The below post is a letter that a good friend and an ardent Calvinist (who just happens to be the husband of my daughter) recently gave me in response to my contention that Jn 3:16 (along with 2 Pet 3:9, Rev 3:20. Tit 2:11, 1 Tim 2:3) refutes the concept of election. Mike was kind enough to provide a detailed response to each of these verses. Hopefully on subsequent posts I’ll respond to those other verses. However, with this post, I’m focusing in on Jn 3:16. Mike’s letter is heartfelt and reflects the passion and commitment he has for his Christian faith. Mike is heavily involved in Equip Campus Ministries at South Dakota State University and I would encourage people to check out their web site: www.equipsdsu.org. I appreciate Mike and with his permission, I’m pleased to offer his letter for the reader’s consideration. I’ll post my response to this letter in the comments section.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son and that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
Arminian Interpretation: God loves the entire world, meaning every single individual in the world. However, He has also designed the world in such a way that only believers will have eternal life.
Calvinist Interpretation: God loves the entire world, meaning every single individual in the world. However, He has also designed the world in such a way that only believers will have eternal life.
So what’s the problem?
I think it’s helpful to notice what question this text doesn’t address. It doesn’t address the question for why some do believe and others don’t. All Jn 3:16 says is that God saves the believers.
Why do some believe and others don’t?
We must admit that Jn 3:16 doesn’t answer this question. Here are a few examples within John that will suggest that belief starts with God and not man.
Jn 3:5-8 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Sprit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the spirit.
Thoughts: It seems like we were born of the Spirit the same way we were born of the flesh. When I was born of the flesh, I played no part in my birth. My birth was 100% a result of my parent’s choice. So it is with my spiritual birth. It has nothing to do with me, but everything to do with God. From our perspective, John says it’s like the wind, you don’t know where it comes from or where it goes.
Jn 6:28-29 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.
Thoughts: The people want to know how they can be doing the works of God. Jesus replies by saying, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
Belief is a work. Which presents a problem because Eph 2:9 says that salvation is not a result of works.
But this works because Jesus says that our belief is a work of God, not a work of man.
This is like Jn 1:12-13 that says, “To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Jn 10:24-28 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “how long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
Jesus is answering the question we posed about, namely, “who do some believe and others don’t?”
His answer to why the Jews don’t believe is, “because they are not a part of his flock.”
In other words, those who are a part of Jesus’ flock will believe.
Again, to put it another way, being a part of Jesus’ flock is the prerequisite for belief. If we are in Jesus’ flock, we will believe. If we are not in Jesus’ flock, we will not believe.