring to save them and trying to save them, but failing to save them. Advocates of Free-Will also use this text to support the idea that the grace of God is not irresistible, but can be effectively resisted by the wills of men.


Robert L. Reymond (1932-2013)

[Source: A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (1998), pp. 693-694]

[It] should be obvious when the Savior declared in John 12:32 that he by his death would draw “all” (πάντας, pantas) to himself, that he was not entertaining the notion that all mankind without exception would come to him. Neither actual history nor statements which Jesus himself makes elsewhere (e.g. Matt. 25:31-46; John 5:28-29; 6:70-71; 17:12) will tolerate such an interpretation. Rather, coming as his remark does immediately after certain Greeks had requested to see him (John 12:20-31), and inspired by their request, Jesus, obviously thinking in nationalistic terms, said what he did, intending that not only Jews but Greeks (representing Gentile nations generally) as well would come to know the attraction and benefits of his redeeming love.



Robert Harbach (1914-1996)

[Source: The Standard Bearer, vol. 62, issue 15, (1 May, 1986) – Click HERE for full article]

Free-willers emphasize that “all men” in support of their “general atonement” and “universal redemption” theories. Christ is drawing all men, only, some of them will not have it so. They will not come to Him. Why not? If He is drawing every child of Adam to Himself, why do so many draw iniquity and wickedness along “as with a cart rope” (Is. 5:18) and fall away into hell? Why does a large majority of humanity find itself “drawn away of their own lusts and enticed”? Why are so many drawn off by an opposing power, “led captive by the devil at his will”? The detestable inference is that Jesus is a weak Jesus, Who, although He wants to draw all men, and labors to do so, is not able. Such humanistic thinking is, to the enlightened believer, intolerable!

The italicized men in the text shows that it is not in the original, but reads, “I will draw ‘all’ unto Me,” i.e., all sorts and conditions of men, all classes of men, out of every tribe, tongue, people, nation, and from every age to the end of the world. “All that the Father giveth Me” (John 6:37) is the meaning. Better, instead of the word men, would be the word Mine: “I will draw all Mine unto Myself.” This is what the text is really saying. John 17:10 confirms this: “All Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine, and I am glorified in them.” The Lord is saying, among other things, I will draw all Mine even from the islands of the seasfrom Vancouver Island, from Jamaica, Singapore, Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia, England, Ireland, Scotland; also from Africa, China, Russia, America, from everywhere! That is the all intended in the text.

How does Jesus accomplish this drawing to Himself? By His almighty power, which brings about the results He intends. He does not employ beggings, pleadings, offers, invitations, as though “coming to Jesus” is in the hands of men who may decide to “be a good sport,” and “give God a chance.” God works through Christ, and when Christ draws, He not only says, “they shall be drawn,” but, “I will do it; I will draw them.” Then they come to Him and He loses none of them. None would come to Him if Jesus did not draw them by sovereign, irresistible, invincible grace. (Consider John 5:40.) The way the Lord works in saving us is that He draws us and we come! The sinner may draw away the shoulder from Him (Neh. 9:29), as far as he is able. Will his evasive action succeed? Being one of the Lords chosen, only up to a point. He may say, I will not be drawn by Him. He may draw away from the preacher, withdraw from the preaching of the Word, and from the Spirit in the preacher; but when the Spirit begins to operate in his heart, then he cannot and no more will resist. It is then that Christ begins to draw him. Then he will as surely be drawn to Jesus and heaven as Jesus is there Himself. Then he will run to Him, fly to Him; in fact, His sheep shall flock to Him. They will come to Him so suddenly and in such numbers that the church will cry, both in astonishment and exultingly, “Who hath begotten these? These, where had they been?” (Is. 49:21). Abraham’s true spiritual seed shall be so many as the stars in the sky for multitude, and as the sand of the seashore, innumerable. He will draw them up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, set their feet on a rock, and establish their goings with a new song in their mouth (Ps. 40:2, 3). To do this He needs not choirs, organs, cathedral architecture, beauty of ritual, or experts in oratory. Christ’s people, in their sinful flesh, and in their unregenerate state, are always unwilling to come unto Him; but they shall be willing in the day of His power (Ps. 110:3). For Christ in the preaching of the Word has mighty, effectual attraction to Himself. By the Word of the Cross the sinner is enlightened and blessed with spiritual discernment, so that His eyes become fixed on Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and He is irresistibly drawn to Him. The things of Christ, taken by the Spirit and revealed unto him, are disclosed and revealed to him under the mighty sway of omnipotence. 



Rev. Rodney G. Miersma

[Source: The Standard Bearer, vol. 81, issue 14, (15 April, 2005) – Click HERE for full article]

When Christ says “all men,” He does not refer to every man, head for head. It simply is not true that all men are drawn to Jesus. This did not happen while He sojourned among us in our flesh and blood, and it will not happen throughout this new dispensation. Some are drawn to Him through the power of His grace and view Him as wonderfully beautiful and attractive, but others hate Him and trample His Word underfoot.

Furthermore, it is not true that the scriptural expression “all men” necessarily means all men, head for head. Even when the expression does refer to everybody, it does not do so because “all” demands that interpretation. Romans 5:18 is a good example. “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” The striking feature is that the expression “all men” occurs twice here but not with the same connotation. With respect to the condemnation of all men it refers to every man, head for head. With respect to righteousness, it does not, for it simply is a fact that while all men are indeed under condemnation, not all men receive the righteousness of Christ unto justification of life. The expression “all men” refers to all men, everybody, as belonging to a certain class. Condemnation has come to all men through the sin of one man, because Adam was the head of the entire human race. And the righteousness of Christ has come upon all men, that is, all those who belong to that class whereof Christ is the Head, namely, the elect.

In this light we see that Christ will draw all His own unto Himself. And He will draw all men, not simply as limited to one particular people, the Jews, but as out of every nation, tongue, and tribe. This is in accordance with the context, in which the request of the Gentiles reminds Jesus exactly of His seed, which He will gather unto Himself out of all peoples and nations.

It is at this point that many go astray. Some would have us believe that the love of God, as revealed upon the cross, attracts all men. Others would contend that in the preaching of the gospel the Lord shows His intention of saving as many sinners as possible, and that Jesus draws, calls, invites all men unto Himself. This, of course, is not the meaning of the text. The gospel does not come to everybody, for the great majority of men will never have come under the preaching of the Word. In addition, we must remember that the gospel is a savor of life unto life, but also of death unto death. It never proclaims a Christ who died for all and would have all men to be saved. The gospel proclaims a Jesus who died for His sheep and who came to do the Father's will, namely, that all those given Him by the Father should be raised up at the last day.

Positively, the word “draw” refers to the irresistible drawing by the exalted Christ. Jesus is an irresistible, universal magnet, who draws powerfully and efficaciously unto Himself. This occurred already on Calvary. By His death of the cross He satisfied, in His people's behalf, all the justice of the Lord, paid for all their sins and guilt, reconciled them unto God, and merited for them everlasting life and glory. Then He drew them out of all their sin and guilt and the power of the devil and into salvation of the alone blessed God.

Now He continues to draw all men, all His own, unto Himself as at the right hand of the divine majesty. This drawing of the glorified Christ is a marvelous, spiritual, internal, irresistible, and inexpressibly sweet drawing by His Spirit and through His Word. He enters, irresistibly, into our hearts, renews our hearts, opens our eyes and our ears, and calls us out of darkness into His marvelous light. He draws us unto Himself, and we come. He opens our eyes, and we see. He opens our ears, and we hear. He speaks in us by His irresistible grace, and we hear and come unto Him, unto the Christ of the cross and as exalted in heavenly glory at the right hand of God. Through His power we learn to seek Him, see our desperate sin and guilt, confess our iniquities, and receive cleansing in the blood that flowed from His veins. As we are drawn unto Him, even as He is now the Lord of glory, our eye is fixed upon the things that are above, and we shall not be satisfied until we see Him, face to face, drawn into everlasting and heavenly glory.

Of that we can be certain, for He will draw all men unto Himself. The Savior does not doubt this for a moment. The context brings this out. “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” How uncertain the outcome would be if man's salvation were dependent upon the choice of his own will. However, the matter of our salvation is purely a matter of the highly exalted Christ. When Christ is lifted up, He will draw all men unto Himself. He will indeed redeem them and deliver them through the blood of the cross, the amazing blood that does not seek to cleanse us from our sin, but actually does.

And being glorified He will indeed continue His work of salvation even unto the end. The work of salvation, thanks be to God, is His work and surely not ours. He to whom has been given all power in heaven and upon earth and the Spirit beyond measure is surely able to gather all His own unto Himself, even unto the very end.



Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965)

[Source: The Protestant Reformed Churches in America [1947], p. 346; emphasis added)

(3)   “All” may also simply mean “all believers” or “all the elect.”** This is plainly the case in I Cor. 15:22: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” It is indisputable that the second “all” cannot mean “all men”; for these “all” shall be made alive in the glorious resurrection of Christ, which is not true of all men, but only of believers or of the elect. Of these the apostle is speaking. This is also true of the word “all” in john 12:32: And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all (men) unto me. The word men does not occur in the original of this verse. It is plain that whom Christ draws unto Him are surely saved. Hence, the simple meaning is: I will draw all my own, all the elect, unto me.

** On pages 345-347, Rev. Hoeksema demonstrates that, in Scripture, “all” or “all men” can mean (1) “all of us [i.e. of the church]” (I Pet. 3:9),  (2) “all kinds of men” (Tit. 2:11; I Tim. 2:4),  (3) “all believers or all the elect” (I Cor. 15:22; John 12:31) (4) “‘all of one group,’ in distinction from ‘all of another group’” (Rom. 5:18).



Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562)

[Predestination and Justification (Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2003), pp. 62-64; emphasis added]

The Holy Scriptures set forth two human societies: one of the godly and the other of the ungodly. Both societies have universal propositions attached which should be restricted to their own category by the careful reader. The prophets say, and Christ cites them: “All shall be taught by God (theodidaktos) and all shall know me from the least to the greatest”; and again he says, “When I shall be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself” [John 6:45; John 12:32]. Unless these universal propositions refer to the godly who are elected, they are not true. This is also true of these passages: “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” and “All flesh shall come in my sight and shall worship in Jerusalem,” and again, “All flesh shall see the salvation of God,” and finally, “God lifts up all who fall” [Joel 2:28; Isa. 66:23; Luke 3:6; Ps. 145:14]. Who does not see that these passages are to be understood only of the saints? In contrast, these following passages refer to the ungodly: “No one receives his testimony” yet many believed, and “You will be hated by all.” Again it is stated, “They all seek after their own interests”; and “They have all turned aside together; they have become corrupt. There is no one who does good, not even one” [John 3:32; Matt. 10:22; Phil. 2:21; Ps. 14:3]. Those who are pious and regenerate are acceptable to God and endeavor to show him some obedience to the law, but these universal sayings should not be extended beyond their own society. Augustine had this distinction in mind in his book The City of God, where he proves that there have always been two cities, one the city of God and the other the city of the devil. Therefore, in these general propositions we must always give due consideration as to which class or group of men they refer.



More to come! (DV)

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