(Article for publication week of 9-28-2011 AD)
“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).
Last week we showed you three plain texts that declare that God does not love everybody (Romans 9:13; Psalm 11:5; and Proverbs 6:19). So how does one of the best known texts in the Bible fit into this?
First of all, you need to note well that the text does not in any way teach universal salvation. That should be plain from the multitude of texts that plainly say that the vast majority of the human race will finally spend eternity in the regions of woe. The promise of salvation is limited to those who believe in God’s coequal and eternal Son.
Secondly, the word “world” generally has a limited meaning, and must be determined by the context in which it is used. For instance, our Lord in His high priestly prayer in John 17 prayed in verse 9, “I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given me.” There is a world for whom Christ does not intercede. Further, we read in II Peter 2:5 that God sent the flood “on the world of the ungodly.” Since there is a world of the ungodly, there must be also a world of the godly. This is the world that is under consideration in John 3:16, that is the world of the godly, also known as the world of God’s elect. This is the world that God loved with an everlasting love, and the world for whom Christ died. It is the same world spoken of in John 1:29; “behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” It is evident that Christ did not take way the sins of all men universally, for multitudes were already in hell when these words were uttered by John the Baptist, and multitudes more have been sent there since, and multitudes more will be sent there. Christ took away the sins of His sheep, not the sins of the whole world (John 10:15). The world of John 3:16 and John 1:29, is not the world of John 17:9 and II Peter 2:9. God so loved the world of His elect (synonymous with “whosoever believeth in Him), that He gave His Son for their salvation.
There will be a world of believing sinners saved by sovereign grace, because God loved them with an everlasting love, and the Lamb of God made a full atonement for them. Thus we see that John 3:16 is in full accord with Romans 9:13.
Now dear believer in Christ, John 3:16 is where your comfort stands. But a warning must be sounded to the unbeliever. You may not presume to be included in the world of John 3:16 whilst thy hard and unrepentant heart rejects Christ and salvation through Him. We repeat, God does not love everybody. May He have mercy on some today, and may the Holy Spirit work effectually in your heart that you may be given the gift of faith to believe in Christ for your salvation.