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Whosoever Believes

Believer's Choice or Statement of Fact

by Daniel J.M. Galpin

This article was inspired by someone I appreciate very much, yet disagree with. We had a brief discussion regarding freewill vs election. Many believers pick the side that makes sense to them and stand their ground despite verses contrary to their options. Both sides hold strong and try to explain away verses that do not fit their position while trying to persuade dissenters to agree with them. I understand both sides, but am a bit different. I know the Scripture speaks to both freewill and election, therefore, I know they both work together to accomplish God’s plan because all of Scripture agrees with itself. There is no contradiction with God and Scripture.I firmly believe it is our responsibility to discover how both are true and God is right instead of battling each other over the issue. For more on the harmony of freewill and election, see “Freewill, Election, Harmony.”

Moving forward to the point of this writing, the word whosoever was presented to me: Dan, there are too many whosoevers in the Bible for me to believe in election, therefore, one is saved by freewill. My friend was saying the Bible says too many times whosoever believes the gospel message will be saved. While the statement is a fact: anyone believing the gospel gets saved, the presupposition is not correct. My friend assumes whosoever is an act of choosing rather than a statement of fact. We will examine a number of verses with whosoever in it to let Scripture conclude the matter. I encourage you to continue beyond the study, beyond the verses mentioned herein. Note, we cannot not yield to options of others or our own, we must take Scripture for what it clearly says and add no assumptions or conclusions to the text. Of course, other verses add clarity, Scripture interprets itself, and with the “whosoever” verses, we cannot add assumptions and/or conclusion not clearly stated.

Before moving to the list, let us look at a very popular example, a verse nearly all Christians know and many non-believers are aware of: John 3:16 "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." The assumptions of many when presenting this verse is anyone choosing to believe in God’s Son Jesus, who God, out of love, gave to all as a substitutionary payment for the debt of sin and those believing that message will have life, be saved and have their sins forgiven, will not suffer eternity in hell apart from God, instead, will be with God in heaven forever. Wow, that’s a lot said that the verse did not say! Don’t get me wrong, the intentions are well-meaning and other verses do support some of the claims stated, yet the verse alone does not say all that, however, that is the verse many use when they evangelize the lost and that is what many of them would say when quoting that verse. Note, I’m not saying one must quote very verse to support very statement stated while witnessing to the lost. I’m merely using this verse as an example that we unintentionally add assumptions and conclusions to verses based on other principles in God’s Word and we do it automatically, without thinking about it, because we talk about these topics, heaven, hell, eternity, salvation, God’s love, Jesus’ act of substation, etc., all the time. However, when we are attempting to determine doctrine, we cannot include any assumptions and conclusion not clearly stated in the verses we use to support our claimed doctrine. We must support our claims with other Scripture or we may, in error, come to wrong conclusions. Now take John 3:16 and compare the assumptions with the clear facts stated in the verse: for this example, add no external knowledge, use only what we read in the verse. Temporarily take the verse as the sole source of divine knowledge given by God: if it were the only verse God gave us, what would we know as fact?

John 3:16 "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."

Verse Assumptions Verse Facts Verse Support
Salvation is a choice Salvation concept not mentioned n/a
Belief is a choice How one comes to believe is not mentioned n/a
Anyone can believe God’s offer is for all “whosoever believeth”
God is real and has a Son God is real and has a Son “he [God] gave his only begotten Son”
God offered His Son While true, God gave His Son, but why is not stated “he [God] gave his only begotten Son”
Jesus is God’s Son" Who God’s Son is, is not mentioned n/a
God loves us God loves us “God… loved the world”
God’s Son is a substitutionary sacrifice for us Substitutionary concept not mentioned n/a
We owe a debt to God Debt not mentioned n/a
We have sinned Sin not mentioned n/a
God offers us everlasting life God offers us everlasting life "whosoever believeth in him... have everlasting life."
We need a Savior Savior concept not mentioned n/a
We obtain forgiveness Need for forgiveness not mentioned n/a
There’s a hell Hell, concept not mentioned n/a
Hell is eternal Hell’s deration not mentioned n/a
People suffer in hell Suffering in hell not mentioned n/a
Being in hell is being apart from God Hell and separation from God not mentioned n/a
There’s a heaven Heaven, concept not mentioned n/a
Heaven is eternal Heaven’s deration not mentioned n/a
People can be with God in heaven People with God not mentioned n/a
People spend eternity with God in heaven Heaven, nor the duration one is with God is not stated n/a
Concept not often focused on, usually hell instead Unbelievers will parish “whosoever believeth in him should not perish”

The list of assumptions regarding the verse could continue, the point is, what facts can we know for certain from this verse alone?

  1. There is a God
  2. God loves the world
  3. God has one Son
  4. God offered His Son
  5. Whoever believes in God’s Son will not parish
  6. Whoever believes in God’s Son will have eternal life
  7. How one comes to believe, will of man or will of God, is not mentioned

When we read any verse in Scripture, the point is to know the facts as God has presented them, while not inserting assumptions and conclusions not mentioned by God. If we don’t use this method, the chance of error in understanding will increase. Take the list of facts in each verse and combine them to find the meaning God intended. The term whosoever is used in the New Testament 93 times, but not always related to salvation. By reading each relating verse and listing only the facts we know better what God means by what He said. I encourage you to do this in your spare time. We can look at a few verses here and I encourage you to make a fact list for each. Additionally, related terms can be used such as “received” in John 1:12 "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:" Also, cross referenced verses can be studied to further gain understanding regarding each topic studied. Of course, context can never be ignored.

As a side note and related to the heart of the issue: whosoever believes, John 1:12 adds to the understanding gained in John 3:16 and expanding to the context adds further understanding. Square brackets [denote context from surrounding verses], parentheses (denote the verse number related to the fact listed and curved brackets {denote notes I made}. Look at the fact list for this passage:

John 1:10-13 "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. (11) He came unto his own, and his own received him not. (12) 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: (13) Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."

  1. [Jesus] was in the world (vs 10)
  2. [Jesus] created the world (vs10)
  3. people did not realize who [Jesus] is (vs10)
  4. [Jesus] came to his own [a specific group within the general population] (vs11)
  5. [Jesus] has his own people [a specific group within the general population] (vs11)
  6. [Jesus] was not received by his own {a natural assumption, as with Jn 3:16, whosoever believes means a personal choice of rejection, yet neither verse states this outright, therefore, it is not fact, but an assumed conclusion, which needs verification from Scripture itself} (vs11)
  7. Many received him [Jesus] (vs12)
  8. God gave to those receiving [Jesus], the power to become sons of God {regarding receiving, see note in item #6} (vs12)
  9. To received means to believe on [Jesus] name (vs12)
  10. Those receiving / believing [Jesus] are born [born again (John 3)] (vs13)
  11. Those being born [again] are not born via bloodline (vs13)
  12. Those being born [again] are not born via the will of the flesh (vs13)
  13. Those being born [again] are not born via the will of man {states clearly being born again is not by the will of man} (vs13)
  14. Those being born [again] are born by God {states clearly being born again is by God} (vs13)

Thus, the freewill election debate. Many insist whosoever believes means they choose, but John 3:16 and John 1:12 do not clearly say who made the choice, merely a fact is stated: those who believe are saved. John 1:13 states clearly man does not will his new birth, salvation. If this were the only verse, one might easily question the statement, but numerous verses attest to the same and Scripture does not contradict itself.

Below are a number of related whosoever verses, however, reading them must confirm the above position: salvation is not by the will of man or Scripture has contradicted itself and is useless. What is needful is a clear statement of the will of man choosing to believe, not merely the actions of one that believes. What do I mean? Saying whosoever confesses Jesus as Lord is saved, for example, does not clarify the choice was made by the person, instead, it may merely be a man stating a fact. The reason such detail is needful, the above passages have stated it was not man’s will that saves him. If there is any hope to place the choice in man’s hands, it must be stated very clearly and this would cause a possible conflict with the above verses.

Note the many times whosoever refers to an action one takes or facts related to one who believes, but none state the cause of salvation: that is left unknown. John’s statements are the most clear. Interesting also, Mt 10:32 and Lk 12:8 talk of confessing before men, which could be a action of choice, but 1Jn 4:15 says anyone that does confess is already saved (God indwells them). 1Jn 5:1 says, whosoever believes Jesus is Christ is born of God, it does not say becomes born of God. One could argue it means they become saved, but when all the other verses are viewed together, it becomes clear the person was saved, which is why they believe because they are born of God. These agree with the passages above that state salvation is by God’s will, not man.

In conclusion, we cannot ignore information given in some verses to make our understanding stand in other verses. Scripture is like a funnel filtering information for us. Some information is mentioned a lot, the wider end of the funnel, while other details are only mentioned a few times, the narrower end of the funnel. This filters the whole message to a finer more focused result, but does not eliminate any information along the way. It is not a contradiction to say whosoever believes will be saved and salvation is not by the will of man. The first is a statement of fact and the second is how the fact came to be. However, if one refuses to believe the later because it does not fit what they were taught or how they perceive God to be, they have a contradiction problem from a Scriptural point of view and they must ask themselves, do I need further study on this issue, or worst case, do I actually believe in the God of the Bible or a God of my own mind?