44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.
There are two sides of salvation: (1) God’s role and (2) man’s role. No one can come to God by operation bootstraps. Man has been so degraded by both his sin capacity and acts of sin that he stands alienated from God. He does not have a natural disposition to believe in Christ. He needs God to break through his unbelief.
44 No one can come to Me
The hard-hearted Jews in this context could not come to God on their own. They needed divine enablement. Jesus said that it is possible for people to “come” to Him (Jn 6:35) but they cannot do it on their own. There is a qualification—an “unless” in the next phrase.
The phrase “no one can come to Me” is a negative corollary to verse 37: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” It is also a corollary to verse 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.” In these verses man receives something “from heaven,” from the Father; that is, by receiving Jesus we have eternal life.
The words “no one” refers to anyone who may approach God, not a select few previously predetermined by God.
People ensnared in unbelief are hopeless unless God Himself takes the initiative for their salvation.
People do not have the ability to embrace Christ on their own. Man does not have the capacity to come to Christ on his own. Man’s impotence about Christ lies in his will and attitudes about Christ. He is fundamentally alienated from God. There is a natural estrangement from God and belief in Christ from birth.
Why can Christians claim that what they believe is true? Everyone begins with an assumption (presupposition) about what they believe. The philosopher begins with the assumption that he can come to truth by reason. The scientist begins with the belief that the physical is where reality can be found. The skeptic begins with the assumption that truth cannot be found. Why should any assumption beginning with finite man be reliable? Finiteness cannot come to infinite ultimate truth because its limitations keeps one from it. Choice of any assumption by finite man will always be arbitrary.
Christians do not begin with a finite assumption. They begin their thinking with an infinite, eternal, omniscient God. Only God can give a human an infinite perspective on truth. Man is epistemologically at the mercy of God revealing Himself. God must take the initiative in our ability to know anything eternal. That is why we have the next phrase—“unless the Father who sent me draws Him.” It is God who initiates our fundamental assumption about what is true. Most people begin with their finite and arbitrary assumption about God; Christians begin with response to God’s initiative.
You may want to skip the following statements if you are not philosophically oriented.
Ultimate Truth can only be attained if a special revelation from God be granted. Converts from one worldview to another are seldom made by demonstrating that one philosophy is more coherent than all others. Coherence is relative to the assumption adhered to. All philosophical systems begin with postulates of some kind.
Man’s natural reason is subject to certain limitations. Man is in no position to understand what the biblical option is. Man is not self-sufficient, so it is of no use to present him with options as if he were.
Christianity is the most coherent worldview if the assumption of special revelation be granted. Authority of revelation is made known supernaturally, not naturally. It is God the Holy Spirit who changes it from a dead option to a living reality. In the last analysis, our message is self-authenticating!
Every worldview is experiential, that which enters the conscious life. The Christian worldview begins with a vital experience. This experience is not grounded in the natural order but in God Himself working through the Holy Spirit. God first takes the initiative to reveal Himself. Therefore, human reason apart from the work of the Holy Spirit is unable to bring a person to God. No man comes independently to God.
We must distinguish between reason and rationalism. Reason: Intellectual faculty; objective logic (according to Aristotle) can help to attain ultimate truth. Reason is the chief means to determine what is true. Rationalism: The belief that man can attain truth apart from God’s revelation through reason.
Rationalism is subjective, for the individual is the authority. There are as many rationalistic systems as there are rationalists themselves.
Rationalism does not examine the claims of revelation but begins by setting up categories that would preclude its possibility.
In Christianity, faith and reason are not separated but are related in proper order. Evidence confirms the faith. We believe in order to understand. Only God can speak for God. Therefore, man is epistemologically under the absolute control of God.