For God So Loved the World
Someone recently submitted a comment saying in part, "God is love PERIOD...Are you sure YOU know God?"
I had to admit, as I read the person's comment that it was abundantly clear we did not serve the same God. The idol god they endorsed was someone completely alien to the Father, because their perversion of "love" does not involve obedience to God's commands. In this erroneous perspective, sin is of no consequence because God is love. Holding to God's truths are merely academics in "biblical knowledge" which has nothing to do with a Christian's call to "show love." Somehow, I don't think this is what God meant when He said that love covers a multitude of sins. God is love, but God is also Truth. You cannot separate the two without perverting who God is.
Christianity itself is being redefined to be about tolerance (of sin), diversity (of sin), and unity (with those willfully in sin). Anyone who speaks about sin is therefore "judging" and "unloving." The hatred coming against those who speak against sin has indeed become palatable.
Let me say unequivocally that I am not a servant of this idol "god of love" promoted by many in the churchworld which shies away from addressing sin and uses the grace of God to promote lasciviousness. If that makes me your enemy, so be it.
In the following messages from Min. David Pawson entitled, "What About John 3:16?" he reviews these issues via an in-depth study of John 3:16.
Studying God's word takes time; there is nothing cursory about it. If we don't want to take the time to study God's word so that we might have understanding, then we have no right to quote it. Let us be "more noble" in our pursuit of truth and not just flaunters of Scripture (Acts 17:11). With that said, I do recommend the following teachings by Min. Pawson as they will surely enlighten on common misconceptions about that text.
GENERAL COMMENTS ABOUT JOHN 3:16
- John 3:16 is one of most mistranslated, misunderstood, and misapplied verses of the Bible
- It is a major mistake to focus the preaching of the Gospel on the love of God
- Nowhere in Scripture does it say that God's love is "unconditional". Such gives the wrong impression that God does not judge people.
- The very first step for man in coming to God is to repent, but such is done away in preaching an unconditional love to unbelievers.
- Every mention of the love of God in Scripture is addressed to those who have already been redeemed by God.
- Neither Jesus nor any of the Apostles ever preached about the love of God to unbelievers in their public ministry.
- Jesus said not to cast pearls before swine. This is what is done when we talk about the love of God to those who have not been redeemed. They will inevitably turn around and rend you with that news, questioning that a loving God would not allow suffering in this life or the next.
- Jesus never taught that God is the Father of all people.
- John 3:16 does not say that God loves everyone and neither does any other Scripture.
- In terms of preaching, our focus should be on the righteousness of God. The very first response to this will engender repentance.
- According to Scripture, God loves those who fear Him, who keep His commands, etc. There are many conditions attached to the love of God.
- You cannot properly understand John 3:16 without also understanding verses 15 and 17.
- The word "God" referenced in John 3:16 references God the Father.
- The word "loved" in that text is agape, which is the love of action. It is not centered in the heart, or mind, but the will. It is a response to the need in someone; not a response to their attractiveness or interest.
- Because agape is centered in the will, it can be commanded.
- The word "world" is a reference to the human race. God 'agaped' a rebellious, hating world and did something about it.
- The word "begotten" here is used to illustrate that Jesus was God's only natural son, versus one by adoption. It doesn't mean that Jesus had a beginning or wasn't eternal. By His very nature Jesus is God, just like His Father.
- The word "whosoever" is really the word "all" in the Greek. It is an inclusive word; a wide invitation.
- There is a big difference between "believing that" and "believing in". Believing that Jesus died for your sins is not saving faith. Believing in the Christ who died for your sins is. Trust and obedience is the evidence of believing in Christ.
- The word "perish" means to be destroyed in an act of destruction; to be rendered useless; to be ruined by someone. It does not mean to be annihilated.
- The word "life" references a life that is totally fulfilling and satisfying.
- John 3:16 indicates that the same God who loved (agaped) the world is the very God who destroys those who don't believe in Jesus.
- John 3:16 does not indicate someone believing once, but someone going on believing. If you stop believing, then you cease being a believer.
- Whoever 'goes on' believing will 'go on' having eternal life. Those who don't go on believing will lose eternal life.
- The word "loved" in John 3:16 is in the aorist tense, meaning that on one occasion, God once loved (agaped - acting to meet a need of) the world. People read this and immediately think of a continuous love, but that is not what the text says. The text says "loved" because it refers to that one time in history where God acted on behalf of our sinful, rebellious race by giving the life of His Son.
- This text does not say that God loves everyone all the time.
THE CONTEXT OF JOHN 3:16
- The word "for" indicates a linking word to the previous sentence where the thought previously expressed is expounded upon. This means that we cannot properly understand John 3:16 until we look to verse 15.
- The word "so" explains how God loved the world, as in how He did it; He did it thusly, just so, or in this way. It is not a quantity word regarding how much God loved, but and illustrative word telling how He loved.
- The words "for" and "so" are there to present John 3:16 as a comparison to John 3:14. This shows for one that the God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament. The God who killed Israelites off for grumbling in the wilderness is the same God who so loved the world that He gave His only Son. His loving act to them was not to remove the snakes, but to give the people a way of escape.
- Over emphasis on the love of God has made the cross obsolete. John 3:16 is not a verse about God loving everyone, but about God providing man a way out.
- John 3:16 is part of a conversation Jesus is having with Nicodemus in answering his 3 questions: 1) How can I be a teacher like you?; 2) How can I start all over again at an old age; and 3) How can I be born again by the Spirit?
- Nicodemus wanted to learn of Jesus because he knew that Jesus spoke with power and authority.
- When Jesus says that you must be born again out of water and spirit, He is referencing 2 baptisms: a baptism by water and the baptism of the Spirit.
- The cross must be understood before the Spirit can be received.
- Verse 16 onward in John Chapter 3 is the Apostle John's commentary on Jesus' discussion with Nicodemus and not the words of Jesus Christ. This is important because it addresses the context of what is said and to whom it is being said.
- The Gospels of John & Matthew were written for believers; the Gospels of Mark & Luke were written for unbelievers. John writes about who Jesus is for the benefit of believers so that they might go on believing and as a result, go on having eternal life (John 20:31).
- It is an abuse of John 3:16 to use it for evangelism because it strips the text from its context.
- One message that is clear from John 3:16 is that eternal life can be lost by ceasing to believe in Jesus Christ.
- We are given eternal life not in ourselves, but it is obtained by having the Son (I John 5:11-12).
- Jesus describes this in John Chapter 15 where He indicates that the branches have a choice to stay or abide in the vine or not. Those who do not stay in Him have no life; we only have life while staying in the vine.
- We are to show people the agape of God, but we should not preach it to them
- Most who preach this "Gospel of Love" never preached on the Book of Revelation. Yet Jesus chose John - called the Apostle of love - to pen the book about God's wrath poured out against the world. This is evidence of how there is balance in God; He is love, but He is also righteous.