Jesus said, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” ESV (John 3:18)
Jesus makes it clear that it’s faith (belief) in Him that’s the determining factor for salvation. It’s the absence of faith that condemns a person to an eternity without God. However, Calvinism teaches that Christ died only for “the elect.” Calvinism views “the elect” as those whom God has chosen to believe. In other words, no one can believe unless God has already determined it for them.
If that’s true, that Christ died only for “the elect,” then the matter of faith only applies to them. Faith wouldn’t even be an option for the “non-elect.” Faith would be something that was designed specifically for the purpose and benefit of “the elect.” If Christ died only for “the elect,” then faith would be a provision only for them, and would, therefore, have absolutely nothing to do with the “non-elect.” They wouldn’t even be in the discussion in regard to faith, because it was never meant for them. Therefore, if Calvinism is true, then the “non-elect” could not have been in the discussion of John 3:18. Yet, Jesus obviously speaks as though they are, as though faith is an option for everyone. Either Calvinism’s unlimited atonement and unconditional election is false, or Jesus is a deceiver. It can’t be both.
To be clear, in this verse Jesus reveals faith in Him as the one condition for salvation. However, if faith is a provision for “the elect” only, if Christ died with only “the elect” in mind, then the reason a person dies in a “condemned” state, is not because of unbelief, but specifically and only because they are sinners, separated from God, and that they weren’t chosen to be forgiven of their sins. Again, faith has nothing to do with it. It doesn’t even enter the equation. For the “non-elect,” that’s the end of the story. For “the elect,” they’re granted forgiveness of sins through the provision of faith in God’s Son. All along faith was a plan specifically for them, and them alone.
When Jesus made the statement in John 3:18, if He knew that He was going to die only for His “elect,” then He would also know that faith is something that would be limited to them. He would further know that those who die in a “condemned” state would do so not because of unbelief, but solely because they were “non-elect” sinners, separated from God, for whom forgiveness was never an option. So if all of this is true, then Jesus gives the false idea that faith is in the realm of possibility for everyone. Again, either Calvinism is false, or Jesus is a deceiver who gives the false impression that faith and salvation is available to anyone.
Also, consider this:
If Calvinism is true, are “the elect” ever really “condemned?” If “the elect” of Calvinism come into this world already chosen for salvation, if unbelief is never an option for them, if faith is assured, if hell is never an option for them, then how could they ever truly be condemned, in the truest meaning of that word? The idea of condemnation for “the elect” is totally contradictory. A condemned elect person is an oxymoron. But that’s typical of Calvinist theology, it’s contradictory and senseless on so many levels.
In conclusion, the only way that Jesus’ statement in John 3:18 makes any sense, is if all sinners are truly condemned and that Jesus died for all sinners and and that salvation is available to all sinners and that all sinners have the option to believe or not believe. That’s Arminian theology — consistent and sensible.