Bread of Life vs Mans’ Free Will

by cominus 

This is excerpted from and taken from the passage in John chapter six, where Jesus explains He is the Bread of Life. In this passage, many of His followers – professing Christians, if you will – were stumbling over His sovereign claim, His claim to Diety or His claim to be the means for man to have eternal life. The problem is man rejects God’s sovereignty; the natural man sees himself as sovereign. He will exalt man but refuses to exalt God.

This lessons is from John 6:35-71.

Jesus told the people (v35-36): 1) whoever comes to Me shall not hunger; 2) whoever believes in Me shall never thirst; and, 3) you have seen Me, yet you do not believe. After this, did He plead? did He beg the people to pull off their blinders and receive the truth? No. He explained to them all whom the Father has given Him will come to Him (v37). Even though man is admonished to come, the decision is not left to freewill; it is left to the Father’s choosing – “All the Father gives me will come.” [v37].

“Whoever comes to Me, I will never cast out.” [v37] This phrase is thrown around like a promise while evangelists plead with the people to come forward to receive Jesus Christ. However, this is not even close to the meaning Jesus intended. This promise applies to those God has given Him as expressed in the first part of this verse. So, this coming is not self-motivated. Neither is every soul the evangelist can convince to come forward in a meeting given by God. Coming to the Son is more than mere willingness and God does more than stimulate a man’s emotion – He motivates the entire will of the one who is chosen. In essence, Christ told the people, “You don’t believe but I am here for those whom the Father has given Me. They will believe and I will turn none of them away.”

When it comes to witnessing, we use Jesus’ example: In verse thirty-six and seven He told the crowd they had seen Him but still did not believe – just like He told them it would happen – because they were not chosen. Christ did not beg people to come to Him. He declared the truth and let the Father bring them. So too, we declare the truth knowing God will draw those who are His. We don’t need to beg or plead and we need not worry that our witness is ineffective if no one appears to listen. God calls us to stand and He will determine the harvest.

Why Jesus came down from heaven (v38):
1) He did not come down to do His own will (for His own glory);
2) He came down from heaven to do the will of the Father;
This is the will of the Father (v39-40):
1) Christ should lose none of all the Father has given Him and shall raise them up on the last day;
2) Everyone who looks at the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life and Christ will raise him up on the last day.

Jesus intended to make His point stick.

In verse 36 and 37, He told the crowd they did not believe but He had come for those whom the Father had given. In the next three verses, He doubled down: He explained He did not come to win their favor: 1)He was not there for His own will or glory but 2) He came to do the will of the Father.

The will of the Father was that He should lose none of those the Father had given Him (see also 17:2). And, how was He going to accomplish this? It is unspoken here, but as He told Nicodemus, He came to die for mans’ sins (3:16).

That He told the people He will raise the believers up on the last day, was a warning – a warning of the judgment to come. At the end, He affirmed, once again, almost as if to offer them the opportunity to repent, that everyone who looks to Him will have eternal life and will escape the judgment on the last day.

The people did not flinch.

A quick outline of what is to come:
1) The Jews grumbled about Christ. He told them to quit grumbling because they are not going to believe unless the Father draws them. Then He continued to explain to them He is the bread of life.
2) The Jews argued angrily because Jesus said, “This bread is My flesh.” Jesus doubled down again, claiming He gave them His flesh to eat and blood to drink and without it they cannot have eternal life.
3) Now many of His disciples began grumbling and turning away. So, Christ confronts the professing believers and tells them there are some who do not believe.
4) Many of His disciples turned back and would follow Him no more. Jesus asked the twelve if they were going to leave with the rest of the disciples. When the twelve responded that He had the words of eternal life, He assured them He had chosen them and, even then, one among them would betray Him.

It is interesting, in this section where the people have clearly refused to believe (v41-71), Jesus did not pass up the opportunity to address what appears to be their exercise of freewill. He began His admonishment to the crowd by clarifying they cannot come to Him unless the Father draw them (v44) and He ended His comments assuring those who remained with Him, they had been chosen by Him (v70).

After Jesus claimed to be the Bread that came down from heaven and that He had come to do the will of the Father and the will of the Father was that He should lose no one who had been given to Him but would raise them up to eternal life on that last day, the Jews grumbled. Christ’s response to the grumbling was to tell them to stop grumbling because they cannot believe unless the Father draws them. In other words, He told them it was pointless to complain against His claim to be the Son of God because they were not chosen and they will not be a part of those who are raised up to eternal life on the last day.

Remember the audience was composed largely of people who were following Him and many in the crowd were professing believers; some claimed to be disciples, but not of the twelve. There are a lot of professing Christians today who are not chosen, also. It would be well for us to remember Christ’s warning not everyone who claims His name will be saved (Mat 7:21-23). Also remember the Apostle Paul’s warning to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith (2Co 13:5). There is more to believing than the mere profession that one believes Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

In the outline above, notice the progression: 1) the Jews grumbled… 2) the Jews argued… 3) many of His disciples began grumbling… 4) many disciples turn back and follow Him no more… Do you see this happening around you? Do you find yourself weakening in your resolve to stand for the truth because the world is wearing you down? The crowd following Jesus was almost certain He was the Prophet that was to come but as the non-believing segment began to complain, those who believed – but were not chosen – were swept along with the complaints. If you find yourself swept along by the logic, reason or complaints of the world, examine yourself to see if you are in the faith.

Jesus explained the verse: “And they will all be taught by God.” [Isa 54:13, see also Jer 31:33]. First, He explained those who are chosen – those who come to Christ – are instructed by God – God draws them (v45). They don’t see God; only the Son has seen God (v46) but the Father draws them, the Son receives them and they have eternal life (v47).

Once again, what is believing (v47-51)? Jesus said He is the Bread of Life and He explained to the crowd their forefathers ate manna – a physical bread – but they died. Then He continued by explaining the bread that came down from heaven, which is He, came “so that one may eat of it and not die.” [v50]. And, just so the people understand the importance of this statement, in the next verse, He repeats His claim to be the Bread of Life, come down from heaven and that if anyone eats this bread he will live forever. The physical bread does not give life but everlasting life is found in the spiritual bread, which is Christ. Or, as He said in Mathew 4:4, man does not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. In this context, believing is looking beyond the physical needs of today and how to satisfy them; clinging to the words of God that give eternal life.

“And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” [v51]. During the Last Supper, Jesus broke bread and said, “This is My body which is given for you…” [Luk 22:19]. The bread is symbolic of His flesh which He gave, of His own accord, to die for sinful man.

Romans chapter five and 1Corinthians chapter fifteen explain how sin entered the world through the disobedience of one man and how life came to the world through the obedience and sacrifice of one, Jesus Christ.

In Matthew chapter thirteen and Mark chapter four, Jesus explained the purpose of parables was so that the people might see and hear but not understand – lest they should turn and be saved. Clearly, the masses were not chosen to be saved. And here we see another example of clearly misunderstanding the words of Christ: For when Christ said the bread He gave for the life of the world was His flesh (v51), the Jews twisted this to mean Christ’s words were promoting cannibalism (v52). This may have been a clear misunderstanding or it may have been a deliberate twist to create division within the crowd.

Nonetheless, what was Christ’s reaction? Did He say, “Wait, wait, you don’t understand.”? Or did He rephrase what He said so that it would be more palatable to the people? No, He did not. Instead, He doubled down on His claim and reaffirmed, with double emphasis, if they did not eat His flesh and drink His blood, they had no life but those who do will be raised up for eternal life on the day when all the rest are judged (v53-54). Those who are not chosen are unable to understand the truth.

Those who try to conform Scripture to be palatable to the hearer err on three accounts:
1) they fail to follow the example of Christ. When confronted by grumblers, He did not change His message – in fact, He emphasized those parts that were the stumbling stone to the people;
2) they err in doctrine because they change the message in order to attract those who are not chosen to hear; and
3) they compete with God because they think they can draw man to Christ, when Christ, himself, said no one comes to Him unless the Father draws him (v44).

But Christ did not limit His address to the naysayers, He gave hope and instruction to the few who are chosen and listen. He said His flesh is true food and His blood is true drink (v55) and all who eat of Him are those who abide in Him (v56) and as He has life through the Father, so those who abide in Him will have life in Him (v57). The bread that came down from heaven is not like the manna in the wilderness or physical bread – the people ate it, yet they died. Whoever eats of the bread from heaven will live forever (v58). We know from Scripture what it is to eat this bread from heaven; it is to believe in the One who was sent by the Father (v29). We know this believing is more than a head knowledge – it is, as we talked about above, clinging to the words of God or abiding in Christ.

Jesus confronted the grumblers by telling them He would ascend to heaven – where He came from (v62) but this would not help them as they relied upon the flesh – their own wisdom. There are multitudes of people who rely on their own wisdom for their hope of eternal life. They think they can do good to earn their way to God; or God grades on a curve and as long as they are not as bad as the worst, they will still win their way to heaven. But most to be pitied are those who think faith in Christ is a mere confession that He is the Son of God or those who think God accepts man as he is and requires nothing of him. Jesus said, “If the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness.” [Mat 6:23]. The flesh is no help at all (v63).

The Spirit gives life. The Book of John is the story of light overcoming darkness and life coming overcoming death, beginning with the first chapter. If we rely upon God – the Spirit – we have life. If we rely upon our own wisdom, we have death (v63). Christ’s words are spirit, that is, from God, and life (v64). If we desire everlasting life, we should cling to Christ’s words, which are spirit and life.

Christ knew from the beginning those who would not believe and the one who would betray. When was this “beginning”? We know it was at least prior to the time He called His disciples because this text says He knew from the beginning the one who would betray Him. But from Scripture, this beginning points to a time before creation, as the Apostle Paul wrote God chose us in Christ before the creation of the world (Eph 1:4). Christ knew before He came to the world to die for mans’ sins, who were the chosen and who would not believe.

Once again, Christ did not plead with the unbelievers. He identified them as a group and, this time, instead of saying they cannot come unless the Father draws them, He said they cannot come unless it was granted them – or allowed – by the Father. Here, there is a willing audience – most the crowd are followers or disciples of Christ. They are willing but they are not allowed because they have not been chosen by the Father.

After this, many turned back and followed Him no more (v66). Christ was at the height of His popularity at the feeding of the five thousand but He lost it all by standing for the truth. In one chapter of the Book of John we see His rise and His fall. Thankfully, He did not come to win a popularity contest.

Why did the people turn back? The passage does not point to any particular reason but here are the three main issues, which are offensive to man, presented in this text:
1) Christ claimed to come from God and be equal with God;
2) Christ claimed to be the bread from heaven and must be eaten to have eternal life;
3) Christ will lose none the Father has given and all who come to Him, come not by choice or freewill, but are drawn by the Father and those who are not chosen are not allowed. That is, the ones not chosen by God cannot choose God.

After the multitude of disciples abandon Him, Christ turns to the twelve and asks them if they are going to leave Him as well. Peter spoke for the group. They cannot leave because only Christ has the words of life and they have come to know He is the One sent from God.

Many people – even professing Christians – claim to have the words of life. These words are often positive but they are mans’ wisdom. They may be uplifting but they are not life. But to cling to these words is to gain the whole world and lose our souls (Mat 16:26; Mar 8:36). Only Christ has the words of life and these words He has bundled up for us in the Holy Scriptures.

How did the disciples know Christ is the Holy One of God? We know from this passage, the Father compelled them and the Spirit gave life (v44;63). Christ did not thank them for choosing to follow Him. He reminded them, He chose them (v70) and even then, He warned them one of them would betray Him.

Just as Christ explained to the disciples He chose them and He warned them against falling away, so too, we need to understand we cannot win eternal life, even in our choosing – we are saved by grace alone (Eph 2:8-9) – God’s choosing. We also need to understand we cannot afford to be smug because salvation is promised to those who persevere to the end (Mat 10:22; 24:13; Mar 13:13). Many are those who appear to be saved or appear to have been saved at one time but Jesus told us of the seed that falls on the rocky soil, which springs up and seems to bear fruit then dies (Mat 13). We must persevere to the end – but even this is not of ourselves but it is the fruit of abiding in Christ (Php 1:6; 2:12-13).

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