“I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine” (John 17:9).
Does this passage teach “sovereign election,” meaning that God sovereignly chooses some sinners to be saved and does not choose others to be saved?
If so, it would be a glaring contradiction to the teaching of the same Gospel book.
“That WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:15-16).
“I am come a light into the world, that WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH on me should not abide in darkness” (John 12:46).
In Bible interpretation, the context generally clarifies all things. Context is not only the first rule of sound Bible interpretation, it is the first, second, and third rule! This is the principle that we lay out in How to Study the Bible, which is one of the Way of Life Advanced Bible Studies Series courses.
And in the context of John 17, Jesus is praying a high priestly prayer for His people. Thus He is not praying for the world. He is praying for the saved.
The passage says nothing about the basis of election and salvation. Jesus speaks of those who have been given to him by the Father (John 17:2, 6), but He does not tell us on what basis these are given.
For that, we need to go to an earlier part of the Gospel of John as we have already quoted.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
The basis of election is faith in the gospel. It is a whosoever gospel. The offer of eternal salvation is genuinely made to all who hear the gospel, and it is Christ’s express will that every sinner hear the gospel (Mark 16:15) and be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
There are aspects of election that we don’t currently understand and won’t understand in this life, because they are still hidden in God. I don’t claim to have all of the answers to this issue. But I do know that the Bible plainly says that God wants all men to hear the gospel and that whosoever believes will be saved. The Bible plainly teaches that it is God’s will for all men to be saved.
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
God is not playing games with sinners. He is not offering eternal life to all but only giving it to the “elect.”
I once asked a Calvinist friend, a man that I hold in high regard for his love for Christ, this question: “Can any man be saved?”
He wanted to go into an intricate theological explanation and did not answer with a clear and simple “yes.”
That is a fundamental problem with Calvinism. I can’t answer every question that can be asked about election, but I do know that the Bible clearly teaches that any man can be saved. It is not something that is available, in practice only, to “the elect.” It is not an issue whereby God’s loves all men but in practice all cannot actually be saved because they all are not sovereignly elected.
Any man who cannot answer the following question with an unequivocal and resounding “yes” has been led astray by a theological system that is in error, because it is a theological system that is contrary to the plain and clear teaching of Scripture:
“Can any man be saved?”
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