Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Files: Hamilton - The Order of Faith and Election in John's Gospel

Robert Hamilton makes a very good case that passages such as John 10:26 'you do not believe, because you are not my sheep' refers primarily to the faithful sons of Abraham who were God’s children under the covenant as it was revealed in the Old Testament, and who were already prepared by their voluntary faith and repentance to embrace the promised Messiah. (link)

Hamilton starts out by distinguishing between necessary and sufficient conditions for salvation in the Gospel of John. First, there are the necessary conditions of being “enabled” to come to Christ and being “drawn” to him by the Father (6:44, 65). Necessary conditions are signaled in the passages above by the grammatical structure “No one can . . . unless . . .” Second, we find in the above passages from John’s Gospel the sufficient conditions of being “given” to Jesus by the Father, having “listened to” and “learned from” the Father, “belonging” to God (i.e., being his child, cf. the contrast to the children of the devil in 8:44), and being one of Jesus’ “sheep” (6:37, 45; 8:47; 10:26, 29; 17:6, 9, 24). Sufficient conditions are generally signaled by phrases such as “Everyone who . . .” (6:45; Greek pas ho . . .) or “All that . . . will . . .” (6:37; Greek pan ho . . .), indicating that every person without exception who meets the relevant conditions will experience the result entailed by those conditions. The focus of Hamilton's essay are the passages addressing the sufficient conditions for salvation.

Hamilton pours through the scriptures in explaining that in the OT the nation of Israel were God's 'people' and His 'sheep' and His 'children'. In another more restrictive sense those who are in a right covenant relationship with God are His people, sheep and children, and that covenant relationship is conditional based on repentance and faith. Also, John the Baptist makes ready a people prepared for the Lord. So the Gospel of John deals with Jews who had responded favorably to the prevenient grace extended to them by God under the covenant as it was revealed in the Old Testament. Hamilton also explains they had already made the free choice to be “on the side of truth” (18:37) and to yield themselves in repentance and loyalty to God. Consequently, God could, by the inner working of his Holy Spirit in their hearts, direct all of these faithful ones who already belonged to him to embrace Jesus, the Messiah-Shepherd, as the new focal-point of their faith and loyalty.

This demonstrates one of the main themes of the Gospel of John, the union between the Father and the Son, by answering and important doubt: did the leaders’ rejection of Jesus indicate that he was, in fact, not sent from God to shepherd the flock of Israel? On the contrary, Christ is the Father’s sole aim in the dispensing of prevenient grace.

Hamilton also touches on how this idea relates to the gentiles, Acts 13:48, Cornelius and a number of other texts in the Gospel of John.


The Seeking Disciple said...

Good stuff!

natamllc said...

How does prevenient Grace square with these words of Paul?

Rom 7:21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.
Rom 7:22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,
Rom 7:23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
Rom 7:24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Rom 7:25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Rom 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

Is it this that prevenient Grace is the "law" of the "Spirit" of life?

Is it God Himself forgiving me 70 times 7 a day through my neighbors?

I am not sure I fully comprehend the difficulty people would have with this? said...

Thanks for your posts. So you like Daniel Whitby? Very cool. I have an old very large New Testament Commentary I bought at some expense some years ago principally for his views on the preservation of the Greek text in the Intro, and then his hermeneutic as well. He is a fine commentator and deals with the languages in a responsible and meditative way. Many of the Old Timers were great that way. Moderns are so bogus in their writings.
Thanks again for all your excellent work; its inspiring. Personally I only "study" the Bible nowadays myself, lol. Its the MOST inspiring. Though I do read occasionally from mens works like Whitby, or you. :-)
Grace and Joy! Pilgrim Roy

Godismyjudge said...

Hi RGMPilgrim,

Thanks for the comments! Yes, I have enjoyed Whitby's explinations of passages as well. I also agree that the older generation is underrated.

God be with you,