Would Not or Could Not

Saturday, August 26             

John 12:37 and 39.  John says in v. 37 that the Jews would not believe, but then says in v, 39 that they could not believe, quoting Is. 6:10 to substantiate it.  The two Greek words differ in meaning, just as they do in English  “Would” means that there is a viable choice.  “Would not” would mean that they  voluntarily chose not to believe.  “Could” means that that there is the capacity to choose, just as the word “would” does.  But “could not” nullifies that option.  The Isaiah passage is saying that God has taken away that capacity.  So John seems to be saying two different things here.  Isaiah 6:9-13 is quoted in all three gospels and in Acts.  All four support the use of “could not,” that the Jews had no real choice.  Yet, John goes on to say that many Jews, even leaders of the Jews, believed, although there is the possibility that that belief was not “unto salvation.”  Yet the entire passage pictures Jesus as offering a legitimate option of believing unto salvation.  So the problem remains.  One solution is that some of the Jews in the crowd no longer had the capacity to believe while others still had that option.  There’s also another aspect to consider.  The rejection of Christ by the nation as a whole opened the door to the Gentiles.  After Paul quotes Isaiah 6:10 he says “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen.”  One final thought:  God will accomplish his purpose whether or not we understand it.

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