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All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (John 6:37) 

πᾶν ὃ δίδωσίν μοι ὁ πατὴρ πρὸς ἐμὲ ἥξει, καὶ τὸν ἐρχόμενον πρὸς ἐμὲ οὐ μὴ ἐκβάλω ἔξω, (John 6:37, NA28)

Note:  πᾶν is neuter singular -- everything.

All that (παν ὁ [pān ho]). Collective use of the neuter singular, classic idiom, seen also in 6:39; 17:2, 24; 1 John 5:4. Perhaps the notion of unity like ἑν [hen] in 17:21 underlies this use of παν ὁ [pān ho]. -- Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Jn 6:37). Broadman Press.

This question is consistent with the New Testament early Christian theology. For example, Thomas Aquinas:

  1. Perhaps some might say that it is not necessary for one to use God’s gift: for many receive God’s gift and do not use it. So how can he say: All that the Father gives me shall come to me? We must say to this that in this giving we have to include not only the habit which is faith, but also the interior impulse to believe. So, everything which contributes to salvation is a gift of God.
  1. There is another question. If everything which the Father gives to Christ comes to him, as he says, then only those come to God whom the Father gives him. Thus, those who do not come are not responsible, since they are not given to him. I answer that they are not responsible if they cannot come to the faith without the help of God. But those who do not come are responsible, because they create an obstacle to their own coming by turning away from salvation, the way to which is of itself open to all. -- Thomas Aquinas. (2010). Commentary on the Gospel of John: Chapters 1–21 (F. Larcher & J. A. Weisheipl, Trans.; Vol. 2, pp. 26–27). The Catholic University of America Press.

Note on how the verse seems to conflict with itself.

There are difficulties as we try to reconcile the two parts of the verse. But whether we succeed in that or not we dare not abandon the truth in either part. -- Morris, L. (1995). The Gospel according to John (p. 325). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

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  • I think you answered this recently.
    – Dottard
    Jan 15 at 20:13
  • @Dottard Are you thinking of this somewhat related answer? hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/73503/…
    – Perry Webb
    Jan 15 at 20:26
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    Yes - I thought you made a good point about the superficial contradiction between God's sovereignty and man's responsibility
    – Dottard
    Jan 15 at 20:28
  • Be not hearers only but effectual doers of the word. We cannot believe or do unless we hear and that hearing is of the word of God but, having heard, we must do. Jan 16 at 1:14
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    I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt. 12:36–37, ESV)
    – Perry Webb
    Jan 17 at 21:51

5 Answers 5

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Election - The noun προθεσις (prothesis), meaning a public display or a previously hatched plan (or both for the visionary hatcher who is to his own plan also the onlooker). This word describes predetermined designs, plans or determinations of God (Romans 8:28, Ephesians 3:11) or man (Acts 11:23, 2 Timothy 3:10).

Foreknow - Together with the preposition προ (pro), meaning before, in front of: the verb προγνινωσκω (proginosko), meaning to know before or earlier.

Predestined - Together with the preposition προ (pro), meaning before: the laden verb προοριζω (proorizo), meaning to define on forehand, to predetermine.

A distinction must be maintained between election and predestination. Election is the overarching process within which predestination operates. Election is according to God's foreknowledge (bold print) and predestination is accomplished by Divine activity (italics):

Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. - 1 Peter 1:2

and, although predestination is definitely that which will be actively brought to pass, election is according to foreknowledge and not an active limiting beforehand. Those who are predestined (limited beforehand) are not predestined to belief in Jesus but, having believed, they are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ:

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. - Romans 8:29-30

Those whom God foreknows are the elect. God has known in advance their response of faith and has predetermined their conformity to Christ through the sanctification of the Spirit given in the new birth. Having foreknown their faith and predetermined their destiny he called them, justified them, and glorified them.

A believer's initial response resulting in salvation is foreknown, not predestined. Repentance and faith are chosen. Therefore all that the Father gives Jesus will come to Jesus because the Father has given the elect unto him. He gives to Jesus those whom He has foreknown. Election does not invalidate choice, it incorporates choice.

But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. - John 6:64-65

In the verse above Jesus connects foreknowledge of individual unbelief (election) on through the withholding of the giving of the Father (predestination) to the unbeliever not coming to Jesus. Note that it is not the predestination that promulgates the process but the foreknowledge of election.

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  • Would that be true for Israel as well? Did Israel choose to be the Lords people first and then God chose them?
    – Sherrie
    Jan 16 at 15:37
  • This addresses half the question. How about the responsibility for one's actions?
    – Perry Webb
    Jan 16 at 15:51
  • @Sherrie I think the calling of Abraham fits the bill and Isaac was a child of promise to Abraham. The NT makes it clear that not all the natural descendants of Israel are Israel but that True Israel are of the faith of Abraham so the elect remnant of Israel fits the bill as well. Jan 17 at 2:13
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    @PerryWebb Which actions? The response of faith is covered in this answer. Cooperation with the sanctification process certainly makes for smoother sailing but the predestination of conformity to Christ occurs anyway: "He who has begun a good work in you will complete it.". What one chooses for supper seems out of scope :) Jan 17 at 2:17
  • @Mike Borden The God of the people of Israel chose our fathers. Acts 13:17. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them proceeds the human descent of Christ, Rom. 9:5. This was all Gods choice, according to His purpose, He planned every detail out before it happened. Nothing was left outside of His control. All is of God, God's calling, election, predestination is for His purpose of reaching others.
    – Sherrie
    Jan 17 at 7:28
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Definitions according to a hard determinist view of the Bible:

"Choice".

We choose. We choose on the basis of who we are. We do not choose who we are. We are free to be ourselves but not free to be anything other than ourselves. "Choice" is not free choice, it is determined by how God made us.

"Responsible".

Two sorts, ultimate and instrumental:

"All things were created through him and for him" Colossians 1:16. God is ultimately responsible for all things. We have instrumental responsibility as we are instruments of his will. His will is always done as he is preeminent in all things. Colossians 1:18.

[The big objection to this hard-determinist view is that it makes God the author of evil. However if God had a holy motive for creating anything, the thing that He created was always going to be less than Himself i.e. less than holy, eternal and uncreated, since He alone is holy].

"and whoever comes to me". Who are these people?

John 17:2

"since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him". ESV

Whoever comes to Jesus comes ultimately [predestination] because Jesus has authority over all flesh and gives eternal life to whom the Father has given Him. And for this they are not ultimately responsible.

Having instrumental responsibility they will find themselves living the Christian life, feeding on the Word of God, believing, praying etc: but they will do these things because of who they are, not because of ultimate responsibility for who they are.

I think this question probably should have been asked on Philosophy Stack. But I have answered it here, because in Hermeneutics it is very easy, I suggest, to look at the Bible through Libertarian or Compatabilist or Hard-determinist lenses without being aware of the merits of other positions. I'm not telling anyone they ought to think in a particular way, but I think awareness of other positions can enhance our understanding of our own position.

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  • I appreciate and give you credit for your answer, but we do not fully understand God, and some aspects of God our reasoning and logic is insufficient to explain. Thus, the traditional positions fall short of understanding to total picture.
    – Perry Webb
    Feb 1 at 10:23
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Nobody is ever forced to "come to Jesus Christ". Nobody who ever does "come to Jesus Christ" is ever cast away by him, but is accepted by Christ. That is what that verse clearly indicates.

That verse, however, must be read in conjunction with verse 44 - "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." This shows how impossible it is to separate the matter of a person coming to Jesus from the will of the Father. Likewise, Jesus shows that nobody can come to the Father unless he (Christ) enables that person to do so - John 14:6.

Then as the verses continue, Jesus shows the role of the Holy Spirit in all of this.

Jesus invites people to come to him, because his yoke is easy, and his burden is light - Matthew 11:29. Nobody has Jesus' yoke forced upon them, however.

Now, what if a person willingly comes to Jesus, receives Christ by faith , then later reads in the Bible about destination according to God's will? Does learning that God chose him to call him to that destiny before he was even created change anything? It should only change the awe and reverence with which he contemplates God, deepening his appreciation of the wonder of God's grace. Having discovered his destiny is now "hidden in Christ", should learning that he was predestined to that lovely, saved state cause him any doubts about whether he had sufficient say in the matter? Should he start to get worried in case his will didn't count for anything? Why should he, when it remains a fact that he was never, at any point, pressured or forced to come in faith to Christ?

The question makes a note on "how the verse seems to conflict with itself". Well, no, because the note is about the difficulty of the verse, not with any supposed conflict within itself. There is no conflict within Jesus regarding any of the words he said in that verse. The conflict only arises with humans who want to shoehorn their ideas of how important it is for them to have "sufficient say" in the matter of salvation, so that they can remain satisfied that it was truly up to them, and their own idea of "free will".

In conclusion, the indication of that verse must include the logical point that, given nobody is forced to come to Jesus, then nobody is forced to reject Jesus. Once the starting point for grasping the meaning of Jesus' words is Jesus himself, and not our own opinions or suppositions about how important our views of free will are, progress can be made. Salvation begins with God and what he says about it, not with us and what we say about it. That has to be the starting point for making responsible choices - what God has already revealed to us. Difficult though that is to the imperfect, sinful human mind and heart, it's the only starting point that will open up God's gift of salvation.

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Can Father bring somebody to Christ without Christ co-acting in this bringing? If Father cannot even create the world without His Logos co-creating, how can Father bring anybody to His incarnate Logos, Jesus Christ, without the Latter co-bringing?

Thus, Both Father and the Son co-act in bringing a man to Their faith, for who has the Son has also the Father and vice-versa (1 John 2:23) and therefore Both should be worshiped in equal terms (John 5:23).

This having been established, we can take heed of not infecting the understanding of God with a notion of a divine caprice of choosing some and not choosing others, with a looming heresy of the double predestination of Calvinism and Jansenism.

Thus, when God attracts a human to His faith and worship, of course He will never fail this man, unless this man himself will fail himself through his own abuse of freedom and succumbing to sin.

Actually, does not sin ruin our relationship and intimacy with God? Yes, it does, and this ruin is nothing else than being cast away from God, of which the causes are we and not God.

What is an ignoble and loathsomely naive (I mean not a permissible and lovely naiveté of child, but an impermissible and loathsome naiveté and infantility of an adult) in the Calvinist position is an assumption of some sort of a magic that regardless what a Christian will do or choose, he will still be saved because God will not belie His own promise, as if he takes God as a hostage so that He is necessitated to save him even if he starts loving his own sinful desires more than God. But this is a schizophrenia, unfortunately adhered by some Christian sects.

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  • As someone who studies the easter church fathers, isn't it true that they did not see a conflict between predestination and free will. That came with the emphasis of cause and effect in modern science, which leaves no room for free will and causes philosophers to struggle. Is it not God's sovereignty that creates our ability to choose rather than interfere with it?
    – Perry Webb
    Feb 24 at 23:59
  • @PerryWebb The fathers hold that God predestines all to salvation, for the very purpose of creating man (every man) is to provide him eternal happiness. But we can ruin His plan for us by abuse of will. Why does He at all create those whom He knows will abuse their free will to the point of perishing eternally? - it is a moot point. He continues to love unflinchingly even those who cast themselves out from Him, even Satan, for He can’t help loving His creatures, even those who become His, or rather, their own enemies through abandoning the Source of their happiness - God. Feb 25 at 0:07
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Dottard's comment mentions that this previous answer points out the problem human reasoning has with seeing superficial contradiction between God's sovereignty and man's responsibility: 1 Timothy 4:10; is the Will of the Father to save all Human beings?

The following answer is related in discussing this apparent contradiction: Exodus 9:12, How is it accepted that the LORD hardens the heart of Pharaoh, then Punishes him for that?

C. S. Lewis gave the moral argument for God's existence in Mere Christianity. Human responsibility is a key part of that argument. Essentially, why do people feel morally responsible for their actions? When comparing God's sovereignty to an atheistic view of a cold godless universe, God's sovereignty allows much better for human responsibility. Think of a parent raising children. Parents discipline children to get them to do what's right, but a good parent's gold is for children to learn what is right and make responsible choices to do what is right on their own. Good discipline doesn't take away that responsibility (Heb. 12:5-11).

More Commentary

(7) At the back of the whole process is God. It is those whom God has given him who come to Christ. God not only provides the goal; he moves in the human heart to awaken desire for him; and he works in the human heart to take away the rebellion and the pride which would hinder the great submission. We could never even have sought him unless he had already found us. (8) There remains that stubborn something which enables us to refuse the offer of God. In the last analysis, the one thing which defeats God is the defiance of the human heart. Life is there for the taking—or the refusing. -- Barclay, W. (2001). The Gospel of John (Rev. and updated., Vol. 1, pp. 253–254). Saint Andrew Press.

.37-38. To “come” to Christ (cf. v. 35), it is necessary that one be brought by the grace of God. Christ will not reject from the Kingdom of God those who accept this grace. This is so because he does the work of the Father (cf. 5:19).39-40. The effect of this will of God being executed by Jesus is not only that those who believe may be safe in the Kingdom of God, but that they shall possess it for all eternity in the final resurrection. Though Jn’s Gospel emphasizes eternal life as a present reality, the Evangelist, as we have seen (see comment on 3:17, 18), never departs from the concept of final eschatology here represented in Jesus’ words (cf. 44, 54). -- Brown, R. E., Fitzmyer, J. A., & Murphy, R. E. (1996). The Jerome Biblical commentary (Vol. 2, p. 437). Prentice-Hall.

The flow of the verse is then as follows: All that (a singular neuter is used to refer to the elect collectively) the Father gives to Jesus, as his gift to his Son, will surely come to him; and whoever in fact comes (by virtue of being given by the Father to the Son), Jesus undertakes to keep in, to preserve. The second part of the verse moves from the collective whole to the individual, and from the actual coming (consequent on being part of the gift) to preservation. This interpretation is suggested by the verb ekballō, ‘drive away’ or ‘cast out’. In almost all of its parallel occurrences, it is presupposed that what is driven out or cast out is already ‘in’. ‘I will never drive away’ therefore means ‘I will certainly keep in’. This interpretation, however strongly supported by the verb, is required by the context, the next three verses. -- Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John (p. 290). Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.

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