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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • Rev. David Thommen (URC)
  • John Hendryx
  • Marco Gonzalez

    We are a community of confessing believers who love the gospel of Jesus Christ, affirm the Biblical and Christ-exalting truths of the Reformation such as the five solas, the doctrines of grace, monergistic regeneration, and the redemptive historical approach to interpreting the Scriptures.

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  • « Understanding 2 Peter 3:9 by Pastor John Samson | Main | The Strong Hold of Ecumenicalism: Ecclesiological Chaos By Marco Gonzalez »

    The Jesus Syllogism

    A Biblical Reflection on John 6 by John Hendryx

    According to Scripture, all persons have a knowledge of God (Rom 1:21), but not all persons know Him in the same way. Some people know Him as a friend, but others know Him only as an enemy. These are, by nature, hostile in mind toward Christ, suppressing the truth in unrighteousness (Rom 1:18), because they love darkness and hate the light (John 3:19, 20). The question I want to put before you to contemplate today is why is it that some persons see the beauty and excellence of Christ, knowing Him as a friend, while others find Jesus and his promises of grace so repulsive, remaining His enemy? What is it that makes people to differ in their response to the promises of the gospel?

    The purpose of this short essay is to show from Scripture a discussion Jesus had in his time on earth where he unequivocally asserts that it is grace alone that makes persons to differ in our response to the gospel; whether we believe it, or reject it. And to drive this point home we will show how Jesus insists that UNLESS God grants His invincible grace no one would ever believe the gospel ... yet ALL persons to whom he grants this same grace will believe unto eternal life.

    I have written about this passage before but to those who have not considered Jesus discourse to the Jews in John 6, I would encourage you to take the time to reflect on it today. We find out that, when speaking to the Jews, Jesus uses a syllogism that leaves no room for human boasting. Defined simply, a syllogism is a logical formula consisting of two premises and a conclusion which follows of necessity from them. It is a combination of two judgments infallibly necessitating a third judgment as a consequence of their mutual relation. A simple example of a syllogism is: If all humans are sinners, and all Greeks are humans, then all Greeks are sinners.

    You ask, what does this have to do with Jesus?

    In John chapter 6, in the context of Jesus’ calling the Jews to believe the gospel about Himself and their resulting unbelief in Him, He presents them with the following two simple yet profound statements, which, when applied together necessitates the conclusion that saving grace is always both invincible and indelible. He claims that those to whom, in due season, the Spirit regenerates will infallibly believe the gospel. Grace and faith, therefore, are not the same thing, and when it comes down to why some have faith and not others, Jesus emphatically comes down on the side of grace. What I call “the Jesus syllogism”, where He authoritatively communicates this truth, should end all arguments about this issue. it can be found in the midst of his discourse with the Jews in John 6:37 & John 6:65 where He says:

    “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” ( 6:37)
    ”… no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." ( 6:65)

    To give context to these texts, just prior to verse 37 he says, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.” Here we observe that Jesus uses the phrase “believe in me” and “come to me” interchangeably. In fact this is the case with these phrases throughout Scripture. With this in mind, In the context of unbelief in John 6:64 Jesus issues a UNIVERSAL NEGATIVE“... no one can come to me UNLESS God grants it. Since the phrase "come to Me" is spoken of all over Scripture as a synonym of believing on him, in John 6:65 Jesus is telling us that “no one can believe on Him UNLESS God grants it. Only the Spirit gives life (6:63). But in John 6:37 (the same dialogue) Jesus likewise issues a UNIVERSAL POSITIVE with the same concept. He says “ All that the Father gives to me WILL COME TO ME ”

    So if we look at what Jesus explicitly teaches concening who will believe (by putting these two concepts together) He says, no one will believe in Me unless God grants it, and ALL to whom God grants it will believe. Jesus, using a syllogism, is making sure that no one thinks that anything apart from grace is what saves them. That even the very desire for faith that we have is a gift of God. This is profoundly important because it creates the inescapable conclusion that the quickening grace of God is invincible. This is why just prior to saying “no one can come to me UNLESS God grants it”, Jesus says, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail.” This means that it is the Spirit who quickens, raises our dead spirits to life, makes us born from above (john 3:3, 6). The flesh, not referring to our physical bodies, but to our bondage to the corruption of our sinful natures, means that the sinful nature can do nothing of any redemptive good, including believe the gospel. How do I know this is what it means? Because the entire context on both sides of this verse is Jesus speaking of the Jews unbelief. Faith, He is saying, is not a product of our unregenerate human natures. It is, rather, the Spirit alone who can give life to our dead souls that we may believe. Jesus is telling the same thing to Nicodemus in John 3, using the same type of language. In verse 6 Jesus tells him, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” And unless one is born this way he can neither see nor enter the kingdom of God. Jesus never gives Nicodemus an imperative (command) to be born again, but instead, tells him what must happen to him for eternal life to be a reality. Belief springs from a change of nature, for the old man considers the gospel foolish and thus cannot comprehend it (1 Cor 2:14).

    I have heard preachers say to people, “all you need to do is believe” as if this were the easiest thing in the world, but the natural man is unwilling to submit to the gospels' humbling terms. It is the massive affront to our pride to believe that we have no hope save in Jesus alone. We see this at work in this passage when, at the end of John chapter six many of those who previously were with Jesus left because his teaching was too hard and only the twelve were left. Peter confesses belief however, and Jesus responds, “…have I not chosen you?” But what is so hard about this that everyone else leaves Jesus? Hard because the gospel of grace alone strips man of all hope that he could have to contribute something, be it ever so small, to his own salvation. Never underestimate the reality of our sinful nature deceiving you this way. The gospel forces us to see our own spiritual impotence and bankruptcy in contributing anything or even lifting a finger toward our own salvation. But those who do believe the gospel we can know with certainty that the Holy Spirit has quickened them and is doing a work of grace in them. As John says in his first epistle, trusting Christ is the immediate result ot the new birth, not the cause of it:

    “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God” (1 John 5:1)

    It is also important to understand that Jesus “will never cast out [those the Father has given Him].” (John 6:37). This is important because those who reject the perseverance of the saints, believing that Christ does not preserve us to the end, are in effect saying that we must somehow maintain our justification before God. This is to believe that Jesus’ atonement for us is not sufficient for salvation. This is a borderline heretical view akin to what Roman Catholics believe because it makes maintenance of justification/salvation the work of man and not Christ.

    To conclude, Jesus tells us that all those whom God gives to the Son will believe in the Son and no one will believe in the Son whom God does not grant to do so. I bring this passage up to you because it is one of the most forceful passages in all of Scripture relating to the invincibility of saving grace. The grace of the Holy Spirit in regeneration is not only sufficient but efficient, unfailingly bringing about God’s desired result. We may resist the gospel when hearing the outward call and even resist stirrings of the Holy Spirit, but no one resists the inward quickening and call of God (Rom 8:30; 1 Cor 1:22-24). In the Old Testament sometimes God would discipline Israel by telling them their crops would fail even though they labored to sow seed. This is proof that all that we do in this world such as planting crops requires the prior blessing of God if it is to be fruitful. Similarly Paul uses an agricultural metaphor when speaking of casting the seed of the gospel. He says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” This simply means that people need to hear the gospel in order to be saved, but we can preach till we a blue in the face and nothing will take root unless the Holy Spirit sovereignly applies that word to the heart that one might hear.

    To use some biblical imagery, we cast the seed of the gospel indiscriminately because the Holy Spirit alone can “germinate” the word, so to speak, unto life in Christ. The fallow ground of our hearts must first be plowed up by God, for the soil of our heart is not good by nature, but only by grace. The seed will not find good soil until God makes it so. For Ezekiel the prophet says:

    “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

    Notice that in order for obedience to take place the Lord must first cleanse our hearts, put a new spirit in us and remove our hardened uncircumcised heart. No one believes and obeys while their heart is still stone. Our blind eyes must be opened; our deaf ears unstopped and corrupt nature must be supernaturally changed by the Holy Spirit, for man to begin to have any good thoughts about Christ.

    Posted by John on November 2, 2005 08:15 PM

    Comments

    John, A great post. John 6 is a favorite of mine. It fits so well with Ephesians 1 & 2. I might suggest that you clarify identifying verse 37 as a universal positive. I know that you mean universal in the sense of that group of people that the Father gives the Son. But some of our quasi-universalist friends, because your first identified verse 64 as a universal negative of all men, will argue that verse 37 is also all men. Some are so stuck on all meaning all men on every instances that they can't follow the logic.

    John, As always I appreciate your writing - they help refine and reform my thinking.
    I like to know the background of who I am reading - when I click on your name it takes me to your other wonderful site. No where there can I find a profile of you, your church affiliation etc. Can you point us to your profile? Thank you

    John,

    Good coverage of this topic! Your closing remarks about sowing seed remind me of two of Jesus' parables...first, Mark 4:26-29, where we find that the seed, once planted, grows by itself if it's to grow at all. It grows whether or not we understand the workings of it. Second, Mark 4:3-20, the famous parable of the sower. Here I see the "soil" of the soul illustrated in somewhat less stark terms than John 6...whereas John's gospel portrays the soul's condition in more dualistic terms (you can, or you can't), the parable would suggest different levels...some receive the word to a greater extent, and act upon it to a greater degree, even if they ultimately do not preserve.

    John, would you say this is also indicative of differing amounts of grace in a person' soul? John 6 would suggest that without grace, nobody comes; with grace, they absolutely come. Mark paints a more dynamic picture. In fact, I've heard some Catholic arguments that use this parable to illustrate how different people can have differing amounts of grace "infused" into their souls.

    How would you read this parable?

    One more post...
    This morning's broadcast of R.C. Sproul's "Renewing Your Mind" focuses on exactly this matter (and even on John 6). I'd recommend it to everyone who reads this blog.

    You can find it today (11/3) at:

    http://www.ligonier.org/radio/index.php

    Afterwards it will be in the archive for 30 days at:

    http://www.ligonier.org/radio/archive.php

    Bill

    The parable of the soils in Mark ...we would liken the seed to the gospel and the soil to our hearts. The gospel is cast indiscriminately. But only the seed that finds good soil grows to bear fruit. But we must remember that no soil (heart) is good by nature, the farmer must plow up the fallow ground for it to be good in the first place.

    As for the response of other soils, I would liken them to "false positives". The unregenerate mind can understand the outward logic and truth presented in the word of God. But it does not see the good in this truth. It may, for a time, respond carnally to the truth for its own purposes, without any quickening of the Spirit. But when the reality sets in, it withers away because the soil was not good soil. Bad soil is what we have by nature and thus any response to the word by nature is not done in truth ... is not grounded in Christ and ultimately is proved worthless.

    In John 15 Jesus again uses the similar imagery and speaks of those not bearing fruit being cut off, but notice in verse 15, 16 Jesus says "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide" It is what Jesus did that ultimately made the difference in whether the soil bore fruit or not. Other plants were simply false positives. Hope this helps...

    Chris:
    Thanks for your encouragement. My background.... You can find out more here....
    http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/about.html


    Gordon:

    Thanks for your encouragement. The universalist need only look at the passage to see that "all the Father gives to me..." is referring to a limited number out of a group. It does not say, "all men" but all THAT are given HIM.

    If Jesus meant universalism he would not have used this language but simply said everyone without exception will come to me because the Father has given them all to me. But the phrase "All that" explicitily indicates a drawing of some from a larger group. Anyone who would see universalism here, I would argue, is no longer being objective but is has turned to desperation for the sake of their own hermeneutic.

    Great post, John! Could you comment in this context on John 12:32 where the Lord Jesus says: And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself (ESV)? As you'll be aware the universalists use this text as counter-proof.

    Jim K

    Jim:

    Thanks for stopping by ...nice to run into you.

    With regard to the text in John 12, you may want to first notice that I did not use John 6:44 AT ALL in my argument. So if someone were to bring that up in response to what I said, they would be arguing a moot point. I did not even touch the verse which stated that no one can come "unless the Father draw him." That is a good text but it does not affect my argument one way or the other. The arguments which I presented used completely different texts which could be said to speak for themselves.

    As per the text you mention, however, Jesus is not speaking of all men without exception but all without distinction. In another place John says, "You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation."(Rev. 7:9)Thus he speaks of drawing men from all tribes etc...

    One problem that stares us in the face with the universalist interpretation is that so many on earth never even hear the gospel, so how can everyone without exception be draw to him? The Scripture explicitly states that no one can believe the gospel unless they hear the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). So how can the unreached believe without hearing?

    And you will note that the text I used proves beyond any doubt that ALL persons whom God grants WILL believe. This also carries over to all whom God "draws". So the persons who use John 12 would have to deal with the fact that every person God "grants" or "draws" will infallibly believe in Christ. So the universalist Arminian needs to deal with John 6:65 & 37 which prove his interpretation of 6:44 to be wholly inadequate.

    John,

    Thank you very much for your feedback on this. I really like the arguments you brought up. Great points (especially with regards to "the problem that stares us in the face" ). Very much appreciated indeed!
    Jim K.

    Hi Jim, regarding John 12:32 I believe this:

    the word "all" refers here to people of every nation, not only Jews, but also people from other nations, like the GREEKS who had just asked to see Jesus (v.20-22). The Greek people who wanted to see Jesus sent two apostles to inform Jesus of their desire, and Jesus to this request responded as we read in John 12:23-32, saying that he had come to die and produce much fruit, that is, to obtain many people to be saved by His death and resurrection, ALL people: that is, people of every nation in this case (Rev. 5:9, 7:9), also Greeks who were asking for Him.
    Jesus responded to these Greeks by saying that by His death He would have drawn to Him also them. This is the sense of "ALL" people drawn unto Him.

    Just curious...
    Have you found that this line of reasoning convincing with our Arminian brothers? Related question, but not necessarily related to the topic at hand: What do you find to be the most convincing argument/scripture?

    Thanks,
    mike

    Mike:

    That is a great question. May I suggest that Scripture and prayer are a means but only God can illumine the meaning of the text and grant people understanding..

    People tend to deny truths in Scriputre first, not because we lack evidence, but because our hearts are rebellious and proud. So the problem is often moral/ethical first, and then intellectual. Thus as we teach from the Scriputre all people require a work of God to understand and apprehend spiritual truth as revealed in Scripture. Those who know facts, therefore, are not the same as those who forsake trusting in self. We must, therefore, appeal to the entire person and not merely their intellect. Piper once said, "The last bastion of pride is the belief that we are the originators of our faith."

    But the Scripture is the means and the seed alongside prayer which the Holy Spirit uses to illumine our minds the meaning of the text. But I believe we should really work on delivering this with patience, gentleness and respect. Believe it or not, intellectually proving something is true is usually not enough within itself to convince another. Proof often stares people in the face, but their assumptions keep them from believing...so work on their assumptions first. I think 90% of an argument is won with these other subjective factors like our taking the time to care and listen to their concerns. We are usually quick to pull out the proof texts and put up insurmountable barriers with our attitudes. But genuinely loving those who differ and taking the time to listen to them, let them know you have understood what they said, can actually go a LONG WAY in bringing someone to understanding. I have been doing monergism.com for 5 years and do email answers quite a bit. Showing others respect will go a lot further than you imagine. Being right about Scriputre, of course, is central, but it must be accompanied by a patient caring spirit.

    Those who are teachers of I have found are the least likely to cross over. They are too embeded in their church traditions. But most of Evangelicalism is on the fence even though they have synergistic tendencies. Those now considering the issue are the ones to spend time with. Don't waste too much time on those who won't change. But sometimes I will debate hardened Arminians simply so others will see the falacies and inconsistencies of their position.

    There are a lot of texts on calling that I find helpful to show the invincibility of grace...here's one

    In Romans 8:29–30, none are lost. The text is clear in emphasizing those “whom He called, these He also justified.” The very ones God called by His grace were also justified, indicating that the efficacious grace was effective in every person whom God called.

    God's revelation of truth is a humbling experience...why He revealed the doctrine of grace to me and not one of my Godly brothers is in similar vein to why did He reveal Himself to me at all and not my unregenerate neighbour ...I deserved neither revelation ...but I'm eternally grateful for both !

    John
    Great article. Can you explain to me what kind of faith did old testament characters like Abraham or Joshua possess? Is there a difference between old and new testament "drawing" of Spirit preceeding faith?

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