We hosted this panel in California and Dr.s Dalcour and Downing give a wonderful exposition on this text. Please watch and listen several times. Feel free to share it.
What John 3:16 Really Says
A literal translation
For So Loved God the World, the verb is in the emphatic position, so as His son, I mean His only begotten One He gave…” That’s restrictive attributive, a form of emphasis, “In order that every single one without exception…” It’s not whosoever, as being indefinite, it’s “pas ho pisteuon eis auton” it’s every single one without exception, “…constantly exercising faith in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
And “pisteuon eis” is a technical term in New Testament Greek it was current in profane or just in the koinai (common) spoken by the people it meant “UTTER UNRESERVED COMMITMENT TO.” And so when the first men went out, the Apostles went out to preach and they said believe in or believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved there was no easy believism there was no decisionism, they were calling for total commitment, the response of the whole man to the whole Christ.
The term world is what I want to comment on, let’s put it in the context. This is something that in a proof text Christianity, very dangerous, we always look at the context. Who was our Lord talking to? He was talking to Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a Jew, he was a Pharisee, he was a member of the Sanhedrin. He was, in this conversation, all through John chapter 3 Jesus tells him about being born “anothen” from above, and Nicodemus doesn’t understand it at all. And Jesus asks, “Are you not the teacher of Israel and these things you do not know?” That’s straight from the Greek New Testament. The teacher, “ho didaskalos tau Israel.” [kai out ginoskeis] “ho tauta”, and these things you do not know?
Nicodemus was steeped in his Pharisee tradition. Judaism, not the bible, taught that God was not interested in “quote”, the Kosmos; the world, the Gentiles; as well as the Jew. [The Jews thought that] God had one thought about the world, He was saving the Jews, delivering the Jews; they were His people. His only thought toward the world was, judgment! Note our Lord’s answer, Nicodemus doesn’t understand, our Lord says, going to the Old Testament, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the son of man be lifted up. Now Jesus has reached a point of contact with Nicodemus. In order that every single one believing in Him should not perish but have eternal life for so loved God, “ton kosmon”, the world. What a shock to Nicodemus that God love goes out to the gentiles as we as the Jews, Nicodemus was shocked at this. God sent His son and the emphasis of John 3:16 is a personal intense and persevering faith. For God sent not His son into the world to condemn the world. See He’s getting against Nicodemus’ Judaism and his tradition. “But that the world through Him might be saved”; salvation going out to the gentiles. So that’s just an opening comment on the term world in a redemptive context.
It’s interesting dealing with John 3:16 that anyone I think that takes John 3:16 out of its context of course is going to get any interpretation they want. The same with 2 Peter 3:9. It’s a beautiful passage in the Greek, actually from 14 to 17, it’s a beautiful passage in the Greek. And also we have a participle; it’s not just to believe, it’s “the believing ones” literally, it is a participle there. And the question is what is the object of ALL? It’s the participle, the ones doing the action. The believing ones. And also this, “God loved the world sooooooooo much” how distorted that is when people take John 3:16 distorts God’s love because the actual word in John 3:16 translated so much is “houtos” literally means “to this extent” or “in this manner”. God loved the “kosmos” in this manner, that all the believing one, everyone believing. Who’s that? That’s us, the church.
Everyone believing shall have eternal life and shall not perish. But in 17, which everyone negates to read, they don’t read 15, they don’t read 17 or 18 and hence they only wrench out John 3:16. In 17 we have something very interesting and also as rightly pointed out Jesus frequently presented correctives to His audience, He taught in such a way to correct false notions. In fact that’s why many authors use the word world because a common Jew thought that salvation was to whom? The Jews. So to correct that you’ll see authors use the word “kosmos” to show not just Jews; Jews and Gentiles.
And in fact, the term “kosmos” is probably used about a dozen times. It can mean the world system, it can mean the world of believers, it can mean the world of non-believers. IT can mean the Earth. It all depends on the context. And here in John 3:16 it’s interesting, He starts out in 15 with the serpent and Moses lifted up the serpent. Well, who is the healing for? Was it to a particular people? Yes, it was to the Jews. The ones that got bitten by the snake, they were to look upon the very thing that bit them. They would have never chosen that as their source of healing. We would’ve never chosen God’s Son as our source of healing. It was very particular. And then the same phrase is used that “whoever believes in Him shall not perish” and in 17, “for God did not send into the world to judge the world BUT THAT. Here we have an “adversative” conjunction. Not for the purpose of X but for the result of Y or the FULFILLMENT of Y. BUT THAT the world might be saved and we don’t want to look at that MIGHT there gramatically as some kind of possibility. It follows a subjective tense. “I will go to the printer or I may or might make some copies.”
It’s just Greek grammar. So we have a adversative conjunction. He sent the son into the world not to judge but in order that or BUT THAT, the world might be saved through Him. So if you can take world to mean every single person you have to deal with 17 that says He’s going to save the world. Again, if you hold to your position to an Armenian or Pelagius position, you cannot escape a doctrine of universalistic theology as people like Carlton Pearson and others actually teach. Because they take these things literally.
I don’t have to; I can allow the text to read for itself. I don’t have to read in the view because when folks start reading into the text, then again, you can make any doctrine you want happen. So I think John 3:16 is a beautiful promise for the believers a corrective to Nicodemus and a beautiful promise for security for the believers.
GREEK TEXT John 3:14-18
14Καὶ καθὼς Μωϋσῆς ὕψωσεν τὸν ὄφιν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ, οὕτωςὑψωθῆναι δεῖ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου,
15 ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων ἐν αὐτῷ ἔχῃζωὴν αἰώνιον.
16 οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν υἱὸντὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλʼ ἔχῃζωὴν αἰώνιον.
17 οὐ γὰρ ἀπέστειλεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν υἱὸν εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἵνακρίνῃ τὸν κόσμον, ἀλλʼ ἵνα σωθῇ ὁ κόσμος διʼ αὐτοῦ.
18 ὁ πιστεύων εἰςαὐτὸν οὐ κρίνεται· ὁ δὲ μὴ πιστεύων ἤδη κέκριται, ὅτι μὴ πεπίστευκεν εἰςτὸ ὄνομα τοῦ μονογενοῦς υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ.