Cavinism & John 3:16

In order to believe in Calvinistic theology, a person must explain why the normal text of a passage simply does not say what it appears to say. John 3:16 is probably the most popular Bible verse in all the world, and yes, by that I mean the entire world. I could be wrong, but needless to say, many people, even non-Christians, know this verse by heart. However, according to Calvinists, this verse does not really mean exactly what it says. To them, the word “world” does not mean the entire world.

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

A Calvinist could probably spend over thirty minutes explaining to you why the word “world” in this sentence does not mean the whole world. They might give examples of how the word is sometimes used to mean a certain group of people within the world and after awhile that might start to make sense. The problem with those types of examples are that when words such as “world,” “all,” and “everyone” do not actually mean world, all and everyone, that point is usually made obvious by the context in which that word is used. Let me give an example.

If I walk up to you carrying a crate of apples, look down at the crate with a disgusting look on my face and tell you, “every apple is rotten,” you are not going to assume that I mean every apple in the world is rotten. From the context of the situation, you know that I am referring to every apple within the crate I am carrying. That is obvious within the context. Calvinists would like you to believe that in the obvious context of John 3:16 God does not really mean the whole “world” but rather only the “elect” who are in that world. Look at the context of John 3:16.

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."

If the word “world” in verse 16 actually means the “elect,” then the word “world” in verse 17 should also mean the same thing, because these two verses are related in the immediate context of this passage. However, it would make no logical sense to replace the word world with the elect in this passage. It simply does not work.

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

God sent his son into the “world” which is the physical realm of the earth and it is referenced in a way that includes all the people who inhabit it. He did not send his Son to the world, but into it, a wording that makes no sense if the world is to mean the elect. At the beginning of the book of John we read:

John 1: 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world , and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.

It is obvious that Jesus was sent into the “world” which has nothing to do with the elect. He made the world (created the earth), was “in” the world (became flesh and dwelt among us) and the world did not recognize him (his own new him not). This is the same meaning in John 3:17 when it says the Son was sent “into” the world. In fact, the phrase, "the world did not recognize him” cannot mean the elect, because the elect are those who “do” recognize Him and accept Him.

This is confirmed again in the context in John 3:19 when it says, “Light has come into the world” which again is referring to the physical realm of the earth, the “world” as a whole. This has nothing to do with the elect. This is again, confirming what was mentioned in chapter one.

John 1:9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

In both John 1:9 and John 3:19 the world hated the light, and wanted nothing to do with it. This could not possibly be referring to the elect. Instead, the context of the passage clearly shows that John 3:16 means exactly what it says. God so loved the world, which are all the inhabitants of the physical realm of the earth that God sent His Son into, so that He could offer salvation to those who believed in Him.

If you look closely at the way John uses the word world in all of his writings, you will find that it is usually referring to those who are not Christians. It is not typically a term used for the elect, but rather one used for those who reject Christ. Look at a few of these examples:

John 15:18 "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world , it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

John 17:14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world , I have sent them into the world . 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world , the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does — comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

The world hates Christ, so are we to assume the elect hate Christ? No, that is not a logical or Scriptural conclusion to come to. Christians used to be part of the world but were taken out of it when they believed.

John 17:6 "I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.

John 1:10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

The world is anyone who inhabits the earth and who is in need of salvation, which is (or was) all of us, at least at one time. We were all sinners and part of the “world” that God loved so much that he sent his Son to save it. Those who believe are no longer part of that “world” because we are made new in Christ. There is no contextual, or logical, way to conclude that the world in John chapter three could be referring to the elect.

There is also nothing in this passage that suggests that because the entire world does not end up saved, that Christ did not do what He had set out to do and somehow failed at his objective. See, Calvinists claim that if Christ really died for the whole world then the whole world would be saved. But this passage makes no such claim. While the Bible does claim that Christ died for the entire world, it clearly states that there is a stipulation that comes with that salvation. Christ died for all, but only those who “believe” in Him will actually be saved. The passage is very clear on this point.

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

It does not say that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that no one would perish. Notice the word THAT in this sentence. God loved the world so much THAT he gave his Son so THAT whoever believed would not perish. He clearly chose to die for all and offer the choice of accepting eternal life up to us.

18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son

Those who believe are not condemned but those who do not believe are condemned already for not “believing.” Belief is the key here and the passage makes that quite clear. The reasoning of a Calvinist is not really logical. Think about it. Lets say a city builds a library. The library is for the use of all the citizens of that city. It was built for everyone. However, everyone will not use that library. Some people might not ever get a library card or even step inside its doors. Does that mean the city lied and somehow failed at their promise to build a library for the use of everyone in the city? No, it means that, while it is offered to all the citizens, people must choose whether or not they utilize it. It was not built to “force” people to read but it was made to encourage them to read by making the ability to do so is readily available for everyone. A citizen of that town could not claim that they never learned to read because they did not have access to books. In the same manner, a person cannot claim that they were never saved because they did not have access to salvation, which is something that could be said if Calvinism were true.

Salvation is available to all men because God loves the entire world and wants to save it, however he offers that salvation only to those who are willing to accept it. Whoever believes will be saved, but whoever does not believe is already condemned because they do not believe in Jesus Christ. You have a choice because God's love will not force you to accept Him. The choice is there because God loves you enough to give you a chance to escape eternal torment in hell. Praise the Lord for His unfailing love, one none of us are worthy of!

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.



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