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Whom John 3:16 has in mind?

aymon de albatrus

"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." (Joh 3:16)

"He that believes on the Son has everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God stays on him." (Joh 3:36)


John 3:16 must be the Bible’s most quoted and misused or misunderstood verse.

Let us then dissect the verse:

"For God so loved the world"
The object of the love of God here is the "world", but which world is intended here? Generally, people have the tendency to always assume that the Greek word (world) "kosmos" (Strong’s 2889) must always mean the "whole human race." But God used this Greek word "world" in at least eight different ways.

  1. The physical worlds: Act 17:24 God that made the world and all things therein …..

  2. Non Jewish races world: Rom 11:12 Now if the fall of them [be] the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; ……

  3. The human race world. Rom 3:19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God

  4. Our planet earth world: Joh 13:1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father,…

  5. The non elect world: Joh 15:18 If the world hate you, ……..

  6. The world system: Joh 12:31 Now is the judgment of this world: ……

  7. The Roman world: Luk 2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.

  8. True Believers’ world: 2Co 5:19 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;

We can see that the word ‘world’ does NOT always means ‘the whole human race without exclusion’ but has different meaning depending on the context. Thus, to whom the word ‘world’ refers to in John 3:16? ONLY to those that believe in Him, both Jews and Gentiles. But who are those that believe in Him?

"whoever believes in him"
To this people jump up and shout "You see? Whosoever…it is your choice…whosoever…it is up to you…" Relax dear friend, but who are those that believe on the Lord Jesus? And really, how are we saved? Both answers are gift of God, from beginning to the end; or do you save yourself?

Scripture says this: "There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God." (Rom 3:11) If NO ONE seeks after God it must be because none believes in Him, logical? YES, and if no one believes in Him how can anyone possibly be saved? Because they firstly receive a new heart from the Lord (born again) and with that heart they will indeed seek the Lord, and He will be found and they will believe in Him and be saved: "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them." (Eze 36:26-27)

It is ALL of God: "We love him, because He first loved us." (1Jo 4:19) "For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:" (Eph 2:8) and here a few more verses to boot: Act 13:48; Joh 6:44; 15:16. It is God that does all the work to save us in order to deliver unto us the gift of salvation, not us. Praise Him.

So far we have seen that the verse refers exclusively to the elect, those who have received by God the gift of belief in Christ.

But doesn't God love every single human being?
People take John 3:16 to mean that God loves every single human being: "For God so loved the world". Well that interpretation is not true for at least He has hated this one and not his sins only but the man himself:
"As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." (Rom 9:13).

Thus we see that the whole human race is composed into two groups, the true Christians are represented by "Jacob" (those who are loved), while the unsaved are typified by "Esau" (those who remain under His wrath). "He that believes on the Son has everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God stays on him." (Joh 3:36). And ONLY those that have received a new heart are enabled to believe in the Son.

So God does NOT love every single human being and that famous much quotes saying that "God loves sinners but hates their sins" is a myth, a lie and a misleading expression.

To whom the Love of God is directed to?
"But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom 5:8) Well if there is an ‘us’ there must be also ‘others’. And who is ‘us’? Obviously the believers, the elect, those that God has called to Himself (Joh 6:44), them that believe in the Son, those to whom the books of the Bible are intended to. Those atoned by the sacrifice of Christ. And who are the ‘others? The unbelievers, of course; besides here are Jesus’ words: "I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours." (Joh 17:9)

Note here, that Jesus does not pray for the ‘world’, and what kind of world is this? But the worlds of the unbelievers, of course, it is the world that God does not love, for the love of God is direct to the world of believers. Surely if Jesus does not pray for the ‘world’, i.e. the world of unbelievers, then the ‘world’ of John 3:16 "For God so loved the world" must be another world, i.e. it is the world of believers. Therefore the Love of God is directed to the Believers, (as are the prayers of Jesus) and not to the unbelievers. Yet many interpreters make of this verse a universalistic one, that the salvific love of God is directed to everyone, indiscriminately, when it is perfectly clear that God does not love everyone, but only those that, by God’s grace, believe in the Son (John 3:36).

CONCLUSION:

From the above we can conclude that John 3:16 should be seen paraphrased as such: "For God so loved those who believe in Christ, that He gave His only begotten Son, that they believing in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."