Summary: Was John only the apostle of love, or also the prophet of judgment? Was he "free will" as in John 3:16, or "predestination" as in John 6:37. To ask these things about him is really to ask them about the One he quoted. Jesus does not fit into our boxes...
Did John contradict John in regards to the doctrines of grace? Whose side was he on, after all?
It wasn’t just Paul!
There’s a real opposition in the evangelical church to what they call “Calvinism”, but what Spurgeon called “Bible.” Those evangelicals who say they love the prince of preachers are often caused to stop reading him as with horror they recognize he was “one of them.”
Most will point to misunderstandings of the apostle Paul as the main culprit in having corrupted the true faith of Jesus. But to be honest, they will also have to point to Augustine, other church fathers, every reformer, the Puritans, Spurgeon, and many others. These distinctive doctrines regarding election have been with us from the beginning. It is the modern church that has turned things around.
And it wasn’t just Paul in the Bible, to begin with. Travel with me through the world and works of the apostle John. There is much for an Arminian to love in this man, for sure. At least half a dozen times, the free will of man seems to be John’s slam-dunk response to this “Calvinism problem.” Case closed.
But I found quite a lot of other words out of John’s Gospel and other works, that aren’t so favorable to the great theologian on the other side. They seem to indicate, and a few flat-out demand, that God Himself is the great determiner of who is and who is not going to be on the other shore awaiting the redeemed.
If it were a matter of John vs Paul, one might, especially if he were a liberal scholar of the Bible, simply indicate the differences in the two men’s personalities and why one had to say this or that. That is never a Christian’s approach to interpreting Scripture, although that sort of thinking is among us.
But it’s not that easy. We’re talking about John vs John, and we’re forced to harmonize, to interpret one thing John said in the light of something else he said. Most are not willing even to try such a thing, and hence, the denominations form, one group taking its collection of proof texts to its dark little corner, and the other group sneaking off with theirs. The pride of men then creates another church split, and Christ and His church once more are shamed before the ever-watching world.
Thank God for liberty. Thank God that in Him there are no denominations. A man can step back from the battle of men’s prideful wills and say, God said everything that John wrote. I don’t have to be Arminian or Calvinist, Baptist or Presbyterian, free will or elected! I am what God says I am. I am what Scripture says, and nothing your little group tries to impose on me will work!
So let’s take a hard look at the apostle of love, who also happened to give us the final judgment of the human race in the book of Revelation, and was thus the apostle of judgment at the same time. Look both of these aspects square in the face of John and His Lord and see the whole picture. And may the denominations crash to the ground now and forever, Amen.
Some will say, hey, get off the fence, Bob!
Such good news I bring you: There is no fence, except the one you created! The fence is in your brain, not in God’s Words or Church. I can believe all the Scriptures, every word, and that is what I have chosen to do.
If I were an Arminian
If I were a follower of Jacob Arminius, here is what I would do with the book of John.
But wait, a reader/listener says, I have never consciously followed Arminius, how can you put that title on me? I just love the Lord, and have tried to follow the Scriptures!
Fair enough. But no doubt you followed the Scriptures as they were taught to you in your denomination. Have you studied the issue for yourself? Nevertheless, if this is your plea, allow me mine:
I have never studied John Calvin! Yet I have always been troubled by certain passages of Scripture and wondered why no one around me was troubled, or why they always had such an ineffective interpretation to pass to me. I am the same as you. I grew up in a particular group and Arminian emphasis was passed on down to my thinking, just as Calvinistic emphasis is passed along by Reformed and other groups. You are what you eat for those long years in Sunday School and church.
I am suggesting a mixed and variable diet of Scripture.
When I began studying the Scripture, in perfect freedom from my heritage, just accepting what I saw and heard there, my thought patterns were allowed to change. God’s Word does that!