Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


John 12:32

King James Version (KJV)
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

I - will draw all men unto me - After I shall have died and risen again, by the preaching of my word and the influence of my Spirit, I shall attract and illuminate both Jews and Gentiles. It was one of the peculiar characteristics of the Messiah, that unto him should the gathering of the people be, Genesis 49:10. And probably our Lord refers to the prophecy, Isaiah 11:10, which peculiarly belonged to the Gentiles: "There shall be a root of Jesse which shall stand for an Ensign of the people, to it shall the Gentiles seek, and his rest shall be glorious." There is an allusion here to the ensigns or colors of commanders of regiments, elevated on high places, on long poles, that the people might see where the pavilion of their general was, and so flock to his standard.

Instead of παντας, the Codex Bezae, another, several versions, and many of the fathers, read παντα, all men, or all things: so the Anglo-Saxon, I will draw all things to myself. But παντα may be here the accusative singular, and signify all men.

The ancients fabled that Jupiter had a chain of gold, which he could at any time let down from heaven, and by it draw the earth and all its inhabitants to himself. See a fine passage to this effect in Homer, Iliad viii. ver. 18-27.

Ειδ 'αγε, πειρησασθε θεοι, ἱνα ειδετε παντες,π

Σειρην χρυσειην εξ ουρανοθεν κρεμασαντες·π

Παντες δ 'εξαπτεσθε θεοι, πασαι τε θεαιναι. κ. τ. λ.

"Now prove me: let ye down the golden chain

From heaven, and pull at its inferior links,

Both goddesses and gods: but me your king,

Supreme in wisdom, ye shall never draw

To earth from heaven, strive with me as ye may.

But I, if willing to exert my power,

The earth itself, itself the sea, and you,

Will lift with ease together, and will wind

The chain around the spiry summit sharp

Of the Olympian, that all things upheaved

Shall hang in the mid heaven. So much am I,

Alone, superior both to gods and men.


By this chain the poets pointed out the union between heaven and earth; or, in other words, the government of the universe by the extensive chain of causes and effects. It was termed golden, to point out, not only the beneficence of the Divine Providence, but also that infinite philanthropy of God by which he influences and by which he attracts all mankind to himself. It was possibly in allusion to this that our Lord spoke the above words. Should it be objected that it is inconsistent with the gravity of the subject, and the dignity of our Lord, to allude to the fable of a heathen poet, I answer:

  1. The moral is excellent, and, applied to this purpose, expresses beautifully our Lord's gracious design in dying for the world, viz. That men might be united to himself, and drawn up into heaven.
  • It is no more inconsistent with the gravity of the subject, and his dignity, for our blessed Lord to allude to Homer, than it was for St. Paul to quote Aratus and Cleanthes, Acts 17:28, and Epimenides, Titus 1:12; for he spoke by the same Spirit.
  • So justice was sometimes represented under the emblem of a golden chain, and in some cases such a chain was constructed, one end attached to the emperor's apartment, and the other hanging within reach; that if any person were oppressed he might come and lay hold on the chain, and by shaking it give the king notice that he was oppressed, and thus claim protection from the fountain of justice and power. In the Jehangeer Nameh, a curious account of this kind is given, which is as follows. The first order which Jehangeer issued on his accession to the throne (which was A.H. 1014, answering to a.d. 1605) was for the construction of the Golden Chain of Justice. It was made of pure gold, and measured thirty yards in length, consisting of sixty links, and weighing, in the whole, four Hindostany maunds (about four hundred pounds avoirdupois.) One end of the chain was suspended from the royal bastion of the fortress of Agra, and the other fastened in the ground near the side of the river. The intention of this was, that if the officers of the courts of law were partial in their decisions, or dilatory in the administration of justice, the injured parties might come themselves to this chain, and, making a noise by shaking the links of it, give notice that they were waiting to represent their grievances to his majesty. Hist. of Hindostan, p. 96, Calcutta, 1788. Such a communication, prayer and faith establish between the most just and most merciful God, and the wretched and oppressed children of men. "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come! Psalm 65:2.

    Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible

    Be lifted up - See John 3:14; John 8:28.

    Will draw - John 6:44. The same word is used in both places.

    All men - I will incline all kinds of men; or will make the way open by the cross, so that all men may come. I will provide a way which shall present a strong motive or inducement - the strongest that can be presented to all men to come to me.

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    The sin of our souls was the troubled of Christ's soul, when he undertook to redeem and save us, and to make his soul an offering for our sin. Christ was willing to suffer, yet prayed to be saved from suffering. Prayer against trouble may well agree with patience under it, and submission to the will of God in it. Our Lord Jesus undertook to satisfy God's injured honour, and he did it by humbling himself. The voice of the Father from heaven, which had declared him to be his beloved Son, at his baptism, and when he was transfigured, was heard proclaiming that He had both glorified his name, and would glorify it. Christ, reconciling the world to God by the merit of his death, broke the power of death, and cast out Satan as a destroyer. Christ, bringing the world to God by the doctrine of his cross, broke the power of sin, and cast out Satan as a deceiver. The soul that was at a distance from Christ, is brought to love him and trust him. Jesus was now going to heaven, and he would draw men's hearts to him thither. There is power in the death of Christ to draw souls to him. We have heard from the gospel that which exalts free grace, and we have heard also that which enjoins duty; we must from the heart embrace both, and not separate them.
    Ellen G. White
    Selected Messages Book 3, 149.3

    Are you expecting that your merit will recommend you to the favor of God, and that you must be free from sin before you trust his power to save? If this is the struggle going on in your mind, I fear you will gain no strength, and will finally become discouraged. As the brazen serpent was lifted up in the wilderness, so was Christ lifted up to draw all men unto Him. All who looked upon that serpent, the means that God had provided, were healed; so in our sinfulness, in our great need, we must “look and live.” 3SM 149.3

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    Ellen G. White
    Selected Messages Book 3, 169.2

    This is the mystery of godliness. This picture is of the highest value to be placed in every discourse, to be hung in memory's hall, to be uttered by human lips, to be traced by human beings who have tasted and known that the Lord is good, to be meditated upon, to be the groundwork of every discourse. There have been dry theories presented and precious souls are starving for the bread of life. This is not the preaching that is required or that the God of heaven will accept, for it is Christless. The divine picture of Christ must be kept before the people. He is that Angel standing in the sun of heaven. He reflects no shadows. Clothed in the attributes of deity, shrouded in the glories of deity, and in the likeness of the infinite God, He is to be lifted up before men. When this is kept before the people, creature merit sinks into insignificance. The more the eye looks upon Him, the more His life, His lessons, His perfection of character are studied, the more sinful and abhorrent will sin appear. 3SM 169.2

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    Ellen G. White
    Selected Messages Book 3, 183.3

    I address the ministers. Lead the people along step by step, dwelling upon Christ's efficiency until, by a living faith, they see Jesus as He is—see Him in His fullness, a sin-pardoning Saviour, One who can pardon all our transgressions. It is by beholding that we become changed into His likeness. This is present truth. We have talked the law. This is right. But we have only casually lifted up Christ as the sin-pardoning Saviour. 3SM 183.3

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    Ellen G. White
    Selected Messages Book 3, 184.2

    Christ-filled Discourses Needed—There have been entire discourses, dry and Christless, in which Jesus has scarcely been named. The speaker's heart is not subdued and melted by the love of Jesus. He dwells upon dry theories. No great impression is made. The speaker has not the divine unction, and how can he move the hearts of the people? We need to repent and be converted—yes, the preacher converted. The people must have Jesus lifted up before them, and they must be entreated to “Look and live.” 3SM 184.2

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