John 3:16 and God's Love for the World

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by Travis Fentiman, Jul 4, 2014.

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  1. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    I would argue that verses 14 and 15 are more relevant to the context of 'world' in verse 16.

    "And as...even so..."

    Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness as a means of atonement by faith for the sin of Israel as a nation. However, the serpent was not lifted up as a means of atonement by faith for each and every Israelite.

    "Much people of Israel died" of the serpent bite before the serpent was lifted up. Therefore, the serpent was lifted up as a means of atonement by faith not to each and every Israelite who was bitten by the serpents, but to Israel as a whole.

    "Even so..." Jesus is lifted up as an atonement by faith, not to each and every person who ever lived, but to the world in general contrasted with Israel in general.

    Whereas God loved Israel in general by providing the serpent on the pole, God so (in this manner) loved the world in general by providing His only begotten Son.

    The emphasis is on 'world' in distinction from Israel, not 'world' in distinction from 'the elect.' I am not even sure John's original audience would have understood the concept of 'election' the way we do since it was Paul who really crystalized that particular doctrine.
  2. InSlaveryToChrist

    InSlaveryToChrist Puritan Board Junior

    Rev. Matthew Winzer,

    If I may ask, what about John Calvin? Did he affirm the doctrine of universal will? If not, can you explain the quote I mentioned in my previous comment?
  3. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Stephen Charnock helps us to think in biblical terms on the blessedness of God (Works 2:169):

    The blessedness of God is hence evidenced. If God be almighty, he can want nothing; all want speaks weakness. If he doth what he will, he cannot be miserable; all misery consists in those things which happen contrary to our will. There is nothing can hinder his happiness, because nothing can resist his power. Since he is omnipotent, nothing can hurt him, nothing can strip him of what he hath, of what he is. If he can do whatsoever he will, he cannot want anything that he wills. He is as happy, as great, as glorious, as he will; for he hath a perfect liberty of will to will, and a perfect power to attain what he will: his will cannot be restrained, nor his power mated. It would be a defect in blessedness to will what he were not able to do. Sorrow is the result of a want of power, with a presence of will. If he could will anything which he could not effect, he would be miserable, and no longer God; he can do whatsoever he pleases, and therefore can want nothing that pleases him.
  4. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Stephen Charnock helps us to see that the doctrine of a "contrary will" is nothing other than the sinful propensity in men to subject God to their lusts. Far from conceding to this sinful propensity God overpowers and overrules it to the praise of His glory and the preservation of His blessedness (Works 1:189):

    Sin in its own nature endeavours to render God the most miserable being. It is nothing but an opposition to the will of God. The will of no creature is so much contradicted as the will of God is by devils and men; and there is nothing under the heavens that the affections of human nature stand more point blank against, than against God. There is a slight of him in all the faculties of man; our souls are as unwilling to know him as our wills are averse to follow him: Rom. viii. 7, 'The carnal mind is enmity against God; it is not subject to the law of God, nor can be subject.' It is true God's will cannot be hindered of its effect, for then God would not be supremely blessed, but unhappy and miserable; all misery ariseth from a want of that which a nature would have and ought to have ; besides, if anything could frustrate God's will, it would be superior to him; God would not be omnipotent, and so would lose the perfection of the deity, and consequently the deity itself; for that which did wholly defeat God's will would be more powerful than he. But sin is a contradiction to the will of God's revelation; to the will of his precept, and therein doth naturally tend to a superiority over God, and would usurp his omnipotence, and deprive him of his blessedness. For if God had not an infinite power to turn the designs of it to his own glory, but the will of sin could prevail, God would be totally deprived of his blessedness. Doth not sin endeavour to subject God to the extravagant and contrary wills of men, and make him more a slave than any creature can be? For the will of no creature, not the meanest and most despicable creature, is so much crossed as the will of God is by sin: Isa. xliii. 24, 'Thou hast made me to serve with thy sins;' thou hast endeavoured to make a mere slave of me by sin. Sin endeavours to subject the blessed God to the humour and lust of every person in the world.
  5. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    No; he rejected contrary wills. God's "wishes" are fulfilled. He "wishes" the human race should not perish and has therefore provided the way of salvation. The human race in fact does not perish. Faith is given to the elect. God's "wishes" are effected in the salvation of the elect.
  6. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor


    To follow up my comment on the Free Church constitutionalists, I note a link on your website to James Macgregor. In this linked excerpt he clearly stated that the view of an unfulfilled desire in God is Amyraldian:

    In the second excerpt he expressly identifies the teaching as Arminianism:

    It is very clear that James Macgregor regarded the teaching of universal love and will as Amyraldian and Arminian. Whereas the old Calvinist offers God's love and grace to the sinner to be embraced by faith, the Arminianising Calvinist seeks to assure the sinner of that love and grace before he has believed, and makes this the warranting ground of the offer.
  7. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor


    I also note that James Durham is referenced on your site. Specifically, the following statement:

    Here, again, is clear evidence that "God's desire" for particular persons forms no part of the basis on which the gospel is offered. Those who speak of universal desire are attempting to pry into the heart of God and seek out a warrant that He has not revealed.
  8. Travis Fentiman

    Travis Fentiman Puritan Board Freshman

    Matthew, I appreciate all of your posts above and thank you for them.

    I hope you will appreciate as well this passage from Francis Turretin's Institutes affirming the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel (at the bottom of the page):

    The Will of God and the Gospel Offer: Samuel Rutherford and Francis Turretin - The Westminster Presbyterian

    And, speaking of Stephen Charnock, here he clearly affirms the Sincere Free Offer:

    The Will of God and the Gospel Offer: John Howe, John Flavel and Stephen Charnock - The Westminster Presbyterian
  9. Travis Fentiman

    Travis Fentiman Puritan Board Freshman


    Regarding James MacGregor, I agree with you that he speaks against Amyraldianism. However, in the same article he also supports, in the words of Rev. Sherman Isbell, "a beneficent benevolence in God toward man which involves no saving purpose."

    The Will of God and the Gospel Offer: Robert Murray M'Cheyne, John Duncan, William Cunningham, Charles Calder Mackintosh, James MacGregor, John Kennedy and Hugh Martin - The Westminster Presbyterian

    If you desire to see it in context in the full article, it is here:
  10. Travis Fentiman

    Travis Fentiman Puritan Board Freshman

  11. Travis Fentiman

    Travis Fentiman Puritan Board Freshman

  12. Travis Fentiman

    Travis Fentiman Puritan Board Freshman


    Regarding Durham, I agree with you insofar as what you quoted. However, how do you explain his second sermon in Christ Crucified, as quoted on that same page on my site?

    But more than this, how do you interpret otherwise his two sermons in the Unsearchable Riches of Christ on Isa. 55, unleashing the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel on poor penny-less sinners? It is all over his writings.
  13. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor


    The sincerity for Durham is in the indefinite terms. When you make those terms definite by preaching "universal desire" it ceases to be sincere, for God has not purposed salvation for all, the Saviour has not wrought salvation for all, and the Spirit does not apply salvation to all. It suffices to say that God desires to save those who will believe and come to Christ. By maintaining a Scriptural conditionality one is free to offer an all-sufficient and effectual salvation to all without discrimination or qualification.

    Concerning Turretin, he stated clearly that universal will is absurd. If you understand his statements so as to preclude the idea of an ineffectual will in God his comments are well adapted to show the sincerity of the gospel offer. But introduce a contrary will in God and the sincerity of the offer is lost.
  14. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    On Stephen Charnock,

    Nothing more is required. An intrinsic desire that is left unfulfilled is by definition a passion. Both Edward Reynolds and William Pemble define it as such.

    On John Howe, who was very influential in the formation of Dabney's "psychological" view, I concur that he taught an unfulfilled will in God. It should be noted that in order to argue this view he denied the traditional reformed distinction of God's will into signi (sign) and beneplaciti (good pleasure).
  15. InSlaveryToChrist

    InSlaveryToChrist Puritan Board Junior

    Do'h! I'm so stupid for not realizing that!
  16. Travis Fentiman

    Travis Fentiman Puritan Board Freshman

  17. nick

    nick Puritan Board Freshman

    Murray clarifies his position in the comments. There are some good responses in those comments as well... some disrespectful ones as well, but hey, it wouldn't be the inter webs without 'em.
  18. InSlaveryToChrist

    InSlaveryToChrist Puritan Board Junior

    I was personally very disappointed in David Murray's article. He made the presumption that God's preceptive will means that "God desires all people keep His moral law." It all comes down to failing to distinguish between the relation of God's will to the futurition of things and the obligation of creation (which is under God's law).

    This has been said again and again in this thread in different terms, but I think it needs to be said once more.

    Properly, the preceptive will is God's desire that all men should do according to His law, not what they will do (that belongs to God's decretive will).

    However, there is yet another relation of God's will, and it concerns Himself. This would be called God's will of disposition. This relation of God's will is found in places like Ezekiel 18:32 where it says, "For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth," or Lamentations 3:33 where it says, "For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men." This means God does not delight in death or affliction or His punishment itself, but rather the justice of it. In other words, God loves justice, He loves who He is, but He is not a tyrant that takes pleasure in suffering itself.

    So, we see that God only has one will, yet multiple relations of it.

    There are times when the relations of God's will overlap in the Bible, but it is of vital importance that they are not confused with each other.
  19. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Travis, The emphasised words only state, "and of his desire to save men," with which all are in agreement. It says nothing about "all men." Further, in the non-emphasised portion he states, "in full consistency with all the attributes of his nature and all the principles of his moral government." In Historical Theology (2:454-455) Principal Cunningham very clearly stated that an ineffectual will in God is contrary to His attributes and contrary to the principles of His moral government.

  20. nick

    nick Puritan Board Freshman

    I tried to emphasize the "responses" to the article in his comments section. :wink:

    We could probably start a new thread discussing that article, so this one doesn't get derailed.
  21. whirlingmerc

    whirlingmerc Puritan Board Sophomore

    1 Timothy 4:10 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

    When Jesus said Father forgive them, they know not what they do, it didn't sound like He meant only the elect. It sounded like a more general plea.
    It's possible for God to display love the world at large and show His long suffering and other blessings in a general way and apply love to the elect more intensely

    Psalm 145:16 You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. ( this satisfaction has limits, it appears, to this life for many)
    Psalm 145:19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. ( this enjoyment is without end )
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2014
  22. InSlaveryToChrist

    InSlaveryToChrist Puritan Board Junior


    Nobody here has suggested that God does not love every person that has ever lived. However, attributing a desire to God for the salvation of everyone is just a silly idea because God always fulfills His desires. See, Is. 46:10-11; Eph. 1:11; Dan. 4:35; Ps. 135:6; Job 23:13; Is. 14:24; Is. 14:27; Is. 45:9; Is. 55:8, 9; Rom. 9:19; John 1:13; Rom. 9:16.
  23. convicted1

    convicted1 Puritan Board Freshman

    Okay, let's take a look at a few verses that the Arminians tear to rag dolls, and find the true meaning of each:

    1 John 2:2 and he -- he is a propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world,(YLT)

    The Arminians are all "goody, goody, Christ propitiated the sins of everyone who ever lived, even those babies who died in their mother's womb". To quote Lee Corso, "not so fast, my friend". The word "propitiate" means an actual payment, and appeasement of God's wrath concerning sin. If this was a propitiation for everyone who would ever live, then there's a myriad of uncondemned people living in sin. There are people who had their sin debt paid in full, yet they go there anyways...a double payment, if you will. It makes Christ's death, burial, and resurrection of no value to them. Now, the propitiation He made is world wide in scope, but only in that it goes to His sheep scattered all over the world, and to not every individual who ever lived.

    1 Peter 3:9 the Lord is not slow in regard to the promise, as certain count slowness, but is long-suffering to us, not counselling any to be lost but all to pass on to reformation,(YLT)

    Another verse that the Arminiand rip in itty bitty pieces. The context in the text, as the KJV put it, is to "us-ward", and the YLT states "us". Regardless, the context is that God is long-suffering....patient, not willing that any of us...the church, His sheep, would perish. Again, God is not willing that any of the elect, His chosen sheep, to perish, but that all would come to repentance/reformation. He chose them with an electing love, chose them from before the foundation of the world(Eph. 1:4), and will make all means possible to procure salvation for them. None of them will persih.

    1 John 4:10 in this is the love, not that we loved God, but that He did love us, and did send His Son a propitiation for our sins.(YLT)

    Here we see that pesky little word again. And there's that pesky little word "us" again. The context always refers to the elect in regards to propitiation, atonement, sanctification, justification, &c. No goat is ever sanctified, justified, atoned for, and glorified on the last day.

    John 3:16 for God did so love the world, that His Son -- the only begotten -- He gave, that every one who is believing in him may not perish, but may have life age-during.(YLT)

    Notice the context here. Christ died so that "every one who is believing in Him", may not perish. Believing is faith, and faith is a gift of God, who is the Author and Finisher of our faith. So then, Christ didn't die for everyone, but for His sheep. In John 10, He said He was the good Shepherd, and the Shepherd would give His life for His sheep. I rest in this. :up:
  24. Travis Fentiman

    Travis Fentiman Puritan Board Freshman


    What do you make of God not fulfilling His desires in Ps. 81?:

    11 But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me.

    12 So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels.

    13 Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!

    14 I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries.

    15 The haters of the Lord should have submitted themselves unto him: but their time should have endured for ever.

    16 He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee.

    And what about 1 Thess. 4, where God's will goes unfulfilled when we break His commands?

    2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.

    3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification,
  25. Travis Fentiman

    Travis Fentiman Puritan Board Freshman

    Also, this discussion has nothing to do with Arminianism.

    Arminians posit a will of God to save at the level of decree (for which Matthew kindly quoted Rutherford against). The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel posits a revealed will of God to save, not at the level of decree, and has nothing to do with futurition. Sincere Free Offerists gladly agree in all critiques of Arminianism. The two things are apples and oranges.

    The heart of the matter is that Limited Atonement does not infer that there is no revealed will of God to save all. To make such an inference is invalid and a misunderstanding of Limited Atonement.
  26. Mushroom

    Mushroom Puritan Board Doctor

    If you say a blue thing is red, and that to differ with that is invalid and a misunderstanding, does that make the blue thing red?

    Limited atonement is itself a term that represents the very concept that God has not willed to save all.

    We don't get to rewrite what we find incongruous to our (fallen) sensibilities. God is, well... GOD. He does exactly what He wants.
  27. InSlaveryToChrist

    InSlaveryToChrist Puritan Board Junior

    What exactly is God's desire here? That His people would have hearkened unto Him? It doesn't say that. God's speech here is hypothetical. IF His people would have done this, God would have done that. That was God's desire.

    God's will for our sanctification always comes to completion. Whether it is hindered by our sinning doesn't negate this fact. If God did actually wish for us to be fully sanctified right at this moment, it would happen. However, it is God's secret will that we fall into various sins in our way to full sanctification. God means all things for our good, all things, including our sin, somehow work together for our good. However, this must not encourage us to sin, because the way of righteousness is always better for us than sinning, and most importantly, righteousness is commanded, while sin is forbidden.
  28. convicted1

    convicted1 Puritan Board Freshman

    I agree. I was just using those verses to show you that God has a save sinners. He chose these sinners before the foundation of the world. The others will remain in their fallen state. God is willing to save sinful elect peoples and to cast into eternal torment sinful non-elect goats.
    If the atonement isn't Limited/Definite, then what do you have? Universalism. God's purpose was to send Jesus to redeem His sheep, period. Nothing more, nothing less.....
  29. KGP

    KGP Puritan Board Freshman

    And the interesting thing about that is the Bible doesn't really outline how to become a sheep; it just acknowledges they exist, what they are like and how they behave, and that Jesus in coming to gather them will not lose one of them.

    According to the Bible, sheep just are. Some lost, some found. Some in the fold, some wandering astray.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  30. Matthew1344

    Matthew1344 Puritan Board Freshman

    I have never heard this before. Can you really separate that? delighting in justice but not the punishment? isnt the punishment the justice? I am reading this thread because I really have no stance so far, so anyone who wants to try to answer this, please do! I have been wrestling with this for months!

    And Ez 18 has been the most difficult passage for me.
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