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)
There is nothing so important as that we get the Gospel right. Distortions of the gospel are heresies and rightfully rejected. This is why religious arguments are extremely necessary. We have to hash out the truth and challenge any deviations, because what we are dealing with is of eternal significance.
Recently I preached a message on Psalm 85 called Mercy and Truth are Met Together,
The teaching has come under intense scrutiny because of something I said about John 3:16. I made a statement about the Greek verb tenses, (something I learned from a teacher named David Pawson, for I admittedly am no Greek scholar).
I said that the verse points to a one time action, “In this way did God love the World…” . God loved the world once.
First of all to clear up confusion, we must determine what the term “the World” means in the gospel of John, for there are eval possibilities; The World can mean the creation, or it can mean the earth, or it can mean mankind, or it can mean the way humanity organizes itself to the exclusion of the only true God.
In John’s gospel we are told that the “the world knew him not”( John 1:10) that Jesus prayed “that the world may believe.”(John 17:21) furthermore in the New Testament, we see that Saints are those “Of whom the world was not worthy”(Hebrews 11;18), John 14:17, “whom the world cannot receive”; (John 14:17) and that , “If the world hateth you …it hated me…”( John 15:18) and that the wold is hostile and at enmity with Christ. We are told that the “World cannot receive Him or known Him…” , because it cannot see Christ.
Watchman Neee makes this point very powerfully in His classic book, “Love Not The World”,
… since the day when Adam opened the door for evil to enter God’s creation, the world order has shown itself to be hostile to God. The world “knew not God” (1 Cor. 1:21), “hated” Christ (John 15:18) and “cannot receive” the Spirit of truth (14:17). “Its works are evil” (John 7:7) and “the friendship of the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4). Hence Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). He has “overcome the world” (16:33) and “the victory that hath overcome the world” is “our faith” in him (1 John 5:4). For, as the verse of John 12 that heads this study affirms, the world is under judgment. (Love Not The World, Watchman Nee)
But in spite of all of that and more, God loved the World. Even in English the verse John 3:16 is in the past tense… “For God so Loved the World…”. These are the words of Jesus… not “God so LOVES the World, but God so loved the Wold…”. John 3:16 is speaking of Love as an action, something God did once, but something which has eternal effect addicting out of that action.
I made the point, (which evidently some people found very offensive) that there is no ongoing, up or down , back and forth relationship between God and the world, as if it could be improved or there can be some kind of new understanding or breakthrough in the relationship between God and the World.,
God’s attitude towards the World is uncompromising, it is under judgment, the sentence is passed and the verdict is in…. nothing is going to change that. There is only one locus of the Love of God for this world…the cross of Calvary. The Love of JESUS shown on Calvary is eternal, we who have believed in it and departed from this wold, will know it and enjoy it forever,
God did something once, and only once which still makes it possible for the world to know and experience the love of God… GOD SENT HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, in the Incarnation, to die for our sins. That was how God loved the World and that is when Go loved the World.
I am not saying (as I have been erroneously accused of saying), “God doesn’t love sinners”, or that the time has run out on the Love of God ( perish the thought!). All I am saying is that the only basis this world has for experiencing the Love of God , is on the ground of the Incarnation and the finished work of the cross.
The Apostle John put it so much better than I,
In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.( I John 4:9-10)
How did God love the World? The same way God loved the complaining and murmuring Israelites in the wilderness, when they were dying due to their own rebellion against Him…
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 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 3:14-16)
John 3:16 cannot be understood independently of John 3:14. Jesus was illustrating how God loved the world, by use of an old Testament typological story. When Jesus said “For God So loved the World…” it has been pointed out that that could be better translated “For so, (Thus) did God love the World…” or “In this manner did God love the World..” .
In the story in numbers we see how God loved the World. As Pawson pointed out, God didn’t remove the snakes and stop the deaths of the rebels. By lifting up the serpent on the pole, He gave them a way out!!!! The Serpent Judged, and death dead and hanging on a pole is what they saw. But wen they looked upon it, they lived!
The cross of Jesus is the death of nth, and ‘the judgment of this world…” nothing less than the casting down of the Prince of this world…”
Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. (John 12 : 31-32))
God will still judge all that is false, evil, sinful and iniquitous…but in the Cross of Jesus, He gives us an escape from wrath, and a way to be forgiven, loved and brought into the family forever.
But that one time, which has effects that will radiate forever, God loved the World, He took and action, costly to himself, He gave his Son. The World cannot know God or his love on any other basis than that.
I welcome any thoughts…