According to the NT (esp. in Paul) and OT, the gospel is simply the incarnational and atoning work of the Son. The work of man in his faith-act, repentance, obedience, etc. is the “result” and not the substance of the gospel. In other words, the gospel has nothing to do with man, rather, all to do with the Son.

The gospel is not limited to one doctrine, such as election (as many overly zealous, yet unripe, Christians assume), rather, the gospel is the work of the Son consisting of both His Humiliation (incarnational work, life, suffering, death, being buried) and His Exaltation (resurrection, ascension, seated at the right hand of God, second coming).

Paul clearly summarizes his gospel of the Son definition in esp. in such places as Rom. 1:1, 3; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; and 2 Tim. 2:8 (see below). However, in many other places, the apostle provides a positive detailed delineation of the gospel—namely, the Son’s incarnational and cross work, even without using the term “gospel” (cf., Rom. 5:1, 10; 8:32; 9:5; 1 Cor. 2:8; 2 Cor. 8:9; Gal. 3:13; Eph. 5:25; Phil. 2:6-11; Titus 3:5-7 et al.).  

 

The Gospel is the work of God the Son 

 

Rom. 1:1, 3: “the gospel of God. . . . regarding His Son”

1 Cor. 15:1-4 (A.D. 54):

“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel [euaggelion] which I preached [euēggelisamēn- aorist ind. of euaggelizō], which also you received in which also you stand, 2 By which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached [euēggelisamēn– aorist ind.] to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as first importance [prōtos] what I also received that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

2 Tim. 2:8: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel.” 

 

So Rom. 10:15: “How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written [Isa. 52:7], ‘How beautiful [hwraios, ‘timely’] [are] the feet of those gospelizing [euaggelizomenwn] good things.”

 

 

A vital part of the believers’ progressive (practical) sanctification is to do the commandants given by Christ in Luke 9:23—denying one’s self, taking up the cross, and following Christ.        

Luke 9:23-25: “And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. 24 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose It, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. 25 For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?”

Context. Note the context in the previous passages (Luke 9:18-22), which is the identification of Christ (see the parallel account in Matt. 16:13-18):

And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?’ 19 They answered and said, ‘John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” 20 And He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” 21 But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, 22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised on the third day.”

Jesus’ first questions to the “disciples” was regarding who “who do the people say that I am?” (they gave inadequate answers). Then, Jesus asked them specifically: “Who do you say that I am?” It was the most faulty, fearful yet devoted, disciple of them all, who correctly answered and confessed: “The Christ of God.” However, Peter’s full confession is recorded in the parallel account in Matt. 16:16: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Although Peter (like many of us) totally misunderstood Jesus’ mission (esp. Matt. 16:21-23), and made countless mistakes in both word and action, he rightfully saw Jesus as Lord, the Son of God (God in the flesh), the Messiah of Israel. As with all Christians, throughout Peter’s life, he had victories and failures (even after the resurrection; cf. Gal. 2:11), but he grew spiritually and doctrinally until the point of his death. Recalling, Jesus had prophesied of Peter’s death in John 21:14-19, “signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, follow Me!” (v. 19)—and he did just that – the rest of his life unto his death.

From the start of Peter’s journey as an apostle of Christ, to his death, in spite of his many mistakes in his Christian life, Jesus was his Lord and Savior. Although, his ongoing sanctification and understanding of the work and mission of Christ was developmental and progressive and at times faltered, his faith in the Christ as “the Son of the living God” was unwavering.

What I find interesting is that immediately after Peter’s high Christological Confession (“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:18), Jesus foretold that He must “be killed” (Luke 9:22) Peter “criticized” the Lord Jesus for saying He must die: “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” Jesus, then, responds in Luke 9:23, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Matt. 16:23 adds, “Get behind me Satan”).

Jesus indicates to His disciples (who heard Jesus’ rebuke) that true discipleship can not be realized unless one is willing to forsake it all. This would mean fully trusting Him in all things. Job demonstrated this kind of trust when he said, “Though He slay me, I will trust in Him” (Job 13:15).

Peter eventually grew in knowledge and understanding of the Savior and His mission. This is apparent in John 6 regarding Jesus’ seemingly difficult statements of eating His flesh and drinking His blood (John 6:54). In response to this, “many of His disciples left” (v. 66), which prompted Jesus to ask (v. 67) “the twelve, ‘You do not want to leave also, do you?’ 68 Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 And we have already believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.’”

 

Denying oneself involves humility before the Lord.

Peter makes this point in 1 Pet. 5:6-7: “Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 having cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares about you” (NASB). In verse 6, the verb tapeinoō (“be humble”) is in the aorist imperative—, which indicates an urgent command, as in Be humble right now!—“under the mighty hand of God.” Keep in mind, the OT writers frequently used God’s hand as a symbol of discipline (Exod. 3:19; 6:1; Job 30:21; Ps. 32:4) and deliverance (Deut. 9:26; 32:32; Ezek. 20:34).

But how are we to be humble ourselves under the mighty hand God. The means of doing this is found in verse 7: “By casting all your cares [‘anxiety, worry’] on Him” (NET). The verb epiripsantes is the aorist participle of epiriptō (“to throw, cast upon”). So the verb would literally be translated as, “casting” (ESV, Holmen) or “having cast” (NASB 2020), or better “By casting” (NET). Unfortunately, translations such as the NIV (even the 2011 updated) make the participle independent of verse 6 by translating the participle as “Cast,” the beginning of a new sentence: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (NIV).

In other words, the very means of obeying the urgent commandment in verse 6 (“be humble under the mighty hand of God”) is found in the action of the participle: “By casting all your anxiety [or ‘worry’[1]] on Him—because He cares.”

Luke 9:23: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Although following Christ is a commandant (present imperative), the two preceding verbs arnēsasthō (“let him deny”) and aratō (“let him take up”) are in the aorist imperative—thus, as seen above, a commandment that stresses urgency— “Do it now!” commandment! Commenting on the parallel passage in Matt. 16:24, Calvin says of the phrase, “And let him take up his cross”:

As God trains his people in a peculiar manner, in order that they may be conformed to the image his Son, we need not wonder that this rule is strictly addressed to them. . . . (Calvin, Commentary of Matthew).

9:24 “For whoever wishes to save his life [psuchēn, “soul”] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” Nothing is more important in this life than to live for and serve the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Amen? As seen, Peter came to understand this clearly: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life” (John 6:68). We as Christians have nowhere else to go except to the Lord Jesus—who has given us the words of eternal Life: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (see also 1 John 5:20). In our stressful, unpredictable lives all we can do is ask: “Lord, to whom shall we go?”

9:25 “For what good does it do a person if he gains the whole world, but loses or forfeits himself?” For us, nothing, but Christ matters. Without the Son, the soul will perish: “The one who has the Son has the life; the one who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (1 John 5:12; cf. John 3:36).

9:26 “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Contextually, this statement was in the present state of the looming event of His death. However, there seems to be wider application (whether the latter phrase is referring to the final Eschaton [Second Coming] or, as many see it, the Transfiguration in vv. 28-36). The term translated, “ashamed” is from epaischunomai. Note the prefix of the verb, epi (“on, upon”) with aischunō (“to dishonor, disgrace”).

This verb shows the personal aspect of the disgrace or dishonor. Paul is “not ashamed [same term] of the gospel” (Rom. 1:16). Christian teachers even more, should not be ashamed of the Son of God and His work; or that He alone is the only means of salvation. True believers who love the Lord should never be ashamed of proclaiming the Trinity and justification through faith alone.


Notes

[1] The term anxious/worry is from the Greek word merimna, which carries the meaning of being “drawn in opposite directions; pulled apart from both sides.”

 

 

                                                                                                       

“Also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11). 

Let’s first note verses 1 through 9 and all the verbs expressing God’s blessing, electing/choosing, predestining, freely giving, lavishing the “riches of His grace,” “making know the mystery of His will,” obtaining an inheritance, etc. have God as the subject of the verbs (doing the actions) and man as the direct object (e.g., hēmas, “us”- receiving the actions).

 

Second, in 2 Thessalonians 2:13: “God has chosen you [humas] from the beginning for salvation….”). We have been claimed as God’s own possession within the context of our being chosen “in Him,” as seen in Ephesians 1:4-5. The phrase, “obtained an inheritance” is from the Greek term, klēroō. Used here, the term literally denotes receiving or giving a heritage or inheritance, or “the idea to allot, to assign in the sense of a privilege.” The TDNT[1] defines the term as, “an ‘appointment’ or ‘determination,’ which affects men in their being. It is also the goal, which is assigned to them in their calling. The term is exemplified in the OT signifying Israel as God’s klēros—namely, His heritage.

 

“Having been predestined according to His purpose.” The verb “predestined” also appears in verse 5. The term “purpose” is from the noun, prothesis—from pro (“before”) and tithēmi (“to place or set”). Thus, lexically, “to set or place before, for a particular purpose, predestined purpose” (see also in Rom. 8:28; 9:11; 2 Tim. 1:9). Additionally, the term is used to denote the setting forth of the consecrated bread in the temple before the Lord (Mark 2:26; Heb. 9:2).

“Who works all things after the counsel of His will.” The verb translated, “accomplishes” is energountosfrom the verb energeō, which is a compound word from ergon (“work”) and the preposition en (“in, by”), which intensifies the verb. The literal translation of the participle would be, “working, energizing, operating” (see the usage of the same verb at 1 Cor. 12:6; Eph. 2:2; and Phil. 2:13 [twice]). Hence, God is energizing all things after the council of His own will.

“All things.” The Greek reads, ta panta, “the all things.” Note that the article (ta, “the”) and adjective (panta, “all”) are in the neuter gender, thus denoting “the all things” inclusively. The same neuter phrase is used in Colossians 1:16-17: 16 “For by Him all things [ta panta] were created – all things [ta panta] have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things [ta panta] hold together.” Along with these passages, John 1:3, 10; Hebrews 1:10-12; and 2:10, robustly present, as Paul did, the Son as the agent of creation—namely, the Creator of all things. God is the ultimate cause of all things. There is nothing that exists outside of the category of ta panta, “the all things,” which God causes, ordains, decrees, and energizes after the council of His own will.

 

“After the counsel of His will.” The term “counsel” is translated from boulē. Here the term expresses the divine plan, purpose, and intention of God—namely, “according” to His sovereign counsel and predetermined purpose. Note Acts 2:23, which contains the same term (boulē), “This Man, delivered over by the predetermined PLAN [boulē] and foreknowledge of God.”

The one article (“the”) before the first noun (“plan”) and not the second (“foreknowledge”) grammatically shows that God’s “foreknowledge” is established in His hōrismenē boulē (“predetermined plan/decree”). In other words, “God’s decrees are not based on Him simply foreknowing what human beings will do; rather, humanity’s actions are based on God’s foreknowledge and predetermined plan” [2] (esp. Rom. 8:29-30). In fact, the same noun (boulē), with the same force, is used in Acts 4:27-28:

 

27 For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your PURPOSE [boulē] predestined to occur.

 

 Totally Sovereign Over All Things

What does sovereignty mean? Sovereignty simply means absolute control. Scripture presents that everything that happens, or that has happened, or that is going to happen is independently ordained and determined by God in that He has absolute control of all things. He doesn’t need to consult or ask permission from anyone, nor is He limited to anything outside of Himself. He acts to bring about His plan and nothing will, nor is able to, thwart it (Isa. 46:10-11).

 

So, because God “works [energizes] all things after the counsel of His will,” both good and evil then is likewise controlled by God, since evil is under the category of “all things” (Gen. 50:20; Isa. 53:4; Lam. 3:38; Acts 2:23; Acts 4:27-28). As we saw with the crucifixion, many things God ordains does involve sin, but always for a higher good (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28; Rom. 8:28).

 

For example, God is Sovereign over,

 

  • All creation (Isa. 54:5; Dan. 4:17, 25; John 1:13, 10; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:10-12; 2:10).

 

  • All calamities (Isa. 45:5-7; Amos 3:6).

 

  • All earthly authorities (Deut. 4:35, 39; Isa. 37:16; Dan. 5:18, 21; Hag. 2:22).

 

  • Man’s life, death, sickness, and disease (Deut. 32:39; Exod. 4:11 [cf. also John 9:1, 12:39-41]; 1 Sam. 2:6-7; Job 13:15; 14:5; 42:11; Ps. 139:16).

 

  • Evil (Prov. 16:4; Lam. 3:38-39).

 

  • The slavery of Joseph (Gen. 45:7; 50:20).

 

  • Samson’s marriage to the Philistine woman from Timnah (Judges 14:1-4).

 

  • Eli’s wicked sons (1 Sam. 2:22-25).

 

  • Judas’ betrayal of Christ (Matt. 26:23–25; 27:9-10; Luke 22:21–22; Acts 1:16, 20).

 

  • Our eternal destiny (John 6:37-39; 10:15; Acts 13:48; Eph. 1:4-5; Rom. 9:6-23; 2 Thess. 2:13).

 

It is God who puts men to death, gives them life—on His own prerogative (Deut. 32:39; Luke 10:20-22; John 5:21—[note in this passage that raising the dead and giving life to them are accomplished by both the Father and the Son]; 12:39-41; Rom. 9:16-24; etc.).

 

Arthur Pink rightly observes:

“It is strange, yet it is true, that many who acknowledge the sovereign rule of God over material things will cavil and quibble when we insist that God is also sovereign in the spiritual realm. But their quarrel is with God and not with us. We have given Scripture in support of everything advanced in these pages, and if that will not satisfy our readers, it is idle for us to seek to convince them.”[3]

 

How do Christians who do not embrace the full sovereignty of God pray for their lost loved ones? A prayer for the lost that is not based on God’s immutable, irresistible grace and power in salvation would be an impotent and ineffectual prayer, which would set man as the ultimate cause of one’s eternal destiny and not God.

 

The notion that God leaves the final decision of salvation in the hands of sinners is solidly against the biblical teachings both on the nature of man and on the doctrines of grace (Jonah 2:9; Luke 10:21-22; John 5:21; 6:37-40; 10:15, 25-28; Acts 13:48; Rom. 3:10-18; 8:7-8, 29-30; 9:16-23; 1 Cor. 1:30-31; Eph. 1:4-5; 2:8-10; 2 Thess. 2:13 et al).

 

God “works all things after the counsel of His will.” YHWH speaks of His absolute sovereignty in Isaiah 46:8-11:

 

“Remember this, and be assured; Recall it to mind, you transgressors. 9 “Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; 11 Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.”

 

Again, Godworks all things after the counsel of His will.” What an assuring passage! “All things”- means just that. All things are in the control and hand of God, the unchangeable Creator, and not in the hand of His creatures. Therefore, we are comforted in knowing that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Only because God is undeniably sovereign can the commands in Philippians 4:6-7 be so encouraging:

 

6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

 

  • Psalm 34:8-10: “O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

 

  • Romans 8:37, 39: “But in all these things [viz. referring back to vv. 29-30] we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us!

 

  • Hebrews 13:5-6: 5 “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” 6 so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?’”

 

Whether pandemics, personal calamity, victories, losses, or any other thing, – let us never lose sight of the sovereignty of God over “all things”— so Paul glorifies God in saying, nothing in all creation “will separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus Our Lord!” (Rom. 8:39).

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Notes

[1] Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Gerhard Kittel et al.).

[2] Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics.

[3] Arthur Pink, Sovereignty of God, “Difficulties and Objections.”

 

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (NASB).

 

2 Peter 3:9 is one of the top Arminian default passages to support a universal atonement. 

2 Peter 3:9 is one of the top Arminian default passages to support a universal atonement. First, definitive atonement is taught clearly throughout Scripture (Isa. 53:11; Mark 10:45; John 1:13; 6:37-40; Acts 13:48; Rom. 9; 11:5; 2 Thess. 2:13 et al.), and biblical passages cannot be set against other passages.

In opposition to the Arminian understanding of this passage, in brief,                     

  1. The context of chapter 3 is the second coming of Christ, not This point is very important as to a correct interpretation of v. 9.

 

  1. In vv. 1-2, Peter addresses his specific audience to whom he is writing (, the elect, cf. vv. 1:1ff.): “beloved, the second letter I am writing to YOU [ὑμῖν, SECOND person plural pronoun]. . . . 2 that YOU should remember the words spoken beforehand. . . .”

 

  1. However, in vv. 3ff., Peter uses third person plural pronouns and verbal references to refer to a different group —namely, the “scoffing mockers”: “Mockers will come [ἐλεύσονται] with THEIR mocking following after THEIR [αὐτῶν] own lusts” (v. 3), “it escapes THEIR [αὐτοὺς] notice” (v. 5).  

 

  1. Then in v. 8, Peter refers back to his own reading audience (the elect) using second person plural references: “But do not let this one fact escape YOUR [ὑμᾶς] notice, beloved,”—contra the third person reference group—“them,” the unsaved scoffers.  

 

Therefore, in light of Peter’s own defining context (second coming of Christ) and the clear differentiation he makes between the two groups (scoffers and the elect), we now can simply and appropriately interpret v. 9:

 

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as SOME [third person plural—the scoffers] count slowness, but is patient toward YOU [ὑμᾶς—second person plural—his audience, the elect], not wishing [βούλομαι, lit., “purposing, intending”] for ANY to perish [“any” of “You”], but for all (i.e., All of ‘you’] to come to repentance.” Hence, God does not purpose or intend any of His elect to perish, but all come to repentance and life in His Son: “All that the Father gives to Me will come to Me. . . . 39 [and I will] raise it up on the last day” (John 6:37, 39).    

 

Also note, there is a variant of the pronoun in v. 9 in which the TR contains—ἡμᾶς (“us”), “but is longsuffering to us-ward. . . .” (KJV). However, both variants (“you” or “us”) affirm the same thing.   

 

Lastly, although I see this as a valid interpretation consistent to biblical affirmation of particular redemption, there is another interpretation within the Reformed tradition. It draws emphasis on the two wills of God. In this view, various Scriptures sees God’s desire for the lost would repent and come to Him in order for salvation (cf. Ezek. 18:23, 32; 33:11; Jonah 4:11; etc.); and the call to repentance is given to all men (Luke 24:46-47; Acts 17:30-31). 

Thus, in one sense (preferential will) God loves all of humanity, not wanting any to perish, but all come to repentance. But in another sense (decretive will), He sovereignly elects all whom He intends to save. Calvin speaks of this view regarding 2 Peter 3:9: “So wonderful is his love towards mankind, that he would have them all to be saved, and is of his own self prepared to bestow salvation on the lost” (Calvin Commentaries, 419). 

Although, this view certainly has merit, I find stronger contextual reasons for the former. However, note, of the two views, non carry the Arminian notion of a universal self-determination ability of the unregenerate.                                                 

 

 

             

 

John 3:16

Universal Invitation or Promise to the Elect?

 

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Problem: Although John 3:16 is arguably one of the most frequently quoted passages in the Bible, it is one of the most misapplied and misinterpreted passages in the NT. Basically, the problem is two-fold: 1- Coming to the text with the presupposition of universal atonement (i.e., Jesus’ atoning cross work was for every single person, but for no one in particular). Thus, many “traditionally” quote the KJV mistranslation of the Greek adjective pas (“all/every,” which the KJV renders as “whosoever”). 2- Along with pas, a universal meaning is also imposed on the term kosmos (“world”).

 

The following are some main features of John 3:16 and the surrounding context, which are key in attaining a correct understanding of the passage.     

 

  • Greek rendering. Houtōs gar ēgapēsen ho theos ton kosmon hōste ton huion ton monogenē edōken, hina pas ho pisteuōn eis auton mē apolētai all’ echē zōēn aiōnion – literal rendering: “To this extent, indeed, loved the God the world, that the Son, the one and only, He gave, in order that every one believing in Him not should perish, but shall have life eternal.”

 

  • The context actually starts in vv. 14-15 dealing with the snake in the wilderness (cf. Num. 21:6-9) with which Nicodemus would have been familiar. The particularities of the event are contextually interrelated with John 3:15-16. Note a few contextual facts: I, the bronze serpent was the only means of healing/deliverance for “only” God’s people (the Israelites), which relates to trusting in the Son as the only means of salvation, II, verses 14-15 read, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.” Verse 15 contains the Greek conjunction hina (“that”) signifying a purpose and result clause. Thus, the purpose of the Son’s cross work (being “lifted up”) was for the result of every one believing in Him will have eternal life.

 

  • The affirmation of God’s redemptive love to all/every one believing. The extent of God’s love is shown by His sending His Son into the world, to the ones believing, and give them eternal life.

 

  • Houtōs. Although most translations translate the Greek adverb as “so,” a literal and more accurate translation would be, “in this way, in this manner, in such a condition, to this extent”—to express the actual result. Hence, the love of God is demonstrated in the giving of His Son in order to bring about the eternal life of believers.

 

  • Kosmos (“world”). Due to the presupposition of autosoterism (self-salvation), chiefly promoted by Arminians, kosmos is presumed to mean every single person, thus embracing the “traditional” (not exegetical) view of a universal atonement. However, many who see kosmos in this way are unaware that in the NT, kosmos has over a half of dozen clearly defined meanings. It can denote every single person (cf. Rom. 3:19); non-believers (cf. John 1:10; 15:18); believers (cf. John 1:29; 6:33; 12:47; 1 Cor. 4:9); Gentiles, in contrast from Jews (cf. Rom. 11:12); the world system (cf. John 12:31); the earth (cf. John 13:1; Eph. 1:4); the universe as a whole (cf. Acts 17:24); the known world (i.e., not everyone inclusively [cf. John 12:9; Rom. 1:8; Col. 1:5-6])—the point is this: only context determines the meaning of kosmos. Although kosmos can have various meanings, rarely does it carry an all-inclusive “every single person” meaning. For example, we know that the “world” in verse 16 is not the same “world” that Jesus does not pray for in John 17:9; nor is it the “world” that John speaks of in 1 John 2:15, which we are not to love. In first century vernacular, the normal meaning of “world” was the “world” of Jews and Gentiles—as John’s audience would have understood (cf. John 12:17, 19). Contextually, then, in verses 16 and 17, kosmos (and the adjective pas, “all/every” as discussed below) is clearly comprised of all or every one believing, both Jews and Gentiles (same as John 1:29; 12:47; etc.).

 

Again, the Arminian universal understanding of “world” and “all” in verse 16 would make verse 17 endorse universalism (i.e., all of humanity [world] will be saved). It is true that God intends to save the “world” through His Son, but it is the “world” of the believing ones that He saves—namely, “those who are called, both Jews and Greeks” (1 Cor. 1:24; cf. Eph. 1:4-5); men “from every tribe, tongue, people and nation” (Rev. 5:9); “all that the Father gives” to the Son (John 6:37-40, 44); it is the world for whom the Son dies and “gives life” (John 6:33) and “takes away” their sin (John 1:29)—as the surrounding context (vv. 14-15 and vv. 17-19) indicates. It would be biblically untrue to read into kosmos a universal (all of humanity) meaning.

 

  • Pas ho pisteuōn (lit., “all/every one believing”). As mentioned, many use the mistranslation of the KJV (“whosoever”) to assert the view of a universal non-definite atonement. However, the phrase in Greek teaches no such thing. Rather, it is a promise of eternal life to all the ones doing the action of the verb, that is, the present active participle, pisteuōn, “believing”—“Every one now believing” has eternal life.

 

  • The Greek adjective pas (as in pas ho pisteuōn) means “all/every.” First, there is no idea here that indicates a universal undefined invitation to salvation, as many assume. Second, it is incorrect to translate pas as equaling “whosoever”— as in “whosoever will believe,” rather than what is stated in the original: “all, everyone who/whoever is now believing.” In fact, most modern translations accurately render the phrase pas ho pisteuōn as “whoever believes” (NKJV, NASB, NIV); “everyone who believes” (NLT, Holman, NET); or, and most literal, “every one who is believing” (Young’s lit.).

 

  • Pisteuōn (lit., “believing”). The verb here is a present active participle—denoting a present ongoing action—“believing.” In John’s literature, present active participles (on-going actions) are normally used in soteriological (salvation) contexts to denote the life of a true Christian (e.g., John 5:24; 6:35, 47, 54; 1 John 5:1, 5). Grammatically, the adjective pas (“all/every”) modifies the participial phrase ho pisteuōn (“the one believing”). As noted, both verses 15 and 16 contain the same participial phrase: pas ho pisteuōn (lit., “every one believing,” thus, “all the believing ones”).

 

Verse 17- Hina- (“that”). “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” If one were to stay consistent in maintaining the notion that “world” in verse 16 refers to a universal “all” without exception, then he would have to accept a notion of universal salvation in verse 17.

Syntactically, the beginning of the sentence contains the postpositive conjunction (gar, “for”- “For God so loved the world”), which carries an explicative force to the continuation in the previous verse (hina, “so that”). The postpositive carries the meaning of “truly therefore, the fact is, indeed.” It is a “particle of affirmation and conclusion” (Thayer). Next, notice the adversative conjunction (alla, “but”) and a purpose and result conjunction (hina, “so that”). The adversative conjunction demonstrates a contrast (“but, rather”) or an opposing idea. The postpositive clearly conjoins the contextual meaning of “world” in verses 16 and 17—it cannot be semantically divided.

In fact, the postpositive (“for”), the adversative conjunction (“but”), and the purpose and result conjunction hina (“so that”- lit., “in order that”) appear in verse 16.[1] Hence, the literal rendering would be, “Therefore, the fact is, God did not send the Son into the world for the purpose of judgment (condemnation), rather, for the result of saving the world.”  

 

In 1 John 4:7-10, John himself provides an excellent commentary of John 3:16:

 Both (John 3:16 and 1 John 4:7-10) speak of God’s love, the sending of His Son, and how the sending of His Son is a manifestation of God’s love, specifically in verse 9:

  • John 3:16: “For God so loved the world.”
  • 1 John 4:9: “By this the love of God was manifested in us.”

 

  • John 3:16: “He gave His only begotten Son.”
  • 1 John 4:9: “God has sent His only begotten Son into the world.”

 

  • John 3:16: “whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
  • 1 John 4:9-10: “so that we might live through Him. . . . but that He loved us and sent His Son to bethe propitiation for our sins.”

As mentioned, the term “world” in 3:16 (meaning the world of Jews and Gentiles) is not a universal statement. 1 John 4:9 clearly affirms this meaning: “The love of God was manifested in us.” The “us” to John is identified in verse 7: “Beloved, let us love one another” – (Christians, both Jews and Gentiles).

 Summary:  

  1. The meaning of kosmos (“world”) in verses 16 and 17 is defined by the context: “all the ones” doing the action of the verb (“believing”)—i.e., both Jews and Gentiles. To suggest that “world” in verse 16 carries the meaning of “every single person,” would necessarily imply universalism or inclusivism in verse 17.  

 

  1. The KJV rendering, “whosoever” is an inaccurate translation of the Greek phrase, pas ho pisteuōn (lit., every one believing”).

 

  1. The adjective pas (“all/every”) grammatically modifies the verb (“believing”), all, without limit, the ones believing. Thus, in biblical contrast to the Arminian traditional understanding of verse 16 (viz. a universal atonement), verses 15-17 is God’s infallible promise, through the cross work of His Son—to provide eternal life to all the ones believing in Him. To them alone, He manifests His love by saving them.

 

  1. The Arminian interpretation of John 3:16 is generally based on a traditional understanding and not an exegetical one.

 

Henve, the idea that Jesus atoned (died) for ALL the sins of ALL men inclusively is an inconsistent soteriology. In one sense, the Arminians argue that Jesus paid (died) for the all the sins of all men and removing their wrath due for sin. But yet in another sense, they do not see the Son’s propitiatory work as actual nor definite, rather hypothetical. For if it were actual and definite (as the Bible teaches) then all men regardless of belief, would have all their sins, including the sin of rejection, definitely and actually removed, and the wrath due for sin literally averted—and a not a grand soteric hypothesis.

Arminians cannot have it both ways- either Christ actually paid for all the sins of all men, or He did not (i.e., He did not pay for only some of the sins). Hence,  the Arminian view of an ambiguous non-definite atonement, which paid for ALL the sins of ALL men lead to a universal notion. Contra, the biblical view – Christ literally and definitely removed ALL the sins from ALL the ones that the Father gave to the Son (John 6:37-39)– namely, a definite atonement.        

John 3:16 is an infallible promise to all the ones for whom Christ died.  

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Notes 

[1] “For [gar] God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that [hina] whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but [alla] have eternal life.”