John 12: Dragging or Drawing?

John 12: Dragging or Drawing?

In John 12:32 Jesus said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” There is one word in this text that I find particularly intriguing and important, namely the word “draw.” This word generally means to take in hand (as a sword -John 18:10), to gather a net of fish (cf John 21:6, 11), to drag against one’s will (cf Acts 16:19; 21:30), or to compel (James 2:6).

But there is also another use of the word, and that is to draw by means of allurement or creating desire. When a word appears in various places and situations in the New Testament, context always determines meaning.

This word under consideration also appears in John 6:44 where Jesus said, “No man can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…” An acquaintance of mine, a preacher and ardent Calvinist, recently posted on social media that “Jesus was a Calvinist.” In his statement, he posited that the word “draw” here means to drag, concluding that God must drag you against your will in order to save you. This is the common Calvinistic misuse of this text.

But how then do Calvinists explain John 12:32? Will all men be dragged to Jesus as He affirmed? Obviously not because the word “draw” here does not mean to drag against one’s will. It means to create desire in the heart of those who see the cross. In this text we see three things:

  1. The PICTURE of the cross – “If I be lifted up”. This is a clear reference to the type of death Jesus would suffer, namely crucifixion.
  2. The POWER of the cross – “will draw”. The gospel is God’s power to save, not some undesired and irresistible compulsion. The heart of the gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor 15:1-8). The power of the death of Christ is available to all men, not just the sELECT few. (see what I did there? 😊)
  3. The PEOPLE of the cross – “all men”. Those who see the life and ministry of Jesus, coupled with His unspeakable sacrifice, will be internally compelled to respond in obedience to the demands of the cross. “For the love of Christ compels us, because we thus judge, that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Cor 5:14-15).

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