Christ said: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me.”
Does it mean all will be saved? Does it mean the sovereign God alone predetermines who shall be saved?
After Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, with the crowd cheering Him on, He said: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me” (John 12:32).
What does Christ mean by being ‘lifted up’? He was predicting his own crucifixion whereby He had to be lifted up on a cross to suffer a slow, excruciatingly painful death.
A few days later, the jubilant mood of his triumphal entry into Jerusalem would soon turn into grief. Christ had to endure the agony of being crucified at the cross for the sins of man, an event Christians all over the world have come to remember, pause and reflect every year on Good Friday.
Another passage also alludes to the fact that Jesus had to be lifted up on a cross:
“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). **
John 12:32 and John 3: 14-15, we get a more balanced picture. While Christ draws everyone to Himself when He was
lifted up on the cross, man has to respond—believe
in the saving virtue of His death—before he or she can be saved.
Christ’s act of drawing everyone to Himself when He was lifted up on the cross (John 12: 32) does not grant automatic salvation for every man. This is not a case for universalism (salvation for all).
Furthermore, Christ’s act of drawing everyone to Himself when He was lifted up on the cross (John 12: 32) does not mean that man can just sit back and relax while God predetermines, by divine sovereignty, who shall be saved and who shall be condemned. This is not a case for Calvinism, a false doctrine which asserts that God will only save certain ones called the ‘elect’ and that He has already predetermined who shall be saved and man’s response through an act of free will has no place in determining his salvation.
Christ can draw man to Himself but he or she can resist by hardening the heart (Heb. 3: 7-8) or willfully persisting in sin (Heb. 10:26-31). Thus there is little scriptural support for the weak doctrine of “Irresistible Grace”, one of the key tenets of Calvinism. While people, drawn by Christ to Himself, have the ability to respond to the gospel and be saved, they also have the ability to reject the gospel—in both instances on account of their free will.
So the above passages tell us that universalism and Calvinism are incorrect and unbiblical. Christ’s drawing of all men to Himself after He was lifted up on the cross does not support universal salvation or the Calvinistic narrative.
The biblical view, taking into account the whole counsel of scriptures, is that man has to respond, by an act of free will, before he or she can be saved. Man has to believe in Christ—that His blood can atone for the sins of man—before he or she can be saved.
While the act of Christ’s drawing everyone to Himself (John 12: 32) seems to tell us that God predetermines salvation for ‘all’ or His ‘elect’ (both of which are false), another passage (John 3: 14-16) tells us that man must respond by believing in Christ before he or she can be saved.
“As Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the desert, in the same way the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.”
(John 3: 14-16)
Here are some other passages which support the fact that man has to respond in an act of free will—believe in Christ—before he or she can be saved:
- “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
- “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10: 9).
- “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household” (Acts 16:31).
- “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” (Mark 1:15b).
It is possible to hear or know about the saving virtue of Christ’s death (intellectual knowledge) and yet not enjoy its benefits (salvation) because of unbelief, hardening of the heart, disobedience or failure to repent.
- “Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still ‘today’, so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ” (Hebrews 3:12-14).
- “And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment” (John 3:36).
- “No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too” (Luke 13:5).
Though Christ may draw everyone to Himself when He was being lifted up on the cross (John 12:32) and the Holy Spirit may convict the world concerning sin (John 16:8-9), it is up to an individual how he or she chooses to respond to the saving virtue of Christ’s death.
To conclude, while Christ draws everyone to Himself when He was lifted up on the cross, man has to respond—believe in the saving virtue of His death—before they can be saved.
** ‘SNAKE ON A POLE’ IS A
TYPE OF ‘CHRIST LIFTED UP ON THE CROSS’
In the Old Testament, when the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, after having escaped from slavery in Egypt (Numbers 21: 4-9), there was an occasion when they disobeyed God and incurred His judgment. Despite receiving manna from heaven, they grumbled against God and Moses, wanting something more. God, in His wrath, sent fiery serpents which bit and killed many of them. Realising their sin, they pleaded with Moses for help. Following God’s instructions, Moses set a bronze serpent on a pole. Those who had been bitten by serpents were instructed by Moses to look at the bronze serpent on the pole so that they would not die.
Now this bronze serpent on a pole is a symbol of Christ crucified on the cross. Just as the Israelites looked―as an act of faith―at the bronze serpent on the pole to stay alive, people just have to look to Christ crucified on the cross —believe in the saving virtue of Christ’s blood—and they will be saved.
Christ said: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me” (John 12:32).
“As Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the desert, in the same way the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life” (John 3: 14-16).
WHAT IS SO GOOD ABOUT GOOD FRIDAY?
Why call it 'good' when it is such a gloomy day to commemorate Jesus’ crucifixion? https://bit.ly/31xIiKi
DOES REGENERATION PRECEDE FAITH?
Many Calvinists assert that people are so sinful that unless God first brings about regeneration they won’t believe in the Gospel. To such Calvinists, the correct sequence is regeneration, faith, salvation. Do you agree? https://bit.ly/3rKDxru