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Whoever believes?

Before continuing to read this post, please read my post called Salvation for the world! A study on some of the universalistic passages of salvation first!

I was listening to James White of Alpha & Omega fame on his program, the Dividing Line, that was aired on 26 Dec 2006.

In this program, James White let us listen how Chuck Smith from Calvary Chapel totally misrepresented Calvinism, and how Chuck harped on the phrase, “whosoever believeth” (KJV), in John 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.”


John 3:16, of course, is widely used by Arminians to prove that God does not elect people to salvation and that we all can choose to believe in Christ!

James White made a statement concerning Chuck Smith’s favourite words, “whosoever believeth.” It all has to do with the Greek in this case. I must say I never looked at the Greek in this case!

The phrase, “that whoever believes” is “ina paV o pisteuwn” (hina pas ho pisteuwn).

pisteuwn” is a present active first person masculine singular participle.

In this case the translation of hina pas ho pisteuwn is as follows: in order that each believing one. Hence, the translation is as follows:

“For God so loved the world,
that he gave his only Son,
in order that each believing one in him should not perish but have eternal life.”


It is clear from looking at the Greek here, that the intention of John 3:16 is not some kind of universalism in which anyone that simply wants to, could walk into the Kingdom of God by choice. There simply is no universalism here. Instead, this verse rather makes it clear that only the believing ones will have eternal life!

On the one hand, it says that God so loved the world, but on the other hand a clear delimitation is positioned by this verse based on the believing ones. So, this verse precludes any universal ability in man and simply concentrates on those that do believe. It simply does not say how they came to their believing state!

The problem with the word whoever that appears in many translations here, is that it creates a false sense in the reader that it means to communicate to us a meaning of “all without distinction in a particular group.”[1] People like Chuck Smith and Dave Hunt use this meaning of whoever when reading the term world in this verse. The fact is that the construct of the Greek simply does not allow that. It clearly makes a separation between world and the believing ones.

So, as we can see, John 3:16 cannot be used in any universalistic sense, but rather in a particular sense. It is not the whoever that will be saved, but rather each believing one will be saved. Instead of a sense of the whoever that will be saved, it should rather be the only that will be saved. It is not a case of whoever that will be saved, but rather, only the believing ones will be saved. As a result, it is not whoever in the world that will be saved, but rather, only the believing ones in the world will be saved.

[1] Hunt, Dave and White, James, Debating Calvinism: five points, two views, Multnomah Publishers, Sisters, Oregon, 2004, p378. This is a short quote from James White.

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