The Apostle John records as a final invitation in his Revelation of Jesus Christ these magnificent words
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life. (Revelation 22.17, NLT).
Personally, I think the old version captures such a stately form–“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” What a promise of openness to all who desire to drink of Living Water.
It is not uncommon for our Calvinist brothers to insist that they believe just as much in a “whosoever” Gospel as do all other evangelicals. And, I, for one, do not for a moment question the sincerity of their assertion. That’s not in question.
However, for clarity’s sake, there is a slight difference, it seems to me, in the way Calvinists employ “whosoever will” and the way non-Calvinists usually employ the term. Let me show you what I mean.
When Calvinists assert they believe “whosoever will, let him take the water of life,” it must be asked of the Calvinist, And just who may be a part of the whosoever? I know that sounds odd, but for Calvinists, “whosoever” seems to mean “whosoever is predestined before the foundation of the world to believe and consequently is regenerated by the Holy Spirit so they will desire to come and drink.” In other words, whosoever is none other than the Elect.
No one else can possibly be a part of the “whosoever.” No one else could come because no one else could desire to come. Why? For Calvinists, in order to desire Living Water, one must possess a desire. And, without being born again first, no person could ever desire Living Water. It’s just that simple.
Do not be fooled by some who may suggest “Calvinism is just so hard to understand.” If you grasp this–one is born again by the Holy Spirit before one repents and believes–congratulations; you’ve just captured a very large swath of Calvinism.
On the other hand, non-Calvinists insist that the Gospel really is for all peoples, all persons, all nations. For them, it’s a whosoever will come, can come. God did not from eternity fix it so that people cannot believe when they are confronted with the claims of Christ.
Rather it is their own rebellion that hinders them, not their non-election in eternity. Jesus said:
There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. (John 3:18, NLT).
Striking is the way one of our common confessions (1925 BF&M) puts it:
Nothing prevents the salvation of the greatest sinner except his own voluntary refusal to accept Jesus Christ as teacher, Savior, and Lord
Whosoever will, let him come…