32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” 33 This He said, signifying by what death He would die.
And I [emphatic], if I am lifted up from the earth,
The “I” is emphatic, carrying the idea that the “lifting up” was an exclusive work of Christ and no one else.
The lifting up from the earth was the placing of Jesus upon the cross. This does not refer to His ascension but to His crucifixion. The word “and” means that the lifting up was part of the casting out of the devil.
will draw all peoples to Myself.”
The point here is not that everyone would have eternal life. Jesus previously said that some would be lost (Jn 5:28-29). The Father’s drawing was indiscriminate in that He convicts every person about the need to accept Christ as Savior (Jn 6:44). Jesus’ “lifting up” as the decisive point in history has drawing power. This drawing is not irresistible.
The verb for “will draw” is used six times in the New Testament, four literal and two metaphorical.
Its literal use is found once in Acts 16:19 and three times in John. The verb is used in Acts for Paul and Silas being “dragged” into the marketplace. The gospel of John uses “draw” five times, using it literally three times: (1) for Peter drawing his sword in 18:10, (2) for the disciples’ inability to haul in their net due to so many fish in the net in John 21:6, and (3) for Peter dragging a fishing net ashore in John 21:11.
The two metaphorical uses are in John 6:44 and our verse here in 12:32. The Father “draws,” or convicts, influences a person to come to Himself in John 6:44. The idea of “draw” there is not force but enablement. “Draw” indicates that people cannot autonomously come to Christ; they need to be drawn by God because of the influence of sin on their lives. No one can come to the Father on their own initiative; it takes a supernatural work of God on their hearts to bring them to the point of decision.
In John 6:44 it was the Father who drew, but here it is Christ who does the drawing. Jesus draws people to Himself. Christ will draw all men not by compulsion but by inward conviction. He does this universally, for everyone.
However, we should not interpret this to mean that God’s drawing in chapter 6 or Jesus’ drawing is irresistible. The drawing in this verse is not for a few but for “all,” Jew or Gentile. Everyone will be drawn to the cross without exception. God is interested in more than the Jew coming to salvation.
“All men” is a sweeping concept. We need to be careful about what these two words mean. It could mean any ethnic or race can come to Christ. This idea is supported by the context that argues that Gentiles can come to Christ. The idea would be “all kinds of people” will be drawn to God. In any case, there is no indication that only the elect will be drawn to God. Jesus will draw all people to Himself by means of the cross. This includes not only all kinds of people but absolutely everyone without exception.
Neither does this phrase promote any form of universalism. The context deals with Jesus’ rejection of His coming as a conqueror. The word “all” is to be interpreted in the light of the belief of some in Jewish nationalism. This chapter says that Jesus welcomes Gentiles (non-Jews) to come to Him. Jesus is open to anyone to embrace His salvation. The invitation to come to Christ is universal, but not everyone will be universally saved.
If this passage does not mean either that God draws only the elect to Himself or that everyone will become believers, what does it mean? The idea is that God sovereignly convicts the entire world about the need for believing on Christ. This is called in theology the doctrine of concursus (concur). God so interacts with man that He sovereignly influences and brings to bear ideas and actions on the will of the individual so that he or she has a maximum opportunity to accept or reject Christ as Savior. No one can come to Christ capriciously or strictly by their own initiative. There is a supernatural dimension to salvation; it is not simply a human choice.
We see this in John 16:8-11, where the Holy Spirit would convict people about coming to Christ after He was ascended. John 3:14-15 declares that the lifting up of Jesus on the cross gives eternal life to “everyone who believes.”
This He said, signifying by what death He would die.
The kind of death Jesus would die was by crucifixion.
There is a supernatural dimension to becoming a believer.
People do not naturally come to Christ; they must be “drawn.” Jesus draws, not drives, people to Himself. Apart from God drawing, no one can come to Him. All are drawn; there are no exceptions. However, being drawn does not mean that people will embrace Christ as their Savior. They were convicted by the Holy Spirit, but they may have positive or negative volition toward God. I will develop these ideas more in the next study.
If you want more information on the doctrine of concursus, go to this study: http://versebyversecommentary.com/articles/doctrine/concursus/gods-decree-and-free-will/