What about John 3:16?


In the Gospel of John we read: “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.” (John 3:16). Many of us will read John 3:16 and in our own minds we will add the thought that everyone is free and able to believe the Gospel message as they choose. However, the text of John 3:16 says nothing about a man’s freedom or his ability to believe the message.


It is fine to add thoughts and conditions to a passage of Scripture, as long as those thoughts and conditions are stated elsewhere in the Bible.

However, the thought or the idea that everyone who hears the Gospel message is free and able to believe the message is stated nowhere in the Bible. What is clearly stated in the Bible is that unregenerate men are indeed not free or even able to believe the message at all, unless and until God intervenes in their lives to call them to faith in Christ.


By way of a brief review, we will consider just a few Scriptures that challenge the interpretation of John 3:16 as teaching that everyone is free and able to come to Christ if they should choose to do so. These Scriptures are John 6:44, 6:65, and Romans 8:7.


In John 6:44 and 6:65 Jesus taught about the inability of man to believe in Him apart from God’s intervention in his life. In John 6:44 He taught that no one can come to Him unless they are drawn by the Father.

And in John 6:65 He taught that no one can come to Him unless it has been granted to them by the Father to do so. Jesus also taught in John 6:44 that whoever is drawn to Him by the Father will be raised up at the last day.


In Romans 8:7 Paul taught that “the mind set on the flesh”, or the mind of unregenerate man, is hostile toward God; it will not submit to


God’s law, nor is it even able to do so. Therefore, if unregenerate man who cannot submit to God’s law is to be saved, then God Himself must intervene in his life to forcefully overcome his hostile will and bring him to faith. We can see this reality demonstrated in the life of Paul himself as we read in the Scriptures of his conversion on the Damascus road, even while he was still intent on persecuting the church.


Believing in Christ is not an act of our own will or volition that we choose to do when we are still dead in our sins, whereby we take advantage of a perceived “offer of salvation that is available to every individual”, as some would say. Rather our believing in Christ is evidence that we have already been called by God to faith in His Beloved Son.


The Scriptures teach us that when anyone believes in Christ, it is not because they chose to believe; it is because God has chosen to intervene in their lives to cause them to believe. The Scriptures teach that man cannot, and therefore he does not, choose to believe the Gospel message. Rather God chooses certain men, His elect, and these He brings to faith in Christ.

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