June 17, 2016
Recently the website, www.biblegateway.com, had a survey about the favorite scripture passage. Of course, John 3:16 came out on top. You can probably guess some of the top ten: Jeremiah 29:11, Philippians 4:13, Psalm 23, and Romans 8:28.
All of us know John 3:16 by heart. It clearly states the whole Gospel. It identifies who did what, why it was done, and what the results will be.
During the rest of June, we’ll go through this verse. Maybe we can rediscover the meaning and consequences of the favorite verse in the Bible.
For God so loved the world! This verse begins with God. All of scripture begins with God: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). It’s all about God. Life is centered on what God is doing, has done, and will do. It’s not about us. It’s all about God!
Then the attitude of God is identified: For God so loved. The passage does not say: “For God loved.” The word so is used. It modifies the word love. The word so states the amount of God’s love for us. God’s love is so big, so complete, so everlasting, so powerful, so relevant that God gave his only Son to us. The word so is quite important.
Dale Bruner, in his new commentary on the Gospel of John, provides his own translation of John 3:16, “You see, God loved the world so much that he gave his One and Only Son….” Even though Dr. Bruner moves the “so” later in the verse, it still has the same impact. The love by God is so much. Actually God’s love is the greatest extent ever. No other love is greater than God’s love for us.
The word for love is agape, of course. It is the reason for God’s decision to send his Son to earth. It is means and the end of his attitude toward us. It is the motivation behind all that God does for us.
Lastly, God’s love – actually his “so much love” – is for the world. The Greek word is “kosmos” which is transliterated into English with such words as cosmos (the universe) and cosmopolitan (worldwide participation). I think this word refers to the whole world, everyone throughout time. My conviction is this: God loves the entire world. I have presented my position to post-Calvinists who think the word kosmos only refers to followers of Jesus Christ. They expressed their view through the “L” in TULIP, a theological theory. In their mind, the “L” stands for “limited atonement,” where Christ was sent only for Christians and Christ only died on the cross for Christians. Dale Bruner speaks to this issue in his commentary. I was glad to discover his position is also my position. He quotes several scripture passages that speaks about God’s love for the whole world (2 Corinthians 5:19, 1 Timothy 4:19, and 1 John 2:2). God so loved the entire world – all of us throughout eternity.
Next week, we’ll continue with the next phrase in John 3:16, That he gave his one and only Son.
Dear Lord and Father in heaven, be our teacher and guide whenever we read and study scripture. By your Spirit, give us insight and the power to obey your message to us. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.