CONTINUOUS FAITH IS NOT IN VIEW IN JN 3:16 & IS NOT REQUIRED TO BE SAVED
- I) “WHOEVER BELIEVES” IS A NOMINATIVE PRESENT PARTICIPLE PORTRAYING A SINGLE MOMENT OF BELIEVING AND NOT A CONTINUOUS ONE
- A) “PAS HO PISTEUON” = “WHOEVER BELIEVES” IS A NOMINATIVE PRESENT PARTICIPLE = A NOUN WHICH ONLY REQUIRES AN INSTANT OF BELIEVING
The phrase “whoever believes” in Jn 3:16 = “pas ho pisteuon” = relative pronoun “pas” = “everyone who” with a definite article “the” = “ho” + the present participle verb functioning as a noun, lit. “everyone who is the believing one”.
[The Language of the New Testament, Eugene Van Ness Goetchius, Chas. Scribner’s Sons, N.Y., 1965, p. 173]:
“Present participles may be used substantively [as a noun]… In the translation of such constructions into English one must usually resort to paraphrases of the types illustrated…
1) [Compare Ro 12:7]:
“If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;”
“o didaskon” = the teaching one, the one teaching, the one who is teaching, the one who teaches.
So “pas ho pisteuon” = “everyone who is the believing one”, i.e, everyone who is the believer at the moment one begins believing.
[“Syntax of New Testament Greek”, Brooks & Winbery, 1979, University Press, Lanham, Md, pp. 144]:
“THE SUBSTANTIVAL PARTICIPLE
The participle, like an adjective, may be used in the place of a noun or other substantive. The participle itself then functions as a noun. Its case, gender, and number are determined by its use in the sentence. It may be used in most of the ways in which a noun is used, e.g. as a subject nominative, as a dative of indirect object, as an accusative of direct object, etc. It may be used with or without an article. It always stands in the attributive position [following the article].”
2) [Compare Mk 6:14]:
”’King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”’
“John the Baptist” = “iOannEs ho baptizOn” =
“ho baptizOn” = “the baptizing one” = present, active, participle as a noun = “the Baptist”
[Bob Wilkin states, Grace in Focus periodical, Jan/Feb 2006, Vol 21, Number 1, Grace Evangelical Society, Irving Texas, p. 2]:
“Herod had put John to death after imprisoning him for some time. John had not baptized anyone in a long time, yet Herod still called him “ho baptizOn” We still call him that today, even though he hasn’t baptized anyone for 2000 years! John was only the Baptist when he was in the water baptizing people. Each time he came out of the water after conducting bapisms, he would cease being ho baptizOn. Of course, using that reasoning, since John stoped baptizing forever when he was imprisoned, his baptism was a false or spurious baptism all along!”
3) [Compare Jn 1:33]:
“I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, `The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’
[Notice that “ho baptizOn” refers to Jesus, with the clear implication is that our Lord will not forever baptize people with the Holy Spirit. Once the church age ends, this ministry of Jesus will end forever]
Just as John the Baptist was still considered the Baptist even while he was in jail, (Mt 14:8), and the one who baptizes, even after he was beheaded, (Mk 6:14);
so a believer is a believer from the moment he trusts in Christ for eternal life.
So “pas ho pisteuon” in Jn 3:16 = “everyone who is the believing one”, i.e, everyone who is the believer at the moment one begins believing.
Thus a believer is legitimately referred to as a believer from the moment he trusts in Christ for eternal life, at which moment he receives possession – continuous and forever – of eternal life because possession of eternal life is forever.
The nominative present participle is thus referring more to the person than the act of believing, and therefore it is clear that the focus is on momentary action rather than continuity.
[Dr. Robert Wilkin states, The Grace Report, Monthly Report of the Grace Evangelical Society, Irving, Tx. firstname.lastname@example.org, Mar 1999, Notes and Letters, p. 4]:
”’The articular participle (=the article “the” [=’ho’] plus a participle [ex. pisteuon = believing] functions as a verbal noun. Thus [‘ho pisteuon’ =] ‘the one who believes’ does not mean ”he who keeps on believing and believing and believing’ but means ‘the believer.’ [i.e., one who at some time exercised a single moment of faith alone in Christ alone]. Anyone who comes to faith in Christ is from that moment forward ‘the believer.’ ”’
In other words, the nominative present participle has in view one who at some moment in present time exercised a single moment of faith in whatever is specified, in this case, trusting that God gave His one and only Son for one as a believer.
- B) “PAS HO PISTEUON” = “WHOEVER BELIEVES” IS NOT A SIMPLE CONTINUOUS PRESENT TENSE & THUS DOES NOT CONVEY CONTINUOUS ACTION
The phrase “whoever believes” in Jn 3:16 is not a simple continuous present tense as some contend in order to demand that one maintain a constant state of believing so that one will continue to possess eternal life otherwise lose it; rather, as previously indicated, it is the relative pronoun “whoever” with the definite article “ho” = “the” and the present, active nominative participle verb “pisteuon” = “pas ho pisteuon”= “everyone who is the believing one” = a noun.
Consider the individuals who are found guilty of various offenses before a magistrate in a court in the times of the ancient Roman Empire – New Testament times. The magistrate declares before the group of guilty people in koine Greek, the language of the New Testament, in a statement that directly parallels the second half of Jn 3:16, ‘Whoever pays his fine shall not perish in jail, but have freedom to go, with his life.’ Does the present tense of ‘Whoever pays’ demand continuous – uninterrupted payment of the fine in order for an individual to “have freedom to go, with his life?” The answer is obvious, the present tense does not always demand continuous uninterrupted action in the present. Just as the payment of the Magistrate’s fine was done once in present time such that it results in freedom – the payment not having to be continuous; so the believing in Christ as Savior, when it begins in present time, immediately results in the aorist tense completed action of never perishing and the present tense reception of eternal life such that the believing need not continue in order to keep the result of never perishing and possession of eternal life continuous because the never perishing is a completed action and the eternal life by its very nature once received is continuously eternal.
If I were to say, “In the morning I get on a bus, pay my fare with a bus pass, and get off where I work;” does the phrase ‘pay my fare’ mean I continually pay the fare until the ride ends, or is it in a moment of present time until the end is achieved, i.e., about 1 second to swipe the pass through the slot on top of the fare box? Same with ‘I get on the bus’ is not continual nor is ‘get off’. Present tense is simply a present moment of action until the context determines when the action ceases. This is true in the koine Greek also.
Furthermore, even if the simple present tense were the verb in the original Greek text – and it is not – a special context and/or additional words such as “diapantos” = continually, must be inserted into the text in order to convey the idea of continuous believing. The Greek present tense by itself does not convey such an idea – nor does its counterpart in English. Simple present tense action in the absence of qualifiers demands a singular action in the present moment without requiring that it continue into later moments in any language. No first century Greek reader or hearer was likely to get a meaning such as ‘continue to believe’ without the necessary additional qualifiers to the simple present tense.
1) [Compare Hebrews 13:15]:
“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that confess his name.”
“anapherOmen ..thusian .aineseOs diapantos”
“we should offer sacrifice of praise continually”
Notice that “anapherOmen” = “we should offer” is present tense. Yet in order to emphasize continual action the word “diapantos” = “continually” must be inserted.
In addition to this, the appeal to force the simple present tense to mean continuous action would lead to havoc in many passages in the New Testament. For example, 1 John 1:8 reads, “If we [born again believers] say that we have no sin [=”ouk echomen” = present tense] we deceive ourselves”. If this verse is rendered in the continuous mode, it would be read, “If we say that we do not continuously have sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” This indicates that in spite of becoming born again believers there is no time in the believer’s life that he can claim not to be living a lifestyle of continuous, unadulterated sin – no time for anything else!!!
Since eternal life is immediately received at the first instant of believing according to numerous salvation passages whereupon it is also established – often stipulated, that a believer has an absolute assurance of his eternal destiny in heaven, (ref. 1 Jn 5:9-13); and since eternal life once received by definition is continuous and everlasting for that individual believer without interruption or cessation from then on no matter what, then to insist that continuous believing is thereupon required in order to continue to have eternal life is nonsensical, contradicts normative rules of language and violates the doctrine of assurance, i.e., eternal security.
In the final analysis “whoever believes” = “pas ho pisteuon” in the Greek, the form of the verb to believe in Jn 3:16, is not a simple present tense form at all; but it is actually a nominative, singular, masculine, present active participle, i.e., a participle acting as a noun indicating “one who believes” [in Christ as Savior], i.e., a believer. The participle acting as a noun does not require a perfection of continuous action such as continuous believing in order for an individual to be qualified as a believer.
- C) A CONTINUOUS STATE OF BELIEVING IN CHRIST IS NOT POSSIBLE WITH MAN
According to Scripture, a continuous and perfect state of believing in Christ is not possible with man which would necessitate sinless perfection. For any sin a believer commits reflects a degree of unbelief and no one can claim to be without sin, nor maintain a perfect state of continuous faith:
1) [Compare 1 Jn 1:8, 10]:
(v. 8) “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
(v. 10) If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”
No believer can claim to maintain a perfect, uninterrupted record of faith in Christ as he is bound to commit acts of unbelief throughout his life.
2) [Compare 1 Jn 4:7-12]:
(v. 7) “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.
Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
(v. 8) Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
[Notice that “whoever does not love does not know God” in the sense of being out of fellowship with Him for the moment, acting as one who does not know God, an unbeliever. Since sin is an act of not loving, and since all believers sin, then at those moments they do sin, they do ‘not know God’, i.e., their faith in Him is imperfect]
Can an individual express saving faith in Christ as Savior continuously – without any interruption all his life even during moments when he is asleep – completely in unconscious sleep?
Suppose while in a deep sleep with your active mind unconscious, you no longer are continuously maintaining faith in Christ as Savior, you die in your sleep and then because of this unconscious lapse, wake up in Hell – after a long life of faithful service to God!!!!
Can an individual maintain perfect, uninterrupted saving faith in Christ as Savior throughout his waking day? Consider an accountant who is in deep concentration, keying in figures on a spread sheet making sure of his accuracy. Can he also be maintaining a deep concentration on trusting in Christ as Savior without interruption?
Have you ever lost your salvation during the moment when you are considering what to have for lunch instead of continuing to believe in Christ to save you – as your thoughts are not for the moment on Jesus Christ but on the Tuna Melt sandwich on the menu?
What do you then need to do to get it back? Is it really eternal life if you keep losing it every time your mind wanders to some other subject? Wouldn’t it be better to call it ‘For the Moment Life’ rather than eternal life? And how do you get eternal life back after your momentary lapse?
- II) ETERNAL LIFE ONCE RECEIVED IS FOREVER
- A) “ETERNAL LIFE” = “ZOEN AIONION” = LIT. LIFE FOREVER
When an individual expresses a moment of belief in the Son being given for him he receives possession of life with God forever.
Since eternal life has a unique quality about it of being everlasting in duration; then such a life will not cease once it has begun to be the possession of the individual at the beginning moment of faith when he became “ho pisteuon eis auton” = the believer in the Son of God being given up for him. Otherwise eternal life would not be called eternal life, it would be called 10 year life or 10 minute life as the case may be. So if the believer does not maintain a continuous state of believing in the Son after that first moment of faith, the duration of the believing will not have an effect on the duration of the eternal life since the latter has begun to be the forever possession of the believer.
- B) ETERNAL LIFE ONCE RECEIVED IS AN INTRINSIC PART OF AN INDIVIDUAL WHICH CAN NEVER BE LOST
1) LIFE IS AN INTRINSIC PART OF AN INDIVIDUAL
[Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary [G & C Merriam Co., Springfield, Mass, 1980]:
Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines life as “a principle or force that is considered to underlie the distinctive quality of animate beings; an animating and shaping force or principle.” Hence, this principle is inherent in the individual, an intrinsic part that animates every part of ones being.
2) ETERNAL LIFE CANNOT EXIST SEPARATELY FROM THE INDIVIDUAL – BEING ETERNAL, ONE THUS WILL NEVER LOSE IT
In the same way as one’s physical/mortal life, eternal life once received becomes an intrinsic part of one and it is for eternity. It cannot be for less than eternity because it could not then be called eternal life.
When mortal/physical life ceases it does not exist outside of one like a separate entity like a diamond can. It is an intrinsic part of one and once it is lost, it simply no longer exists. It is gone and ones existence has changed without it.
Furthermore, once one receives eternal life it becomes an intrinsic part of one but now it is for eternity by definition. It cannot be lost and exist outside of one any more than mortal/physical life can.
III) OTHER PASSAGES STIPULATE A MOMENT OF FAITH ALONE IN CHRIST ALONE UNTO ETERNAL LIFE FOREVER IN VERB FORMS THAT CORROBORATE A MOMENT OF FAITH IN JN 3:16
- A) [Mk 16:16]:
“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
“believes” = “ho pistEusas” = the one believing, nom, sg, m. aor. active participle. “whoever does not believe” = “ho de apistEsas” = nom, sg, m. aor. active participle [Notice: aorist tense signifying a punctilear moment of faith in order to be saved]
- B) [Jn 3:18]:
“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
“Whoever believes” = “ho pistEuOn” = nom. sing. m. pres. act. part.
“But whoever does not believe” = “ho de me pistEuOn” = = nom. sing. m. pres. act. part.
“because he has not believed” = “oti me pepistEuken” = perfect tense, active, indicative, 3rd, sing. Notice that the perfect tense signifies a completed action moment of faith with ongoing results in the present in order to secure avoidance of condemnation forever. Thus the present participle, “whoever believes” = “ho pistueon” is paralleled to “because he has not believed”, signifying that only a moment of faith is sufficient to secure eternal life.
- C) [Acts 16:29-31]:
(v. 29) “The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.
(v. 30) He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
(v. 31) They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.”
[ETERNAL LIFE, By John W. White
”’In Acts 16:30, 31 is the only place in the Bible where saved is in the question and saved is in the answer.
“… Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”
Paul used the aorist tense of the verb ‘believe’ and not the present tense. The aorist tense is graphed by using a dot (.), an event. The present tense is graphed by using a line (-), which expresses continuous action. You believe one time and you are saved and you do not have to continue to believe to stay saved”’
- IV) IF THE PHRASE “WHOEVER BELIEVES” WERE PRESENT TENSE, (AND IT IS NOT – IT IS A NOUN), THE CONTEXT WOULD DEMAND THAT IT BE IN THE AORISTIC PRESENT IN VIEW OF THE AORIST TENSES OF “GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD”, “THAT HE GAVE HIS ONE AND ONLY SON”, AND “SHOULD NOT PERISH”
The aoristic present tense presents the action as a simple event or as a present fact without any reference to its progress.
The phrase “should not perish” in Jn 3:16 is in the aorist tense providing a completed state of never perishing at the moment in the present one becomes the believer.
This is all as a result of the aoristic future tense in both verses of God having so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son. Since all of the above actions are completed action moments, the aoristic present “whoever believes” would be in view if “whoever believes” in Jn 3:16 were in the present tense.
- V) COMPLETED ACTION OF NEVER PERISHING = POSSESSION OF ETERNAL LIFE
THE AORIST TENSE “SHOULD NOT PERISH” PROVIDES AN INDIVIDUAL WITH A STATE OF NEVER PERISHING AT THE MOMENT HE BECOMES A BELIEVER. IT IS NOT AFFECTED BY WHETHER OR NOT THE BELIEVING CONTINUES ON AFTER THAT
Notice that “should not perish” is in the aorist tense providing a completed state of never perishing at the moment one becomes the believer. A completed action of never perishing is thus not effected by whether or not the believing continues on after that. Furthermore, a completed action of never perishing is another way of saying one is in a state of having eternal life which immediately follows in parallel in Jn 3:16 after the connective word, “but” = “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life”. The two are inseparable, you are never perishing when you have eternal life.
One would then ask the question, ‘Why would a continuous state of believing be necessary if a completed action of the aorist tense of ‘never perishing’ resulted at the moment one becomes a believer?’ Answer: it is not necessary.
If continuous believing were necessary to provide one with a state of not perishing then Jn 3:16 must be changed to read “whoever continuously believes in Him will [future tense] not perish but will have [future tense] eternal life.”