FOR GOD SO LOVED...WHO? (part 12)

 

 

Again, God declares of Himself: "...The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin...WILL BY NO MEANS CLEAR THE GUILTY..." (Ex. 34:6,7 cf. Nah. 1:3). And who are the guilty? Those whom God has chosen not to have mercy toward. God says “...I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy…” (Rom. 9:15), and those He does not will to have mercy toward will remain in their sins, stand guilty before God, and will duly and rightly suffer His Wrath forever. God’s Wrath, coupled with the fact He has chosen only some and given them to His Son, is conclusive evidence that He loves only His own, and not all without exception. Based on the mistaken understanding of the fact that God is love, the lost take the position that if God saves some, He must, in order to be a Righteous and truly loving God, love all and save all, or at least offer to save all. “The objects of God's love in John 3:16 are precisely the same, as the objects of Christ's love in John 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, having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end’ (see also Rev. 3:9,10). “…Departing out of this world signifies leaving this earth. We know from experience how difficult it is to set aside the ‘traditions of men’ and come to a passage which we have heard explained in a certain way scores of times, and study it carefully for ourselves without bias. Nevertheless, this is essential if we would learn the mind of God. The objects of Christ’s love are described by His property in them, ‘His own’; by whom are meant, not all mankind, who are His by creation; nor the Jews, who were His nation and countrymen according to the flesh; nor the twelve apostles only, whom He had chosen; but all the elect of God, who are His own, by His choice of them, by the Father's gift of them to Him, by the purchase He made of them with His blood, and by His effectual call of them by His grace: these are also described by their condition and situation, ‘which were in the world’; which is not said to distinguish them from the saints that were in Heaven, or to express their former state of unregeneracy, but their present situation in this vain and evil world, which is no objection to Christ's love to them.” How one can reconcile God’s having loved His own with God’s alleged love of all without exception, is something which no Arminian can possibly come to Scriptural terms with. One must be made alive in order to see, and savingly believe, the Living Truth of the Living God.

 

“The objection is often stated, ’God’s love is infinite, therefore, it cannot be limited to only a few’. God’s saving love is not indiscriminate as His providence is. God’s love is infinite in its act, not in its object…” God’s love is infinite, it is everlasting, however, simply because God’s love is forever, does not mean it is for all. None would deny the Biblical logic behind the statement ‘Those whom God loves He has mercy toward’. As with God’s love, God’s mercy also “endureth forever”, as each of the 26 verses of Psalm 136 reminds us. However, simply because God’s mercy is forever, does not mean it is for all. That Christ laid down His life for His Church does not mean He laid down His life for all. God says: “…I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy” (Ex. 33:19). The mercy of God is everlasting, the love of God is everlasting, toward those whom He chooses to be merciful and loving to. "All God’s reasons of mercy are taken from within Himself....Therefore God’s mercy endures forever, because the reason of it is fetched from within Himself." God’s mercy and goodness are based on His will—that which comes from within Him—because these things could not be based on our will—for none of us seek God by nature—or our deeds, by which no man can be justified. The fact that God’s mercy is an elective mercy shows that God’s everlasting mercy, along with His infinite love, is not for all, but only for those to whom He wills to be merciful to. “…the way of carrying on His love is infinite. But the idea continues into the concept that because God is love, then God must, out of necessity to His nature, love all. This love then encompasses all of creation in one form or another. But this is an exegetical strain. There must be a distinction between love ad intra and ad extra. (ad intra: refers to an action or characteristic of God which is not communicable to the world beyond the Persons of the Trinity; (ad extra: refers to an action or characteristic of God which is communicable to the world beyond the Persons of the Trinity). Within the nature of the Trinity, there is a pure love communicated to each of the Persons of the Trinity. The Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father and this love is communicated between them through the working of the Spirit of love. This love is the inner Trinitarian love which is ad intra, a love without restriction. God, communicating love in this way, holds a pure and unrestricted love. Yet, there is also a pouring out of His love in and through Christ, which is restricted to those elected in Christ. This pouring out of redemptive love on His creatures is ad extra, outside Himself in the Beloved. As finite creatures it would be impossible to receive the saving love of God in any other form except through the mediation of Christ since the love which God pours out is infinite.”

 

When people continually hear anything said a certain way, or interpreted in a certain manner, they become conditioned, bound to, and by, a tradition rather than freed by the truth. This is called the illusory truth effect, “(also known as the truth effect or the illusion-of-truth effect). It is the tendency to believe information to be correct after repeated exposure. The illusory truth effect arises at least partly because familiarity breeds liking. As we are exposed to a message again and again, it becomes more familiar. Because of the way our carnal minds work, what is familiar is also true. Familiar things require less effort to process and that feeling of ease unconsciously signals truth (this is called cognitive fluency). As every politician knows, there is sometimes a very fine line between actual truth and the illusion of truth. Since illusions are often easier to produce, why bother with the truth? The exact opposite is also true. If something is hard to think about then people tend to believe it less. The illusory truth effect has a visible impact in the political as well as the religious sphere. By appealing to unconscious biases and beliefs, politicians and religious leaders are able to form believable claims, regardless of actual validity. Through repeated exposure, the claims become increasingly believed as the illusory truth effect dictates.” A mere illusion of truth always stems from opinions which are inherently never based on fact. “Opinions are worthless, because by definition, they are based on insufficient knowledge. This is due to either their holder not possessing sufficient knowledge to know about the true nature of their object of opinion or alternatively that such knowledge does not exist or is possibly not even attainable…choosing to dismiss facts in the guise of an opinion is a dangerous fallacy which is not rare in today's world. It is tradition to interpret John 3:16 in a particular fashion. That tradition includes two very important elements: 1) the idea that ‘world’ means every single individual person, so that God loves each person equally (resulting in a denial of any particularity in God’s love, even in His redemptive love), and 2) that the term ‘whosoever’ includes within its meaning a denial of particularity or election. Sometimes the passages we know best we know least. That is, when we hear a passage repeated in a particular, and erroneous, context over and over and over again, we tend to lose sight of its real meaning in its original setting. This is surely the case with John 3:16, for it is one of the most commonly cited passages in evangelical preaching. And yet, how often is it actually subjected to exegesis? Hardly ever. Its meaning is assumed rather than confirmed.”

 

Sadly, there are many people who thumb their noses at word studies, observing context and comparing Scripture with Scripture, because all they can see, and are fully and irreversibly convinced of, is the English translation as if no other exists. Those who fail to study the Word of God do themselves a gross disservice, for they deprive themselves of all the facts, and a proper Scriptural understanding of what the Word of God is truly saying (see Acts 17:11). Often, the study of Scriptures, and in particular, word studies, and reference books such as concordances and expository dictionaries are looked on in a very negative fashion, as if the use of such aids to a clearer, better understanding of the Word of God, is not a spiritual undertaking, but a very unspiritual exercise. Yet, paradoxically, most people seek out and place their trust only in those who have spent years undergoing such study, and have several degrees in theology in order to provide themselves with studious, knowledgeable, teachers through whom they seek to improve their own level of understanding. Simply because a person has several degrees in theology does not necessarily mean they have the truth, for what they often have is merely an illusion of truth which the teaching institution they attended provides. “Thy Word is a Lamp unto my feet, and a Light unto my path” (Psa. 119:105).

 

“John 3:16 does not define the extent of kosmos. However, a few things are certain: (the ‘world’ of John  3:16) is not the ‘world’ that Jesus says He does not pray for in John 17:9, a ‘world’ that is differentiated from those the Father has given Him: ‘I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine’.” The world that is loved, and to whom God gave His Son, in John 3:16, is the same world which has been given to the Son by the Father in John 17:9. To say that God gave His Son to all without exception conflicts with the Scriptural fact that the Lord Jesus does not pray, or intercede, for all without exception proving absolutely that He did not die for all without exception. “It is not the ‘world’ that is arrayed as an enemy against God’s will and truth, either, as seen in 1 John 2:15: ‘Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him’. Obviously, the ‘world’ we are not to love in 1 John 2:15 is not the world God showed His love toward by sending His unique Son. The most that can be said by means of exegesis (rather than by insertion via tradition) is that the world is shown love through the giving of the Son so that a specific, particular people receive eternal life through faith in Him.” These are the people for whom Christ prays, and gave His life. “I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved Me” (Jn. 17:23 cf. Jn. 13:1). Again, notice the contradistinction between those who are loved, and the world which is made up of those whom the Lord does not love. “Since we know that not all are saved by faith in Christ, it is utterly unwarranted to read into kosmos some universal view of humanity: how is God’s love shown for one who experiences eternal punishment by the provision of salvation for someone else? Surely, then, this is a general use of kosmos, with more specific uses of the term coming in the following verses. That is, the common meaning of world that would have suggested itself to the original readers (Jew and Gentile), and this is born out by the parallel passage in 1 John 4:9-11.”

 

“The principal subject of John 3:16 is Christ as the Gift of God. The first clause tells us what moved God to ‘give’ His only begotten Son, and that was His great ‘love’; the second clause informs us for whom God ‘gave’ His Son, and that is for, ‘whosoever (or, better, ‘every one’) believeth’; while the last clause makes known why God ‘gave’ His Son (His purpose), and that is, that everyone that believeth ‘should not perish, but have everlasting life’. That ‘the world’ in John 3:16 refers to the world of believers (God’s elect), in contradistinction from ‘the world of the ungodly’ (2 Pet. 2:5), is established and unequivocally established, by a comparison of the other passages in the Bible which speak of God’s ‘love’.” “For God so loved the world” could not possibly be a reference to God’s love for all without exception, for Scripture states that God’s people are not of the world. So, if they are not of the world, then world in John 3:16 could not possibly mean the world of all mankind, but specifically the world of God’s chosen, the world of believers, and those who would believe. The Scriptures make it abundantly clear that those who will be given eternal life are only those whom the Father has given to the Son: “As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him (Jn. 17:2 cf. Acts 13:48). Eternal life is apportioned only to those whom the Lord has given His Son. Those who are saved, who will be given eternal life, are those who will not perish, for they will all believe in Him Who gave His Son for those He has chosen to love: “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me…” (Jn. 6:37). ‘God commendeth His love toward US, in that…Christ died for US’ (Rom. 5:8 cf. Jn. 15:13; Jn. 13:1; 1 Cor. 15:3; Eph. 2:4,5), the saints (see Rom. 1:7), to whom Paul was writing; ‘…whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth…every son whom He receiveth (Heb. 12:6). ‘We love Him, because He first loved US’ (1 Jn. 4:19; cf. 1 Cor. 8:3; Gal. 2:20).” The ‘US’ here are those to whom the apostle John was writing “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God…” (1 Jn. 5:13 cf. 1 Jn. 2:1). Notice the clear distinction made by the Lord Jesus in this next verse: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice…” (Jn. 16:20). The Lord was speaking to His disciples in contradistinction to the people of the world. The Bible is replete with such examples of God’s particular love for His particular people.  

 

Interestingly, the word loved, in John 3:16, though strongly emphasized by those who adhere to a carnal interpretation of it, is not, for them, the centrepiece of the verse, for their main focus concerning this verse is placed on the terms world and whosoever. But if we focus our attention on the word loved we will gain clarifying insight into just who the people are that make up the world and whosoever of John 3:16. As most who claim the title Christian should know, the word love, as we have seen with the word kosmos, in the Bible has several meanings ranging from emotional, sexual, passionate love, eros, to brotherly love, phileo, to unconditional, committed, or covenantal love, agapao. “Agape, which appears no less than 37 times in John’s Gospel, speaks of the most powerful, noblest type of love: sacrificial love. Agape love is more than a feeling—it is an act of the will. This is the love that God has for His people and that prompted the sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus, for their sins (see Rom. 5:8). Jesus was agape love personified. Christians are to love one another with agape love, as seen in Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan (see Lk. 10:25-37)." The word for loved in John 3:16 is agapao, and means: “To esteem love, indicating an expression of the will and finding one’s joy in something or someone. It differs from ‘phileo’: to love, indicating feelings, warm affection...” It is a love born of the will, not emotion. It is a love which cannot be separated from purpose, an always beneficial purpose, rather than a love which is only self-serving. In examining 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 “You will observe that  agape ‘love’ is defined by verbs rather than adjectives--by what it does, instead of what it is. Note also that this love is not a feeling, and as you survey Paul's description of agape love, you note that there is not stress on personal feeling. The kind of love Paul is talking about is seen, experienced and demonstrated.” In John 3:16 it is specifically “Spoken of things, to love, i.e., to delight in.” It can hardly be said that God delights in the world—everyone without exception. On the contrary, God hates sin, and He also hates the sinner (see Deut. 25:16; Psa. 5:5; 7:11; 10:3; 11:5; 53:5; Rom. 9:13). “…if God did not hate evil and the evildoer, His love would not be a Holy love.” One must always remember that God’s love cannot be separated from the fact that God is Holy and Sovereign, that God’s love does not trample over the fact that God is a God of Justice and Holiness, and that His love is only to be found in Christ Jesus His Son. Nothing “…shall be able to separate us (Christians) from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39). God’s love is for those He has chosen unto salvation, for those He has chosen to be redeemed through His Son. This is made patently clear by His giving only them to His Son. God’s love is for those who have had their sins judged in Christ their Saviour, and who have been imputed with the Saviour’s Righteousness. God does not sacrifice His Holiness to His love. Nor does God’s justice suffer because of God’s love, for the love of God works in cohesive harmony with all His attributes. God’s love is not independent of His other attributes. “The attribute of God’s love does not operate in God apart from His other attributes, particularly the attributes of Holiness and Justice.” God’s love cannot act independently of His will, and God’s will is that the sinner be punished for his sin, and that His chosen ones be redeemed from their sin. Christ became a curse for all whom the Father loved and gave to Him, so that they would become the very Righteousness of God. “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the Righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21 cf. Zech. 3:4). “…this is His name whereby He shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Jer. 23:6). “…their Righteousness is of Me, saith the Lord” (Isa. 54:17 cf. Psa. 3:8; 145:7; Rev. 7:10). “…that Righteousness which is imputed to them, and by which they are justified, is from the Lord; by which they are secured from all the charges of law and justice, and, from all the accusations of men and devils, and which will answer for them in a time to come, and acquit them at the bar of God before men and angels (see Rom. 8:33,34).” God’s people are not Holy in themselves, because of their righteousness, but are made so by the imputed Righteousness of Christ, and are called the people of God’s Holiness (see Isa. 63:18). The Christian is complete in Christ, for Christ has done all that was necessary not only to bring a person into a saved state, but to also eternally maintain their saved state. “…our sufficiency is of God” (2 Cor. 3:5).  

God’s Holiness and Justice are satisfied in Christ and what He has done for His beloved. Those outside of Christ are subject, not to God’s Holiness, Justice and love, but to God’s Holiness, Justice and Wrath, and will in light of this suffer for their sin throughout eternity. God is a consistent God, and not one of His attributes is ever at odds with, or at the expense of, another. God is love, however, “...the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:4). The Lord is love, and keeps “…mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin…”, however, we must never forget that the God Who is love will not do despite unto His Holiness and Justice, thus, God “…will by no means clear the guilty…” (Ex. 34:7). God takes no delight in the sins of mankind, nor the state of sinfulness every man is in by nature. This sinful, fallen world of man has naturally drawn the Wrath of God, and not the Love of God upon it. God does not have warm feelings of affection for the world, in fact, at one stage “…it repented the LORD that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart” (Gen. 6:6). The Lord expresses His particular love in His Son by giving Him to those He has chosen, and they to Him. God loving everyone without exception is clearly a case of man superimposing his idea of what God ‘should be like’, or his tradition-based idea of what God is like, rather than a simple Scripturally-based acknowledgement and belief of Who the true God really is.

 

“The love treated of in John 3:16 cannot be universal towards all and every one, but special towards a few...because the end of that love which God intends is the salvation of those whom He pursues with such love...If therefore God sent Christ for that end, that through Him the world”—everyone without exception—“might be saved, He must either have failed of His end, or the world must necessarily be saved in fact. But it is certain that not the whole world, but only those chosen out of the world are saved; therefore, to them properly has this love reference...Why then should not the ‘world’ here be taken not universally for individuals, but indefinitely for anyone, Jews as well as Gentiles, without distinction of nation, language and condition. That He may be said to have loved the human race, inasmuch as He was unwilling to destroy it entirely but decreed to save some certain persons out of it, not only from one people as before, but from all, although the effects of that love should not be extended to each individual, but only to some certain ones, viz, those chosen out of the world? The particular use of the word ‘hugaphse’ (love), is to love something in particular or to ‘delight in the object’. The ‘love’ spoken of in John 3:16 by the Saviour cannot be a lesser love than that by which God loves his elect. The aorist active indicative of ‘agapao’ is the word so common in the Gospels for the highest form of love. It is used here as often in the writings of John (see Jn. 14:23; 17:23; 1 Jn. 3:1; 4:10). It is used of God’s love for His elect (see 2 Thess. 2:16; Rom. 5:8; Eph. 2:4). If this love in John 3:16 is ‘so’ great as to be towards the whole world this would cause the love of God to the whole world to be greater than the love He has for His elect. But the Savior states, ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’ (Jn. 15:13). If this is true, then the love which is spoken of in John 3:16 is the greatest love. Thus, if this is true, and no greater love can be exemplified than this love which causes one to lay one’s life down for his friends, then the ‘world’, of necessity, is universally saved since God ‘so loves’ it. This is certainly not true. It is true, though, that the love which is stated here is the greatest love God ever had, but it is for His elect.” The Lord nourishes and cherishes His people (see Eph. 5:29).

 

“The love treated in John 3:16 when it is said that ‘God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son’, cannot be universal towards each and every inhabitant in the world, but special towards a few. (1) It treats of the supreme and immense love of God (a greater than which is not and cannot be conceived) to those He gave His only begotten Son. This is evident both from the intensive (epitatike) particle houtos (which has great weight here) and from the thing itself. For no one can have a greater love than to lay down His life for his friends (see Jn. 15:13), so no greater love can be found than that by which God (when men were yet enemies) delivered His own Son to death for them (see Rom. 5:7-11). And as Abraham could not more evidently prove his piety to God than by offering up his son as a sacrifice, so God could not more illustriously demonstrate His love to men than by giving up His Son to them as a propitiatory victim (hilastiken).” Exactly whom God loved in this manner, giving them His Son, is seen in the propitiatory, substitutionary, sacrifice of Christ. Just as the Old Testament’s high priest was not directed by God to make atonement for everyone without exception, but exclusively for His own chosen people, so too, Christ was given to make atonement for the people God had chosen before the foundation of the world to give to His Son for the express purpose of their sins being charged to Him, and His Righteousness being charged to them. “(2) The love by which God gave His Son draws after itself all other things necessary to salvation: ‘He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?’ (Rom. 8:32).” It is important to note that this Scripture from Paul’s Letter to the Romans was specifically written “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints…” (Rom. 1:7). Christ was delivered up for all His people, “…upon the elect alone, He bestows all things with Christ. (3) Therefore the end of that love which God intends is the salvation of those whom He pursues with such love; hence He adds, ‘For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved’ (Jn. 3:17).” Again, “If therefore God sent Christ for that end (that through Him the world might be saved), He must either have failed of His end or the world must be necessarily saved…However it is certain that not the whole world, but only the chosen out of the world are saved; therefore to them properly this love has reference. Nor can it be conceived if a universal love is here understood, how such and so great love (which is by far the cause of the greatest and most excellent good, viz., the mission of Christ) can consist with the hatred of innumerable persons whom He willed to pass by and ordain to damnation (to whom He never has revealed either His Son or willed to bestow faith, without which it is set forth in vain). Nor can it be conceived how this love of God can be so greatly commended here which yet remains void and inefficacious on account of the defect of subjective grace, which God has determined to deny.

 

“The object of the love, in John 3:16, is ‘ton kosmon’ (ton cosmon, the world)…the Persic version translates the word ‘world’ as ‘men’…The objects of this love, or the persons to whom the eternal Lord delivered Christ, is the World. This must respect the elect of God in the world, such as do, or shall actually believe, as it is exegetically expressed in the next words, ‘…that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish…’ God of His free grace, has prepared a way to redeem and save His elect (see Jn. 3:16; Isaiah 53:6).…it should be evident from the passages quoted above that John 3:16 will not bear the construction usually put upon it. ‘God so loved the world’Many suppose that this means, the entire human race. But ‘the entire human race’ includes all mankind from Adam till the close of earth’s history: it reaches backward as well as forward. Consider, then, the history of mankind before Christ was born. Unnumbered millions lived and died before the Savior came to the earth, lived here ‘…having no hope, and without God in the world…’ (Eph. 2:12), and therefore passed out into an eternity of woe. If God ‘loved’ them, where is the slightest proof thereof? Scripture declares ‘Who (God) in times past (from the tower of Babel till after Pentecost) suffered all nations to walk in their own ways’ (Acts 14:16). Scripture declares that ‘…even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient’ (Rom. 1:28). To Israel God said, ‘You only have I known of all the families of the earth’ (Amos 3:2). All the families or nations of the earth, and all the inhabitants of it, are known by the Lord, as He is the omniscient God; but none had been known by Him as a family, or a nation, with that love and affection as this family had been, or distinguished by His favours and blessings as they, not only temporal, but spiritual. In view of these plain passages who will be so foolish as to insist that God in the past loved all mankind. The same applies with equal force to the future. Read through the Book of Revelation, noting especially chapters 8 to 19, where we have described the judgments which will yet be poured out from Heaven on this earth. Read of the fearful woes, the frightful plagues, the vials of God’s Wrath, which shall be emptied on the wicked. Finally, read the 20th chapter of the Revelation, the great White Throne Judgment, and see if you can discover there the slightest trace of love. But the inattentive  objector comes back to John 3:16 and says, ‘World means world’. True, but we have shown that ‘the world’ does not mean the whole human family. The fact is that ‘the world’ is used in a general way…” As we have seen, the word world means only that which the Author intended it to mean, and may be discerned by a proper contextual study, and comparing Scripture with Scripture, and doctrine with doctrine, and this can never be supplanted by whatever a man believes it is saying.

 

“…the first thing to note in contextual connection with John 3:16 is that the Lord was there speaking to Nicodemus, a man who believed that God’s mercies were confined to his own nation. Christ there announced that God’s love in giving His Son had a larger object in view, that it flowed beyond the boundary of Palestine, reaching out to ‘regions beyond’ (see 2 Cor. 10:16). In other words, this was Christ’s announcement that God had a purpose of grace toward Gentiles as well as Jews. ‘God so loved the world’, then, signifies, God’s love is international in its scope. But does this mean that God loves every individual among the Gentiles?” Not at all, for God does not even love every individual of the nation of Israel! “Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed” (Rom. 9:7,8 cf. Rom. 9:6; Rom. 2:28,29; Gal. 4:28; Jer. 31:7). The only children God has are the children of His promise, the children of His love. “All others are the children of their father: the Devil (see Jn. 8).” As Caiaphas prophesied that Christ should die for the nation of Israel, “…He should die for that nation, for the nation of the Jews; not for every individual in it, for all of them were not saved by Him; some received Him not; they rejected Him as the Messiah, Saviour, and Redeemer, and died in their sins; but for all the elect of God among them, the sheep of the house of Israel, to whom He was sent, and whom He came to seek and save” “…He shall save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21 cf. Isa. 53:6). Christ’s people are not all those who make up the nation of Israel, nor are they every individual from among the Gentile nations of the world at large, but only those Who were given Him by the Father from Israel and out of those nations: “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; FOR they are Thine. And all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine; and I am glorified in them” (Jn.17:9,10). God’s children are made up of those who are scattered among the nation of Israel and the Gentile nations, and not every individual without exception. Christ’s dying “for that nation” (Israel), does not mean He died for everyone in that nation, just as “God so loved the world” does not mean He loved everyone in that world. It is the ELECT of the nation Israel, it is the ELECT scattered among the nations of the world for whom Christ did die, and it is to the ELECT whom God so loved He gave His only begotten Son. And, it is the elect alone, the ones Jesus refers to as “Mine” that are the ones He is glorified in.

 

Christ prays for God’s people. He prays for them alone because they are His Father’s people: “I pray for them…which Thou hast given Me FOR they are Thine”. He does not pray for those who are not His Father’s people. Christ was saying: ‘I do not pray for those whom Thou hast not given Me, but only for those whom you have given Me, for they are your children, elect, chosen and loved before the foundation of the world’ (see Jn. 17:20,21). The Father gives them to His Son, FOR they are His people, and the Son in turn prays exclusively for them, FOR they are the elect of His Father, the loved of His Father. “As we have seen, the term ‘world’ in, John 3:16, is specific rather than general, relative rather than absolute…” God does not even love every individual born of the nation of Israel (see Rom. 9:6-8), so how can it be said that He loves everyone in the world without exception. “The ‘world’ in John 3:16 must, in the final analysis refer to the world of God’s people. Must, we say, for there is no other alternative solution. It cannot mean the whole human race, for at least one half of the race was already in Hell when Christ came to earth. It is unfair to insist that it means every human being now living, for every other passage in the New Testament where God’s love is mentioned limits it to His own people—search and see.” Unfortunately, the words limit, and limited carry with them an unavoidably negative connotation. However, since election has to with the will of God, and subsequently the love and mercy of God for undeserving sinners, the element of exclusivity can hardly be viewed, from a Scriptural standpoint, as negative. The exclusivity of God’s love denotes something special not only of those to whom that love is directed, but also of the love itself, and the One Who is loving. The word limited does not do justice to God’s love, but rather, exclusive love, or special love are better suited to it. The words limit and limited each appear only once in the Old Testament (see Ezek. 43:12; Psa. 78:41), never in the New, and never in connection with God’s love. “The objects of God’s love in John 3:16 are precisely the same as the objects of Christ’s love in John 13:1: ‘Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His time was come, that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end’ (cf. Jn. 17:20).” John 3:16 and John 13:1 can never be reconciled if John 3:16 is referring to God’s having loved all without exception.

 

In order to further assist us in gaining a proper perspective, via a Scripturally accurate understanding, rather than settling for an emotive, traditional, knee-jerk interpretation of John 3:16, we now turn our attention to the word ‘For’ which appears at the beginning of the verse. A good rule to work by is when you see the word ‘for’ in the Scriptures, find out what it’s there for. The word for is a connecting word. It connects, or links, thereby, includes, or involves, the previous verse, or verses, with what is being said in the verse which proceeds it, or them. First, the text reads, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  “The article, gar (for) denotes the information previous in the conversation which Jesus is expounding to Nicodemus. The immediate context is taken from the Old Testament passage of the brass serpent in the wilderness for those who would look upon it (see Num. 21:8,9). The larger context is on regeneration and Jesus’ discourse with Nicodemus—how the Spirit, Son and Father accomplish redemption. The ‘for’ is immediately connected with the objects of the last verse instrumentally; everyone who believes should not perish because God sent His Son to those who believe. The ‘for’ of the verse links the thought in the previous verse, 3:15, to verse 16. The ‘for’ is transitive. It is also to be noted that John 3:16 recalls the promise of the prologue seen in John 1:12,13: ‘But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (see also Jn. 17:2), and prepares the reader of the Gospel to encounter God’s expanded realm of salvation, not only for the Jews, but also for the Samaritans and Gentiles in John chapter 4.” It is worth noting that the only reason a man receives the Lord, the only reason a man believes on His name is not because of the will of man, but is solely because of God, because of His will and no other’s. We see here the clear connection between those who believe and those whom God has chosen, and, therefore, whom it is that God loves. If this were not so, then we would have the absurd situation where, though it is claimed God loves all without exception, it is not His will that they be born again, seeing that not all are saved. The apostle Peter confirms the fact, in his first Letter, that those who receive Him, who believe in Him, do so only because of Him: “Who by Him do believe in God…” (1 Pet. 1:21 cf. 1 Cor. 8:6). All true Christians “…believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved…” (Acts 15:11). The very fact that a man even believes the Gospel of God, is solely attributable to grace: “...which had believed through grace” (Acts 18:27). A man’s believing in God is a work of God, and is not something which originates from within man. The sheer fact that salvation is according to the will of God, and not man, is proof positive that God loves only those whom He chooses to save, and not all. God has mercy only on those whom He has chosen to love, for how can God have mercy on those He has chosen not to love, or how can He love those toward whom He will not be merciful. Salvation is God doing by grace what the sinner cannot do by works. Salvation is determined by the will and work of God, and is not at all based on how a man ‘responds’ to some fictitious offer. Christ said: “…This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him Whom He hath sent” (Jn. 6:29 cf. 1 Jn. 3:23). Believing is a gift from God, and never a meritorious work of mans: “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ…to believe on Him…” (Phil. 1:29 cf. 2 Cor. 1:7).

 

The Bible teaches that in order for a man to believe the true Gospel He must be blessed of God; he must be born again—born of God, or given birth to by God, begotten by God (see Matt. 16:17; John 3:3,5; 6:44,45), for the Gospel is God’s and He reveals It to whomsoever He wills. Salvation is not, and never has been, the result, or product of a man’s will or works, but wholly of God’s will, mercy and grace: “...I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but OF GOD that sheweth mercy” (Rom. 9:15,16; Ex. 33:19; Jn. 1:12,13; 5:21). There is the basis for salvation. Salvation is all about whom God wills to show mercy toward. And, to whom will God show mercy? Romans 9 has the answer: “…the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory…I will call them My people…the children of the living God” (Rom. 9:23,25,26). Those whom the Lord will be merciful to are His people, His chosen, the people He made to receive His mercy. Christ says: “…the Son quickeneth (makes alive) whom He will” (Jn. 5:21). Salvation is not by the will of man, nor is it the result of his efforts, FOR it is only of ‘God that sheweth mercy’. Man cannot choose his way out of spiritual death, FOR HE IS DEAD!! Man must be chosen by Almighty God, and made alive according to His will and by His grace. These Scriptures further substantiate the fact that man, and his so called free will, is dead in sin and dead to God. The apostle Paul addressing the Christians at Rome, said: “…ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy…” (Rom. 11:30 cf. Rom. 9:15; 1 Cor. 7:25). Savingly believing the true God is something which no man can do without the mercy of God. The mercy of God is why the believer believes. It is the mercy of God, born out of the will of God, which triggers salvation, and not the will of man. It is the mercy of God which generates belief in Him. Those who do not believe are not loved, for they have not obtained mercy. Those who have obtained mercy are obviously loved, and so, believe. The Psalmist says: “But I have trusted in Thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation” (Psa. 13:5). One must not lose sight of the fact when reading such verses that one requires the mercy of God in order to trust in the God of mercy. The apostle Peter adds: “Which in time past were not a people, , but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy” (1 Pet. 2:10 cf. 1 Cor. 7:25). The mercy of God is why the people of God are who they are. Only the people of God obtain the mercy of God. Only the people of God are loved by God. Those who are not the people of God are not loved, for they have not obtained mercy. Those who have obtained mercy are obviously the people of God, the people whom He loves. The starting point of salvation is GOD, and not what a man tries to do to please God. Speaking of those who believe on Christ’s name, John the apostle stated: “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but OF GOD” (Jn. 1:13 cf. 1 Cor.1:29-31). “… this is of the operation of God, which He Himself works in men; it is not of themselves, it is the pure gift of God…there are other works which are well pleasing to God, when rightly performed, but faith is the chief work, and others are only acceptable when done in the faith of Christ. This, as a principle, is purely God's work…”

 

To savingly believe, and trust in Jesus Christ the Saviour “…is a pure gift of grace; it is not in nature, nor in every man, and in whom it is, it is not of themselves, it is the gift of God”. Christ gives eternal life to as many as the Father has given Him (see Jn. 17:2). If a man’s receiving Him was something which originated from within man, then a man’s being born again would be of the will of man, and not of God. No man is ever rewarded with salvation, for it is an unmeritable gift which comes only my means of God mercy and grace. Salvation is based on the mercy of God which He gives to whomsoever He wills. Salvation is a Sovereign gift which God gives to those whom He has given to Christ. As salvation is most definitely a gift from God, one can be sure that those who believe in Him were ordained by the will of God to believe, and, therefore, receive the Son of God. The Word of God does not teach that those who believed were then ordained to eternal life, but that those who were ordained to eternal life will, at the appointed time, believe. “…and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). Believing is something which originates with God, and so is conditioned solely upon His will and mercy. Believing is given as a gift to all His children who are all blessed with the faith of God’s elect (see Titus 1:1). It is not something which is, nor can be, in accord with a man’s natural will, but is a work done in the believer according to the will of God. Such a person is born again, born of God, born of His Word, the Gospel, and made alive unto God, by God. A saved man is made to believe, he is chosen to believe, just as he is chosen unto, or for the purpose of, salvation. If it were any other way, salvation could not possibly be termed a gift, something undeserved, but rather something warranted which God would be obliged to give.