Our Savior had harsh words for the crowd who came calling for Him after He had multiplied five loaves and two fishes to feed them. Jesus told them that they were not searching after Him for the right reasons, that they came to see more works of wonder to confirm Him as an earthly liberator. They did not recognize the true import of our Lord’s signs, which was to reveal Him as the source of eternal life, the bread from heaven who satisfies our spiritual hunger forever. The crowd was laboring for what does not endure and was not working for the life that endures; they were not doing the work of God by trusting in Christ alone for salvation (John 6:1–35).
Now it is true that the crowd asked Jesus to give them the bread He offered always (v. 34), but it is clear from today’s passage that they still did not understand. They had seen Him and still did not believe in Him (v. 36). But this was not because the bread of heaven, Jesus Christ, had failed. He came to do the will of the Father, and the Father’s will is that Jesus will save only those whom the Father wills to give Him (vv. 37–38). Everyone who comes to Jesus by true faith, believing in Him as the source of all true life, will never be cast out. All people who rest on Christ for salvation will participate in the resurrection of the just on the last day, and they will live forever (vv. 39–40).
Today’s passage is critical for our doctrine of salvation, for it shows us that we cannot give any credit to ourselves for believing in Jesus. We believe because God has chosen us and has granted us the faith that saves. John Calvin comments on this passage that “faith is not a thing which depends on the will of men, so that this man and that man indiscriminately and at random believe, but that God elects those whom he hands over, as it were, to his Son; for when he says, that ‘whatever is given cometh,’ we infer from it, that all do not come.” Divine election to salvation is not a teaching original to the Apostles, but it was proclaimed by Jesus Himself during His earthly ministry.
Not only that, but today’s passage also teaches us that salvation is not a gift that can be given and then taken away from us. Jesus will not cast out anyone who comes to Him, and the Father’s perfect will is for the Son to save all who come to Christ in faith. Dr. R.C. Sproul writes in his commentary John, “Those who are truly saved will continue in that condition, for Jesus will not let them fall away.” If we have been saved truly, nothing in creation can separate us from Christ (Rom. 8:38–39).