Tom Dyba | Category: Sunday Follow-Up; Theology for Life
Does a fisherman woo fish? Does a sword get wooed out of its sheath? Eight different uses in the New Testament of the word "draw" brings us to the same conclusion: If God does not create new life in the heart of a sinner, conversion will not happen.
In the middle of what is commonly called the Bread of Life passage (John 6:35-54), Jesus makes the startling declaration that “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” That is so very similar to what Jesus had said to Nicodemus in chapter three: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." Both statements affirm that salvation is solely of the Lord. Both statements highlight our inherent inability to come to Jesus and be saved unless one is born again, or unless the Father draws him. As you know, the word “can” has reference to ability, not permission.
Of course not everyone agrees with what I just wrote concerning our natural, moral inability to be saved. Some take a very different view of John 6:37. I hesitate to create in a straw-man version, but I do know that so many so us have heard something like this interpretation of the verse: “See? The Father draws us to Christ. That means he 'woos' us. The Holy Spirit is a gentleman; He doesn’t force Himself on anyone.”
When the Holy Spirit regenerates us He gives us new desires. Perhaps we had previously scoffed at faith in Jesus, and now we long for a deeper and firmer faith. If He had not done that work in me – or in you – because of His own sovereign choice, I would still be in my sins – as Jesus said; I have no ability of my own. Paul writes in Titus 3, “[W]hen the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy.” At every point we see that “salvation is of the Lord.”
But, what about that word “draws”? Does it really mean “woo”? I have found that most often the best way to understand the semantic range of a word is to see how the New Testament (and yes, sometimes the LXX, a.k.a, the Septuagint) uses the word in other cases.
The root Greek word used here is helkuo, and (fortunately for our short word-study here) is only used eight times in the New Testament. The first occurrence is here in John 6:44. The second is John 12:32: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."
It is easy to be distracted by the “all people” phrase, and I do wonder what someone who brings it up is trying to prove. Let me take this moment to warn them not to try to prove too much, or put too much stock in a face value reading of this phrase. I know for a fact, and you do, as well, that not all people have been drawn to Jesus, and no Arminian could disagree. So, don’t try to pack too much with that “all people” nomenclature.
But to our point, an Arminian would look at “draw” in John 12:32 and give it the same meaning as in 6:44; meaning Jesus will “woo” everyone to Him. In my mind, when I hear the word “woo”, I think of a man courting a young lady: opening doors for her, bringing flowers, and doing everything he can to entice her to return his love. My online dictionary supports that view: “to try to make (someone) love you.” This puts the power of responding to wooing in the control of the one being wooed.
And of course, this usage also puts the final decision as to whether a person will follow Christ or not wholly within man’s ability, a doctrine many are willing to accept despite a host of scriptures which deny our ability to make a righteous choice, such as Titus 3: 5, Romans 3:10-11, and Ephesians 2:1-10, which affirm that the entirety of the saving work done for us and in us is all done by God.
However, my interest here is simply to look at the Biblical uses of the word helkuo to determine whether or not “woo” is the correct understanding. I have already shown you two examples of the eight occurrences, here are the other six:
John 18:10 "Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant and cut off his right ear."
John 21:6 "He said to them, 'Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.' So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish."
John 21:11 "So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish."
Acts 16:19 "But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers."
Acts 21:30 "Then all the city was stirred up, and the people ran together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut."
James 2:6-7 "But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court?"
In each case I have underlined the word that is translated from helkuo. I wonder if the fish caught in the net felt they were being “wooed” to the shore. Do you think Paul and Silas would describe the angry mob as “wooing” them into the marketplace and before the rulers? Even Peter drawing his sword shows that the sword is being acted upon. This is the critical point. This is what is happening in John 6:44 & 12:32 as well. When the Father and the Son “draw” people to come to Jesus, those people are not being “wooed” or courted or enticed to come to Jesus; they are being acted upon by the Holy Spirit Who regenerates their hearts. Being born again is of primary importance, and must happen first because we do not have the ability to make a righteous choice in our natural state.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3)
From the adult Sunday School teaching, 3/13/16
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