For God so Loved the World that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him might not perish, but have everlasting life.(John 3:16)
John 3:16 is perhaps the most universally recognized verse in all of scripture. When a famous athlete in American professional football, Tim Tebow, put the address “John 3:16” on his blackening paint(under his eyes), Google reported that there were 92 million hits looking for “John 3:16”.
I think it is a great thing that John 3:16 has gotten so much attention, and for so long. It is a tremendous summary of the essence of the gospel.
“For God so loved the World…”. Let us consider the phrase, ‘the world’ as it is used in scripture, for it is the direct object of God’s love. But what do we mean by the expression, “the world”?
Scripture uses the phrase in more than one way. There are times when the word refers to the physical earth, as in “God made the world…”. However, it is obvious that John 3:16 isn’t referring to the earth.
In other places the phrase, “the World” is a reference to the present” Age”. In that case the greek word is completely different from the verses in John. It is the word Aeon, “age”. For example, Galatians 1:4 says,
Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world… (Galatians 1:4)
The term “the world” in John 3:16 however, refers to the entirety of humanity, estranged from God, and lost in sin. “God so Loved the World…”.
The Greek word for it is the “Cosmos”, which means ‘order’ or ‘adornment’. It has to do with the ways fallen man has developed spiritually, intellectually and culturally without God. The World hates God and always has…but God loved the world.
This world that God loved is further described in scripture as a spiritual entity . Since the fall, man has been without God, utterly estranged from God and in truth, at enmity with the Creator. Man always fights and resists God.
Consider just a sampling of what the Bible tells us about the nature of the World, that God has loved;
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.(John 15:18-19)
He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.(John 1:10)
Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive…(John 14:17)
Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.(John 14:31)
We are told that ; the World hates Christ, and would not receive Him, neither can it receive the Holy Spirit of Truth. It hates Christians and persecutes them.
Finally, the Word of God reveals that the “prince of this world” is Satan himself, and that the whole world lies in the power of the wicked one! (I john 5:19)
In other words, all of the diverse forms of ‘religion’ that has developed in the world , outside of the revelation of God in Christ, amounts to a form of humanism, and ultimately, Satan worship.
We emphasize, with Jesus, that “God so loved the world…”, describing the Divine love, not as a feeling or a passion, but as an act, an event in time and space, an occurrence in History.
When did God Love the world ? He loved it once (and for all) at Calvary, when he gave His Son as an offering for our sins.
That is when God “loved ” the world.
At Calvary, God loved a world that has always hated and rejected Him.This is a world that is inveterate in its hatred for God. This is a world that murmurs ,complains, and calls God’s righteousness, and love into question constantly.
Yet God loved the world, in a specific and focused way. Not in a general way, did He love the world, but specifically and on his own terms.
God didn’t love the world “unconditionally”in the sense of God “seeing good” in the world in spite of its flaws. In fact He has judged the world already, the sentence is passed, the Lord will execute his wrath upon this world.
There can be no profitable experience of God’s love, outside of the full acceptance of Jesus’ offering at Calvary, with all of its ramifications. God cannot be known outside of the cross of Jesus Christ.