Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Misquoted verses: Jn. 3:16

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (Jn. 3:16)

Ούτως γαρ ηγαπησεν ό θεος τον κοσμον, ώστε τον υίον τον μονογενη εδωκεν, ίνα πας ό πιστευων εις αυτον μη αποληται αλλ εχη ζωην αιωμιον. (Jn. 3:16)

John 3:16 is one of the most misquoted verses in the Bible. From a beautiful text that teaches the love of God in saving sinners, the synergists have made it into a proof-text for the universal love of God towards all and every sinner, even to the unrepentant reprobate.

In this video, Dr. James White shows through exegeting the verse itself that John 3:16 does not teach universal saving love. Rather, from the Greek πας ό πιστευων (pas ho pisteuon), the phrase that is translated "whosoever believes" in many English versions is actually better translated "all the believing ones [who continue believing]" or "all those with saving faith". There is no Greek word for "whosoever", and the term πας which can be translated as "all" is a modifier for the participle ό πιστευων. Therefore, the group of people indicated by πας is restricted by the phrase it is modifying, and not indicative of every single person in this world at all. John 3:16 does not thus teach a form of universal redemption in any sense, as even the context makes it clear:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (Jn. 3:16-18. Bold added)

It is simply illogical to believe that God has a universal saving love for all men, and simultaneously to believe that there are still men who remain condemned, if God is truly omnipotent and unchanging.

John 3:16 can be better translated as follows:

For God loved the world in this way: that He gave his only unique Son, that all the believing ones should not perish but have eternal life.


Joel Tay said...

Good article. Those I would think that the main objection by anti-limited atonement proponents is not so much "all who believes" but rather, the phrase, "so loved the world". They would take world to mean everyone who lived... an argument which is easily refuted when looking into the context.

PuritanReformed said...


for such people, there is always the case of 1 Jn. 2:15 to deal with =P

Tim said...

Yes, I agree! God shows His unfailing love, only to those whom He has chosen by grace, those whom Christ died for, those to whom He gave His one and only Son, those who will not perish, those who will have eternal life, and THOSE WHO BELIEVE AND CONTINUE BELIEVING.

PuritanReformed said...