Walking Among the TULIPs: Reformed Theology in John Series (Part Three)

By Colton Corter

Unconditional Election (1)

There have been glimmers of election, or predestination, so far in this series as we’ve examined the doctrine of total depravity. These doctrines are not unconnected but entirely dependent on each other. We begin again in John 4. Jesus is talking to the woman at the well about the water that never ceases to satisfy, that is, Christ Himself. Christ is explaining that there is coming a time when Jew and Gentile will worship God for a common salvation by grace through faith in Christ. “True worshipers,” Jesus says will worship God “in spirit and in truth.” Then John writes a critical three-letter word: “for.” These worshipers will come, “for” God is seeking such people to worship him (v. 23). For this reason people with come forth. It is the seeking of God that will create worshipers. Notice that God is not seeking people who worship Him. If that were the case then He would search in vain. God is seeking those to worship Him. God stands as the reason people will worship Him. God is seeking a people for Himself.

John 5:21 is the next verse to consider. Jesus says that He does nothing of His own accord but only what the Father shows Him (v.19). There is here this inter-connectedness between the first and second person of the Trinity. God is supremely satisfied in the Son and shows Him all that He does (v. 20). Verse 21 says that God raised the dead and gives life. Christ says in the same way He too gives life. We must establish what it means here that God “raises the dead.” Clearly God raised those physically dead to physical life (Luke 7:11-17, 2 Kings 4, John 11, etc.). Context, however, demands the giving of spiritual if, not physical. Christ goes on to talk about judgment (v.22), which is obviously not the anti-theist to physical life. Moreover, belief is in view here. Verse 24 says that all who believe have eternal life. Eternal life is contrasted with spiritual death. It is Jesus who gives life to whomever He will (v. 21). Verse 21 reads: “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.” The decision is Jesus’ decision. Whoever has spiritual life has it because of God’s good will and pleasure. What accounts for some receiving it and not others? It is purely due to the grace of God, finding absolutely no outside motivation. God’s election separates the alive and the dead.

Unconditional Election (2)

Jesus calls all to come to Him in John 6. These doctrines should never be used to dissuade someone from coming to Christ. All that want to come may come and never hunger or thirst again (v.35). But why do some come and others do not? Is it because they have a greater appetite naturally for bread and water? The answer is given by the text of Scripture in verse 37. Jesus will never turn one away and the reason that they come and find rest is because the Father has given them to Christ. See again the reason why some come and others do not. The gospel offer is free to all who come. But we have seen that man is unwilling and unable to come. God in His grace causes His own to come forth upon hearing the word of truth (James 1:18). We can be comfortable in calling men and women to repent and trust in Christ as Lord, Savior and Supreme Treasure without compromising Reformed belief. We must know that we only come because we have been given to Christ.

This theme is repeated later in chapter 6. Verse 65 reads: “And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” These hard sayings were not just hard today. The disciples were stumbling over these doctrines of God’s sovereignty saying, “who can listen to it?” in verse 60. The flesh cannot perceive such things and indeed is no help in coming to see these truths as beautiful. It is the Spirit who gives life (v. 63). It is at this juncture in the text where verse 65 sits. Just before it in verse 64 the reader is told that Jesus knew who would and would not believe beforehand. Christ is God and God is not surprised by anything but is instead the sovereign, holy Lord of all. He knows this because He knows those who have been given to him by the Father. Those who are able to see are those who have been granted sight by the Father with no help of the flesh (v. 63, 65). Only those who the Father gives may come. How radically dependent we are on the monergistic work of God, conceived before the earth had its form.

We quickly revisit John chapter 8. Here again Jesus is telling the Jews they do not believe because they are of their Father, Satan. At the end of this section, Jesus says, “whoever is of God hears the words of God.” The end of verse 47 says that the reason they do not hear the words of God is because they are not of God. It is, once again, important to delve into the logic of what is being said here. Conclusions will never be made rightly upon a poor reading of Scripture. Do people hear, thus making them “of God?” This cannot be. The reason they hear or do not hear is because they are of God or not of God. The reason for their not hearing is that they are not of God. Being of God is equivalent to being of the elect. This is determined ahead of time. One cannot make himself of God. But if he is of God he will hear the words of God.


Colton Corter is a graduate student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. You can follow him on Twitter at @coltonMcorter.

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