DISCUSSIONS ON DISPUTED TEXTS
6. “THAT WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH IN HIM”
We now come to that part of our text that speaks of “that whosoever believeth in him.” Those who oppose God’s grace emphasize the word “whosoever.” This they do wrongly. Emphasizing “whosoever” is merely taking a word out of context and building a doctrine upon it, namely that God’s salvation is available to all and any that believe in Christ. In our English text, it’s the coupled phrase “whosoever believeth.” In the Greek (which need not go to, for the English is plain in and of itself, but for sake of a double witness we shall present the Greek) it simply says, “the one believing.” Hence, it’s not speaking of the extent of those who can, will, or are able to believe. The emphasis is on the fact that those who do believe will not perish, but have everlasting life.
As we noted above, verse 15 of John 3 is the same as 16b. We also noted above the importance of the word “for” in the beginning of verse 16, bringing us back (mainly) to verse 14. Verse 14 simply states that Christ will be lifted up. Verse 15 gives the purpose, that believers in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. Verse 16 describes this even further, stating God’s desire and motive in sending His Son, His love, along with those who are the object of God’s love and those for whom the atonement was intended. The words “that” in verses 15 and 16 play an important role also. The first in verse 15 is a conjunction particle. The first in verse 16 is a particle, while the second is a conjunction. The “that” in verse 15 is for the purpose of limiting the work done in verse 14b, the lifting up of Christ, in that it’s purpose and effect is for those expressed in verse 15. The first “that” of verse 16 expresses the meaning of “for this purpose and reason.” Hence, because God loves the world (or the elect as we have shown), He has sent His only begotten Son. Then we are introduced to the next “that” which is placed for the purpose of explaining the object of the previous verb, that being the sending of God’s Son, which was a result of love. Hence, the love and sending of Christ is already limited to the individuals in verse 16b, the believers. All this grammatical explanation was for the purpose of laying a solid foundation on the next point we will make: Only God’s elect receive saving faith, and nobody else; hence, the object of God’s love in this verse are the elect, here identified as the world and believers, and them alone.
As any honest person looks around, they will notice that not everyone is a believer. In churches, lost people hear the same message, yet one believes and another doesn’t. The Scriptures themselves declare that, “all men have not faith” (2 Thessalonians 3:2). Saving faith is described in the Bible as “the faith of God’s elect” (Titus 1:1). It is described as such, for only the elect have received this faith. This faith is a gift indeed, but not a gift offered. It is a gift given. To offer implies presenting for acceptance or rejection. But to give is to place in the possession of another for his/her use. The latter describes faith. Faith is not a gift that is offered and the one to whom it is offered has the ability to receive or reject. Faith is a gift given in possession of the elect (hence, sometimes it is called “our faith”, 1 John 5:4, or “my faith”, James 2:18, and the like in Scripture) to be exercised by them to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel of grace. Proof that faith is not a gift offered is that the Scriptures never speak of it as such. No one in the Scriptures preached the gospel saying, “God offers faith to all, accept it.” For accepting the faith itself would be an act of faith. Faith is a fruit of divine election, as the Scriptures read, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). Faith is a fruit of the Spirit as well (Galatians 5:22). From Scripture and logic, we can see faith is a gift given, not a gift offered. “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29).
Salvation is in Christ alone (2 Timothy 2:10; Acts 4:10-12), and originates from Christ alone. Hence, Christ is “the author of eternal salvation unto all that obey him” (Hebrews 5:9). In like manner, our faith is a gift of God (Philippians 1:29), yea, is Christ’s faith (Galatians 2:16, 20), so He also is “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Our faith is not authored by ourselves, but authored by Christ. Our faith has not its roots in us, but in Christ. The very means by which we receive salvation is not of ourselves, but of God. O, the blessed sufficiency of grace!
Christ’s active and passive obedience was done on part of God’s elect, which is the righteousness of Christ. The latter half of Romans 3 deals with God’s righteousness sufficiently, and we are made this righteousness by imputation (2 Corinthians 5:21). It is through this righteousness by which we have “obtained like precious faith” (2 Peter 1:1). So by Christ’s righteousness on behalf of the elect, our faith was procured. That their faith was procured clears many of the silly questions Arminians ask, such as, “Can an elect die without faith,” “What happens if an elect becomes regenerate but dies right before faith?” That this faith would be given them was also as sure as the entirety of their salvation. Faith is included in the many blessings which were given the elect in Ephesians 2:1-9. Many mistakenly apply “and that not of yourselves” as speaking of faith alone. It is true, that our faith alone is not of ourselves. But in context, the entirety of our salvation is being spoken of, but faith is included. So it is perfectly Biblical to say that our faith is a gift given to us by using this passage.
The elect do not exercise, nor receive faith in an unregenerate state. The Scriptures say, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12, 13). Receiving and believing on Christ are synonymous in this text. Those that performed the action of receiving Christ in verse 12 are described in verse 13 as being in a state of regeneracy. They were born of God, and their freewill had nothing to do with it. The Scriptures state that, “without faith it is impossible to please” God (Hebrews 11:6). Faith then is what is needed to please God. The natural man cannot do this, for “they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8). So a man in a state of unregeneracy cannot please God. But by God’s irresistible grace, he is circumcised and his inner man is cut loose from his flesh, leaving him no more in the flesh. “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Colossians 2:11). “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). As a result of our circumcision, we are no longer “in the flesh, but in the Spirit” (Romans 8:9) and “the body is dead because of sin” (Romans 8:10). So, as the male is circumcised, having his dead foreskin cut off, so the saint is circumcised, having his “dead foreskin cut off” (if you will), and he is no longer in the flesh. It is then that he is put in a state by which he can exercise the faith given him by the Spirit.
We have presented the Biblical fact that only the regenerated elect of God can believe in Christ and the gospel. We shall now present those that don’t believe, being the reprobate. We mentioned from God’s word above that only the regenerate elect believe in Christ and the gospel. Being regenerate also implies Christ being in us, as is presented to us in Romans 8:10. This comes into play again, for in exhorting the Corinthians to examines themselves and prove whether they be in the faith, he told them that Christ is in them, unless they are reprobates: “Examines yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? (2 Corinthians 13:5). Those who die rejecting the gospel of grace manifest that they were reprobates. Being reprobate implies not having Christ within oneself, and such cannot practice faith, nor are given faith. The Scriptures tell us also that God “hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them” (John 12:40). So God clearly didn’t intend for all to believe.
That God ordained for men to reject Christ is clear, not only from above, but from 1 Peter 2:7, 8 as well: “Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.” The contrast of believers and unbelievers, and the reference to the believers being chosen, further strengthens our argument. God didn’t appoint the elect “to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9), but those in 1 Peter 2:9 were appointed to stumble at the word of God. God decreed the elect would be saved, and as a fruit they have faith to believe that salvation which Christ accomplished for them at the cross. But those whom God ordained to damnation do not believe with God-given faith. Nor can they, for they are not Christ’s sheep (John 10:26).
"Should Not Perish"