Friday, May 01, 2015

Bob Gonzales on John 3:16

A few weeks ago I finished writing a two-part series of blog posts on the meaning of John 3:16. In the first of those posts I observed that there is room within the Reformed theological community to agree to disagree about the interpretation of this verse, most particularly with regard to the meaning of the Greek term kósmos, which is translated as world. In fact, I cited both John Calvin and D.A. Carson as examples of Reformed theologians who have understood this word to have a universal meaning. They believe it is correct to understand this word as referring to God's love for all men, whereas many Reformed theologians such as John Owen and James White understand the term to refer to the elect from all over the world rather than just the Jews.

In this post I would like to offer another example of a Reformed theologian -- in fact, a fellow Reformed Baptist -- who understands John 3:16 as speaking of God's love for all men. Bob Gonzales has written an article entitled Look and Live! John 3:16 as a Universal Gospel Invitation . Here is his conclusion:
Just because you’re a Calvinist doesn’t mean you’ve got to reserve John 3:16 for the saints. It’s designed for sinners too. It has an evangelistic aim. Therefore, don’t just preach the facts of God’s benevolent love and Jesus’ incarnation. Don’t just tell your congregation that believers go to heaven. Use the text as a gospel invitation. Entreat all and every sinner to “look and live.” And if someone questions whether you’re truly a Calvinist, you can reply, “I’m a ‘John (3:16) Calvinist.”
Although I disagree with Bob's interpretation of the verse, I agree with him that there is a Gospel invitation implied in the verse, and I agree that a good Calvinist may understand John 3:16 as he does, so I wanted to make that clear to the blog's readers. I hope you can all agree with me that, whether or not you side with Calvin, Carson, and Gonzales concerning the precise meaning of this verse, there is room within the Reformed camp for such a difference of interpretation.


  1. Why do people continue to translate pas o pisteuwn as "whoever" it should be "all those who" or "all who" or "everyone who." Within the larger context of John 3:15-18 it makes more sense. "Whoever" gives a sense of uncertainty or enters a sense of doubt - or contingency - man remains autonomous in his choices.

    1. I don't think the reading "whoever believes" necessarily implies contingency or autonomy, since there is a larger context here which rules out such an understanding. However, I am on your side of this issue, brother, and I definitely think you are correct in your view of the grammar. If you are interested in my understanding of the phrase pãs ho pisteúōn, you can read about it in Part 2 of my treatment of John 3:16 here: