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A Little Ocean Ambiance
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Doctrinal Writings
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The Salvation of the World:
in the book of John

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Dr. Richard Flanders
Juniata Baptist Church
Vassar, Michigan
One hindrance to revival among God's separated people as we enter a new century is the growing interest among fundamentalists in the teaching that God desires only the salvation of the chosen few. A fresh study of the Gospel according to John will dispel that false doctrine, and renew our faith in the truth that God wants to save everybody! Truly, the Lord "is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9).

It is not a falsehood to say that the book of John is about the salvation of the world! While not teaching that everyone in the world will be saved, John does teach us that anyone can be saved, and that God has provided for all to be saved.

The Apostle John names Jesus "The Saviour of the world" (John 4:42—See also I John 4:14).

". . .we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world."
". . .Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world."
Follow the flow of doctrine in the book of John, and you will see God's plan to save the world, and how it is that our Lord is truly the Savior of the world!

  1. The Light of the World.
  2. The book opens with a grand description of the relation of the triune God with His world.

    "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men." (John 1:1-4)
    God the Son is, and always has been, God the Word. He made "all things" and in Him "was life, and the life was the light of men." Of what men is the Son of God the Light?
    "And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." (John 1:5-9)
    John the Baptist was sent "to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe."The plan was that all men would believe in the Light. To this agree Paul's divinely-inspired words in I Timothy 2:1-4.
    "I exhort therefore, that. . .prayers, intercessions. . .be made for all men. . .for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."

    We should pray for "all men" because God wants "all men to be saved"!

    Christ is the Light of the World, according to John 8:12, 9:5, and 12:46. In what sense and to what extent is He the Light of men? John 1:9 says of Him,

    "That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world."
    Clearly He is the Light of all men! The Lord says to Christ His Servant in Isaiah 49:6,
    "I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth."

    If Jesus Christ has lightened all men, why are not all men saved? The explanation given in John 1:5 is simply that "the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." The matter of the Savior of all saving only some is explained in John 1:10-12 this way:

    "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. . ."

    As we can see, human choice is involved in determining the effect of the Light upon darkened men. However, the Light of the World did indeed come to be the Savior of the World!

  3. The Lamb of the World.
  4. God's intent to dispel the darkness of mankind through Jesus Christ is expounded in John 1:1-18. John the Baptist is presented in that passage as the "witness, to bear witness of the Light." In the next section, John is shown to be the great forerunner and baptizer of Christ, and the narrative presents him pointing men to Him.

    "The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God." (John 1:29-34)
    Ten titles or names are given to Christ in the first chapter of John: "the Word" (vs. 1, 14), "the Life" (v. 4), "the Light" (vs. 4, 5, 7, 8, 9), "the only begotten of the Father" (vs. 14, 18), "Jesus Christ" (v. 17), "the Lamb of God" (vs. 29, 36), "the Son of God" (vs. 34, 49), "the Messiahs. . .the Christ" (vs. 20, 41), "the King of Israel" (v. 49), and "the Son of man" (v. 51). The designation of Jesus as "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" tells to us that God provided for the salvation of the world, as well as desired it.

    Calling Him "the Lamb," John referred to Christ's coming sacrificial death. Of course, a spotless lamb was an animal acceptable for Old Testament offerings at the Temple. Jesus paid for our sins so that we could be saved, but for whose sins?

    ". . .he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." (I John 2:2)

    The First Epistle of John is certainly clear in its answer to that question, both in the quotation above and in Chapter 4. Read verses 9-14, and see that "the world" in verse 14 is the group indicated by the pronouns "us" and "we" in the verses 9 and 10, saying again that Jesus paid for everybody's sins when He died on the cross. This is also the meaning of the words spoken by John the Baptist in John 1:29. Jesus died in order to take away "the sin of the world."

    The most obvious flaw in the classical expression of Calvinism is found in the doctrine of "Limited Atonement," the belief that Christ died only for the sins of the elect. It is an error exposed and contradicted more than once in Scripture. The chapter that calls upon Christians to pray for "all men" (I Timothy 2) because God "will have all men to be saved" (vs. 1-4), also says that "Christ Jesus. . .gave himself a ransom for all" (vs. 5-6). Later in I Timothy, God is called "the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe." The teaching of the Bible is that Christ died as a propitiation for the sins of all men, but only those who believe in Him are reconciled to God. According to Strong's Theology (pp. 777-778), John Calvin himself eventually came to agree with a "universal" rather than a "limited" atonement.

    The Lord Jesus illustrated His atoning death in the parable of the Hidden Treasure (Matthew 13:44). In this story, Jesus told of a man who buys an entire field in order to get a treasure buried in it. He "selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field," In the same way, Christ gave Himself to purchase the world because He knew of a "treasure" of men who would believe in Him. Although not all will be saved, God did provide for the salvation of all.

  5. The Life of the World.
  6. The best-known verse in the Bible about God's salvation is in the third chapter of John. It is verse 16.

    "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
    Some Calvinists want to make the word "world" in John 3:16 include only the elect. However the context of the whole book of John makes it abundantly clear that "the world" in this famous scripture actually means the world! Then comes verse 17.
    "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."
    God sent His Son to save the world, and to give "whosoever" would believe in Him "everlasting life."

    Now if God sent Christ to save mankind and not to condemn us, why will men be condemned? Will the purpose of the Lord be thwarted? The answer to this question is found in the decision of Almighty God to let human choice be involved in the equation of salvation.

    Strict Calvinists have a great problem with such an idea. Some of them think that to allow man's will into the issue of eternal life or death is to dethrone God. The truth is, however, that God does not surrender His sovereignty when He tells us that we have a decision to make. The Eternal King of the Universe certainly could have wrought our salvation without giving us a choice, but He did not. The sovereign Lord ordained that human choice would have a role in the bestowal of eternal life.

    In John 3:18-21, Jesus tells us men are condemned even though He was sent to save them.

    ". . .he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (v. 18)
    How is it that they are condemned?
    ". . .this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." (v. 19)

    We have a choice between light and darkness because Light has penetrated the darkness into which we were born (Remember John 1:1-9). Those who choose to love the Light will believe in Jesus Christ. Those who love darkness rather than the Light will not believe, and will be condemned. John 1:10-12 blames the lost world for not knowing Christ because of its choice not to "receive him." In John 5:39-40, Jesus says,

    "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life."
    They will not come to Him. In John 4:48, they will not believe. A decision of the will keeps a man from having eternal life.

    And yet man is not completely free and independent in the exercise of His will concerning Light and Life. His nature is dark and loves darkness. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh" (John 3:6). Jesus said, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him"(John 6:44). So the darkness of man's inborn nature moves him away from Christ, and only the call of God can draw him to Christ. What about this call of God? John 6 certainly deals with it, but what does it say? Verse 45 explains verse 44 (quoted above) this way:

    "It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me."
    All are taught, but only the man "that hath heard" will come to Jesus. Any teacher knows that not every person that is taught learns. Back in Matthew 22:14, Jesus said, "Many are called, but few are chosen." The call of God is to all men, although only few respond.

    Is this the true meaning of John 6:44-45? Hear the words of Jesus in John 12:32.

    ". . .if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me."
    The lifting up of Jesus was His crucifixion (See verse 33 and John 3:14-15). The Bible teaches that the Cross of Christ draws "all men" to Him. No man will come unless he is drawn, but all men are drawn to the Cross. Those who yield to this drawing are the ones who come. This drawing is related to the enlightening of John 1:9. Jesus "lighteth every man that cometh into the world." Not all men respond, but all men are enlightened. God's enlightening and drawing enable the sinner to make a choice for which he will be eternally responsible. John 6:51 continues the words of Jesus.
    "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
    He gave His life for the life of the world. Anyone who chooses to partake may "live forever."

  7. His Own Sheep.
  8. When we come to the tenth chapter of John, we find that Christ has people He regards as "His own sheep" (vs. 2-4). These people are not only those who have come to Him for salvation, but also people who have not yet come, but will.

    "Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." (v. 16)
    In this chapter, a balance of involvement of both God and man is presented, just as it is in many other scriptures. See verses 7-9.
    "Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture."
    The sheep will hear and heed the Shepherd, and not imposters. But anybody who decides to "enter in" through Christ the Door "shall be saved." In God's mind, they are already His sheep, but to them, a movement on their part brought them into the fold. How can we understand this balance in the light of God's plan to save the world? The answer to this question is in what God knows.
    "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine." (v. 14)

    Because He is omniscient, God knows and has always known who among men will love the Light and come to it. See in Romans 8:29 and I Peter 1:2 that both God's election of the saved and His predestination for the saved are based upon His foreknowledge of the saved. The Lord is above and beyond time, and saw every believer in Christ before the world began. To Him, only His own sheep will be saved. See this again in John 10:26-28.

    "Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand."
    See in the middle of this passage that it is based on the fact that Jesus knows His sheep. Election and predestination are based on foreknowledge and do not contradict God's plan and offer to save everybody.

    This whole matter of salvation, responsibility, and judgment is summed up by the Lord in John 12:46-48.

    "I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day."

    No matter what theological view of God's sovereignty we accept, let us never lose sight of the truth that salvation His been provided for every man if he will receive it. Let us with John the Baptist "bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe."Let us keep on believing in the possibility of anybody believing. May our zeal for souls be fired by the measureless love of the Savior of the world!

Monthly Article
Wed, 27 October 1999
by Dr. Rick Flanders
currently Pastor of
Juniata Baptist Church
Juniata Baptist Church
5656 Washburn Road
Vassar, MI 48768
(517) 823-7848

Dr. Rick Flanders Biographical Data

Converted in 1963 through a radio ministry.
Earned B.A. and M.A. degrees from Bob Jones University.
Honorary D.D. from Pensacola Christian College.
Pastor at Juniata Baptist Church since 1973.
On BCPM Board, (Baptist Church Planting Ministry)
and also MACS. (Michigan Association of Christian School)

Articles published in the;
Sword of the Lord
Baptist Preacher,
Christian View of the News,
Pulpit Helps,
Maranatha Watchman
Church Bus News,
and other national periodicals.

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