The universality of the offer of mercy is also here. It is a “whosoever” message, and what does “whosoever” mean? A gentleman came one time to my former home city and took an entire week for a series of lectures on John 3:16. During that time, he labored every night to prove that the world that God loved was the world of the elect and that “whosoever” was simply the “whosoever” that God had chosen from the foundation of the world. No wonder it took him a week to try to make out that kind of a thing. Any child can see the difference between a doctrine like that and that which is revealed in this text. Any one of school age knows the meaning of “whosoever.”
You may have heard the story of the old Scotchman who had been brought up with the idea that God had predetermined just so many people to be saved, and all the rest were created to be damned. He felt that he ought to be willing to say, “O God, if it is Thy will to damn me, I do not want to be saved”; but he did want to be saved and was in the deepest agony of soul about it. But still they all said, “If you are not one of the elect, you cannot be saved.”
One day he was out in the field plowing, when he found a piece of paper with a large text on it. He tried to spell it out, but he was not very good at reading, and so he read slowly: “For—God—so—loved—the—world—that—he—gave—his—only—be-got-ten—Son—that—who-so-ever.” He wondered what that meant, but as he did not know, he passed on to the next part. “That—who-so-ever—be-liev-eth—in—him—should—not—perish—but—have—ever-last-ing—life.”
“Man !” he said, “here’s good news for somebody. God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that who-so-ever! I wonder who is meant by that word. Here is somebody who can have everlasting life, elect or not elect.” And while he was pondering the question, he saw a lad going by with a bunch of books under his arm. He called to him, “Here, laddie, can ye read ?”
“Aye, that I can,” he replied.
“Well, will you read this ?”
Wanting to impress the old man with his great ability, the boy read like a race horse; “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.”
“O laddie, laddie, don’t read it so fast; read it again, and read it slowly so I can get every word, and be careful with that long word,” said the old man. And so the boy read it again.
“Does it really say there that somebody can be saved by just believing?” the old man asked. “What does that long word mean?”
“Oh,” said the boy, “whosoever means you, or me, or any other body; but there goes the bell, I have to run,” and away he went.
The old man stood there, and read it again, “For God loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that you, or me, or any other body believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
“Man !” he said, “that’s good news for a sinner like me; I don’t need to find out whether I am elect or not,” and he dropped down between the plow handles, and there confessed himself a sinner for whom Jesus died. He took God at His word, and his soul was saved.
— Harry Ironside