“Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”
The drawings of John 6:44 and John 12:32 are dissimilar in that one is a pre-Calvary drawing by the Father for one purpose, and the other is a post-Calvary drawing by the Son for another purpose. The Father’s pre-Calvary drawing was of the faithful remnant of Israel to His Son, whereas the Son’s post-Calvary drawing was evangelical in purpose, for all men, both distributively and indiscriminately.
The part about being “lifted up” references to John 3:14, as it relates to Numbers 21:6-9. Jesus knew that His manner of death would not be by stoning, but by crucifixion.
Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer, writes: “Calvinists exhort us to examine the use of the word all as it is used in the Bible to see if it always means each and every individual in the world. For example, when Christ said he would draw all men to himself, it cannot mean each person in the world--indeed the vast majority are not drawn to him but are lost.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.186, emphasis mine)
The Calvinist attempt here is to equate “draw” with saved. Arminians, however, do not share such an inference. By contrast, the Arminian inference is that John 12:32’s drawing should be understood similarly to Revelation 3:20’s knocking, in terms of the divine initiative in reaching the lost.
Robert Shank comments: “Our Lord’s words confront us with one of the most solemn questions we ever shall face: what is my response to this gracious drawing of Christ? The initiative in salvation indeed is God’s, implemented in the gracious acts of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” (Elect in the Son, p.199, emphasis mine)
This is exactly how Arminians interpret it, but all too often, whenever Calvinists engage a text, they give a very one-sided explanation, so that only the Calvinist bias is given a fair hearing.
John Calvin comments: “When Christ says, ‘all’ he must be referring to the children of God, who are his flock.” (John: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.308, emphasis mine)
Arminians reject that, and feel that Calvinists are simply trying to protect their own bias interpretations.
Calvinist, William MacDonald, comments: “But probably the correct explanation is that the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus resulted in all kinds of people being drawn to Him. It does not mean all people without exception, but people from every nation, tribe and language.” (Believer’s Bible Commentary, p.1539, emphasis mine)
Calvinist, James White, writes: “…John 12:32...that passage is patently not teaching any kind of universal drawing of every single individual. The passage is about the coming of Gentiles who are seeking Jesus, so that the ‘all men’ is in reference to Jews and Gentiles, as it most often is in Scripture.” (Debating Calvinism, p.125, emphasis mine)
White continues: “Further, it is obvious that the cross of Jesus Christ repels unbelievers. It does not attract them. As Paul taught, the Cross is foolishness and a stumbling block. Hence, the obvious meaning, especially in light of Revelation 5:9, is that the ‘all men’ of John 12:32 refers to those who are of every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.” (Debating Calvinism, p.125, emphasis mine)
The Calvinist attempt here is to equate “draw” with “attract.” Again, Arminians do not share such an inference. The Arminian interpretation is that Christ is speaking of what He would actively do, obviously being through His messengers, the Gospel and the Holy Spirit.
If John 12:32 is indeed a parallel to John 3:14, which it appears to be, then the answer becomes clear. For even if everyone in Israel didn’t look upon the bronze serpent and live, everyone was forced to make a decision concerning it, whether to look upon it, or to refuse it, and that appears to be true concerning the Cross. The reality of sin, means that people have to contemplate it. Whether they look to Christ or reject Him, all are nonetheless drawn to Christ by being put to a decision concerning Him.
One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians states: “People are not Turing machines and neither are they are automatons. They were created in the image of their maker and given a will. Fallen and apart from grace, their will is under bondage and may only select from the many evils. Yet God doesn’t leave people that way. He pours his Spirit out upon all flesh and gives all people grace that frees their will from the total bondage of sin so that they can begin to move step by step closer to God by choosing the good over the evil. And though men love darkness because their deeds are evil, the Father continues to call to all evil-doers and seeks to draw them near through his Son by the ministry of the Spirit who works by means of grace to illuminate the intellect and strengthen their will to do the good. The ministry of God the Spirit works to draw all people to repentance by awakening their radical need for salvation and driving their thirst for life that can only by met at the wellspring of eternal life, the life of Christ. The Spirit’s work of grace is precisely in the mind and heart and goes before the fallen will can act so the will is freed to act. Thus the Spirit gives grace to spur righteous responses. One person embodies and responds to the grace that God has given him or her and another person doesn’t. But why does one person return God’s love with hate and another returns love with love? The Bible says that, ‘Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall’ (Prov. 16:18), suggesting that pride in oneself is a reason why one person repents and another doesn’t.” (SEA, emphasis mine)