So this big debate is raging among Calvinists about who it is exactly that God loves and if we can tell people that God loves them or that Christ died for them, or whether the Gospel in a certain video was clear enough, and I ask myself the question, “What would Calvin say?”
Luckily, I have his commentaries setting on the shelf next to my desk, so I thunk (again to myself, I’m a great conversation partner), “What better place to start to find what Calvin would say than in his Commentary on John 3:16?”
Now I already had an inkling of what Calvin would say, but nevertheless the way he said it was almost shocking. Here are some excerpts, the actual commentary on the verse covers about three pages. (Italics copied from the Commentary.)
“As the whole matter of our salvation must not be sought any where else than in Christ, so we must see whence Christ came to us, and why he was offered to be our Saviour. Both points are distinctly stated to us: namely, that faith in Christ brings life to all, and that Christ brought life, because the Heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish.”
“Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favour of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life.”
“Let us remember, on the other hand, that while life is promised universally to all who believe in Christ, still faith is not common to all. For Christ is made known and held out to the view of all, but the elect alone are they whose eyes God opens, that they may seek him by faith.”
And then on verse 17 he adds,
“The word world is again repeated, that no man may think himself wholly excluded, if he only keep the road of faith.”
I’ve got to come down on the side of Calvin on this one. Jesus freely offered salvation to everyone who would believe, remember Nicodemus and the rich young ruler? This does not in any way negate his specific calling of the twelve. Both are facts. He invited all to come, and yet he chose the twelve. This paradox is communicated to us by Christ in Matthew.
At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mat 11:25-30)
So go tell the lost that God loves them and invites them to come to Christ for salvation, and he invites them regardless of their age, race, sex, or social status.