No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 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— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.John 6:44-47
Isaiah prophesied, “And they will all be taught by God.” Jesus picks up on this truth to instruct his disciples on what must occur for someone to come to Jesus. Jesus taught them that they could not do what was necessary to bring anyone to Jesus. It applies to us as well. We cannot do anything to make someone believe the gospel.
Whether you are an Arminianist or a Calvinist, no one comes to Jesus except the Father draws them. Nothing could be plainer. It doesn’t matter if you are the greatest evangelist of all time. No one comes to Jesus unless the Father draws them. The beauty of this is that it is the same for “ordinary believers.” The process is the same. No one comes to Jesus unless the Father draws them.
Now, what about this phrase, “And they will all be taught by God?” For years it puzzled me. I wasn’t sure who the “everyone” was. I now understand that it refers to every believer. The next phrase in this verse is critical to understanding what Jesus is teaching; “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father…” This means that people are individually taught by God the Father. It doesn’t matter how good of a theologian one may be; a theologian cannot bring someone to Jesus. They have to be drawn by the Father. An excellent theologian may present a flawlessly orthodox presentation of the gospel, but if the Father isn’t drawing someone, they will not come to Jesus. The corollary to this example is that if a brand new ordinary believer with minimal training in the gospel shares God’s story with someone who the Father draws, and they hear and learn from him, that someone will come to Jesus. Jesus gives this guarantee, if someone has heard and learned from the Father, they will come to Jesus, guaranteed.
This truth is both encouraging and humbling. It is encouraging to the novice believer who loves Jesus and wants to share Jesus with their unbelieving friends. If the Father is drawing those unbelieving friends, and as the novice believer shares God’s gospel story, they hear and learn from the Father, they will come to Jesus. It doesn’t matter that the one sharing is a novice believer.
The humbling side of this truth is that no matter how educated in theology, education means nothing in bringing people to Jesus if the Father is not drawing them and they are not hearing and learning from the Father. Years of theological education and denominational ordination or other ecclesiastical honors are meaningless if the hearers only hear the preacher and not hear the Father. This theologian will be fruitless. This is humbling to those who have spent a great deal of time, money, and effort to gain a theological education and ecclesiastical honors to realize that their efforts are wasted if the Father is not drawing those who hear. The listeners are not hearing the Father.
I am not saying that a top-notch theological education is wrong or a waste. In fact, I deeply appreciate the ministry of my brothers, who have acquired such proficiency. Many have been of great help to me.
Does this mean I can do nothing to affect the salvation of my friends and family? No.
The work of believers, whether novices or advanced theologians, is prayer. Prayer for the salvation of friends and family is essential to the process God has designed. This is one of the mysterious things about the kingdom of God. God can do anything he wants, but he has ordained to not do many things without his children’s participation, who are a kingdom of priests. As priests of the kingdom of God, we are to intercede for the salvation of others. We are to pray that they will fall in love with Jesus. Where Satan has blinded the eyes of the unbelieving, we are to pray that God will open their eyes to the truth of the gospel so God can teach them.
We have been given the most powerful weapon on earth, the power of prayer. I know this sounds unbelievable. If we are honest with ourselves and God, most of us don’t believe what I just wrote. Oh, we don’t deny it, but when it comes right down to it, we don’t believe it. How do I know? Because if we did believe it, we would be doing a lot more praying, and prayer would be the first line of action, not the last thing we pursue in a time of need. I confess that this is a problem for me as well. I have been changing my heart and mind and have watched God do some amazing things in answer to prayer. Big things. Actually, I guess in one sense; prayer is not the weapon; God is. Prayer is our means of calling on God to do his omnipotent thing. He is the omnipotent one, not we who pray. We have been commanded to pray, and when we pray to do it in faith. We will move figurative mountains as we pray in faith.
When we pray, God speaks, and unbelievers learn. As a result, they come to Jesus. As we read God’s word with unbelievers and ask simple questions like, “What did you learn about God?” And, “If this is true, what must change in your life because of what you learned?” They will begin to be discipled into Jesus as the Father teaches them via the Holy Spirit. They will then learn from the Father and come to Jesus.
Am I saying we should not teach sound doctrine? Not at all. But, sound doctrine should be taught after someone has come to Jesus. We don’t give a T-Bond steak to a newborn baby. It gets mother’s milk. The steak comes later in life when they can digest it.
People can discover God in the Bible without a “teacher.” The Holy Spirit is the teacher that matters. We can have human teachers, but as above, it will be useless unless God is teaching in the learner’s heart. Unfortunately, excellent preachers with wonderful seminary degrees preach great sermons week after week, and no one comes to Christ. Why? Because God is not teaching the listeners. Why not? Based on my years of observation and experience, I think most cases result from one or two things. Many preachers and their congregations are essentially prayerless. The other is the problem of disobedience. We regularly train believers to be disobedient. Not on purpose, of course, but we do it nonetheless. Anytime we teach God’s word and don’t expect obedience, we are teaching disobedience. We are saying that obedience to God isn’t important. Both of these issues are huge problems in the American church. We need to do much repenting in America and begin to pray and be obedient to God’s word.
God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.2 Timothy 2:25-26
Obedience to what little we may know of God’s word is more important and more powerful than disobedience to the knowledge of God’s word that comes with a Seminary Ph.D. God wants more obedience rather than more knowledge. Of course, ideally, we will have lots of knowledge and obedience to all of it (to the extent that complete obedience is even possible with us pre-resurrection folks).
Pray for the Father to teach your family and friends who do not know Jesus. If they hear and learn from him, they will come to Jesus.