"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."
Traditions - we all have them. In fact, those with the most traditions are those who don't think they have any. To gain an accurate knowledge of the word of God on any given topic, we need to dispense with traditions, and embrace not what we think a text says, but what it actually says. This requires work, sometimes, a great deal of work. 1 Tim 5:17 says, "Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine." Correct interpretation requires labor or work.
We would be horrified to hear of a surgeon who had just 3 weeks of training operating on someone's brain. I believe it is EVEN MORE important that a Bible teacher be accurately trained and schooled in the science of biblical interpretation (hermeneutics). Eternal souls hang in the balance, and great care and attention is needed to ensure that a teaching is sound and healthy.
Some people think that if God wants you to know something about the Bible, He will just reveal it to you supernaturally. Unfortunately, that's how a lot of cults get started. For the understanding of a text in the New Testament, we need to become familiar with the original language in which it was written, namely koine Greek.
Scripture tells us to "rightly divide the word of God" through diligent study (2 Tim. 2:15). Without diligent study, it is easy to wrongly divide the word, and teach inaccurate information or even error.
The main way this takes place is because we draw illegitimate inferences from the text - when we read into the text things that are not actually said by the text, and draw out of the text things that are actually not there. For instance, it may come as a surprise to learn that in the original text, there is no word "whosoever." The word "whosoever" is expressing a phrase in Greek which is difficult to express smoothly in English.
Literally, the text reads
"in order that every the one believing in Him,
not to perish, but have everlasting life."
It says "every" or "all the one believing"
That's hard to express in English, but in essence, it is saying "all the ones believing." That is what is being communicated.
It is saying that there is no such thing as a believing one who does not receive eternal life but who perishes.
Though our English translations say "whosoever believes" the literal rendering is accurately translated as "every believing one" and the emphasis is NOT AT ALL on the "whosoever" but on the belief. The ones BELIEVING will not have one consequence but will have another. They will not perish but will have everlasting life.
Why? Because of the main verb because God GAVE His Son.
God gave His Son for the purpose (Greek: hina) that every believing one should not perish, every believing one should have everlasting life.
The text does not even discuss who or who does not have the ability to believe. That idea cannot even be found in this text. From the original text, to say that it does do this (talk about our ability to believe as a fallen humanity) would be saying something that is not even addressed. You might as well quote John 3:16 to suggest that all churches need to have red carpets in their sanctuaries! It is not a topic addressed at all. You could quote the verse, but actually it has no relevance to the subject.
So, what John 3:16 teaches is:
ALL who do A (believe in Him)
will not B (perish)
but will have C (everlasting life)
What does this text tell us about who WILL believe or who CAN believe?
The answer is: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!
It does not address the issue of who WILL believe or who CAN believe. That issue is NOT addressed in this verse. But if you want to know John's view on who CAN exercise faith, you can go back a few verses to John 3:3, which says "unless a man is born again he CANNOT enter the kingdom of God." A pre-requisite, a necessary condition, that must be met before someone can enter the kingdom of God is that they are born again. This issue is certainly addressed by Jesus 3 chapters further on in John 6:44, 65; and in Romans 8:7,8.
All who exercise true faith will certainly be saved, because anyone believing will not perish but have everlasting life. but the issue is who WILL have faith, and the Augustinian, and I believe biblical view is that only the elect will be brought to faith. So the text is irrelevant to the issue here.
So why do people miss this truth in John 3:16?
That's easy. It is because that's how they have heard this scripture used over and over and over again. This is what people THINK this verse says.
It's a TRADITION and if you dare question it, you might be accused of questioning the very word of God, rather than their traditional interpretation of the word of God, and that can create a whole lot of emotion.
The text (John 3:16) tells us that there is a limitation - the Father gave His Son for the purpose of those who believe. The Son is given so that the believing ones will not perish, but opposite to that, have eternal life. That is the purpose of the giving.