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John Wylie


John Gill has many places in his writings where his interpretation is definitely skewed by his theological perspective. This particular error is ridiculous.



Since you just "write over my head" regarding the points I make from Scripture, allow me to explain in a few simple sentences.

The word "word" or "cosmos" is a word that has in mind the entire world. However, it's often used in different ways in Scripture. As it relates to God loving the "cosmos" we should keep in mind that God is sovereign and has a plan to save a people from every kindred, tongue, tribe, and nation. Although He loves the entire world, He does not love the entire world (ever person) in the same way. In fact, God has not loved you in the same way that He loved the man who died yesterday in the jungles of Africa without ever hearing the good news of Christ. God has caused you to be born in a time and geographic location where you would hear the gospel and be saved. That didn't happen for the man who died yesterday. God was sovereign over both people - you and the man in the jungle. (That fact should move us to be passionate missionaries)

Regarding the plan of God to save a people from every tongue, tribe, and people on planet earth - we must read the previous verses to get a glimpse of God's plan in loving the "cosmos." John 3:8 says, "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." It is the Spirit of God who moves upon people in order for them to be saved. No man controls the Spirit of God - He is God. He moves upon those He loves and those whom God has chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.

Call that "teleological" if you like, but the fact is, within the context of John 3:16 we see the sovereign plan of God at work to save sinners. No person can control the moving of the Spirit of God upon people in order to convict, awaken, regenerate, and save sinners. God loved the world by sending His Son to this earth to save sinners. And if God had chosen to send all of humanity to hell, He would have been absolutely just in doing so.

Jennifer S

The Minutes/Circular letters of the Philadelphia Baptist Association say that each pastor and member ought to have Gill's works. The first Baptist association in America thought very highly of Dr. Gill. What say you Mr. Lumpkins ? Mr.Gill destroyed the attempt of some really bad theology that wrote against Calvinism in his book the Cause of God and Truth. Maybe your next post could be Real Baptist vs Traditional Southern Baptist. Not being ugly but I do wonder what the Baptists in Georgia of earlier years would say about the Traditionalist today...Well...the minutes of Georgia Baptist (my spouse) has the CD rom in his office)actually say that no man should be ordained UNLESS he believes what is commonly known as the doctrines of Grace. I'm sorry ...I got off topic but interesting.

Andrew Barker

Gill's commentary says: "but not every man in the world is here meant, or all the individuals of human nature; for all are not the objects of God's special love, which is here designed, as appears from the instance and evidence of it, the gift of his Son: nor is Christ God's gift to every one; for to whomsoever he gives his Son, he gives all things freely with him; which is not the case of every man."

So according to Gill, God not only doesn't love everybody the same but God's gift is also not for all. And what does he use to justify these statements? Surely it's not the phrase "as appears from the instance and evidence of it"? Please somebody tell me I'm reading this incorrectly!

Scott Shaver


As well-reasoned and well articulated as Eman's last points sound and look in print, they are still to quote "the point I make from Scripture" as opposed to the immediate "point" made by scripture.

Not to be mean but you might suggest that some of us in here reject outright the premises of this relatively new "canonical" approach to textual critcism and interpretation.

Some of us may fall more along the lines of James Barr who as late as 1983 stated that canon had no hermeneutical significance for biblical interpretation.

I respect and share to an extent Eman's interest in theology, but I can't see the need for handling scripture through the interpretive method he currently employs.


"Not being ugly but I do wonder what the Baptists in Georgia of earlier years would say about the Traditionalist today...Well...the minutes of Georgia Baptist (my spouse) has the CD rom in his office)actually say that no man should be ordained UNLESS he believes what is commonly known as the doctrines of Grace. I'm sorry ...I got off topic but interesting."

Jennifer, I really do want to try and understand where you are coming from. One of the problems I have with the Calvinism resurgence is that it always appeals to what some man in history proclaims is truth. While history is always interesting and something to study, it is not our Source for truth.

If I take your point to its logical conclusion then I would not need the Holy Spirit and would assume that truth comes from a human in the past with a Chrisitanese title. Does that mean no humans taught truth? Of course not. But, as Bereans, we should search out everything for ourselves. And I also believe in the teaching of Grace. I just do not see a determinist God along with that descriptor.

peter lumpkins



By your opening statement, 'Since you just "write over my head,"' not sure either your meaning or intent. I do, though, appreciate your concession concerning KOSMOS: 'The word "word" or "cosmos" is a word that has in mind the entire world...it's often used in different ways in Scripture.' Granted. We agree. All the Greek study tools at our disposal shouts a hearty, "Amen!" to the proposition.

That's about the end to our agreement. You unfortunately spent the rest of your paragraph presumably arguing for one of the "different ways" the term KOSMOS is not used in Scripture, a way which will be found nowhere in any lexicon, dictionary, or Greek study tool. That's the issue, Eman. Produce the Greek nuance in which KOSMOS is used of a limited portion of the world you earlier conceded has in mind the entire world but you now effectively reduce the "entire world" to the "entire world of the elect" or perhaps more in keeping with your specific wording, the world of those whom God especially loves with a saving kind of love--precisely what you'll find nowhere in Scripture, and nowhere in scholarly linguistic sources (unless you can produce it).

In essence, "world of the elect" is a theological presupposition you've imposed upon the text of John 3:16. You may take comfort in that you're not alone: Gill, Pink, Turretin, Owen, and a host of other strict Calvinists did/do it too. Know I take little comfort in counting noses, especially when those noses appear to needlessly, and, without the least bit of linguistic warrant, theologize a biblical text...

Would you like to try it again?

peter lumpkins

Hi Jennifer,

You are surely correct. Gill’s works have been both used and praised historically among Baptists, and especially Baptists in the south I might add. Though I can’t quite get my fingers on it, I read somewhere that it was believed at one time if any minister could get only have one commentary set, he must get Gill and forget all the rest.

A similar estimation was made by William Cathcart in his celebrated Baptist Encyclopedia:

“Dr. Gill’s commentary is the most valuable exposition of the Old and New Testaments ever published… Gill’s commentary has the largest amount of valuable information ever presented to Christians, in the form of “Annotations on the Bible”  (William Cathcart, The Baptist Encyclodedia, Vol 1, 1881, p. 861)

On the other hand, just like John Owen had his eloquent and able critics (the learned Robert Hall famously referred to Owen’s works as a “continent of mud”), so Gill is strapped by many for creating a theological trajectory—if not creating the theological notion itself—we routinely call Hyper-Calvinism:

“Hyper-Calvinism was developed in one section of the Particular churches, and everywhere proved a blighting doctrine…  The ablest and most learned of the Baptists of this time, John Gill, cannot be absolved from responsibility for much of this false doctrine” (Henry C. Vedder, A Short History of the Baptists, 1907 p.161)

So, Gill is an enigmatic albeit influential figure in Baptist history. Consequently, while Gill may have done some good in battling against “some really bad theology” he more than assisted, according to many Calvinist scholars themselves, in spreading and encouraging false doctrine.

And, for my part, one of the most blatant errors in Gill's massive theological repertoire is his horrible, textual understanding and theological misreading of world in John 3:16.

Thanks again for logging on, Jennifer.

Jim G.

I suppose I could say I'm a student of theology and Baptist theology too.

I would certainly not recommend John Gill. In my opinion, he resorts to a Nestorian view of Christ in his interpretation of Matt 23:37-39. In this text, his is the classic error of divinding Christ into two subjects, confusing person and nature. In his zeal to uphold divine determinism, he makes a huge christological blunder. If one follows Gill's Calvinism here, the hypostatic union, and as a result our salvation, is destroyed.

Moreover, Reformed theology has been consistently criticized as Nestorian by Lutherans and Catholics alike. All one needs to do is look for 30 seconds at Calvin's view of the supper (real, spiritual presence) and it is pretty easy to make the charge stick. Now, whether Lutherans are monophysites is another matter altogether.

Jim G.

Paul Owen

For what it's worth, John Gill could fairly be described as a brilliant theologian and a fine biblical scholar. His competence with ancient languages and his familiarity with Jewish rabbinic literature was remarkable. He is a divine worthy of great respect, even by Episcopalians like me. At the same time he undoubtedly did much to lay the intellectual foundations of Baptist hyper-Calvinism, upon which the lesser intellects to be found among his offspring continue to build in unfortunate and clumsy ways today.



Who can be saved? Anyone freely of their own accord and desire (call if freewill if you like) or is it only those specific individuals that God "calls" through the power of the gospel being applied by the Holy Spirit?


Peter, could you explain what your motive is behind this series?

It would seem that you are taking particular delight in baiting people into this debate. I'm a Calvinist, I believe KOSMOS means world, but that is not the primary point of J3:16 or even the Gospel of John, for that matter.

The point of the Gospel is that one might believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing they will have life in His Name. J3:16's ultimate point is that those who "believe" will not perish, but have eternal life. Those who don't believed were condemned already, because why? Not because of what KOSMOS meant in v. 16, but because they didn't "believe" in Jesus.

We could say, "the condemned KOSMOS was loved by God because Jesus was sent. All who believe will not perish, but have eternal life--all who believe in His Name." (Just as the children of Israel believed in the bronze serpent, so must they believe in the Son of Man who will be lifted up and crucified for their sins...dead and buried...and rise again...). In other words, true belief (Like the Man Born Blind, for example).

peter lumpkins


"Particular delight in baiting people"? By focusing on a particular word in a biblical text? A word which very much affects one's view of Limited Atonement? At least it certainly affects the way those view it who argue against the standard Greek understanding of world, Nate. Why else would they argue so adamantly against it if, according to you, it made no difference what the term world actually meant?

Scott Shaver

We could say "the condemned KOSMOS was loved by God because Jesus was sent, All who believe will not perish but have eternal life."

Iman, I hate to be a fly in your ointment here but that statement further confirms the justifiability of shared fear that high Calvinism tends to rewrite rather than receive instruction from Scripture. Your own words have buttressed the argument.

Second, take a look again at what you're saying exactly with your paraphrase. Kinda dismisses the need for any further speculation as to the value of identifying elect or nonelect before the "consummation of all things" does it not?

You're getting closer to import of the text with each attempt though. Keep trying brother.

Scott Shaver

I'm sorry. My last response was meant for Nate with regard to his post at 02:06. I inadvertently posted it to the attention of Eman. My apologies Eman.


"It would seem that you are taking particular delight in baiting people into this debate."

Nate, Perhaps the appropriate question would be why you feel "baited" because various interpretations of a text are discussed?

Scott Shaver

Eman asks Peter "Who can be saved? Anyone freely of their own accord and desire (call it freewill if you like) or is it only those specific individuals that God calls through the power of the Gospel being applied by the Holy Spirit?"

Simple answer to that question is YES.

Since I am convinced that Eman likes hanging on to his high Calvinist predisposition regarding the divine advantage of the "elect" he should have no argument with YES, those specific individuals that God calls will be saved.

Conversely, unless his theology gets in the way, Eman should have no problem with the idea of people coming to Christ via personal choice (what he describes as freewill).

Why? because he nor any other Calvinist can produce evidence to the contrary proving that what looks outwardly to them like an insufficient act of human determinism is not the inescapable outcome of being chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.

3:16 again. "For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten Son that "whosoever" believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life."

We don't have a problem with God being sovereign. We have a problem with theology that rewrites scripture.

Paul Owen

If I may offer an opinion, I think that part of the point being made here is that strict Calvinists are typically blind to the extent to which their theological system determines their exegesis, which is the very thing they attribute to non-Calvinist interpretations. Maybe strict Calvinists need a little more epistemic humility, which would also go a long way toward quelling the present controversies in the SBC.


Either way Peter the point of the Gospel of John and the point of J3:16 is not the word KOSMOS, but believe. One must believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing that person (a person of the KOSMOS) will have eternal life.

As for Limited Atonement, then make the debate about that. KOSMOS in J3:16 is not the "end all" of the Limited Atonement argument, in fact, it would be one of the weakest verses for arguing either Limited Atonement or Universal Atonement.

The entire context of the discussion with Nicodemus and the statements that follow v. 15 all return to the key issue: belief. Everyone (the KOSMOS) is already condemned. Only those who believe in Jesus will be saved.

Scott shaver

Kudos Paul:

I would go even a step further by asking (and in relevance to John 3:16)how much more theological reformation among finitely-reasoned Protestant Christian human beings (i.e. Baptists) is neccessary at this juncture in human history?

Cries of "postmodernism" mean little to me. Every day that rolls around is "post modern."

Let's play it like the neo-reformers do. If the chronological history of confessionalism within the SBC shows a gradual departure from any of it Calvinistic antecedents, why call it "reform", "recovery" or even "revival"?

Why could we not also refer to such action as not learnings the lessons of history?

peter lumpkins


You state "...the point of J3:16 is not the word KOSMOS, but believe." Well, that depends on what one is wanting to know in the verse now doesn't it. If I was wanting to know the condition for not perishing but possessing eternal life, then yes, of course believing is the point. But if I were querying to whom God's love is displayed so much that He gave His Son, then we must consider world to be the point.

You further state, 'As for Limited Atonement, then make the debate about that. KOSMOS in J3:16 is not the "end all" of the Limited Atonement argument' concluding that world constitutes "one of the weakest verses for arguing either Limited Atonement or Universal Atonement." Excuse me? Did you not read the words of Joel Beeke? The very first thing he begins to deal with in facing objections to definite atonement is KOSMOS in John 3:16 and 1 John 2:2. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find a Reformed apology for Limited Atonement that did not make KOSMOS one of the chief objections toward Limited Atonement. R.C. Sproul says,

"The biggest problem with definite or limited atonement is found in the passages that the Scriptures use concerning Christ’s death “for all” or for the “whole world.” (R. C. Sproul, Chosen by God (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1986), 206".

Hence, to suggest one's view of KOSMOS in John 3:16 (not to mention other verses like 1 John 2:2) remains either irrelevant or, in your words, "one of the weakest verses for arguing either Limited Atonement or Universal Atonement" hardly describes the way Reformed apologists themselves view it.

And again, while I agree with you concerning belief to be the major focus in John's Gospel concerning the condition of salvation, to employ John's focus on the condition of salvation to overshadow to whom the revelation of God's love is displayed as recipients of His loving sending of His Son is not well taken...

Paul Owen


And as you have pointed out, as Sproul's quote illustrates, passages like John 3:16 are viewed as obstacles to be navigated in order to keep a system intact, rather than divine revelation to be used in framing our speech about the atonement under the light of scripture. If the biblical writers had believed in limited atonement, is this the way they would have expressed themselves? Hardly.



I am really not trying to be argumetative. I just think the point of the conversation with Nicodemus, and the point of the Gospel of John for that matter, is will one believe (cf. John 20:30-31). Thereby implying anyone who reads or hears what John is writing and is confronted with who Jesus claims to be and what John declares about Him. In that sense, the KOSMOS takes care of itself, for whoever believes in HIM will not perish, but have everlasting life.

As I already stated, I personally understand KOSMOS to be the world, but the truth is, the entire population of the world, from its inception to its end, will not hear the gospel, therefore they will perish, not only because they didn't believe, but because they never heard the gospel. As Jesus notes in J3:17-18, He did not come to condemn the world but to save it. Those who do not believe WERE condemned already. In other words, they were already under judgment before Jesus was sent by the Father.

So, I personally think any discussion pertaining to KOSMOS in J3:16 is based in semantics, and needs qualifying. I'm not trying to argue with you or anybody else about the definition of the word itself. However, there have been untold millions that have lived and died since Jesus was sent that never heard the gospel. They are not saved, are they? Henceforth, KOSMOS doesn't apply to them from the same standpoint as those who were allowed to hear the gospel. Yes God loved the KOSMOS, but the whosoever really only applies to whosoever heard the gospel AND BELIEVED.

Does God love the portion of the KOSMOS who never heard the gospel less than those who were allowed to hear the gospel? That is more my point and why I think the emphasis in on belief.

Now, any who try and say that they know who should or shouldn't be allowed to hear the gospel because God is only saving the elect, is attempting to know the mind of God, and that is impossible for man. We are to take the gospel to everyone.

On the flip-side, any (in my opinion) who want to say that Jesus' blood atones for the sins of everyone who has ever been born, yet only saves those who believe, implies that Jesus' blood is insufficient for the cleansing of sin of those who reject (or never heard) the gospel. This puts the emphasis on man to believe/reject and in my opinion goes too far the other way. (here is where you can dissect me for my limited atonement belief)

So, I apologize if I trivialized your series, but I do think (regardless of all the dead Calvinists or Trads you want to cite) that KOSMOS really isn't the major emphasis of the first half of chapter three.

peter lumpkins


Brother, with all due respect, you're arguing with yourself. And, I do not say that with tongue in cheek. Listen very carefully: the point of this series is neither the purpose of John's gospel broadly (20:30-31) nor the full thrust of John 3 particularly. Nor does this series focus on the condition of salvation (as I've repeatedly stated). Hence, while I agree wholeheartedly with most all of your affirmations above about believe, that's not the point of this conversation no matter how much you protest to the contrary.

This entire series is about the term translated world in J316, how Reformed believers routinely interpret it, and contrasting their routine interpretation with standard Greek scholarship. Why you appear to not get that I cannot tell. But get it or not, I am not changing the subject from what world means in J316 to the condition of salvation (i.e.believe); that is, changing the subject from whom God is said to have loved so much that He gave His Son to the subject of the condition necessary to save the one He loved so much that He gave His Son.

Thanks for your contributions, Nate. Whether you agree or not, I trust we can both move on concerning this particular issue. Lord bless...


Peter - if you expect anyone to take you seriously, you should post what they write. Why did you leave off my last comment?

peter lumpkins


Three things. First, I do not write in order to solicit kudos. I write and publish because I happen to believe what I write and publish regardless...respect or no respect.

Second, you'd do well to lay aside accusatory attitudes and judgmental remarks until you actually inquire about a possible missing comment.

Third, there's a good reason why a comment from you--according to you, your "last comment"--was not published: there is no comment from you awaiting publication. Sometimes comments are filtered out and placed in the spam bucket. And, it's happened more lately so I check the spam bucket often now. But there is no comment from you in the spam bucket either.

Nor is it likely your comment ever posted at all since I did not get an email concerning a comment you posted (I get an email for all comments posted except comments which go to the spam bucket).

Hence, my guess is, the blackhole of cyberspace gobbled it up.

By the way, if you think I've not posted a comment, you can email me (see contact link above). I'll be glad to check it out and see if a problem exists...

Scott Shaver

Just glad that the Bible doesn't present a God whose love is so hard to understand that it has to be explained by a hyper-Calvinistic theology.

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