John 1:29 KJV

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

John 12:47 KJV

And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.

  • Welcome to BH community. If you mean the universalism -all human beings will eventually be saved, then, no, the Scripture does not teach. Scripture says, those who believe in Him will have eternal life (John 3:16), Jesus said, I know my sheep… I lay down my life for the sheep (Jn 10:14-15). The “He … gave Him (His Son) up for all (Rom. 8:32)” refers in the context to “those who have been called according to HIs purpose…” (Rom. 8:28-30). Also, John 12: 48 says, the word Jesus has spoken will judge him on the last day..
    – Sam
    Nov 1, 2020 at 4:15
  • Hi that’s what I meant.
    – Gabi23
    Nov 1, 2020 at 16:05
  • “Universalism” cannot be Scriptural with “whosoever believes in Him” in John 3:16. Also, the Scripture relates being in Christ to salvation (and eternal life/new creature)- Rom. 8:1; 2 Cor. 5:17, etc. The text John 1:29 appears to connote the universal atonement, making universal salvation possible for all, but of course, only in isolation. But, John 12:47 (& 48), the very words - if any man hears my words, and believe not… the word that I have spoken will judge… speak against the Universalism. In sum, they're so many conditional/restrictive words against the Universal salvation conjectures.
    – Sam
    Nov 2, 2020 at 16:37

6 Answers 6


Does John teach Universalism? Yes and NO! Let me be more specific.

There is an important difference between the provision of salvation and the reality of salvation. The Bible clearly teaches that the provision of salvation is universal but the actuality is not. In the writings of John we have:

  • John 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
  • John 3:16, “God so loved the world that He gave …”
  • John 12:32, “I [Jesus] … will draw all people to myself.”
  • 1 John 2:2, “He Himself [Jesus] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours [Christians to whom John writes] only but also for the whole world.”

Elsewhere in the Bible we also have:

  • Acts 17:30, “God … commands all people everywhere to repent.”
  • Rom 3:23, 24, “… for all have sinned … and all are freely forgiven...”
  • Rom 5:8, 10, “… while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. … if, while were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him by the death of His Son, …”
  • Rom 5:15, “But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s [Adam’s] offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to the many.” [Note the same word, “many” applies to all people.]
  • Rom 5:18, “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all people, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all people, resulting in justification of life.”
  • Rom 11:32, “For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.”
  • 2 Cor 5:14, “…we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.”
  • 2 Cor 5:18, 19, “…God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ …”
  • 1 Tim 2:3, 4, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
  • 1 Tim 2:6, “[Jesus Christ] gave Himself as a ransom for all people.”
  • Titus 2:11, “For the grace of God appeared bringing salvation to all people.”
  • Heb 2:9, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”
  • 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
  • Isa 53:6, “We all like sheep have gone astray … and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Now, the universal provision of salvation does not mean that all people will be saved - far from it. For example:

  • The Bible has many references to the final destruction of the wicked such as Ps 37:28, 92:7, 94:23, Prov 14:11, 2 Thess 2:8-10, Matt 5:29, 30, 10:28, 2 Peter 2:3, 3:6, 7, Rom 9:22, Phil 3:19, Ps 68:2.
  • The wicked are destroyed because they reject God and choose to be destroyed. Contrast the two groups at the second Advent of Jesus:

. o Isa 25:9, “In that day they [the righteous] will say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.’”

. o Rev 6:16, “They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!’”


Therefore, the provision of salvation is universal but the actuality means that many will reject God's gracious offer to be saved and many wicked will be destroyed.

  • How do you square this with iohn 1:12-13? It seems to state that salvation cannot be achieved by an act of our own will, but by God s as lone?
    – Gus L.
    Nov 1, 2020 at 9:38
  • 2
    @GusL. - I fully agree. The verse says - "But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God". Note that here we are given the right to choose life (Deut 30:19, 2 Kings 18:32, etc). The word "right" is actually ἐξουσία meaning "authority".
    – Dottard
    Nov 1, 2020 at 10:14
  • 1
    Fascinating take. I don't think you can disconnect it from John 5:7 where the man at Bethesda repeats the same formula as John writes in 1:12-13. In John 5, you have a man who is sick for 38 years until he gives up hope. Jesus walks by and asks him if he wants to be made whole. The man says "not by the will of my flesh or the will of man"... Jesus says "take your mat and walk." ... and in John 5:13, the author makes it clear that he had no idea who Jesus was. The man understood what his name means.. It means that salvation is not something that is up to us in any way.
    – Gus L.
    Nov 1, 2020 at 15:21
  • 1
    @GusL. That’s not the context of being dragged, the context is found in the OT and to give you the simplified interpretation, the WORD or the Scriptures are shared with the person and and IF the person believes the Scriptures then by default the Father draws/drags them to Jesus on account that the Scriptures are ultimately pointing to Jesus. Put differently if the Word being preached doesn’t draw a person who believes them to Jesus then those teachings are wrong or if the Jesus being accepted results in denying the OT Scriptures then it’s a different Jesus. Dottard answered well Nov 1, 2020 at 16:36
  • 1
    @NihilSineDeo, That's your opinion I guess. John uses the term for dragging specificially six times. And it culminates in the 153 fish of John 21. They are clearly trapped in a net and dragged against their will to the shore. The main difference you and I likely share is that you believe that we both think we have free will and that we actually do have free will. I believe that we do not actually have free will, but that we think we do. So when I read the text, I see it from that lens. John is saying that it is the idea that we can do ANYTHING by our own merit that is our sickness.
    – Gus L.
    Nov 1, 2020 at 18:49

I believe the correct answer is YES.

In John 1:7

The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

John 3:17 states that God sent the Son, who is the God's Word to save the world

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

according to Isaiah 55:11 the word will not return to God until it accomplishes it's purpose

John 17:1-2

These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:

As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him

John 17:6-8 establishes that at that point only some were saved because only some out of the world had believed.

I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.

Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.

For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.

John 17:9 confirms that at this point this is only about the apostles

I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.

later in the prayer Jesus expands the target: John 17:20

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word

on 17:21 Jesus says that the entire world WILL believe that the Father sent Him (like the first group in 17:8)

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

Now, all these "might" and "may" that we see in 1:7, 17:2 and 17:21 are not mere possibilities, they express a purpose, an implication.

These "may" are known as subjunctives, and are being used in Purpose Clauses and they indicate something that is not necessarily yet true, but that will be the outcome if the first part of the sentence occurs. See this article from the greek scholar Bill Mounce (who is the founder and President of BiblicalTraining.org, serves on the Committee for Bible Translation, was the New Testament Chair for the ESV, and has written the best-selling biblical Greek textbook, Basics of Biblical Greek, and many other Greek resources)


John is a fascinating philosophical take. Its perception in scholarship has also evolved remarkably. Pretty much everything we thought we knew about John has changed in the 20th century, particularly since the 1980s. There has been new knowledge about John that has come from excavation of the pool of Bethesda to the relationship between the "children of light" and the "beloved teacher" in the documents uncovered in the Qumran scrolls from that community. I'll frame my answer as someone who has gone through a religious trajectory that has included traditional mainline protestantism as well as universalist frameworks.

The distinction between universalism and particularism seems to bend around two separate takes. Calvinists, for example, believe in particularism, but that we have no say in the matter at all. This is called double predestination. From the beginning of time, everyone is already sorted into Heaven or Hell, and it is in no way up to us. It is important to note that Calvin was not a determinist. He believed we had enough free will to warrant all of us going to hell, and that it impossible for us to work to develop merit to goto heaven. Salvation was entirely up to God and was already determined. Today, through the theology of Karl Barth and others, the Presbyterians (those who inherit the Reformed church dogma of Calvin) have more of a universalist bent (at least in the PCUSA branch).

This particularism is contrast with the catholic, methodist, episcopal, or evangelical doctrine that it is up to us to choose to accept Christ as our own savior. In this mind, we get to choose. And not everyone chooses. So only a particular set goto Heaven. This creates what we call the protestant work ethic upon which the USA is built. Unlike with Catholics, where a priest is all you need for salvation (and he will tell you this), for the protestants, we can never know if we are saved for sure, so we work work work...

Given those two kinds of particularism (and they have their defenders in the Bible), Universalism stands in contrast. For a universalist, Jesus descended into hell, kicked open the doors, and all are saved. For the universalist, salvation is also not in our hands (as with the Calvinists).

In John, support for this is drawn from the theme of John 1:12-13 where the text says that "for all who received him, he gave the power to become children of God, but not by their will or the will of others, but by God." Then in John 6:44 and John 14:6, we have this paradoxical pairing of statements. In 6:44, no one can come to Jesus unless they are "dragged against their will" by the father.

The verb here is "ἑλκύω" and is a technical term in John used exactly six times. I suggest exploring those uses as it is enlightening and talks much about our ability to participate in our salvation. The BDB Lexicon has: "drag a person forcibly and against his will"

And in John 14:6, we have the famous statement that no-one comes to the father except through Jesus.

So there is this paradoxical framework that says that none of it us up to us. In fact, you might say that the idea that we have our own free will or merit is questioned entirely in John. The only way is through Jesus, you can't come to Jesus unless dragged against your will by God, and then in John 12:32, we have Jesus' statement that "if he is lifted up [on the cross], then he will drag all to himself." Again, the verb "to drag against your will" is used here, as well as the greek word "πάντας" meaning ALL.

So with that trio of verses, you get this round rejection of our role in salvation and a statement that God is in charge of it, especially when coupled with the theme in John 1:12-13 that it is not up to us.

Some scholars see a "protology" in John. This is that John points back to Eden. Instead of being born of blood/flesh, we are to be born of water and spirit, just like Adam was. Instead of eating food from the cursed ground, we are to eat food from above (end of John 6). These were the major punishments upon exile from eden. And the "sin" in eden was to reach out and grasp at something against God's will. But that was also paradoxically, the knowledge of right and wrong itself. So before this act, we could not have known right and wrong and would not have been moral agents in the act.

Compare this idea to what Jesus says it means to be a child of God in John 5:19, "Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise."

There is a sense here that Jesus is utterly obedient to God. This again is in contrast to the seeming disobedience in Eden. Furthermore, it would seem that the only reason that a person could reach out to choose to be saved in the first place is if they thought this was a "GOOD" thing to do... which, in the eden context, is more fruit of the knowledge of good and bad. The concept of "dragging against the will" and making it clear that we cannot do it ourselves removes the idea that we are chasing it because we think it is good, or chasing it because we are avoiding hell which we think is bad.

In fact, there is simply no other reason that we can move as beings. We only act to achieve what we think is good or avoid what we think is bad. So it is literally impossible for us to act outside of the knowledge of good and bad. Hence you get a take that it simply cannot be up to us that is well supported in John.

I'll frame this with some meta-commentary by saying that universalism has persisted throughout Christianity (Origen being one of the first recorded explicitly open Universalists). But it is extremely hard to sell this. There is no value proposition behind Universalism. You walk into a universalist church and they say, "nah, you're good, all are saved." Then you walk out and don't come back. It takes the fear of hell to keep you in the pews, which is why the Universalism doesn't play well. In the early history of the USA, there was a huge backlash against Universalists and Calvinists in a very similar way to the backlash against Atheists. There is an idea that if it is out of your hands, then there will be no motivation for these people to be moral.

That is another long take, but it informs why it is challenging to find broad institutional support for Universalism even though it may be well supported in the text.

  • I am not a calvinist. I don’t believe what you are saying. I was characterizing the space of interpretation.
    – Gus L.
    Nov 1, 2020 at 19:28
  • Then I take back what I said and I’ll reread your post. Nov 1, 2020 at 19:40

That the Father sent the Son to be the saviour of the world and that John declares of him ‘Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world’, does not suggest, in any way, a ‘Christian Universalism’, that is to say the notion that, automatically, all humankind shall be saved irrespective of their behaviour, irrespective of faith or irrespective of the purposes of God in salvation.

In order that there should be a world to come, at all, necessitated the coming of Christ and the death of Christ. It is clear from what the scriptures teach regarding restoration (unhelpfully translated ‘reconciliation’) that salvation is effected by the death of Christ and by union with Him, under his Headship, in a righteous restoration out from under the headship of Adam and out of the former human state in Adam.

Part of this restoration is the fact that Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who taketh away the ‘sin of the world’ which does not refer to the specific actions of individuals (which is dealt with in other parts of the doctrine of Christ) but refers to the entry of sin into the world from the beginning, in Adam.

Being ‘made’ sin, or being effected sin (some translate this as ‘being made a sin offering’ but I suggest that that falls short of the full concept) sin, itself, was condemned within the humanity of Jesus Christ - a clean humanity - and sin was eradicated in the sight of God, righteously.

No individual is condemned, personally, for the liability of flesh and blood, or for the propensities of created humanity, or for the failure of man in the flesh, or for the transgression of the head of humanity, Adam. This liability and this sin is taken away by the Saviour and borne by him in his death.

That removal, righteously, is necessary for there to be a world at all. That removal was necessary even to grant a continuance to humanity after the Flood. The judgment on the world, by water, was to end all flesh because of the consequences of sin and because of the multiplication of evil on earth to the extent it could not be tolerated any further.

Eight persons were preserved and that preservation was in order for the purposes of God to be fulfilled, despite the transgression : a continuance being granted, due to a foreseen sacrifice (by Christ) that gave a righteous basis for the extension of the world, in time, for those divine purposes to progress.

Else, in righteousness, there could be no world at all. The world would have ended at the time of the Flood.

He is the ‘Saviour of the world’ in that humanity is granted existence, time, forbearance and the testimony of the gospel (whether by figure and ritual under the old covenant, or whether by full revelation under the New Testament) that they might be saved.

But if there is unbelief and rejection then that is the responsibility of each individual. And the consequence is to their own account, personally.

The further notion that the sufferings of Christ (within his body, prior to his death) were effective for the sins of all humankind (but only if certain individuals took advantage and added their own effectiveness) is nowhere expressed in scripture and is, in effect, salvation by works.


The greater question of the question posed is, “Does Scripture support the Universalism?” And do the passages-John 1:29 & 12:47 support the Universalism?

1. The Universalism (differ from the Universal atonement)

The modern-day Universalism -Christian Universalism - is a specific theological term for a belief that ultimately all human beings - all people/ every person of all human history, and the fallen angelic beings eventually will come into final salvation and spend eternity with God in heaven (often confused with the universal atonement view -the provision of salvation and our acceptance of the salvation.)

(Note: Two main versions: The ultra-Universalism-everyone at death will have the second chance to accept the Salvation and go to heaven; The Purgationists - unsaved people after a certain cleansing period, God will free the inhabitants of hell and reconcile them to himself. Now the universalist prefers to call it, Universal restoration, Universal reconciliation, Universal restitution, and Universal salvation, or The victorious Gospel of Grace, Jesus, the Chosen One, Saves All.)

The main arguments of the universalist are:

  • God is love, therefore, He “must” love all and will the salvation for all -all intelligent beings He created.

  • The loving God by nature would condemn no one to eternal torment in hell,

  • That after a certain cleansing period, God will free "all" inhabitants of hell and reconcile them to himself.

  • The word “all (πᾶς)” and the “world” in certain passages have universal implications and support the Universalism -i.e., justification and life(eternal) for “all men” (Rom. 5:18, 11:32; 1 Cor. 15:22; John 1:29; 4:42; 12:32; Acts 3:21; Col. 1:20; Eph. 1:10; 1 John 2:2; 4:14)

While the argument appears logical, but it is the same ol’ circular reasoning - God cannot be perfect love while punishing sinners in hell. It is a logical fallacy imposing human judgment upon God, defective logic blinded by the love of God for creatures, but blinded to the love of God for His only-begotten Son. It is the faulty logic of abstracting the eternal attributes of God revealed in God’s revelations and is the same deception of the serpent first used at the Garden.

Universalism ignores the fact that the loving God, forsaken His only-begotten Son, put through a cruel death on the cross to save the created beings who reveled against Him and condemned to eternal damnation in hell. In effect, according to their "perfect love" logic, God is still a failure because He loved created beings but NOT loved His only-begotten Son. Furthermore, according to their line of thinking, the loving and sovereign God could /should have prevented the causes of sin in the first place, and if He did not, He is NOT perfect love; if He could not, He is NOT almighty; if He did not see it coming, He is NOT all-knowing, etc. All their logics and arguments are to make a total mockery of God of the Scripture!

In sum: The Scripture says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death" (Proverb 14:12). Here, "right יָשָׁר" has ranges of meanings - right, correct, pleasing, and smooth." The Universalism - though more palatable to many - is "The Devil's Redemption" (M. McClymond,) and that says it all!

2. The Universal Atonement

The Universal Atonement (Unlimited Atonement -Arminianism), though shares with the Universalism on - i.e., Christ died for all sins of the world, it entirely differs with it- from the scope and efficacy of the atonement to eschatological outcome. Most importantly, no human judgments on God and His Word- the Scripture! The universal atonement is one of the 5 points that differ from the limited atonement (Calvinism). Both Calvinism and Arminianism -two opposing views- have good Scriptural supports for all their 5 points, yet both are in agreement on the main point - Salvation by grace through the "faith" in Jesus Christ.

One thing is clear: a) that two opposing views -as they are- cannot be right, nor totally represent the Scripture on every and all doctrinal points, unless both come to the Scripture. b) And also one’s belief in the scope of Christ's Atonement, and theological affiliation and familiarity of doctrines does not “save,” but the Word of Jesus gives the life (John 6:63). Jesus said, “truly, truly I say, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5), "Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life (1John 5:12), “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it" (Luke 11:28).

Jesus says, "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12-ESV). In Revelation, "And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire" (Rev. 20:15).

The Holy Spirit is the spirit of the truth, and He will guide and teach us the Word (John 15:26,16:13). NO theologians and bible teachers can come to your help on that day.

  • **Sola scriptura
  • Sola fide
  • Sola gratia
  • Solus Christus
  • Soli Deo gloria**

3. Do John 1:29 & 12: 47 support the Universalism?

The text John 1:29 connotes the universal atonement, but NOT the universalism. John 12:47 (& 48), the very words - if any man hears my words, and believe not… the word that I have spoken will judge… speak against the Universalism. In sum, in the immediate, larger, and context of the whole Bible, are many conditional/restrictive words against Universalism.


The question is a bit ambiguous, for it gives two quotes - John 1:29 an John 12:47 - which have quite different connotations: the first clearly shows that according to John Jesus' ministry is for the entire world and not just for one chosen nation of Jews, and there are quite a few passages in John that confirm the same. Thus, if in "universalism" is meant this, then of course, quite unambiguously, John's Gospel speaks about it.

However, the second quotation speaks about semantics of divine judgment and gives to this term a new twist, for we learn that Jesus who is God and equal to Father does not judge and neither does Father (John 5:22), but how then is God still the Judge who will judge all mankind? When names are applied to God, they change meaning drastically, and thus, we learn that God-the Judge does not judge - and if does not judge, then also does not condemn, for condemning is just a portion of judgment, which is a more general category - in the sense that He only forgives, He only loves, He only forbears, infinitely so, for He cannot help loving His creatures created in His image and likeness. Yet, when we reject all those divine actions towards us, close our hearts from them, then we condemn ourselves through the breach of communion with God and in a vulgar non-theological way this is called "God's condemnation", but, if one understands this vulgarly and in terms of positive human law-enforcement, one will obtain a sacrilegious calumny on all-merciful God, who in His own words "does judge nobody".

Thus, if in "universalism" is meant whether God saves all humans, then the answer is YES, He indeed saves all humans and cannot help saving them according to His nature, which can be defined as "love" (1 John 4:8), however, as being created free, we can reject His love and exactly through this free rejection self-inflict the condemnation on ourselves, His infinite forgiveness notwithstanding; for such real and horrible our freedom and responsibility is.

  • It seems the first need to be more specific, if “universalism” should mean God saves all humans or God eventually saves all humans, and also if the “His love” we can reject refers to His love for the "righteous and the unrighteous" as in Matthew 5: 45 or Romans 5:8 and John 3:16.
    – Sam
    Nov 2, 2020 at 17:28
  • @Sam "God eventually saves all humans" is an old Origenistic heresy of "apokatastasis" - a heresy, because it downgrades human free will which can reject divine salvation, and thus according to the apokatastasis theory our free will is not really free, but kind of necessarily swayed eventually by divine love. But sound theology says that God loves and cannot but love all humans, having died for all of them, yet the acceptance of His horrible, unimaginable love and redeeming sacrifice is totally on our free response, for He coerces nobody. Nov 2, 2020 at 17:56
  • -Just for a clarification purpose only, the central tenet of the theory of Universalism is ‘eventually’ all persons/all humans (of all times) will be saved -a contention related to the problem of hell, which is the point of the question as posed. Your answer, as I perceive, is more on that God’s offer is intended for the universal atonement making salvation possible for all persons, but, the efficacy of Christ’s atoning death depends on the acceptance of the “lover offer” by a person with his free will.
    – Sam
    Nov 2, 2020 at 20:00
  • @Sam Christ's atoning death is a sine qua non for salvation, nobody can be saved unless by the crucifixion of sins on the cross of Christ, unless by dying for the sin and living for Christ. But whether person accepts Christ in his life or not, is totally on the person's free initiative and will. Christ's grace or work will not save us unless we freely co-work with this work. God wants all to be saved through Christ, but not all will want and do what God wants them to do, for we are free to deny Him. Nov 2, 2020 at 20:07
  • Gigineishvile As my first comment above makes it clear that the "Universalism" -as I reiterated for the purpose of clarification of the question, is UNBILICAl, and is heresy, and that is my answer to the question posed. I was just trying to identify the question and keep it separate from the efficacy of the Christ's atonement -I have NO problem with the aspect of "freely co-work" with His offer.
    – Sam
    Nov 2, 2020 at 22:48

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