“For God so Loved the World…”

by Paul Franco on November 29, 2009

If the word “world” was always used in one uniform and constant sense in the writings of the apostle John, there would be merit to the observation for universal atonement. However, the apostle John admits a variety of connotations. Therefore, the intention of it in one place cannot be the rule for the interpretation of it in another.

Definitions: 1. The whole universe of created beings Jn 1:10, 2. Sometimes, the inhabitable earth Jn 16:28, 3. Sometimes, the inhabitants of it Jn 1:10, 4. Sometimes, unconverted persons, both elect and reprobate Jn 15:19, 5. Sometimes, the worse part of the world, the wicked Jn 17:9, 6. sometimes, the better part of it, the elect Jn 1:29 and Jn 6:33,51, 7. Sometimes, a number of persons, and that a small one in comparison of the rest of mankind Jn 12:19, 9. sometimes, Gentiles as distinguished from Jews 1Jn 2:2, 10. In one place it is used (3X), and in so many senses, Jn 1:10 He was in the “world” (the inhabitable earth), and the “world” (the whole universe) was made by him, and the “world” (the inhabitants of the earth) knew him not (which is not to be understood as them all), for there were some, though few, who did know Him.

I will venture to affirm that the word “world” is always used in the apostle John’s writing in a restricted and limited sense to mean (for some only), except or unless when it is designed to mean the whole universe or inhabitable earth. There is intent in which to use the word incorrectly, for none will say Christ died for the sun, moon, and stars, for fishes, fowls, sticks, and stones. So it is to be observed that it is never used to signify every individual of mankind that has been, is, or shall be in the world, in which sense it must be proved if it is to be used in this manner and if any argument can be concluded from it in favor of universal or general redemption.

It is best understood that the word “world, used by the apostle John when speaking of redemption and salvation by Christ, is always used in a limited and restrained sense, and signifies some persons only and not all individuals of human nature, as will appear from the consideration of the following passages.

John 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!” By the “world” cannot be meant every individual of mankind: for it is not true, it is not fact, that Jesus Christ the Lamb of God takes away the sin or sins of every individual man, since there are some who “die” in their “sins” (Jn 8:21 …and will die in your sins. Where I go you cannot come) for which they will be righteously and everlastingly condemned. This can never be if Christ has taken away their sin. The lambs daily offered were serving as a type of Christ (The Lamb of God), so the lambs sacrificed pertained to the people for whom they were offered, not of the whole world in general, but of the true Israel and the church of God, for whom Christ gave himself an expiatory sacrifice and whose sins He so takes away as they shall not be seen anymore.

When our Lord says, Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” It is better understood as both Jew and Gentile believers, as we will notice.

Let us compare Jn 3:16 to 1Jn 4:7-11. Keep in mind that apostle John authored both books and expounds upon Jesus’ words to Nicodemus. John writes concerning the elect.

1Jn 4:7 Beloved, let “us” love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves has been born of God, and knows God. 8 The one who does not love has not known God. For God is love. 9 In this the love of God was revealed “in us”, because “God sent His only begotten Son into the world” (inhabitable earth) that “we” might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved (special love) “us” and sent His son to be the propitiation concerning “our” sins. 11 Beloved, if “God so loved us”, we ought also to love one another.

(1) interpretation: Based upon apostle John’s usage of Jesus’ words in John 3:16, it is possible that it can be interpreted “For God so loved the world (us, the elect, the church), that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth (the person believing) in him will not perish, but will have everlasting life”.

(2) interpretation: Nothing is more common in the Jewish writings (Talmud, Rabbot, and Zohar) that to call the Gentiles “the world”, “the whole world”, and “the nations of the world”, hence the apostle Paul calls them “kosmos”, the world in Romans 11:12,15. It was a controversy agitated among the Jewish doctors, whether when the Messiah came, the Gentiles, “the world”, should have any benefit by Him. the majority was exceedingly large on the negative of the question and determined they should not. Only some few as old Simeon and others knew that He should be “a light to lighten the Gentiles”, as well as “the glory of the people of Israel” Luke 2:32. The rest concluded that the most severe judgments and dreadful clamities would befall them, yes, that they should be cast into hell in the room of the Israelites (Vid. Shemot Rabba, fol.98.3, and 99.4: Shirbash, Rab fol. 24.1: Jarehi and Kimehi, in Zech. 9). This notion John the Baptist, Christ and his apostles, purposely oppose, and is the true reason of the use of this phrase in the Scripture which speak of Christs’ redemption. Thus John the Baptist, when he pointed out the Messiah to the jews, represents him as the “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (the Gentiles as well as the Jews), for the blood of this Lamb men are “redeemed to God, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” Rev 7:9. When our Lord was discoursing with Nicodemus, one of Israel’s Rabbins, He let him know that “God so loved the world (the Gentiles as well as the Jews), contrary to their rabbinical notions, “the he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever” of them “that believe on him, should not perish” (as they had concluded every one of the Gentiles should perish), “buth have everlasting life”, and that v17 “God sent not his Son into the world (the inhabitable earth), “to condemn the world” (the Gentiles) as they imagined, “but that the world” (the Gentiles) throug him might be saved”. When the Samaritans believed in Christ they declared Him to be “the Savior of the world” Jn 4:42 (the Gentiles, and so of themselves who were accounted by the Jews as Heathens). Christ sets forth himself as “the bread of life”, preferable to “the manna”, for His far-reaching love to the world (Gentiles) Jn 6:33,35. Also, for a better understanding of the sense of the text, it should be observed that the apostle John was a Jew and writes to Jews, and them mainly if not always, who were distinguished from the Gentiles who were commonly called “the world”. Now says the apostle, 1Jn 2:2 “He is a propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only (the sins of us Jews), but also for the sins of the whole world” (the Gentiles).

By the “world” He cannot mean every son and daughter of Adam. For this “world” is represented as the object of God’s love, “even of His special love”, which all men are not. God has given his only begotten Son for those who are brought to believe in Christ in consequence of God’s love and the gift of his Son which in not true for all of mankind, for all men do not all have faith. As such (the recipients of His special love) shall never perish, though it is certain that some men will, and as such shall have everlasting life, whereas some will go into everlasting punishment and die the second death. It is better understood in this text as both Jew and Gentile “believers”.

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