What did Jesus mean when He said “For God so loved the
world”? Recently I received an email from an individual in which it was stated
that the word for world in verse 16 of chapter 3 in John’s Gospel just means
that God so loved the earth, not that He loved the people on the earth. So let’s
explore that verse once again in detail. “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.” John 3:16. For God so loved the earth
that he gave His only begotten Son to die for the earth? God loves dirt? And He
loves dirt so much that He sent His only Son to die for it? Hmm.
The letter writer went on to say that God doesn’t
necessarily love all of humankind. Folks this was news to me, I had never been
presented with this theory before. I realized after just a couple of back and
forth emails with this individual that they were speaking of predestination, but
that they were taking the long way around the barn to get to their opinion.
The letter went on to say that “God loves some men and
predestined them from before the creation of the world to be saved. They are His
elect.” But of course we know from many scriptures (including John 3:16) that
all humankind are given the opportunity to make the decision to either accept
God’s free gift, that is His Son Jesus’ sacrifice on that cross for their
sins, or reject Him.
That email was in response to my commentary entitled “That
None Should Perish”. In that commentary I made the statement “When we read that
God wants none to perish we must realize that it’s not His decision to send
anyone to Hell. That decision lies in the laps of each individual on the face of
this planet.” The person took exception to my interpretation of scriptures and
accordingly believes John 3:16 is where my “flawed” interpretation begins.
So let’s take a look at the original language in which the
New Testament was written. In Greek, the word for world is kosmos, and the
following are just three uses for the word “kosmos” from the Textus
Receptus transcripts. The Greek Kosmos means:
1. The world, the universe
2. The circle of the earth, the earth
3. The inhabitants of the earth, men, the human
As we read scripture verses it is imperative that we look
at the context in which certain words fall. When we read the verse in context to
the verses immediately surrounding it the proper definition
will come shinning through. There are other verses where the word “world” is
used and it takes on a different meaning in those other verses. For example, in
John chapter 1 we find the word “world” used three times in the same verse.
“He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him
not.” John 1:10. God came into the world (the kosmos) and He created
the world (the kosmos) and yet the world (humankind) knew Him not.
Was Jesus sent to save man, who was made in God’s
image, or land from which Jesus made man? God did not enter His creation and
become a man so He could save a planet (dirt). If that was His goal He could
have just spoke it from Heaven and with the power of His word the planet would
have been restored to its original state, or however He wanted it. That’s not
why He came.
Because of Adam and Eve’s rebellion in the Garden of
Eden there was only one way for mankind to be saved (justified in God’s eyes)
and that could only be accomplished through the death of a perfect man, a man
without blemish, a man who knew no sin but became sin for mankind, our kinsman
redeemer the man Jesus Christ. “... that he gave his only begotten Son”.
John 3:16a. God most certainly loves all His creation of which man is the
main ingredient. We’re told in God’s inerrant word that all men are made in His
image. All men!
“... that whosoever believeth in him should not
perish ... John 3:16b. The word “whosoever” is translated from the
Greek word “pas” and it means: Individually each, every, any, all, the
whole, everyone, all things, everything, collectively. The person who sent
me the email was trying to get me to grasp that only a select few people who
were predestined before the foundation of the earth are
the saved (the elect) and everyone else is going to Hell whether they accept
Jesus as their savior while here on earth or not. But we won’t actually know if
we were saved from Hell until we die and find ourselves in one place or the
other. In other words, in this persons view, we have no choice in the matter
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did
predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the
firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:29. Predestination is clearly
taught in our Bibles, I’m not disputing that fact. The word translated
“predestined” in the Scripture verse referenced above comes from the Greek word
proorizo, which carries the meaning of “to determine beforehand,” “to ordain”,
“to decide upon ahead of time.” Clearly from this scripture we realize to
predestine is solely God’s domain. He is determining ahead of time things that
must come to pass. What was God determining ahead of time? That He knew us.
Let me ask you a question, who did God foreknow? In
verse 32 of Romans chapter 8 we get the answer. “He that spared not his own
Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give
us all things?” Romans 8:32. The operative words in the verse above are
all of us. What does the word “all” mean in the original Greek language?
All, the whole amount, every member or individual component, the whole number,
nothing but, completely. Get it? God foreknew us all. All of humanity was
known to God before creation.
This concept is difficult to grasp with our finite
minds and probably for most it’s downright impossible since humans are
constrained in a dimension that is governed by time and space. God, on the other
hand, is not constrained by time. He is “outside” of any time and space
constraints. In other words God occupies all dimensions simultaneously. He can
see both the beginning and the end of all things at the very same instant. In
that respect He knew before time began for man, who would become believers in
His Son Jesus Christ and who would not. He foreknows. “Declaring the end from
the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying,
My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:” Isaiah 46:10.
The Bible plainly points out that each person must
make a choice, it’s a freewill choice–and all must make it, everyone has to
choose to believe in Jesus Christ to be saved–and as I’ve already mentioned
above we have John 3:16 to consider as well as Romans chapter 10. “That if
thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine
heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the
heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made
unto salvation.” Romans 10:9.
There are no qualifying words in either John 3:16 or
Romans 10:9-10 that would give us pause to think they mean something other than
what they clearly state. There are many other verses I could quote, but I think
you get the point. The Bible never describes God rejecting anyone who believes
in Him or turning away anyone who was seeking Him, “But if from thence thou
shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy
heart and with all thy soul.” Deuteronomy 4:29.
God has given us, and that’s all humans on
this dirty and dusty planet, a particular ability above any other creature He
created, and that ability is to either accept Him or reject Him. That’s called a
choice. Your choice my choice, we all have a choice. Salvation is for
everyone, not just a select few who were chosen before the foundation of the
The book of Romans chapter one discusses the sinful
depravity of humans, and here God bluntly states that those outside of salvation
are without excuse, and there’s basically no defense available to those who
would wish to mount one. This is specifically in light of the rejection of the
whole idea that there is a God even after being confronted with the awesomeness
of His creation. “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the
world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his
eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when
they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became
vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” Romans
All Scriptures are God breathed and profitable for
doctrine, reproof, correction, and for instruction in righteousness. 2
Timothy 3:16. There’s that word again, all, and it still means the
same thing, all scripture is God breathed and all men have a
choice to make. The Bible is God’s word to all mankind, and was given to us so
we may be instructed in how to live and for gaining knowledge of whom Jesus is
and why He came to this sinful planet. We are obviously to make a choice here
whether or not to accept the truth of God’s word and accept Jesus His Son, or
reject Him entirely.
Jesus commands our obedience as a sign of our love
for Him “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth
me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and
will manifest myself to him.” John 14:21. We never find Jesus saying,
“Only those who were predestined before the creation of the world are those who
I love and will pardon for their sins. The rest of you can just go to Hell.” At
least I’m sure it’s not in my Bible.
As Jesus’ followers we have been entrusted with the
awesome responsibility of delivering His message, the message of the Gospel to
the whole world “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations...” Matthew
28:19a. Also in the Gospel of Mark “...Go ye into all the world, and
preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15. And in Acts “But
ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall
be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the
earth,” Acts 1:8. The whole world is to hear Christ’s message of
salvation. Since Jesus is God, and if He had selected a certain number of
individuals to be justified/saved, why then would He command all His followers
to go out unto the uttermost parts of the earth to witness? What would be His
purpose behind such a command? Jesus wasn’t giving instructions in where to
vacation He was instructing us to go and witness to the world.
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the
angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the
grace of God should taste death for every man.” Hebrews 2:9.
Clearly Jesus Christ died on that cross for every man. He tasted death
for every man. Tasted death means He literally died. Each individual must
ultimately make that final decision that will either allow them to spend an
eternity with God Almighty or an eternity in a
of Burning Fire and
Brimstone. It’s an individual decision that no man can make for another, each
man and each woman must choose.
From all these scripture verses Christians should realize
that the foreknowledge, election, and predestination part of God’s word is
better left in God’s very capable hands.
God bless you all,
All scripture verses are from the KJV