Lesson 18 – Particular Redemption
There are some Scriptures which seem at first glance to support the idea of universal redemption. But the Bible doesn’t contradict itself and teach particular redemption in some places and universal redemption in others. On closer study, each of the Scriptures which might seem to support the idea of universal redemption in fact teach that Christ died for the elect and for none other.
One of the most commonly used Scriptures to support the idea of universal redemption is John 3:16 — “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.”
Let us note, first of all, that God does not love all men without exception: “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Romans 9:13); “The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity” (Psalm 5:5); “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:23); “Ye are of your father the devil…” (John 8:44).
These and other Scriptures plainly teach that God doesn’t and never has loved each and every member of the human race.
But the Scriptures don’t contradict each other, so what is meant when it is said that God loved the world?
The word “world” is used in many different ways in Scripture. Anyone who will simply examine a concordance and look up the passages where “world” occurs, will soon discover that this word is used in the New Testament in a variety of ways. Sometimes the word “world” is used of unbelievers in distinction from believers (John 14:17; John 15:18-19; John 17:9, John 17:14). Sometimes it refers to people in general (John 12:19). Sometimes it refers to the created material system (John 1:10). In the great majority of instances it is a general and indefinite expression which has reference to the Gentiles in contrast with the Jews. Sometimes the word means everyone on earth (Romans 3:19).
Here, in John 3:16, the word “world” means God’s elect in all nations–Gentiles as well as Jews. As a typical Jew, Nicodemus thought that God loved nobody but Jews. The Jews of Christ’s time on earth believed that all but Jews were unclean and could only be saved by becoming Jewish proselytes. This idea prevailed even among some of the Jews who had been baptized into the Christian church (Acts 15:5).
In John 3:16, the Lord told Nicodemus that God so loved the world (elect Gentile as well as elect Jew), that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever (elect Gentile as well as elect Jew) believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Commenting on John 17:9, dear old Elder C.E. Smith said, “And so Jesus prayed for those He died for, and He died for those He prayed for.”
The “whosoever believeth” in John 3:16 is a descriptive term, not a conditional term. No one can be a believer in Christ but a born-again child of God. All God’s elect become believers when they are born of God. Christ told some who were not God’s chosen ones, “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep…” (John 10:26). In Acts 13:48, it is said, “And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” Notice that they didn’t believe in order to become ordained to eternal life. They believed because they were ordained to eternal life. Believing doesn’t give one eternal life; one believes because he has eternal life. The ability to believe (faith) is given to the child of God in the new birth (Philippians 1:29; Ephesians 2:8; John 6:29). Notice it says in John 6:47, “He that believeth on me hath (already has) everlasting life.” So belief (the exercise of faith) is an evidence of life, not a condition to be met in order to get life. A baby cries because it is alive–a person believes in Jesus Christ because he has spiritual life.
1. What is some of the Biblical evidence that God doesn’t love all men?
2. What are some of the ways the word “world” is used in the Scriptures?
3. What does the word “world” mean in John 3:16?
4. Who can believe on the Lord Jesus Christ?
5. What is faith?
We have memorized Matthew 1:21, John 10:11, Matthew 20:28, and Hebrews 9:12. Let us memorize I Peter 1:18-19.