All Scripture quotations are from the 1901 American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
30 Many other signs therefore did Jesus in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 but these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye may have life in his name.
The Apostle John made made many statements regarding whom Christ died for, and I will list each one of them at the end of this discussion. While all of his statements are clear enough, John 20:31 is perhaps the clearest. Here he gives the very reason the Gospel of John was written: “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”
Who is John addressing here? It’s anyone who may be reading this book or having it read to them. All the “signs” Jesus performed was for the purpose of validating His message and who He was, as this book reveals. If Christ died only for “the elect,” as Calvinism teaches, then John could not have made this statement. To be accurate and truthful, if Christ died only for “the elect,” it would have been necessary for John to word it like this:
“but these are written, that you, the elect, may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you, the elect, may have life in His name.”
If Christ died only for “the elect,” and if “life” is only available to them, then the way John worded this declaration would have been untruthful, and would give false hope to anyone else who may be reading this book or hearing it read to them. Furthermore, the Calvinist pastor would have to qualify John’s statement by telling everyone that he didn’t really mean what he says here. To be sincere and honest, he would have to inform his listeners that John was actually referring only to “the elect.”
What justification is there for changing the meaning of a plainly worded statement like this one? There is none. There may be other verses regarding the atonement that may be open to various interpretations, but this is not one of them.
If John was only referring to “the elect” of Calvinism, then Jesus Himself would be guilty of misleading people and giving false hope to everyone else reading or hearing the words of this book. While it’s true that not everyone will respond to these words in faith, the declaration of John 20:31 makes it clear that it was written with everyone in mind – those who have the opportunity to respond.
With this understanding, we can now confidently identify who John was talking about in the following scriptures:
7 The same came for witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light. 9 There was the true light, even the light which lighteth every man, coming into the world.
16 For of his fulness we all received, and grace for grace.
29 On the morrow he seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world!
16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have eternal life.
42 and they said to the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy speaking: for we have heard for ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world.
33 For the bread of God is that which cometh down out of heaven, and giveth life unto the world.
51 I am the living bread which came down out of heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: yea and the bread which I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.
32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself.
1 John 2:2
1 My little children, these things write I unto you that ye may not sin. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2 and he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world.
1 John 4:14
14 And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father hath sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.
That the Apostle John understood the atonement of Christ to include every individual who comes into the world, there can be no reasonable doubt. If we place ourselves in the early church, do we really understand these verses to refer to only a select group of individuals? Or do we understand them in their most natural sense? These scriptures are plainly stated, and therefore, they must be used to interpret other scriptures relating to this same subject. The limited atonement of Calvinism must be forced into these verses, and only for the purpose of supporting their theology.