I recently had a discussion with a good Christian brother about election. He was of the opinion that “whosoever wills” must be a cardinal part of his own salvation. Of course, from a classic reformed perspective, we differ on that point. There are many places in Scripture where we learn about God’s sovereign election, but for me, the most poignant and explicit example is here:
Joh 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
Joh 6:45 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–
Joh 6:46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.
Joh 6:47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.
Joh 6:48 I am the bread of life.
Joh 6:49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.
Joh 6:50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.
Joh 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
Joh 6:52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Joh 6:53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
Joh 6:54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
Joh 6:55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
Joh 6:56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.
Joh 6:57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.
Joh 6:58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
Joh 6:59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
Starting from the end of this passage, and seeing to whom Jesus is talking in v52, the learned Jews in the synagogue, it is quite incredible. Because if there was ever a group of people who had all the information at their disposal to make a “decision for Christ”, then they were it.
But it is impossible for anyone to come to salvation in Christ unless God draws them by way of an internal regeneration. And here was a group that had studied the prophets, v45, and seen what they had to say, probably all their lives. They had Jesus Himself bringing them the gospel, and doing so in no uncertain terms.
Yet they did not believe. Later on the chapter we see that even some of His disciples turned away after hearing this sermon. God’s election remains sovereign. No amount of synergism can substitute that. Being dead in sin, man can do nothing to raise himself from the dead, yet Jesus here promises that those whom the Father has drawn to Him will be raised from the dead.
I think Jesus is not only talking about the end-times here, but also of the last day of the unregenerate persons life. That is the day when He will raise up those who are His, sovereignly.
There are no conditions, those who have been drawn to Him will spiritually partake in His blood that has been spilled, and His body that was broken, as our substitution on the cross. That sacrifice was made with man not understanding that he even needs a perfect atonement, and can therefore have no part in his own salvation.
In summary, if those, who had been students of the Scriptures for all their lives and read all that the prophets had to say, and heard the gospel in person, could not help themselves get saved, then what chance does anyone have, outside of the sovereign action of God?