Friday, November 30, 2012

Don't forget John 3:17

John 3:16 is one of the most well known and loved passages in the bible - because it summarize the Gospel so nicely. Some Calvinists limit "world" from meaning everyone, but many Calvinists do see that John 3:16 is about everyone.1  That is to say, they agree that God has a general love for all mankind that moved Him to send His Son.  But they stop there, just short of saying God intends to apply the work of His Son to each and every person to save all.  But don't forget verse 17:

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

God's purpose in sending His Son was so that the world [each and every individual], through Christ Jesus, might be saved.  Contra Dort's claim that: "it was God’s will that Christ through the blood of the cross (by which he confirmed the new covenant) should effectively redeem from every people, tribe, nation, and language all those and only those who were chosen from eternity to salvation and given to him by the Father" (Dort 2.8), God's intent was for His Son to save the world.  

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1 For detailed arguments on why world means everyone in this context, I recommend David Allen's chapter "The Atonement: Limited or Universal?" in A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism.  B&H Publishing. 2010.  He is also quoted on John 3:16 in chapter 1.  I also recommend John Goodwin's treatment of John 3:16 starting on page 132 of Redemption Redeemed (link).   The basic arguments are that you wouldn't need whosoever (pas) if the "sense was God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that believers should not perish".  The point of the pas is to distribute the promise.  Also, the reading of God so loved believers that He gave His Son that whoever believes should not perish makes no sense.  Whoever believes has to be a subset of the world - the world being divided between believers and unbelievers.  Goodwin also makes a effective argument from NT usage of the word world or kasmos.

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