“I just believe in a whosoever gospel.”
So the response often goes whenever a discussion of sovereign grace is entered upon. I have heard this protest against sovereign grace many times. Normally, what a person means who says this is simply that Jesus accepts any who come. The conclusion is then drawn from this that all people must be able to come of their own accord.
So, is it true that Jesus believes in a ‘whosoever’ gospel?
Yes! By all means. No one who comes to Jesus in saving faith will be turned away (John 6:35, 37, 40, 47, 51, 54, 57-58). Does this resolve the issue, however? If it is agreed that Jesus saves all who come to him in repentant trust, have the historic debates over the doctrines of grace now evaporated? Can Arminians and all Semi-Pelagians and whosoever else, now put down their placards?
Sadly, I suspect this will not happen. After all, it seems that the ‘whosoever will’ question is really just a distraction. Evangelicals generally are in agreement here. Calvinists enthusiastically believe in a whosoever gospel. So this protest does not accomplish anything productive. It clouds the real issues by setting up a straw man that is supposed to represent a Calvinist perspective but in reality does nothing of the sort. It is, therefore, merely a distraction.
But if the first question is really just a misguided distraction, what is the real question?
The real question is, who did Jesus believe was going to actually come to him? If I may put it this way, whosoever was he talking about? Simply put, who comes to Jesus?
- Those who of their own initiative, change the disposition of their own hearts from the state of rebellious unbelief to the state of repentant faith.
Or, is it:
- Those who, in eternity past, God selected out of the mass of humanity to receive mercy and in time are effectively drawn to Christ, having their hearts converted by grace.
A cursory look at a few passages in John’s Gospel will help clarify the answer to this question.
“All that the Father gives to me will come to me and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37)
- The group that the Father gives to the Son is the same group that actually comes to the Son…no more, no less. Jesus receives every person in that group.
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” (John 6:38-39)
- The Father’s will is that Jesus would save every single person that the Father gives to him. Jesus does this. The group of people that the Father gives the Son is the same group who will be raised to blessed life on the last day.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44)
- Sinful humanity is not able to come to Jesus. The Father must specially, individually and effectively draw them to Jesus. Everyone who the Father draws in this way will ultimately go to heaven. Those who he does not, will not.
“And this is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” (John 6:65)
- The ability to come to Jesus in saving faith is a gift, selectively and individually given by the Father.
“But you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.” (John 10:26)
- The reason people do not believe, is that they are not part of the people God has given to the Son. Arminians reverse the logical order of this verse. They say, “You are ultimately not part of God’s flock because you don’t believe.” But God says ultimately you do not believe because you are not of my flock.
“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:28-29)
- The Father has given a flock to the Son. Jesus will fully and finally save all those whom the Father gave him.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit…” (John 15:16)
- It is not our election of God, but God’s election of us, that results in our salvation.
“When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.” (John 17:1-2)
- There are two groups spoken of here: broadly, all humanity (“all flesh”) and narrowly, the elect (“all you have given him”). Jesus gives eternal life to the individuals in the second group.
“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.” (John 17:6)
- The people the Father gave the Son are specific people; individually known by the Father and the Son. These people are the same ones who keep God’s word in life.
“I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” (John 17:9)
- Jesus prays for the people the Father has given him in a way that he does not pray for the rest of humanity. Jesus prays in a way that brings about the results intended.
“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24)
- The people the Father has given the Son from all eternity will enjoy his glory for all eternity.
John’s Gospel teaches:
- In eternity past, the Father has given a certain group of people, out of the mass of humanity, to the Son to be saved.
- All who the Father gives to the Son in eternity, will come to the Son in saving faith in time.
- “Whosoever” comes to the Son in faith, is welcomed and will be saved by the Son.
From this, we can see the problem with the “whosoever” protest. It seems to ignore the first and second points. John’s Gospel teaches us that the Father gives a certain group of people to Jesus. Jesus fully and finally saves that group of people.