Pristine Grace

The Love of God
by Richard Warmack

     Like most of you I was raised in a deeply religious family, brought to church by my parents for every service and every event. Like most of you, I was taught by well intentioned individuals those things they considered important in religion. Like most of you, at a very young age I was taught and later memorized John 3:16 - "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." It was sort of like our religious mantra, and being our mantra we interpreted EVERYTHING in light of John 3:16. Like most of you, I was taught and actually believed what they told me this verse meant, i.e., that God LOVED everybody - that Christ DIED for everybody - and that it was every sinner’s responsibility to "accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior" so they could have eternal life. This is the view and beliefs of the MAJORITY of those in what is considered modern Christianity. But here is an interesting question: Have you ever really considered the true meaning of the words written in this verse, particularly in light of the immediate context of this chapter in John, and in light of the entire doctrine of salvation of sinners as set forth in the entirety of God's word? Here's the thing: You CANNOT and you MUST NOT ever seek to interpret any one Scripture by itself, lifting in out of its context. When you do so, instead of getting to the truth of the matter, you come up with some sort of perverted interpretation of Scripture that robs God of His glory as both "a just God and a Savior", as well as exalts man and gives him an opportunity to boast in what he or she has accomplished by his or her works or even by his or her so-called faith. John 3:16 isn't some sort of lifeline thrown out to the world in hope that someone, somewhere might weakly extend their hand and embrace it. In reality it is a bold declaration and promise TO ALL THOSE our Lord intended by His use of this word that has caused so much religious confusion - "WORLD". 

     Anytime you see words in the Scripture like "world", "all", "every", you cannot immediately assume their SCOPE includes every single solitary individual without exception. For example: In John 12 when Christ entered into Jerusalem and THE JEWS put Him on an ass's colt, spread palm leaves before Him, and cried Hosanna, seeking to make Christ king, listen to the words spoken by the Pharisees: "The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, THE WORLD is gone after Him."(Jn.12:19) Just think a bit: Did they mean by their use of the word "world" that every single person on the planet had gone after Christ? CERTAINLY NOT! As a matter of fact we know they couldn't have meant that by their words because THEY WERE PART OF THE WORLD and these PHARISEES weren't following Christ. What did they mean? They meant that some from every nationality, both Jew and Gentile, were gone after Christ. Keep in mind, the Jews as a people thought God's purpose was to SAVE ISRAEL ONLY, misinterpreting and misapplying the promises of God made to Abraham concerning the true Israel of God - "But ISRAEL SHALL BE SAVED in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end."(Isa.45:17) So when Christ came into this world as the Savior of HIS PEOPLE, and began calling His people from every nation, both Jew and Gentile, the Jews despised Him for it. That is why when you interpret a verse like John 3:16 you must always keep in mind WHO Christ is speaking to - A JEW, but not only a Jew, A PHARISEE named Nicodemus, a man who by nature considered Gentiles to be little more than fuel for the fire of God's wrath. So Christ told this RELIGIOUS, SINCERE, LOST JEW that he "must be born again" TWICE. Nicodemus showed his TOTAL DEPRAVITY and LOST CONDITION by His response to Christ telling Him that he "must be born again". Then our Lord truly upset all that Nicodemus knew and believed by the words of John 3:16 - "For God so loved THE WORLD." Nicodemus KNEW exactly what Christ meant by these words, i.e., not ALL MEN AND WOMEN WITHOUT EXCEPTION, but some from every nation, tongue, and people, those who make up that which considered collectively would be the "WORLD".

     Then HOW are we to interpret and understand the meaning Christ's words in John 3:16. I know this much, WORDS are important, and I also know that words translated into the English language from the original manuscripts DO NOT ALWAYS mean what the translators translated them to mean. I know also that WORDS in the English, Hebrew, and Greek, especially words that are VERBS have tenses, voice, and mood, and those things must also be taken into consideration. That being said, the true meaning of John 3:16 as spoken to THIS RELIGIOUS, LOST JEWISH SINNER is this: "For God SO LOVED". The word translated "LOVED" is a verb, and being a verb it has a tense, a voice, and a mood, all defining for us the scope of this LOVE. It is in the aorist tense, which means it is an act that has already occurred. This VERB is in the active voice, meaning the SUBJECT - GOD - is the one doing the action. It is in the active voice, meaning this is A SIMPLE STATEMENT OF FACT. So GOD LOVED SOMEBODY. One thing for certain we know about the true and living God is that HE DOES NOT CHANGE - "For I [am] the LORD, I CHANGE NOT; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed."(Mal.3:6) "Jesus Christ, the SAME YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND FOREVER."(Heb.13:8) So if God "LOVED" somebody in eternity, that LOVE CANNOT and WILL NOT BE CHANGED by ANYTHING those He "LOVED" do or do not do. God's love IS NOT conditional - "The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee."(Jer.31:3) This famous verse, John 3:16, IS NOT an offer thrown out for men to either accept or reject. Listen to Paul's words - "And all things are of God, who HATH RECONCILED US TO HIMSELF BY JESUS CHRIST, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God WAS IN CHRIST, RECONCILING THE WORLD UNTO HIMSELF, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation."(II Cor.5:18,19) God sending Christ into this world wasn't an attempt at reconciling sinners to Himself if they would "let Him" or "accept Him". OH NO, it was the actual act of God to SATISFY His infinite law and justice for all those HE LOVED "with an everlasting love." Those, and THOSE ALONE are "reconciled" through Christ's person and work as their Surety, Substitute, Mediator, and Redeemer, and in time they WILL be "drawn" unto Him, and by regeneration and conversion (the NEW BIRTH), given true "faith" to rest in Christ alone as "the Lord our righteousness."