Please Explain John 12:37-40

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Tom Butler, Dec 15, 2006.

  1. Tom Butler

    Tom Butler
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    In John 12:37-40, John related that the people saw Jesus' miracles, but still did not believe on him.

    John said this unbelief was a fulfillment of Isaiah 53 ("Lord, who has believed our report?"). Isaiah was saying, in a way, Lord, nobody believes what I'm preaching.

    Then, in v.39, John says "Therefore, they could not believe", and referred back to Isaiah 6, where God told Isaiah to preach, but that no one would listen. God explained why they wouldn't believe. It was because he had blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts. God explained to Isaiah that this was so they should not see or understand.

    Then God told Isaiah that he did this so they would not be converted. How would you like it if, when God called you to preach, he warned you that no one would ever be saved under your preaching?

    If I read the book of Isaiah right, he preached for many years and never had a convert. He must have been frustrated because he cried out to God "they won't believe.!"

    To me, the passage in John and the related passages in Isaiah do not say that God blinded and hardened because they would not believe. They say that they could not believe because of the blinding and hardening.

    Okay, who wants to take a crack at explaining this passage further or explaining it away?
     
    #1 Tom Butler, Dec 15, 2006
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  2. LeBuick

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    Isaiah 53 is a prophetic book. He is prophesying regarding the rejection of the coming messiah. I don't believe he was speaking of his own rejection. Isaiah was not preaching for converts per se, he was delivering the word of God as given to him to God's chosen people. This makes John correct, the rejection of Jesus was the fulfillment of Is 53.
     
  3. Tom Butler

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    LeBuick, thanks.

    I can accept the idea that Isaiah's prophecy was both of the Messiah and of the rejection of his own preaching.

    I'm more interested in why John said the people could not believe, and cited Isaiah 6 to explain why, again in a passage with dual application..
     
  4. Allan

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    It was a judgment of God due to their unbelief as a Nation at that time and was coming into fruition in the prophetic sense during Johns time. The Jews rejected God as a Nation and therefore they would and did reject Gods Messiah as well. Hey that would be only natural right - reject God you would also have to reject that sames Gods Messiah.
    It was Gods judgment on Israel as a Nation by which they would reject Him and that salvation would then go to the world. However Isreal is not set off to the side and discarded as there are multiple prophesies which state they were to be rejected by God but would again at a later time be accepted again (Hos 1 and Rom 10 and 11 of the top of my head). but we know just as Christ stated many Jews came to know Him personally but they did not recieve Him not as a Nation. (John 1:10) But God has stated that Israel will be saved (not every Jewish person but the Jews as as a National body) Something they were not (a Nation) long before Paul spoke of it or even the prophets when Israel no longer was a Nation (that being God saving them as a Nation) and still were not until the 1947. (Not bad for an over 3000 year old prophesy huh?)
     
    #4 Allan, Dec 16, 2006
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  5. LeBuick

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    Good answer, part of accepting God's prophesies is knwing that he is all knowing and knows how man will react. Is it the only choice man has, no. Will he do as God foresaw, yes.
     
  6. Tom Butler

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    What I see here is an instance in Isaiah 6 where God actually takes steps to prevent repentance and faith. Blinding and hardening them, and clouding their understanding.

    In John 12:37-40, John says the people could not believe the the same reason--and cited Isaiah. Saying, in effect, just as God blinded and hardened the people Isaiah preached to, he is doing the same thing to prevent them from believing in Jesus as Messiah.

    It also seems clear to me that in each case, God caused the blinding and hardening, and that's how he foreknew that the children of Israel would not respond to Isaiah's preaching. And John makes the same point. The reason the people wouldn't believe is that they couldn't.

    I'm really not trying to interpret these passages. They seem pretty straightforward to me. Not that I'm particularly enamored by these passages--in fact, they're somewhat disturbing. But they're there. Now what do we do with them?

    Does the Bible actually tell of God, who wants all to be saved, but actually acts to prevent some from exercising saving fath, or evening wanting to? That doesn't compute.
     
  7. LeBuick

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    Don't forget Pharoah whose heart he hardened. I do believe God sent his Son to save the world, now you are saying contrast this to God's actions here... Good thought, let me stew on it a bit.
     
  8. LeBuick

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    I found this in Life Application notes which gives something to consider. I still want to stew on the concept of God hardning hearts. I dealt with this a few years back but I can't recall what my critical studies concluded...

    HARDENED
    People in Jesus' time, like those in the time of Isaiah, would not believe despite the evidence (12:37). As a result, God hardened their hearts. Does that mean God intentionally prevented these people from believing in him? No, he simply confirmed their own choices. After a lifetime of resisting God, they had become so set in their ways that they wouldn't even try to understand Jesus' message. For such people, it is virtually impossible to come to God—their hearts have been permanently hardened. Other instances of hardened hearts because of constant stubbornness are recorded in Exodus 9:12; Romans 1:24-28; and 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12.
    —Life Application Bible Commentary
     
  9. J. Jump

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    I could be totally off here, and please let me know if I am, but it seems what we have here in a "question" that says Calvinism is really a true doctrine and here is a passage of Scripture that "proves" it now does anyone want to take a crack at disproving it. Right?

    I thin Allan had a pretty good explanation, but I don't think it proves Calvinism per se. Hope I was wrong about my assesment.
     
  10. Tom Butler

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    I'm not really trying to prove Calvinism. This is a difficult passage for me. I am a Calvinist and hold to spiritual inability which requires an act of the Holy Spirit to enable one to come to Christ in repentance and faith.

    My general view is that all are condemned by their sin, and God, for reasons we don't know, chose to save some out of lost humanity. And leaving the rest to their deserved fate.

    In John 12 and Isaiah 6, however, we have an act of God to harden and blind for the very purpose of preventing people from heeding the call of the gospel. The hardening and blinding appear to be the cause of their unbelief, not the result.

    I would much prefer to believe LeBuick's view that God simply confirmed their choices, but I don't think these passages are saying that..

    What we have on one side is the view that God wants all to come to repentance, that human beings are given the power of free will from birth, and there exists no barrier to salvation except man's own choice not to believe. On the other is this scripture that for some, God has in fact erected a barrier.

    LeBuick mentioned the hardening of Pharoah. Several times in Exodus, it is recorded that God hardened Pharoah's heart. On other occasions, Pharoah hardens his own heart. Elsewhere in the Bible we read of Satan's hardening hearts So we get no real help here.


    I think the harshest judgment God can impose on a sinner is to simply leave him alone. It doesn't sound like this is what happened in John 12 and Isaiah 6. Not only does God not leave them alone, he purposely blinds and hardens them, and even further, clouds their understanding for this purpose: "that they should not see with their eyes nor understand with their hearts, and be converted." ( John 12:40).

    I concede that this whole thing fits better into the Calvinistic system and creates problems for the non-Cals. But I have no hidden agenda here. I can understand God's leaving someone alone. Where I seek light is the idea that God actively moves to prevent conversion.
     
  11. J. Jump

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    Tom thanks for your clarification on your post and it looks as though I have mis-spoken and offer my apology to you for the wrong assessment.

    However, I would say that what is happening is that you are applying passages of Scripture that don't have anything to do with eternal salvation and trying to make them fit into a doctrine of eternal salvation.

    The conversion that is being spoken of is not a conversion of going from eternally damned to eternally saved. This passage of Scripture is concerning the offer of Christ's kingdom, which is a separate issue from eternal salvation.

    You have eternal salvation and then you have the offer of the kingdom. Calvinism as well as most of non-Calvinism combines these two separate issues. So instead of having apples and oranges you have applanges :)

    So to get a correct read on what is going on we must keep the context of eternal salvation and the context of the kingdom separated as they were intended lest we find at the end of the road an unBiblical doctrine.

    Just some thoughts to ponder . . .
     
  12. webdog

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    From Genesis through Revelation we have God commanding all men everywhere to repent and follow Him...but God then goes out of His way to blind and harden those very same people? God says "let us reason together"...but then deliberately "clouds" their understanding? One of the many errors of reformed theology.
     
  13. Tom Butler

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    Greetings, webdog,
    J. Jump has given us a possible explanation a couple of posts earlier. I'm going to look more closely at his viewpoint.

    You are pointing out the same paradoxes that I actually wrote about earlier. Rather than just label something as an error of reformed theology, would you care to give us your read on the passage in question?

    I said earlier that John 12:37-40 seems to fit better with the Calvinist system. I did not say it fit perfectly. Would you take a stab at making it fit with your system?
     
  14. Allan

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    Granted...but WHY?? God does just up and decide to blind HIS People who are called by His name. Is there a with a reason? When you read you find that they have blinded ALREADY themselves after multiple attempts at drawing them back. This is a judgment due to something they have continuously and consistantly being doing already. In a sense God is giving them over to what they already wanted DESPITE God trying to bring them back unto Himself before He did this.

    Granted due to Gods judgment on them after He sent more prophets to them and again as a Nation they would not relent and the very prophetic nature of the Isaiah passage comes into full view in John 12.

    Note FIRST please that God did this AFTER their refusal to listen to God pleading with them to turn. God did not blind anyone at the first or before Christs ministry (as no Jews would be saved) but after ward, that they would be sealed in their own choice of unbelief that He was the Christ as a Nation.

    And they are if read in context to judgment for unbelief ALREADY.

    This is a place both Cals and Non-Cals are somewhat uncomfitable when we hold more to our theology to determine scripture instead of scripture to determine our theology. This is one of those places that brings Mans choice AND Gods Sovereignty into a rare visible view. Mans choice and God Choice rolled into on action cleaved in time.

    It does when you understand that God first allowed them to make their choice but did not allow them to repent of that choice made. You could say, they didn't get a second or third chance like many of us do/did as God kept working on our hearts.
     
  15. Tom Butler

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    LeBuick quoted Life Application lessons:

    People in Jesus' time, like those in the time of Isaiah, would not believe despite the evidence (12:37). As a result, God hardened their hearts. Does that mean God intentionally prevented these people from believing in him? No, he simply confirmed their own choices

    Allan's thoughts on hardening and blinding in Isaiah 6 and John 12:

    Note FIRST please that God did this AFTER their refusal to listen to God pleading with them to turn. God did not blind anyone at the first or before Christs ministry (as no Jews would be saved) but after ward, that they would be sealed in their own choice of unbelief that He was the Christ as a Nation.

    J. Jump offered this explanation:

    The conversion that is being spoken of is not a conversion of going from eternally damned to eternally saved. This passage of Scripture is concerning the offer of Christ's kingdom, which is a separate issue from eternal salvation.

    J. Jump, your view is one that fairly new to me, so I'll need to read up on it.

    Now, regarding Allan's and LeBuicks comments, I confess that what follows may not be on the money, so I'm looking for feedback here. My thought is that both these brothers accept the principle that God blinds and hardens. We don't see the order alike, but agree in principle.

    They both see blinding and hardening as locking in rebellious unbelief; and that they are a judgmment from God that makes it impossible for them to savingly believe. Their destiny is set. Because they would not believe, God fixed it so they couldn't believe.

    So if I read their comments right, God can blind and harden, as a Sovereign act of judgment, they are marked for hell, and even the fervent prayers of righteous man for their salvation are useless.

    So this begs a couple of questions:
    1. Except for the order, how is the outcome different from the one in my reading of the passages ?
    2. Why did God bring this judgment on some and not on others who deserved the same thing---------people like us?

    Now I don't want to put words in anybody's mouth, so if I've misrepresented what LeBuick and Allan and any others believe, feel free to clarify.
     
  16. Allan

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    First let us remember that the effectual feverent prayer of a righteous man (from James 5) deals with "those sick among you" and not praying someone into heaven. But the principle of a righteous mans availing prayers is much the same; and that being - to know the heart, mind, and will of God and move in that direction that their prayers maybe answered according to Gods will.

    God gives men the opportunity to hear (via the gospel) or at least know (via creation - person in a distant land - sees there must be more than they know) truth and are responsible for what they do with that truth (ie. believe it or not) - (person in distant land saying there must be more [believes this] and God sends the gospel to him)
    How you 'seem' to look at the passages is that it does not matter whether they rebelled or not God did it cause He could.

    And He can but God never does anything without a purpose and the scriptures are very plain that the hardening was due to their rejection of God or rebellion towards God and He gave them over as a Nation.
    Because this allowed the Gospel to go out to all the world that we might be graphted in. This judgment was for our benifit but was due to THEIR Unbelief ALREADY. Yet God will not leave them (the Nation Israel) but will save them as well. Notice God didn't blind ALL the Jews hearts but that as a Nation, for after the resurrection of Christ there were 120 Jews in the Upper room and then 3000 More Jews were saved and them 5000 more Jews saved. So God did not blind them individually but Nationally to recognize Him. Thousands of Jews were saved in that first 75 years of the Early Church. Do you see what I'm saying here...

    No problem that I see so far. :praying: :laugh:
     
    #16 Allan, Dec 17, 2006
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 17, 2006
  17. LeBuick

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    I think this is where I differ, I don't believe God hardens or blinds them in the since we would use those terms today. I believe the all knowing God knew they would not repent and more or less confirmed their decision in scripture.

    I don't believe the Bible has conflicts and hardening their hearts in the since we think of the words today would conflict with;

    Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

    I don't know if this is an idiom or what but I don't believe it is as we think today.
     
  18. webdog

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    I agree. The mechanism has been put into humanity by God. All one has to do is ignore their alarm clock a few times when it goes off (instead of getting up), and before you know it you won't hear it anymore...you have "hardened" yourself to the sound, and the physiological and psychological response (instilled from God) to that further "hardens" one to that respnse.
     
  19. webdog

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    All you have to do is do a search for millenial exclusion or kingdom exclusion. He believes the Bible teaches two salvations, one by faith (eternal) and one by works (Millenial Kingdom). The one who is saved by faith can still spend 1000 years in hell paying for their works, and miss out on the MK, only to be restored to Heaven following the 1000 years. I would like to see how this jives with your reformed view :)
     
  20. J. Jump

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    I think you enjoy misrepresenting my views? While I will grant you the "name" you have bestowed upon it (it's actually called the gospel of the kingdom or the word of the kingdom - if you want to stick with Biblical names), but you have not represented very well (I would assume, because you still don't understand it, or possibly intentionally, but I hope not) what I and others believe.

    There are at least a couple of people that I know that are Calvinistic in their beliefs that still believe in the kingdom.
     

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