Let us begin today’s study with John Calvin’s comments on the kind of drawing to faith that God performs as described in John 6:44: “As to the kind of drawing, it is not violent, so as to compel men by external force; but still it is a powerful impulse of the Holy Spirit, which makes men willing who formerly were unwilling and reluctant. It is a false and profane assertion, therefore, that none are drawn but those who are willing to be drawn, as if man made himself obedient to God by his own efforts; for the willingness with which men follow God is what they already have from himself, who has formed their hearts to obey him.”
Calvin’s words are helpful because they clarify what we mean that God draws people to faith. First, it is not that God draws to faith those individuals who are already willing to be drawn. We know that cannot be the case because we are dead in sin apart from grace, and no one is truly willing to seek the Lord unless He moves in their hearts first (Rom. 3:9–18; Eph. 2:1–10). Second, in drawing us, God does not force us to do something we do not want to do. True, we may resist God’s call for a while, but when we finally come to Christ, it is because we want to do so. God grants us a new heart that is willing to believe; He does not twist our arms to get us into heaven (Ezek. 36:25–27).
It is important to note that God makes us willing to believe. Although faith is His gift to His elect and must be granted to us if we are to believe, we still must believe. There is no fatalism in biblical Christianity that says it does not matter what we do if God has chosen us for salvation. We must exercise faith, and the only people who exercise faith are those whom God has chosen. This necessity of our believing in Christ is stressed throughout John 6, particularly in today’s passage. Verse 47 tells us that whoever believes has eternal life, with the necessary implication that whoever does not believe does not have eternal life. Further, to be taught and led by the Father who grants eternal life is to believe in the Son (vv. 45–46). Those who do not believe in the Son as He has revealed Himself are not taught or led by God.
We must eat the bread of heaven in order to have eternal life (vv. 48–50), and this eating consists in nothing less than believing in Christ, for belief is stressed again and again in the context of John 6. And particularly important for us to believe is that Christ died for sinners, as the bread Christ gives is His very life (v. 51).