This is by way of an extension of a previous post on this topic.
A friend at college used to sing 'I have decided to follow Jesus', emphasizing the 'I' to annoy any Calvinists he might come across. And from John 6.37 & 40 he would seem to be right:
37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who
looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I
will raise him up on the last day. (ESV)
Those verses suggest a personal responsibility on behalf of 'those who come', the 'everyone who looks' to look and come to Jesus. But that is not the end of the story – John 6.44:
44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (ESV)
As I quoted Charles Simeon, we must find the truth in both statements: we choose God, but no-one can choose God unless the Father draws him (or her).
Matthew 18.7 says this:
[Jesus says,] â€œWoe
to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that
temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!"
We have here an example of how difficult it can be to understand the Bible. I don't mean that the meaning of this verse is difficult to understand, I mean that the implications of this verse are difficult to understand.
The Bible affirms two seemingly contradictory things: the predestination of things by God, and our personal responsibility for what we do. God gives us grace and faith to believe in him (search for 'chose you' in the Bible and see how many times it says 'God chose you'), and we have to respond to him (the prophets continually call the people to follow the Law, in the New Testament people are told 'repent and believe').
These two things are both affirmed by the Bible, and if we believe the Bible is internally consistent then we have to say they are both true.
The danger lies in extrapolating further from these truths, asking the question 'how' it can be that these things are both true. Almost every time this has been attempted, one has been emphasised to the detriment of the other.
Charles Simeon said:
Truth does not lie at either extreme taken on its own, nor yet midway between them: truth lies in both extremes held together in tension.
In so much of theology this is true, including this area. It is why dialectical theology is so important: the Bible usually affirms two seemingly paradoxical positions. It is our job not to synthesise the two, as Hegel would have us believe, but hold them together in tension, faithfully following the Bible.
If the Holy Spirit wanted it written like that, who are we to disagree?