For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. -John 3:16
World is not merely nations in this text. Such a distinction, while required in order to prop up the doctrine of limited atonement, is simply not found in the text. What the text does say, however, is that God loves the whole world (without distinction so that we understand God to love all men, as is his revealed character throughout Scripture) in such a way as to give his only begotten son for the same (that is, all men without distinction, elect and non-elect, chosen and non-chosen) and that whosoever will may believe in Jesus and be saved (indicating how one may go from being one of the not-saved to one of the saved or non-elect to elect “in Christ”).
The glory of God here is that God is both willing (so loved) and able (that he sent) to save all men without distinction so that there is hope (whosoever will) for all men.
Curiously this verse does not say that God only loved the elect, only died for the elect, and that only the elect will (through irresistible and forceful changing of a person’s will against their desires/wishes/choice) be saved.
What it means
The primary definition is:
each, every, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things, everything
The secondary definition is:
some of all types
This word is hotly debated by the Reformed crowd when it comes to doctrines such as particular election, limited atonement, and irresistible grace. The claim by most Reformed theologians is that pas does not mean all all the time. So, with that in mind, here are several verses where pas makes an appearance courtesy of Whosoever Will:
Where it’s found (as it pertains to salvation being made available to all men)
Matt 7:24, Luke 6:47, Matt 10:32-33, Luke 7:37, John 1:7, Matt 11:28, John 1:9, John 3:15-16, John 4:13-14, John 6:40, John 11:26, Acts 2:21, Acts 10:43, Rom 9:33, Rom 10:11, 1 John 2:23, 1 John 5:1, Eph 1:10, John 1:3, 2 Tim 3:16, 2 Pet 3:9, 1 Tim 2:4, 1 John 2:2, Matt 18:14, Matt 11:6, Luke 7:23, Matt 12:50, Matt 16:24-25, Mark 8:34-35, Luke 9:23-24, John 6:51, John 7:17, John 7:37, John 8:51, Acts 2:21, Acts 10:43, Rom 10:13, 1 John 4:15, Rev 3:20, Rev 22:17
In a previous post I laid out an ontological argument (following Descartes’ formula) for God’s loving the whole world (on contrast to the rather limited view of love posited by the reformed doctrine of Limited Atonement). Here I will attempt to provide a Biblical case from the standpoint of Christ’s words to “love thy enemies”.
1. We were all sinners (Romans 3:23), separated from God at one point in time. That is, we were under the penalty of death (Eph 2:1) and enemies of God (Romans 5:10).
2. Jesus told his followers to love their enemies, and not just their friends. (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27, Luke 6:35)
3. Therefore God loves all men (John 3:16) and even while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6, 5:8)
Several conclusions can be drawn from this chain. Namely that all men are in the same boat at some point in their lives. That is, we are all separated from Christ. Additionally, for those who are saved, we have truly passed from death to life (John 5:24). And finally, this change in position before God is a time-bound stance such that there truly was a time we were heading to hell and for those of us who are saved our eternal destination truly changed from “heading to hell” to “heading to heaven”.
The sad reality, though, is that while everyone is dead in their sins and an enemy of God, and while Christ loves all men who are, by nature, his enemies, not everyone is made alive. Why? is it a lack of love on God’s part? Or is it a lack of acceptance on ours?
You see, only one option leave God’s love undiminished.
God is love. (1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:16)
Choose life. (Deut 30:19)