God’s Love for All
John 3:16 is a very familiar verse and many can recite it by heart. Many Christians have memorized it since their childhood days. And yes, this Bible verse is really very encouraging and very reassuring. It says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (NIV John 3:16). God’s love is for all. God loves the whole world.
John 3:16 in Plain English
For any ordinary reader who will read John 3:16 in plain English, it would seem simple and easy to understand — God’s love is truly for the whole world. But it’s interesting to know that some Christians understand this verse differently. For them the word, “world” (Greek, cosmos) in this passage does not refer to the whole world in general but only to a select few! This same Greek word, cosmos can also be found three times in the next verse, (verse 17) and once in verse 19.
But by just reading the verses through and through, you wouldn’t be able to figure out that Jesus loved only a selected few. This view is something imported and foreign to the text and is out of context. Some call this type of interpretation as eisegesis. This is forcing the Scripture to mean what it doesn’t intend to really mean.
John Calvin and John 3:16
The famous theologian, John Calvin himself in his very own commentaries — which can easily be verified on the internet — clearly pointed out without any hesitation that the word, “world” truly refers without doubt to all and not to some. He also took the time to explain the word, “whoever” to mean anyone and everyone not just some lucky elected folks. John 3:16 says, “whoever” and the Bible means what it says! It means the whole human race and not just a limited few!
Immediate Context: Before and After
The context of the immediate verses (before verse 16) in verses 14 and 15 about Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness should also be considered. In Numbers 21:8-9 we learn that anyone who looked upon the brass serpent high up on a pole got healed of snake bite. Yes, it was absolutely for everyone! This also reminds me of what Jesus said that when he is “lifted up,” he will draw all men to himself (John 12:32)!
And again, the immediate verses (after verse 16) in verses 17 through 19 would show that the whole world is what is meant and not just a few.
Larger Context: Who is Jesus Christ?
And of course if we check the larger context, what do we find? The same author of the book, the apostle John in his epistle says the same thing in 1 John 2:2. It says, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world (Greek, cosmos).”
God truly loves the whole world. Not just some.