Justification by Faith is Dead, V. FAQs: Part 1. “Whosoever Believes?” “Why Preach the Gospel?” & “What is Faith Then?”

I believe that the “whosoever believes” of John 3:16 means that everyone has an equal opportunity to believe the Gospel. According to you, this is not true. Why?

Not that I find joy in flogging an ex-horse, but I must reiterate that we must understand the difference between what a text says and what we interpret a text to mean. In the text of John 3:16, the phrase “whosoever believes” is a modifier that places limitations on the phrase, “will not perish.” Therefore, those who believe in Jesus Christ will not perish, and conversely, those who do not believe in him will perish. However, this phrase says nothing of one’s ability to believe. This verse simply states what is said elsewhere, namely that is through faith that one is justified. Where this faith comes from, to whom it is to be credited, or the universal ability or opportunity for all men to believe is not addressed in this verse at all. Actually, if we study this text in its context, i.e. John 3:1-8, we would likely come to much different conclusion about the interpretation of this text than we typically do.

If faith is solely a work of God, what is the point in sharing the Gospel?

I have addressed this question more fully in another post, but in short, we need to understand what is (or should be) our primary objective in preaching the Gospel. The apostle Paul says it this way, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life” (2Cor. 2:15,16). In other words, we preach the Gospel first and foremost “to spread the fragrance of Christ” around the world (cf. 2Cor. 2:14). We are in it to glorify God in Christ first and foremost. If some believe are saved, praise God! If many reject Gospel and curse God, praise God! For, we are not peddlers of the Gospel with something to sell, but we are heralds of the Goods News of Jesus Christ, knowing full-well that we march in a triumphal procession, for it is God who saves souls, not us, and he will accomplish his purposes.

See: The Goal of the Gospel & Missions through the Eyes of a Calvinist

What is faith if it is not a work of acceptance?

Regarding our volition, our faith or belief in Jesus Christ is nothing. We do not will ourselves to believe nor do we evaluate certain facts and “accept” them thereby saving ourselves. But as the apostle writes in his letter to the Hebrews, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (v. 11:1). In other words, one has faith if he hopes and has assurance and if he has not seen but has conviction. And where does this assurance and conviction come from? Not from us, for how could we have assurance of our hope or conviction of things which we have not seen? It is the Spirit’s work, for Paul writes of our assurance, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rm. 8:16), and of our hope, Peter writes “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ … [who] has caused us to be born again to a living hope” (1Pt. 1:3).

Therefore our faith is not a work of acceptance, but it is our natural testimony of the work of the Spirit in our hearts. For it the Spirit who circumcises one’s heart (cf. Rm. 2:29), and it is from that heart that one believes and is saved (cf. Rm. 10:9,10). And as the apostle so clearly wrote elsewhere “So then [our election and consequent salvation by faith] depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Rm. 9:16).

Next: More FAQs

Categories: Theology

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