Sermon: John 6:41-48: No One Can Come Unless the Father Draws

Sermon Audio

Reading of God’s Word

“So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They said, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?’ Jesus answered 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. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.” (John 6:41–48, ESV)


Our family as been reading, rather slowly, through C.S. Lewis’, The Chronicles of Narnia. We get to it once or twice a week, and we are currently in the middle of the second book in the series called, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.  This is the one that was made into a motion picture a number of years ago – perhaps you’ve seen it.

I would imagine that most of you are somewhat familiar with Lewis’ work. These books are, of course, fictional.  But they are filled with Christian symbolism. It’s hard to miss, I think.

In this particular book there are four children: Peter, Susan, Lucy, and Edmond. They are staying at a large home in the countryside and come upon a wardrobe which leads into another world. It is a frozen world with talking fawns and beavers, dwarfs, and great white witch.

I obviously will not take the time to tell the whole story, but I do want want to say a word about the way that Lewis develops his characters.

It it obvious, at least at this point in the story, that there is division that exists between the children.  Peter, Susan and Lucy seem to be of a particular spirit – they are generally nice children. But Edmond seems to be of another kind. He is portrayed as being rather nasty. He lies to the others. He is cruel to his younger sister, Lucy. He seems to look out only for himself.

Edmond’s wickedness is apparent, not only because of the way that he treats his siblings, but also because of the things that his heart is drawn to – the things he loves.

All of the children have, at this point in the story, encountered the witch, either by meeting her face to face or hearing about her from others. The three are of the opinion that she is indeed wicked and to be avoided and feared. But Edmond is drawn to her. He insists that she is not really bad, as all of the creatures in Narnia say.

Consider also that when the name Aslan is mentioned for the first time – Aslan being the one who will represent God in this story – we are told that,

“a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment that the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different… At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside… Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.”

But Edmond felt something different. We are told that, at the name of Aslan, he “felt a sensation of mysterious horror.”

Edmond, at this point in the story, is portrayed as a cruel young man. He is rather fond of the witch. And the name of Aslan fills him with dread.

But there is one other thing to notice about Edmond as it pertains to our study of John 6 today.

Edmond is portrayed as sensual young man. By that I mean he is driven and controlled by his senses. He seems to live for fleshly, worldly, pleasures.

When he first met the witch she acted in a most cunning way. She asked the boy if he was hungry. Of course he was. He was wandering in a frozen wilderness. She asked him if would like something to eat. His food of choice, as it is for most children, was a dessert – he asked for Turkish Delight. And so she gave him a whole cake, several pounds worth. The more he ate the more he wanted. It was the best thing he had ever tasted! He ate the whole thing.  When it was gone, he desperately wanted more. But the witch would not give it.

She promised that if he would go and get his siblings and bring them to her house she would give him more. She spoke to Edmond saying,

“It is a lovely place, my house… There are whole rooms full of Turkish Delight, and what’s more, I have no children of my own. I want a nice boy who I could bring up as a Prince and who would be King of Narnia when I’m gone. While he was Prince he would wear a gold crown and eat Turkish Delight all day long.”

Your are beginning to wonder what this has to do with John 6.

I actually hope that it is clear.

The way that Lewis describes his characters in this wonderful little story is not all that different from the way that the crowd of John 6 is described.

The multitude of men and women following after Jesus in the wilderness seems to have much in common with this boy, Edmond.

They too are sensual. They want more bread! They want power and prestige!

Instead of being drawn to the name of the Eternal Son of God, the true and heavenly bread given by the Father, they are offended by him. They find his words repulsive.

We are beginning to see in John’s gospel that Jesus is a divisive figure. Some are drawn to him, but others find him offensive. By the end of John 6 we see clearly that, not only do some reject him – most do.

“When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’” (John 6:60, ESV)

“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” (John 6:66, ESV)

The question that looms large as we consider this narrative is this: Why do these not come? Why do the majority of these men and women remain in their unbelief?

This passage gives a most direct answer to that question. The answer, to borrow the language used in Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3, is that those who reject Jesus have been born of the flesh only, and not of the Spirit of God.

Verses 41-42: they have been born of the flesh 

That they have been born of the flesh only is evident as we consider verses 41-42.

Vs. 41: “So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They said, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” (John 6:41–42, ESV)

It is obvious that they have been born of the flesh in that they are living and breathing. This is what it means to be born of the flesh. All who are born into this world are born of the flesh.

And what to the scriptures tell us about the condition of all those born according to the flesh?

“What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”” (Romans 3:9–18, ESV)

That they have been born of the flesh only is evident given the way that they respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

How do they respond?

They grumbled because he claimed to be bread that came down from heaven.

They could understood his human origin, but could not comprehend his divine origin.

They grumbled. This should remind us of the people of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness under Moses.

“All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”” (Exodus 17:1–3, ESV)

“Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?”” (Numbers 14:1–3, ESV)

“And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, “How long shall this wicked congregation grumble against me? I have heard the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me.” (Numbers 14:26–27, ESV)

Just as many in Israel who were under the Old Covenant did not have faith, but grumbled, so to this multitude, though they were externally following Jesus, did not believe in him from the heart.

Paul hones in upon this same principle and makes application for us.

“For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” (1 Corinthians 10:1–11, ESV)

Verses 43-46: they have not been born of the Spirit

That they have not been born of the Spirit is clear from Verses 43-46.

Listen to Jesus’ words concerning them.

Vs. 43: “Jesus answered them, ‘Do not grumble among yourselves.’” (John 6:43, ESV)

D.A. Carson:  “The grumbling was not only insulting, but dangerous: it presupposed that divine revelation could be sorted out by talking the matter over, and thus diverted attention from the grace of God. ‘So long as a man remains, and is content to remain, confident of his own ability, without divine help, to assess experience and the meaning of experience, he cannot “come to” the Lord, he cannot “believe”; only the Father can move him to this step, with its incalculable and final results’ (Lightfoot, pp. 160–161)”.

Do not grumble amongst yourselves. It will do no good.

Vs. 44a:“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 6:44a, ESV)

What needs to happen in order for these people (or anyone, for that matter) to come to Christ and to believe in his name is for the Father to draw them to the Son.

Remember that a connected idea has already been communicated in verse 37: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37, ESV)

So we have already been told, in positive terms, that everyone given to the Son by the Father will come to faith in Christ. And everyone who comes to faith in Christ will certainly be saved – none will be lost.

Here the idea is stated in a negative way: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…” (John 6:44a, ESV)

The teaching is that no one is able to come to Christ unless the Father draws that person to Christ.

To state it another way, it is impossible for someone to believe in Christ, to trust in him for salvation, unless the Father has given that person to the Son, and draws that person to Christ.

The word translated “draws” is really quite strong. It’s basic meaning is this: “to pull or drag, requiring force because of the inertia of the object being dragged—‘to pull, to drag, to draw.’” (Louw Nida 15.212)

It appears six times in the New Testament, five of those occurrences being in John. Bedside this passage it also appears in:

John 12:32: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people [all the peoples of the earth – Jew and Gentile] to myself.” (John 12:32, ESV)

John 21:6: “He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.” (John 21:6, ESV)

John 21:11: “So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn.” (John 21:11, ESV)

John 18:10: “Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)” (John 18:10, ESV)

Act 16:19: “But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers.” (Acts 16:19, ESV)

The word is rather strong, then. It speaks of the need of God the Father to effectively bring sinners to faith in the Son. Without that drawing, wooing, effective calling – whatever you want to call it – no one will be saved.

As you know many professing Christians struggle with this teaching. They claim that it is unfair and unjust for God choose some our of the world for salvation. Their opinion is flawed for a number of reasons.

One, they have thrust upon God their opinion concerning what is right and wrong for him to do.

Two, they have underestimated the severity of our sin. We cannot say that we deserve God’s love and mercy. He would be right and just to judge all. In his mercy and grace he has determined to save some.

Three, the teaching of election is just to clear in the scriptures. It is clear in this passage that God has given some to the Son. Those given to the Son will come and be raised up on the last day. And they will come as the Father draws them to the Son, and thus to himself.

Notice that this is a not a drawing that everyone experiences. Were it something that everyone experience, then everyone would be saved given that it is perfectly effective. According to verse 44, those drawn by the Father are certainly raised up on the last day.

We are not told exactly how the Father goes about drawing people to himself in this passage. The rest of John makes it clear, though. The rest of John is clear that it is the Holy Spirit who draws.

That is what Jesus said to Nicodemus. John 3:3, 5-7:

“Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God…’ ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:5–7, ESV)

This is what Jesus says later in the gospel. John 16:7–8:

“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:” (John 16:7–8, ESV)

And it is in the following passage as well.

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all…” (John 6:63a, ESV)

The drawing of the Father is done through the power of the Holy Spirit.

In verse 45 Jesus shows that this was promised from long ago.

Vs. 45a: “It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ (John 6:45a, ESV)

This is a quotation from Isaiah 54:13. Here that prophet speaks of day when all of the children of God will be taught by God. This is important for a number of reasons.

One, it tells something about how the Father draws sinners to himself. He teaches them. Sinners are brought to faith in the Son through the proclamation of the gospel, through the teaching of the word. The Spirit of God himself opens blind eyes and enlivens dead hearts so that the word of God might be received. God draws us to himself through teaching us his words.

Two, this quotation from Isaiah 54 is significant in that it brings to remembrance the promise from long ago that the day was coming where all of the covenant people of God would know God and be taught by him. You see, although the Old and New Covenants are indeed connected, there are also differences. One of the major differences is both believers and non-believers were rightly said to a part of the Old Covenant. Jacob and Esau were both under the Old Covenant. They were both circumcised, and rightly so. But God loved Jacob and hated Esau. As we consider the multitude that followed Moses out of Egypt and into the wilderness we would have to say that, though some believed, many did not – they grumbled and complained against God – but all of them were under the Old Covenant. The males received the sign of the covenant, circumcision, and rightly so. They were apart of the covenant community even if they did not believe – many were circumcised according to the flesh, but not according to the heart.

Jesus is here saying that the time has come, just as Isaiah had promised, where all of the children of God would know him truly and from the heart. It is those who believe in Christ who are apart of the New Covenant, made in Christ’s blood. This is why we give the sign of the covenant – baptism – to those who believe, and not to our children as they did with circumcision under the Old Covenant.

Three, this quotation from Isaiah 54 helps us to understand why Jesus sent these men and woman away. Think of it! Jesus and Moses are compared with one another throughout this text. Moses put up with the grumbling and unbelieving multitude there in the wilderness. They were allowed to go on eating the physical bread, though many who ate did not believe. They drank from the rock with hearts of unbelief. The nation of Israel was preserved through them so that the Christ might come. But now that he has come, Christ does not receive these unbelieving ones as apart of the covenant community, but rather he sends them away. “Jesus answered 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. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—” (John 6:43–45, ESV)

Notice the confidence of Jesus in verse 45:

Vs. 45b: “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—” (John 6:45b, ESV)

The gospel has been preached to the multitude. The free offer of the gospel has been given, Jesus has said to them again and again – come to me, believe, partake, eat, drink, be satisfied. He has said this, not to a few, but to all. And now he confidently says, “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—” (John 6:45b, ESV)

All have heard the gospel with their physical ears. Is is those who hear the voice of the Father in those words by the power of the Holy Spirit who will come.

This is what Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 2:!4: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14, ESV)

And then in verse 46 we read these words:

Vs. 46: “not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.” (John 6:46, ESV)

Some have been puzzled concerning the meaning of this verse. I think it is important. There has been all of this talk of the Father drawing people, the Father teaching people. Here it is clarified that the Father is in fact drawing and teaching through the Son. It is Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God who comes from God, having seen God as he is, and therefore, Jesus Christ is uniquely qualified to reveal the Father to us. The Father draws through the Son and by the Spirit.

So what have we learned so far?

As Jesus interacts with this crowd he teaches that some have been given by the Father to the Son. They will come to him. They will believe in him. They will by no means be lost. They will be drawn to faith in the Son, by the Father, through the word of the Son, and by the power of the Holy Spirit. They will be raised up on the last day.

This is doctrine of election, or predestination. The is the doctrine of irresistible grace. This is the doctrine of the perseverance, or preservation of the saints. It is here in no uncertain terms.

I find it interesting that one of the complaints that I often hear from those who deny the doctrine of predestination is that the doctrine has a way of killing evangelism. The rational is that if some are predestined by the Father, and if they will indeed come, then why preach?

Tell me, what do you notice about this entire dialogue between Jesus and crowd as it pertains to evangelism, or the free offer of the gospel? What is Jesus constantly urging people to do? He is urging them to believe! He is offering the gospel freely! He is saying, come to me, partake, believe.

Verses 47-48: Notice that Jesus still offers himself freely in the gospel

Notice in verses 47-48 that Jesus still offers himself freely in the gospel.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.” (John 6:47–48, ESV)

From beginning to end Jesus is compelling the crowd to come, to believe, to have faith in him. He offers himself to them as the bread of life. He pleads them with to partake.

This makes it clear that a biblical understanding of the doctrine election is by no means opposed to the free offer of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Christ himself is our model. He, in the same dialogue, managed to do both. He taught that some were given to him by the Father, and also continuously compelled the crowds to come.

Application and Conclusion

Present the gospel freely.

Pray for the lost and for your own soul.

Are you ruled by the flesh or the Spirit? Walk by the Spirit.

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warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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