by Steven Chan
The words recorded in John 3:16-17 are probably the most wonderful words in the Bible. For in that passage the inspired writer John declared thus:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
It declares God’s love for the world. It was because of His love for the world that God gave His only begotten Son so that everyone who believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Rom 5:8: “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The gift of His Only begotten Son required His sacrificial death on the cross. In John 15:13 Jesus Himself said: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” – that was what Jesus did for us all (for all sinners).
We should note that God’s love for the world (kosmos) certainly contemplates more than just the Jewish Age/World and most certainly includes you, me and all who are alive today. By the world, he was certainly not referring to the material world as the hope of salvation was extended to “whoever believes on Him”; certainly the material world was incapable of believing but the people of the world most certainly could believe.
In 1 Cor 3:18-19, although two different Greek words were used to describe the world, they meant the same thing in that context:
“Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age (Greek root word: aion), let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world (Greek root word: kosmos) is foolishness with God…”
The material world cannot possibly be wise or foolish. It is the people of this world – then living and now living in this age – which God loves. We are included in His love.
The second part of John 3:16-17 declares that God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world. This declaration was necessary to address the misperception of those who erroneously believe that in sending His Son into the world, God was seeking to condemn the world for not believing in His Son. Some people today get all upset when they hear that Christians teach that one must believe in Jesus Christ in order to go into heaven. They felt that by claiming that one must believe in Jesus Christ in order to go into heaven, Christians are being very self-righteous, mean and unreasonable. But 2 Peter 3:9 also declares: “God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” God gave us His most precious gift so that we can be saved. He has no desire to condemn us.
The declaration of John, however, did not end with verse 17. It continues in John 3:18-19:
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”
Do the latter verses contradict what the earlier passage affirmed? Not at all. The latter passage merely declared that those who are condemned are those who loved darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. Having been condemned by their evil deeds, they are unwilling to come to the light to believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God who could give them salvation – and so, they stand condemned because of their sins or evil deeds. Because of man’s sins, man stands condemned: Eze 18:20: “The soul who sins shall die.” Rom 3:23: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Rom 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”. God offers salvation to all sinners who already stood condemned because of their sins. But if one refuses this gift of salvation, then one is condemned to receive the wages of one’s sins – which is, death.
Hence, the declaration in Mark 16:16: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” Although one is condemned for not believing in Jesus Christ, God has made it abundantly clear that He did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Each one of us must choose – whether we want to be saved by the gospel or be condemned as we reject the only possible means for salvation. Rom 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes”. Jesus has declared in John 14:6 that there is no other way to heaven: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Acts 4:12: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Which will you choose?