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I've done a decent amount of study from theologians and teachers of the Word regarding John 6:37-40, I've even studied it apart from the teachers. It seems most apparent and obvious that Jesus will succeed in losing none out of all that the Father gives to Him for eternal life (John 6:40). Most people will assume passages in Hebrews contradicts this, I've researched the arguments either for or against perseverance there, but we are not talking about Hebrews right now. My question is: How can we interpret Jesus' confidence and words in John 6:39 from the Greek text? I am asking specifically with reference to Jesus saying He "should lose nothing/will lose nothing" quote

Some translations make it seem like Jesus is saying "Well, things should turn out this way, but they might not, in John 6:39.

A good example of this is to compare the NKJV which has the word "should" which might be supplied from the Greek text to the English for clarity?

"All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” NKJV (New King James Version)

On the other hand the LEB translation says:

"Everyone whom the Father gives to me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never throw out, 38 because I have come down from heaven not that I should do my will, but the will of the one who sent me. 39 Now this is the will of the one who sent me: that everyone whom he has given me, I would not lose any of them, but raise them up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks at the Son and believes in him would have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” LEB (Lexham English Bible)

Yet again, the NASB makes Jesus sound even more confident:

"And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of everything that He has given Me I will lose nothing, but will raise it up on the last day." NASB (New American Standard Bible)

So how do we understand our Lord?

  1. "I should lose nothing"
  2. "I would not lose any of them"
  3. "I will lose nothing"
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3 Answers 3

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Answering your question isn't easy based on the Greek grammar and this passage alone.

I should lose nothing (μη ἀπολεσω ἐξ αὐτου [mē apolesō ex autou]). Construed with ἱνα [hina], “that I shall not lose anything of it.” Ἀπολεσω [Apolesō], from ἀπολλυμι [apollumi], can be either future active indicative or first aorist active subjunctive as is true also of ἀναστησω [anastēsō] (from ἀνιστημι [anistēmi]), “I shall raise up.” -- Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (John 6:39). Broadman Press.

Future active indicative eliminates uncertainty, while first aorist active subjunctive allows for uncertainty. However, in 6:37:

I will in no wise cast out (οὐ μη ἐκβαλω ἐξω [ou mē ekbalō exō]). Strong double negation as in verse 35 with second aorist active subjunctive of βαλλω [ballō]. Definite promise of Jesus to welcome the one who comes. -- Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (John 6:37). Broadman Press.

In 6:35:

Shall not hunger (οὐ μη πεινασῃ [ou mē peinasēi]). Strong double negative οὐ με [ou me] with first aorist (ingressive) active subjunctive, “shall not become hungry.” He that believeth on me (ὁ πιστευων εἰς ἐμε [ho pisteuōn eis eme]). The continuous relation of trust after coming like πιστευητε [pisteuēte] (present tense) in verse 29. See both verbs used together also in 7:37f. Shall never thirst (οὐ μη διψησει πωποτε [ou mē dipsēsei pōpote]). So the old MSS. the future active indicative instead of the aorist subjunctive as above, an even stronger form of negation with πωποτε [pōpote] (1:18) added. -- Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (John 6:35). Broadman Press.

Thus, even if the verbs are subjunctive in 6:39, the way John used subjunctives in this passage doesn't leave much room for uncertainty. I interpret Jesus' statement as being certain in 6:39, but recognize that the grammar here is not completely certain and can be taken otherwise.

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Jesus can afford to be very confident!

Paul was also,

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, 5in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. 6For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work among you will complete it by the day of Christ Jesus. Phil 1:2-6

Whoever Jesus receives from the Father, the Father is underwriting the success of this transformation venture. Evil has not chance at wrecking this gracious work done in those God calls to Himself through His son.

This is not a guarantee from our side, but from God's. Can we choose to jump ship? We only have a deposit of His spirit now and we wait for the time to be filled and to leave mortality behind at Jesus' return so we still have freewill. But only to the point that we are totally undeceived which is unlikely in this age.

We are not earning salvation - it is by grace within the sacrifice of Jesus for all. Can those truly called and sanctified by God really jump ship? Can they really abandon God and His promise in Christ? Yes, but it would seem so only if they didn't have it to start with. Clearly, many will think they did, believe they did - so did the goats!

Yet in the grace of God, there is another time for all to come to repentance - even the goats perhaps... no. not second chance - a first chance where they truly know God and are set free from deception of religion and worldly attractions that masquerade as truth and light.

So how do we understand our Lord?

He is confident - so should we be. His confidence is - as it was from his youth, in his God and Father. As the firstborn of many brothers (Rom 8:29), he looks forward to seeing them join him in eternity with God. God isn't called Saviour for nothing!

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus 1Tm 2:3

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We have a similar situation in Matt 18:14 -

In the same way, your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

Can we understand that no child who grows up will be lost and perish? Clearly not! Let us also examine 2 Peter 3:9 -

The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise as some understand slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance.

Indeed, God's will is that all come to repentance and that none perish. we see this in other places as well such as 1 Tim 2:3, 4 -

This is good and pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

In John 12:32 we have another example:

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth [ie, crucified], will draw everyone to Myself.”

Again, this has clearly not happened. God's will does not force the will of man but coaxes it.

Clearly, not all will be saved because the Bible has many references to the wicked finally being destroyed, Ps 37:28, 92:7, 94:23, Prov 14:11, 2 Thess 2:8-10, Matt 5:29, 30, 10:28, 2 Peter 2:3, 3:6, 7, Rom 9:22, Phil 3:19, Ps 68:2.

The pattern is clear - the fact that God the father will something does not mean that a person is forced to do something. God willed that no sin enter the world but it did.

Thus, when we read in John 6:39 and 40 that God the Father did not want Jesus to lose any of the disciples, that did not force any of them to obey - Judas did not and was lost.

The operative word in John 6:39 is θέλημα (theléma) which expresses a person will or desire or wish. This what many verse translate as "God's will" might be better translated, "God's desire or wish". As shown in the examples above, this would better fit the context.

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  • Check your hermanutic with Judas, Judas was never saved: “But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve. John 6:64,70-71
    – Cork88
    Jan 18 at 16:45
  • “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” John 17:12
    – Cork88
    Jan 18 at 16:46
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    Here's how I see the seeming contradiction: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/59785/…
    – Perry Webb
    Jan 19 at 0:43
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    @PerryWebb - Thanks for pointing this out. It is indisputable that God knows who will be saved and lost. A very good school teacher can predict at the beginning of the year who will pass and fail. In both cases, that does not affect the will of the person else we have God creating people to be damned - that turns God into a sadistic monster!
    – Dottard
    Jan 19 at 1:30
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    @Cork88 - I was not even awake when you wrote the question and answered at the first available chance.
    – Dottard
    Jan 19 at 20:12

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