John 6:44 is usually emphasized against the understanding
that human beings have the ability to choose a saving faith in Jesus Christ.
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 6:44)
This view makes two presumptions: 1) Jesus is speaking of all non-Believers and 2) a
literal interpretation of the word "draw;" in which human beings are so depraved that God must drag one to Jesus
in order to be saved; it is God who initiates a faith that saves. But, when one takes this view, he is left with
the conundrum of explaining how God does this; there aren't any passages in the Bible that explain how God
"drags" one to or gives faith.
In a later passage, when a bewildered crowd hears the voice of God from heaven, Jesus explains the purpose
of God's message and predicts His death.
And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.
Here Jesus indicates that after His death, which inaugurates the New Covenant, He will draw
all men to Himself. If, from His time of death, Jesus draws both non-Believers and Old Testament Believers to
Himself, then it would seem that the interpretation of John 6:44,
that God draws non-Believers to Jesus today, is incorrect.
With this understanding, John 6:44 poses an interpretive
problem, and the presumptions that underpin the view that God draws one to Jesus need to be re-examined – that
a) Jesus is speaking of non-Believers and b) using the word "draw" in the literal sense.
For centuries, many notable theologians have presumed that Jesus is speaking of non-Believers
when He responds to the grumbling Jews in John 6:44. That Jesus
says that He draws all men after His crucifixion in John 12:32
is almost universally ignored.
Another notable observation that is usually missed is that
John 6:44 is part of a chiasm
(John 6:35-51), which provides clarity to the passage. When
examining the chiasm of John 6:35-51, it becomes apparent that
Jesus is contrasting two sets of people: the non-Believing Jews and the Believing Jews (genuine Old Testament
Because the New Covenant has not been ratified with His sacrifice of atonement, Jesus'
statement of "no one can come to Him unless the Father draws" is operating under the Mosaic Covenant, which is
consistent with the distinction of Jews being made in the chiasm. See the article
"The Bread of Life Chiasm in John 6:35-51."
Examining the chiasm further, "all that the Father gives Me"
(John 6:37, 39) and "everyone who has heard and learned from
the Father, comes to me" (John 6:45) are references to genuine
Believers under the Mosaic Covenant, God's holy people and His own possession
(Ex 19:5; Deut 7:6;
This view provides a better understanding of Jesus' answer to the Canaanite woman, "I was sent
only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt 15:24).
This fascinating periscope is examined in the article
"The Canaanite Woman and the Lost Sheep of Israel.
The Canaanite Woman and the lost sheep of Israel brings up a worthwhile question: what did Jesus mean when
referring to "sheep?"
Within the context of the first century, Jesus used "sheep" to figuratively refer to Old
Testament Believers, those who had a genuine faith in God and were faithful to the Mosaic covenant, as He
ministered in the Temple, synagogues, and Jewish gathering places. This is apparent when Jesus is speaking to
I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father
knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this
fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.
(John 10:14-16, etc.).
The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, "How long will You keep
us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not
believe; the works that I do in My Father's name, these testify of Me. But you do not believe because you are
not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them,
and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me,
is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one."
(John 10:24-30, etc.).
It is when speaking in the context of the eschatological future that Jesus uses "sheep" to
figuratively refer to all Believers including New Testament Believers of today
When making a distinction between the Old and New Testament Believer, there are several questions that come
into view when Jesus' atonement initiates the New Covenant. What happened to Old Testament Believers who never
met or heard Jesus? What about new coverts to faith in God and sacrificed in accordance to the Mosaic Covenant?
As early as three years within His crucifixion, the account of Jesus' death and resurrection
and His gospel was documented and being shared.
Well before the apostle Paul's death in 67 A.D., his epistles were being circulated.
Significant in that his work comprises roughly a quarter of the New Testament, the former Pharisee Paul is
perhaps the most important interpreter of Jesus Christ's teaching.
A few decades after Jesus' death and resurrection, the Temple is destroyed (70 A.D.) and ends
any possible compliance to the Mosaic Covenant. Without any reconstruction of the Temple, no sacrifices of atonement
can be conducted and so ends the existence of the Old Testament Believer.
There are several examples of this transition for a Believer under the Mosaic Covenant to
the New Covenant, and God used angels and the Holy Spirit (Author of the Old Testament or presence) to bring
Old Testament Believers to Jesus. In many instances, God’s identification of His Son Jesus as the Messiah is what drew Believers.
The shepherds were visited by angels and informed of the birth of Jesus
(Luke 2:8-14). Apparently aware of Messianic prophecies, they
wanted to see the baby Savior and praised God (Luke 2:15-20).
Simeon, looking for the Messiah, receives the revelation from the Holy Spirit, that it is
the baby Jesus (Luke 2:25-32). Around that same time, the
prophetess Anna, presumably receiving an indication from God, knows that the baby Jesus is the Savior
The early disciples, aware of the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament and the
testimony of John the Baptist, recognized the Messiah when they met Him
The Centurion who, because he loved God's people and paid for the building of a new
synagogue, was likely an Old Testament Believer. However, did he (or could he) go to the Temple to make
sacrifices in accordance to the Law? Nevertheless, he heard about Jesus' divine ability to heal, recognized
that He was God, and was lauded for his faith (Luke 7:1-10).
The Gentiles at Pisidian Antioch presents an interesting case of conversion. In this
instance, the Bible states that "as many as had been appointed believed," which suggests divine appointment
(Acts 13:11-48). There are several lines of evidence that
supports the idea that these particular Gentiles believed in God and were considered Believers under the
a) They met in the synagogue on the Sabbath and their number prompted the Jews to become
jealous of the apostles Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:44-45).
b) One week earlier, the apostle Paul addressed the congregation as "Brethren, sons of
Abraham's family and those among you who fear God," and it was these people who begged both Paul and Barnabas
to speak again at the next Sabbath (Acts 13:26, 42-43).
c) When the covenant with Moses was made, there was never any mention of eternal life.
Because of their genuine faith under the Old Covenant, these believing Gentiles were appointed to eternal
life as promised by Jesus Christ whose crucifixion initiated the New Covenant.
Lydia, the Gentile seller of purple fabric, was a worshiper of God. Because of her faith,
God enabled her to respond to the Good News that the apostle Paul was sharing
The natural meaning of John 12:32, that Jesus draws,
makes sense when the term "draw" is understood figuratively (in contrast to the literal view). Throughout
the New Testament, agape love is emphasized as the basis of moral behavior. Believers, indwelt with the
Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:6-7;
Phil 1:19; 1 Pet 1:11),
represent the Jesus that both non-Believers and Old Testament Believers see; it is agape love that attracts
(the figurative meaning of draw) non-Believers to Jesus Christ.
For God so loved (agape) the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that
whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world
to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he
who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten
Son of God. (John 3:16-18)
And He said to him, "‘YOU SHALL LOVE (agape) THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR
HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second
is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE (agape) YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' On these two commandments depend the
whole Law and the Prophets." (Matt 22:37-40)
A new commandment I give to you, that you love (agape) one another, even as
I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you
have love (agape) for one another. (John 13:34-35)
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in
heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with
you always, even to the end of the age." (Matt 28:18-20)
So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept
declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea,
and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.
For this reason some Jews seized me in the temple and tried to put me to death. So, having obtained help
from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and
Moses said was going to take place; that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection
from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles."
During the transition period between the Old and New Covenant, there are several examples of how Jesus
draws people to Himself.
Witnessing the Day of Pentecost, devout Jews (OT Believers) of many nationalities listened
to Peter's sermon on Jesus' death and resurrection and many came to faith in Jesus Christ
Whether these Jews were genuine OT Believers or not, some 5,000 came to faith in Jesus
Christ after Peter's sermon on Jesus' death and resurrection
(Acts 3:11 - 4:4).
The Ethiopia eunuch was reading the Old Testament and came to faith in God when Philip
"preached Jesus to him." (Acts 8:25-37)
Although Cornelius was a Gentile, he was likely an Old Testament Believer, because he and
his family was devout, feared God and prayed. When Peter preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ, Cornelius and
other Gentiles present come to faith and get baptized
(Acts 10:1-48). It is this incident in which the apostle
Peter realizes that the Good News is also for the Gentiles.