For many, the English phrase "whosoever believes" is believed to be the death knell for those who reject man's free will and believe that God is the one who ultimately chooses who will be saved -those pesky Calvinists. :) Texts like John 3:16, accordingly, are quoted with regularity in an attempt to demonstrate some type of universality and free will of man. The common, though sadly unchallenged belief is that the English phrase "whosoever believes" implies that any person is able believe by the exercise of their "free will" and that God, who tries to and wants to save us, leaves it up to us. I hope to demonstrate that this understanding of the English phrase is wrought with traditional baggage that is thoroughly un-Biblical and is not founded upon the actual, simple meaning of the phrase. It is an assumed, presupposed meaning that contains extraneous concepts -not one that comes from the language itself. I hope to demonstrate, in turn, that "whosoever believes" simply means "all the people who believe, no matter who they are."
The first question we must ask ourselves is this: what is the Greek word that is commonly "whosoever" or, in some translations, "whoever"? You may be surprised to find out that there is no word in the Greek for "whosoever". The phrase "whosoever believes" is an English rendering of a Greek phrase consisting of three words: pas ho pisteuon. The literal translation is "every the believing ones" or "all the believing ones". It is a descriptive phrase denoting every person, without exception, who believes. The tense of the participle, "believing", is present tense continuous action, which gives us a view to of the nature of true saving faith. It is a lasting and abiding "believing" -a continuous thing. It isn't a one-time decision or a faith that is temporary.
Notice what is conspicuously absent. There is no mention of anything in the phrase which has to do with the ability to believe, who believes, or how men come to believe. The phrase is quite simple on its own: it is a phrase that describes the entirety of a group of individuals (the believing ones). Now, scan some of the common contexts in which this phrase is used (John 3:16, John 12:46, etc.) Those same issues are absent in the contexts. The statement"whosoever believes in Him has eternal life", in the Greek, means nothing more than that everyone who believes in Jesus, no matter who they are, rich or poor, Jew or Gentile, slave or free, has eternal life. It is a promise. Any implication that carries with it anything additional is not the result of the meaning of the words, themselves.
Though this phrase is often used as a mantra, the "battle cry" for free will and man's alleged autonomous choice in salvation, a very simple examination shows that such meaning is utterly unfounded. The phrase "whosoever" is not a defective translation, as some might think I am saying. The defect is in the foreign concepts that are erroneously read into the phrase "whosoever believes". As demonstrated, "whosoever believes" is descriptive. It defines who is being talked about and excludes no one who believes -whether Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, etc. It is contained in the grand promise of the Gospel so as not to exclude any who believe! That is the beauty of the term. This is the meaning of the original language and the plain meaning of the phrase in English, if we would restrain ourselves from adding concepts that are not present.