Summary: The short answer: Yes, God does desire that everyone be saved. Will everyone be saved? No. John 3:36 clearly states that “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” There are two “whoever” groups mentioned: (1) those who believe in Jesus the Savior and are saved, and (2) those who reject Him. The believers receive the Lord's salvation unto eternal life. The rejecters are condemned to an eternal hell.
The Bible contains numerous clear declarations that it is God’s will and desire for everyone to be saved. Sadly, some will decline God’s invitation to their eternal loss. Come see what the Scriptures say, and choose to be among those who accept God’s gracious, free invitation to eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Note: Calvinist and Arminian theologians have argued this topic for centuries. I’m not joining that debate here. My intention is to present what I believe is a clear Scriptural understanding of this one important question and answer: “Does God want everyone to be saved? Yes!”
These words foreshadow Jesus’ commission to His followers in Acts 1:8 — “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The prophet Isaiah speaks God’s widespread invitation, “Let all the world look to me for salvation.” The offer of salvation from the Lord is to all the world, not just to a select group.
Let’s start with the end of verse 16: anyone who refuses to believe in the Savior Jesus Christ will be condemned. That is their eternally fatal choice, and it reflects God’s allowing men and women of their own free will to choose between salvation and damnation to hell.
On the positive side, to whom did Jesus command them to preach the Good News? “To everyone”! And in response, “anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved.” Anyone! Once again, there is no selectivity, no predetermined exclusions. In sum, Jesus told believers to go and preach to everyone, and anyone among them who responds with repentance and faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21) will be saved. Mark's account of Christ’s Great Commission makes it abundantly clear that He wants everyone to hear the Gospel and be saved. Some will reject Him, but that does not contradict His universal offer of salvation to anyone who will receive Him.
Luke reminds us that Jesus’ specific intention in coming from heaven to earth was “to seek and to save the lost.” Which lost? How many of them? Just some, or does God desire all the lost to be saved?
John 3:16-18,36 answers that very clearly. It is because of God’s great love for “the world” that He sent Jesus “to save the world.” Again sadly (vs. 36) some will “reject the Son [and] will not see life.” That is their personally disastrous, free-will choice. Nevertheless, the Scripture says that “whoever believes in Him” will be saved and have eternal life. And lest there be any doubt about God’s desire “to save the world” through Jesus (17), the words “whoever believes” are spoken three times (16, 18, 36).
Christ’s atoning death opening the way of salvation to everyone is stated three different ways above: (1) As the to-be-sacrificed Lamb of God, Jesus would “take away the sin of the world”; (2) Paul writes of Jesus that “one died for all”; and (3) Jesus “suffered … death for everyone.” In His death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus died an excruciating death to take away the sin of “the world … [He] died for all … [He] suffered death for everyone.” No one is excluded from or left out of God’s free offer of salvation in His Son Jesus Christ, because He died for all. What is needed, wrote the apostle Paul, is to “turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:21). And “all/everyone/in the world” can decide to accept that invitation and make that choice to repent of their sins and believe in the Savior, Jesus Christ.
This verse is from Isaiah chapter 53, which some have called “the Fifth Gospel.” It prophesies of Christ to come. And since “we all” have gone astray in our sins, God would [at the cross] lay “on Him [Jesus] the iniquity of us all.” The sin that separates every human — “all we” — from God was to be laid upon Jesus at the cross. He would bear our sins, so that we might be forgiven and be saved unto eternal life. For whom did Jesus willingly make Himself the atoning sacrifice? For a select group? No! He bore the “iniquity of us all.”
Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, spoke of Himself as the gate, the door, into God’s sheepfold. He said in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He makes it clear, as the apostle Peter reaffirmed (Acts 4:12), that “there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
Here in John 10 Jesus is confirming that He alone is the gate, the door, to salvation: “I am the gate for the sheep.” Who may enter the gates of salvation? Jesus' answer? [NIV] “Whoever enters through me will be saved … [KJV] if any man enter in, he shall be saved.”
Christ’s gracious invitation to “Come to Me” is to “all you who are weary and burdened.” Is that you? Come to Him! The Scriptures clearly include you, each one of you, as those to whom this invitation is extended.
Before looking at more Scripture, let me quickly summarize what we’ve already seen. God’s gracious invitation to salvation through Jesus Christ is offered to: “all the ends of the earth … all the world … everyone, anyone … all … whoever believes in Him (Jesus) … the lost [not just some of the lost] … us all… whoever enters through” Jesus the Shepherd. Now let’s see more clear Bible proofs that God wants everyone to be saved.
Once again, we see that the invitation to salvation is to “anyone who believes in [Jesus],” to “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord.” God does not show favoritism (Acts 10:34; Romans 10:12).
This is as clear and straightforward a statement as one could make about this topic. God “wants all people … wishes all people … desires all people … wills everyone … to be saved.” As my first pastor used to say about words used in Scripture, “Let your all be all!”
This too is as clear and unconfusing as a verse could possibly be. It says that the Lord does not will that any should perish, but to the contrary, He does will that all should come to repentance that leads to salvation.
As we’ve already seen, some will choose not to know God and choose not to obey the gospel of Jesus Christ. Although God does not will that any should perish, He does not overrule their free will to reject Christ. But His unchanging desire and will are that people — any, all, everyone, whoever — come to repentance and faith in Christ and receive eternal life.
We are charged by the Lord to preach the Gospel. Its Good News is summed up briefly in 1 Corinthians 15:2-4 — “By this gospel you are saved … [the gospel says that] Christ died for our sins … he was buried … he was raised on the third day…”
As evangelist Reinhard Bonnke has said, “Preach Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.” Preach it to whom? To everyone! Why? Because the Gospel “is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” And lest you fall for the error that God’s grace to believe is offered only to some, look at the next Scripture right below.
God’s grace “offers salvation to all people.” With sadness I marvel at the mental gymnastics I’ve seen some believers use to explain away clear Bible statements like this. In His death on the cross Jesus became “the atoning sacrifice … for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
The offer to partake of the water of eternal life is for “anyone who wants to” (TLB) … “whoever desires” (NKJV). As stated earlier, there are basically two groups: (1) the group that hears the Gospel, accepts it, and repents and believes in Jesus for salvation; and (2) those who reject Him to their great and eternal loss. God’s offer of eternal life through Christ is extended to “all … to everyone … to whosoever will.” You can be a receiver, not a rejecter.
John was a firsthand witness of what he wrote. He walked with Jesus for 3-1/2 years. He saw Christ’s miracles and healings. He received new birth by the Holy Spirit from Jesus (John 20:22). He also was among those who received that first, power-laden, Pentecostal baptism with the Holy Spirit that the Lord had promised. John’s testimony is 100% reliable.
John sums up our Bible study today by declaring several major truths in one short sentence:
If you’ve already come to Jesus as Savior, rejoice in that! And in gratitude to the Lord, take the message of His freely-offered salvation by grace to your family and friends.
If you’ve read this far and have realized that you have not yet come to Jesus for salvation, there’s no better time than now! I guarantee you from the Scriptures we’ve read that His offer of salvation is for you. The late, respected evangelist Billy Graham has a brief message online to help you receive your salvation from the Lord Jesus Christ. You’ll find that here. God bless!
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©2019, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons &
Bible Studies by
Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.