Jesus’ words are not always easy to understand, and today’s reading is proof. What we want to be careful of is that we don’t take any of His words and extract a doctrine that contradicts the rest of Scripture. Those who are always attempting to persuade others of their aberrant doctrines rely heavily on Jesus’ difficult-to-understand or vague statements as their “proof-texts.”
John 6 is a favorite of Calvinists, for example, because they find a few verses that seemingly support a few of their five cardinal doctrines. But they must exalt those verses at the expense of many other verses in which Christ is quoted saying things that contradict Calvinist doctrine.
An example of this would be John 3:37. There Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me.” “See,” Calvinists say, “God chooses people for salvation before they are saved, and those whom He chooses He gives to Jesus, and then they come to Jesus.” Calvinists read so much more into Jesus’ words than what He said. If I said, “All the new employees whom the boss gives to me will come to me,” does that prove that the new employees had nothing to do with the fact that they work for the boss? Of course not. The boss can only give to me those new employees who first applied for a job! What Jesus said in 3:37 does not nullify individual free will in salvation.
Within the context of John 6, it is obvious that Jesus was offering salvation to everyone in the crowd that day. He said to them, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you” (6:27). Jesus undeniably offered eternal life to all of them.
In His very next sentence, Jesus told them that the means to eternal life was faith in Him (6:29), again implying His universal offer. But, quite amazingly, the same people who had eaten a miraculous meal the day before then asked Him for a sign in order to believe in Him! And they mentioned how Moses had provided manna in the wilderness. They wanted more food!
Jesus reminded them that it was not Moses who provided them bread the day before, but it was His Father who gave them “the true bread out of heaven” (6:32). Clearly, that “true bread” was Himself, and take note that Jesus said to the unbelieving crowd that His Father was giving them that true bread (6:32). The Father was giving Jesus to all of them so that they could have eternal life by believing in Him. In fact, Jesus declared that He was the true bread who came from heaven to “give life,” not just to them, but “to the world” (6:33). That’s everyone.
The crowd then asked Jesus for that true bread, not understanding that it was Him (6:34). So Jesus explained Himself again: “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst” (6:35). Again, His universal offer of salvation is implied. Then He said, “But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe” (6:36). Clearly, He expected them to believe in Him. But they didn’t, and He found fault with them for it. This sure doesn’t sound like Calvinism!
Finally, in the very next verse, He said what Calvinists rip from its context: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (6:37). Was Jesus contracting everything He had just said? No. Obviously, those whom the Father gives to Jesus are those who believe in Him. He only grants believers the privilege of coming to Jesus (6:65). That anyone can believe in Him is underscored even more in the verses that follow (6:40, 47, 50-51, 54, 58).
No unregenerate person can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him (6:44). That does not prove that God only draws a few. Jesus later said, “If I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:32).