Continuing a Presbyterian layman’s critique of Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism by David L. Allen and Steve Lemke, I want to look into the verse most often quoted against Calvinism in Baptist circles. That verse is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him shall not perish, but have everlasting life” (KJV).
Jerry Vines uses this verse in a crass way against Calvinism on page 14: “The phrase ‘that whosoever believes” responds to five-point Calvinism, which says Christ died only for the elect.” Once again, a Baptist sets up a straw man of Calvinism to be knocked down by his relentless logic.
Calvinists believe that God loves the whole world (everyone) in some sense. We believe that the love God has for the world is the reason that God sent His only Son to die. We believe that Christ’s death was enough to pay the penalty for everyone’s sins such that anyone who does believe on Christ will be saved. That is all that John 3:16 teaches, nothing more.
There was nothing deficient in Christ’s death. The Eternal God-Man suffered infinitely in His soul. His death could pay for everyone’s sins. The offer that “whoever believes will not perish” is a real offer. This offer is evidence of God's love for you.
If you do not know Christ, there is nothing outside of you keeping you from knowing Him and placing your faith in Him. God’s not forcing you to stay away! You are staying away because, in the final analysis, that is what you want to do. You have no excuse.
But the ‘want to’ is the key. All people want to stay away from Christ. We are all dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). We are God’s enemies by nature and by choice, and we cannot please God (Romans 8:7). We are all together become unprofitable, unable to do anything good (Romans 3:12). None of us can come to Christ unless the Father who sent Him grants it to us (John 6:44). In fact, we cannot even see His kingdom, much less enter it (John 3:3, note that this is the very chapter in which the verse in question resides).
The last time I checked, dead men do not do anything. Mortal enemies do not lay down their arms. Coming to Christ in faith is something good. One has to have the requisite authority and power to grant another one something. And you cannot purposefully walk through a door you cannot see / perceive. God must act to change the heart of a person before that person will want to repent and believe the gospel.
The verse does not say that Christ died for everyone. It says that whoever believes on Christ will not perish.
In and of itself, John 3:16 has nothing to say about Calvinism. It only teaches what Calvinists affirm.