Sunday, April 3, 2011

Scripture Cookie O' the Week - John 12:32

John 12:32 (ESV)
32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

This week’s Scripture Cookie is used by a wide spectrum of Cookiers: from Universalists to Arminians (or other critics of Reformed theology). It has made an appearance in Rob Bell’s Velvet Hell tour in the past month and it is a perennial favorite of those looking for an escape hatch from John 6:44

The verse is from a section of John 12 (John 12:20-36) where a group of Greeks approach Philip (the apostle) and request an audience with Jesus. (This is the source of the saying “Sir, we would see Jesus” [KJV], which is frequently cited by those appealing for a more Gospel-centered preaching ethic.) These were not necessarily ethnic Greeks, but could be some other variety of Gentile (probably what were known as “God-fearers”). Philip went to Andrew with the request, perhaps because Andrew was part of the “inner-four” of the apostles. We aren’t really told if the Greeks were eventually allowed to speak with Jesus.

When Philip and Andrew went to Jesus, He began a short discourse on the necessity of His death and resurrection, and about what it means to follow Him. Jesus reflects on the gravity of what He must soon do. He prays to God the Father, that He (the Father) be glorified and God affirms audibly. Jesus pronounces the impending judgment on the world and Satan and He makes the remark that when He is lifted-up (that is, on the Cross), He would “draw all people to myself.”

The word “people” (men – NASB, KJV) in this context means “all kinds of people”, not every single person that ever lived (or will live). In the original language, the noun people (or men) is actually assumed and the word all depends on context to determine the noun that it describes. This is quite common. One famous passage with an assumed noun to the adjective where the KJV is not quite as clear in its translation is 1 Timothy 6:10 where it states “…the love of money is the root of all evil…” The modern translations will have “…all kinds of evils”, making the self-evident point that the love of money could not be the root of all evils, as there are many evils not related to the love of money.

The Universalist’s (ab)use of this text is obvious: he (the universalist) would want to have Biblical support for the dangerous doctrine that everyone will be saved.

The opponent of Reformed (or Calvinistic) theology frequently appeals to this passage when trying to explain:

John 6:44 (ESV)
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.

The Arminian (or some other flavor of opponent of Calvinism) here would need to drop back deep into the pocket and heave an 85-yard bomb way over to John 12:32 and say “See, He draws all people…and it’s up to the free will of the person to accept or reject the drawing.” But, the context of this verse is clearly related to the appearance of the Greeks (or Gentiles) wanting to see Jesus, not the drawing of every single person who ever lived. The person using John 12:32 in this way would also have to explain how Jesus' original audience in John 6:44 would have been expected to refer to John 12:32 when it did not yet exist.

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