08 August 2007

Breadth of love

by Dan Phillips
John 11:52a … not for the nation only…

Revelation 7:9 …behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands...

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60 comments:

Daryl said...

Ummm, since the verses given apply only to the elect...I'm not sure how that shows God's love to the whole world.

4given said...
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Daryl said...

...that "world" thing again...?

I suppose, though, you could say it shows his love to the whole world in the same way that selecting someone from a given family for special privilege shows favour to that family and not the individual only.

DJP said...

Once again, the stated topic:
"In what way does God love the World?"

Doug said...

"I suppose, though, you could say it shows his love to the whole world in the same way that selecting someone from a given family for special privilege shows favour to that family and not the individual only."

A better way to put it would be that it shows it in the same way that selecting some from every nation shows favor to all the nations (world) and not just one nation. That's the meaning here.

DJP said...

I would add this, though it's tangential to my post. Slushyheads (not saying anyone on this thread is a slushyhead) don't like the way Calvinists use "world," because we tend to use it the way the Bible uses it.

My challenge: find one verse in the Bible where "world" unambiguously and beyond reasonable dispute means "everyone who ever was born and ever will be born, without any distinction."

One verse. Just one.

I'm not saying there isn't one. I'm just saying I've never seen it.

Daryl said...

Sorry Dan,

I had thought that the main thrust was to be along th elines of common grace...not sure where I got that.

DJP said...

...and I'll add this to my addition. If someone does succeed in finding one such unambiguous, not-reasonably-disputable usage — that's one.

One such usage would not reasonably control the interpretation of every ussage.

Daryl said...

For the record, my first comment about the whole world vs. the elect, had to do with my misunderstanding of the rules of this weeks blogs, not a "everyone-who-ever-lived-in every-circumstance" definition of "world". Just so we're clear...I get the world thing.

DJP said...

Nor was I insinuating that that was your understanding (hence my "not saying anyone on this thread is a slushyhead").

Daryl said...

See, that's why I like you guys, your nothing if not clear.

centuri0n said...

I think today is going to be a day where our readers are going to find out if they have a big enough theology or not.

One of the things I really admire about Dan is his comprehension of the Jewish context of the Bible -- that is, that the Bible comes from someplace culturally and historically. And most of you are sort of glazed over at this point saying, "yeah, I get it: Moses gave the Law to the Jews, and they were waiting for a Messiah."

Yeah, well, no. That's not it. They were waiting for a Jewish messiah. They were waiting for the Son of David to whom they would call out "Hosanna!" and who would make their enemies His footstool.

And let's be clear: Christ came as a servant to the Jews; the Gospel is for the Jew first.

But God loves the world, and didn't just come to save the Jews. Unless you have an Uncle Shlomo in the family tree someplace, this has to be a staggering truth about God: Christ is a blessing from the root of Jesse, but to all people.

Listen, people: the angels said, "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." Not just Jews; not just the ones who took pride in being Sons of Abraham. As Dan cites so well here, "a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages" are the final object of the salvation-work of this Messiah.

How can you not be overwhelmed by this? How can you miss that God is sending out the power of the Gospel not justs to one family, or to 12 tribes, but that God has used Bethlehem Ephratah, though it be little among the thousands of Judah, to bring salvation to all who will come?

Are you really so "calvinistic" that the scope of God's work in Christ doesn't stagger you? When the Bible numbers them "a great multitude that no one could number"?

If not, let me say in love and hope and in the name of Jesus Christ that your theology is too small. Your theology is a miser's lot of the Lord and Savior's riches.

donsands said...

"And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our's only, but also for the WHOLE WORLD." 1 John 2:2

I'm sure many will say this whole world is the whole world.

In fact a good friend of mine says this is clear without a doubt. I say that means all people will go to heaven then.
He says, no, all people are propitiated, but they have to receive it by faith.

Didn't know if you might want to kick this verse around a bit?

jsb said...

John 3:16 is unambiguous, Dan. Of course, I'm aware of all the arguments mustered to try to limit it, which in your view may render this usage in "reasonable dispute." Of course, I respectfully dispute that any of those arguments are valid. "The contention doth not render the conclusion."

Thus I do think this verse meets your challenge.

Of course, I also agree that this does not control every usage of the same word IN OTHER CONTEXTS. But the context here is unambiguous.

Query: Not saying there are any around here either, but if there are Slushyheads, are there also Blockheads?

jsb said...

donsands, good query. 1 John 2:2 also has to mean "all," for John himself compares the limitation ("our sins") to the non-limitation ("whole world"). As Clarke says, "It is not for us apostles that he has died, nor exclusively for the Jewish people, but περι ολου του κοσμου, for the whole world, Gentiles as well as Jews, all the descendants of Adam. The apostle does not say that he died for any select part of the inhabitants of the earth, or for some out of every nation, tribe, or kindred; but for all mankind; and the attempt to limit this is a violent outrage against God and his word."

Grace said...

Centuri0n:
That's why Paul's letters were so powerful and controversial. He dared to say that God loved the Gentiles, and that salvation is offered to all. I'd say that in the eyes of the Pharisees, that was pretty near blasphemy. They were waiting for a Jewish messiah with a sword who would destroy Rome and give them back their national identity.
Jesus was not the kind of savior they were looking for, but He is the one they need.

DJP said...

jsb, the fact that you do not entertain disputes about the meaning of "world" in John 3:16 does not mean that there is none.

The count stands at zero.

Even So... said...

My challenge: find one verse in the Bible where "world" unambiguously and beyond reasonable dispute means "everyone who ever was born and ever will be born, without any distinction."

If someone does succeed in finding one such unambiguous, not-reasonably-disputable usage — that's one.

One such usage would not reasonably control the interpretation of every usage.


In Romans 5:12 "world" means the world itself, but via the context also must include every inhabitant, ever...all have sinned (Romans 3:23)...Adam was the only man, and it became that every other person also had sin...that being said I agree with you DJP...

Daryl said...

Dan,

I'm not sure if you want to go here in this thread, but I've often heard James White say that there is no Greek word for "whosoever" in John 3:16 but that the more literal (albeit less smooth in English) translation should be "...that the believing ones should not perish..."
If that is the case (and James being James and me being me, I can't dispute it) then the "whosoever will" bit becomes a descriptor of the non-perishing, more than a condition of salvation.

Any thoughts? (If not, I completely understand the need to not get off track)

DJP said...

There is no "whosoever," per se. The Greek text would read, "that everyone who believes in Him should not perish, but instead might have life eternal."

Daryl said...

Thanks.

jsb said...

Thanks for making my point, Dan. "Everyone" works just as well.

Better revise that count! It's 2 so far...

Michele Rayburn said...

Dan said:
My challenge: find one verse in the Bible where "world" unambiguously and beyond reasonable dispute means "everyone who ever was born and ever will be born, without any distinction."


Notwithstanding Dan’s challenge, the “natural” meaning of “world” in John 3:16 would be the entire world of people *unless* it was modified otherwise by the context (which it’s not).

In other words, the burden of proof is on those who would limit “world” in John 3:16 to only the elect.

It makes natural sense in John 3:16 that God loves the world (the whole world, meaning everyone) because in that same verse, God says that some (any who believe) shall not perish. This is a recognition that *some* in the world (the whole world) will “come out from them” (come out from the world) and believe.

centuri0n said...

My take on the Jn 3:16 thing is the "all" there-- all the believing ones.

Christ saves all the believing ones. Because He didn't come to judge the world but that the world might be saved through him, right?

donsands said...

"for the whole world, Gentiles as well as Jews, all the descendants of Adam." --jsb


If this is the literal case, that Christ IS the propitiation for "all descendants of Adam", then all descendants shall inherit eternal life. Therby, Universalism, which I'm sure you disagree with.

How do you get around this?

DJP said...

Is your exegesis always this shoddy, jsb? Forget the context of the Bible, or even of the whole verse — you're not even checking the context of the clause!

"Everyone who believes."

What Calvinist has ever thought otherwise?

Count stands at zero.

Daryl said...

Seems like Psalms 5:5 where God hates "workers of iniquity", does provide a broader context to "God so loved the world."

jsb said...

That does it. I'm tired of being reasonable. I declare myself postmodern, and will now pop a beer.

jsb said...

donsands

"If this is the literal case, that Christ IS the propitiation for "all descendants of Adam", then all descendants shall inherit eternal life."

No, that's a non sequitur. A SUFFICIENT antecedent does not rule out conditionality for EFFECT.

Note to self: Make that 2 beers

Daryl said...

jsb,

If that's the case then Jesus' sacrifice did not satisfy the Father, nor did it turn aside his wrath. What did?

...3 beers...

4given said...
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DJP said...

And just to clarify something that I (at least) think is already clear:

My burden in this comment-thread has never been to establish the meaning of "world" in John 3:16.

All I have to do is indicate that the precise meaning is disputable — which one either grants, or shows that one has never wrestled too hard with the issue.

As far as I know, no Christian denies that "everyone who believes in Him should not perish, but instead have life eternal."

donsands said...

"No, that's a non sequitur. A SUFFICIENT antecedent does not rule out conditionality for EFFECT."

jsb,
Could you decipher this for me?

I'm quite simple minded really.

philness said...

Lets try this on for size:

John 17:9 Jesus says that He does not pray for the world but only for those whom the Father has given to Jesus.

So to answer Dans question: In what way does God love the World?

He loves the world by giving those from among the world to Christ for Christ to save. And through Christs light in us (saints) we are the gift to the rest of the world. For without the Holy Spirit through us reflecting to the rest of the world, this world would be null for lack of a better word). This world is for us, the saints of the living God.

Wow, I think I said something profound. Am I on target here?

jsb said...

donsands, it's been 4 beers so far, so I'm simple minded, too.

It's "conditional election" (Arminian) v. "limited atonement" and "unconditional election (Calvinism). A lot written on each, and easily findable.

donsands said...

jsb,


Hmmm. Okay. Thanks I guess.

lordodamanor said...

In John 3.16 world is indeed limited by its following uses in a salvific sense. The verse actually reads: "For thus loved God the world, so as the Son the only begotten he gave that everyone believing in him may not perish."

We can give the mention of world here a universalist connotation, but it must be qualified by what comes before and after. That the world is God's own cherished possession would mean that God does indeed love it, but that he loves it does not mean that he must approach it with equity. The word "thus" indicates the means with which the love is dispensed. First, is mentioned the reason of the Son's advent, which is salvation for the believing ones. Second is the condmnation of the the unbelieving ones. Simply because of the proclaimation that Christ came to save, does not negate the fact that his coming also separates the sheep from the goats, John 3:19-21 and elsewhere. To isolate this occurance of world from the rest is to wrongly infuse meaning into it which does not belong.

The classic example is Noah. The flood came upon the whole world. But the ark, which is representative of the salvation of the Lord rode upon the waves of destruction intended for the whole world. It is not correct to say that the intended distruction included Noah and his family, nor is it correct to say that the intention of the salvific work of Christ (the ark) is intended for the whole world. The believing ones placed their faith in the finished work of the "ark." And, for this reason the "ark" came into the world, that through the means of it, the human race might be saved. It is obvious that the whole of the human race, every individual, was not the intended recipient, nor was provision made for them, of the benefit of salvation.

World here in John 3.16 indeed means the entire cosmos, but the effect of the coming of the Son of man is not controlled by this word. It is controlled by the word "light." And, it is the light that separates darkness from it. Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost and as the rest of the quote says: "If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death."

The passage is called a prophecy and one should note that it is not the whole world that is mentioned as the target of substitution. The obvious exclusion is the Romans. Note, too, the extension to the children of God scattered abroad (throughout the whole world).

The nuances of the word world should not be handled so lightly. The book of Genesis might be called the book of Separations, for in it God began to separate a people for himself out of the world, and in this way God so loves the world, all of it, even those destined for destruction, Exodus 8:23. The condemnation passages in John are too obvious to miss. The light separates, the light judges and that judgement was determined beforehand, Genesis 3:14-15. That is why the "whosoever" is not in John 3.16. It is God who choose out of the whole world, out of all of humanity according to the good and perfect purpose of his own will, John 1.13. Which is why Jesus does not in his High Priestly prayer as intercessor for the saints pray for the "whole" world, John 17.9. It would have been disobedient of him to do so, since the Father did not send him so that the whole world might be saved through him, every one, everywhere, of all times, but only those who would believe on his name.

So the word world in John 3.16 is extensive and universal as it is applied to the plan of God, "thus." But, it is retricted by that very plan as to the application of the plan to the world of men. For that plan has both intentions, the Son was sent to save but by his coming into the world to condemn it, John 12.27,30-32; 44-50. And while Jesus says that his purpose is not to condemn, his advent, his life and his finished works testify to the judgement of the Father. It is not hard to comprehend. Jesus himself says that the unbelieving are condemned already. Therefore his coming was first for salvation but that salvation speaks of a greater mission which will consumate the ages when he returns to condemn the world in finality.

It is not wise to divide out from Christ his role as King, the judge of all the universe. As he said to Pilate, John 18:37, for this purpose he was sent into the world. His mediatorial roles remain intact throughout his incarnation, for it is who he is. By his words as a prophet he separates, by his sovereignty, he separates, by his intercession, he separates. This separating is the role of the Judge. Jesus makes himself one with the Father's judgement. And, indeed, this is one of the covenental arrangements promised to the Son by the Father. In his incarnation he saves out of that condemnation to which the world was already subjected, those who the Father had given him for salvation. That is the purpose Christ speaks of for which he was sent and not for judgement. On the other hand, the seeking and finding and retrieval of his sheep renders judgement by its very nature towards those who have been determined as vessels of wrath and not his sheep, Romans 9. This is love in all its many facets that was "thus" demonstrated by the Father sending his Son into the world.

Yes the word world is broad, infact broader than just the profanity of it being merely a description of all of humantiy. It speaks of not only that, but the whole of God's intended purpose of creation. And, what an awesome labor of love it is.

Mike said...

Donsands (and correct me if I'm wrong, jsb),

What jsb meant by "a sufficient antecedent does not rule out conditionality for effect," I believe, is the following...

Sufficient antecedent: Christ's atoning sacrifice for everyone in His death.

Effect: Salvation of any one of those people.

So he's saying that even though Christ died for everyone (sufficient antecedent), that death does not guarantee their salvation (effect). That effect is conditional, determined by the sinner's choice to receive the gift.

As I see it, it's a flowery way to take the classic Arminian position that the atonement didn't actually atone for anything. It was only a potential atonement, limited, mind you, by the sinner's choice.

The Calvinist asserts that the atonement did actually atone for the sins of man; it's just limited -- notice how we're not getting around that -- by God's choice of His own sheep.

Hope that helps.

philness said...

Mike,

You see the sinner can not possibly make any choice. He is dead. His bones are as dry as the desert floor. A miracle needs to take place first.

Mike said...

Yup, I agree philness. I'm a Calvinist. I was just presenting jsb's position, since donsands asked for clarification and it didn't seem like he was happy with what he got.

philness said...

I gotcha.

donsands said...

Mike,

Thank you.

It's a deep doctrine, particular atonement, or limited atonement. I still need to study it.

I know this for sure:

There's no greater love then the love Jesus gives, when He laid down His life for His friends (John 15:13), who are also His sheep. (John 10:15)

Sewing said...

No time today to read through all the comments or to write out a long, thoughtful one in reply, but something Cent wrote up above resonated. In my baptism testimony, I thanked "the Lord, the God of my ancestors for His unmerited gift to Jew and Gentile alike: the sacrifice of His only Son Jesus Christ for our salvation."

God worked through His chosen people to reveal His will and purpose through the institution of sacrificial atonement, the culmination of which was the gift of His Son for all believers among all the nations—the Jew first, and also the Greek (and all other nations, too).

jsb said...

Yes Mike, you're correct in the first half, but the "limited atonement" part is cleverly misleading. Conditional election is the doctrine, and unlimited atonement the truth. It's difficult for Calvinists to entertain "evangelical synergism" because the latter term is so often used as a synonym for heresy, but I believe it's the biblical view.

Say Dan, do 1 John 2:2 next.

YnottonY said...

NKJ 1 John 5:19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.

While this verse distinguishes between believers and unbelievers, even the believers were at one time under the sway of the wicked one. Thus, the "world," by implication or application, references all of humanity, apart from Christ, that has ever existed at one point or another.

Also, "world" doesn't have to mean "everyone who ever was born and ever will be born, without any distinction." "World," when it is referring to humanity in the bible, connotes all unbelievers or apostate humanity (even the elect when in unbelief) dwelling on earth at any given time.

When it comes to disputed passages like John 3:16, 1 John 2:2, 2 Cor. 5 and John 17 etc., one only need to show that "world" encompasses more than the elect, or those appointed unto eternal life. That will cause a system crash, or the blue screen of death, for some :-)

YnottonY said...

Here's another one for DJP to consider:

NKJ John 17:21 "that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

Does "world" HERE mean the unbelieving elect? Or all unbelievers or apostate humanity, including the non-elect? Be careful, Dan :-) I am laying a trap.

Mike said...

jsb,

Before I respond, what's "evangelical synergism," as you're using it?

YnottonY said...

NKJ John 6:32 Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.

NKJ John 6:51 "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world."

The "world" in 6:51 encompasses the "you" in 6:32, and the "you," according to the context of verse 32, includes all the unbelieving, grumbling Jews, not just the elect among them.

"It is a remarkable fact that Erskine, the famous Scotch seceder, based his right to offer Christ to all, on these very words, and defended himself before the General Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland on the strength of them. He asked the Moderator to tell him what Christ meant when He said, "My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven," - and got no answer. The truth is, I venture to think, that the text cannot be answered by the advocates of an extreme view of particular redemption. Fairly interpreted, the words mean that in some sense or another the Father does actually "give" the Son to those who are not believers. They warrant preachers and teachers in making a wide, broad, full, free, unlimited offer of Christ to all mankind without exception."

J. C. Ryle's Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (Baker, 1979), page 364.

jsb said...

"Evangelical synergism" is just another way to describe conditional election, viz., the non-meritorious act of faith as a condition of salvation.

I would highly recommend to all Roger Olson's "Arminian Theology," a very approachable tome. Read it primarily to know exactly what Arminians contend (it clears up some common myths) even if you end up keeping your own views.

YnottonY said...

Here's another one for you, Dan:

NKJ 2 Corinthians 5:19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

Question: Do you take "world" here to mean 1) All the unbelieving elect? or 2) All the believing elect? I very much doubt you will think that it says 3) All unbelieving humanity (elect and non-elect) on earth at any given time. So, do you choose option #1 or option #2? Beware. A beast may come out from behind door #1 or door #2 and bite you :-) hahaha Yes, it's another trap.

4given said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike said...

jsb,

And what, then, is the heretical synergism you mention?

What is it, and how does it differ with "evangelical synergism"?

Gummby said...

YnottonY said:
NKJ 1 John 5:19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.

While this verse distinguishes between believers and unbelievers, even the believers were at one time under the sway of the wicked one. Thus, the "world," by implication or application, references all of humanity, apart from Christ, that has ever existed at one point or another.


While I appreciate the sentiment, I don't think that's John's point here. In fact, far from it.

"The world" doesn't reference "everyone that has ever existed;" in context, the world represents the system that is opposed to God, and to John's audience. "My little children--I write this letter that you might not sin." The whole point of the letter is to contrast "the world" with "the godly"--there's no implication or application otherwise.

P.S. For anyone interested, you can read Frank's take on John 3:16 here & here. Disclaimer: the aforementioned posts are longer than 50 words.

jsb said...

Synergism in Calvinist terms denotes a meritorious response. It's used as a pejorative.

YnottonY said...

Hi Gummby,

"World" in 1 John 5:19 is not talking about an impersonal system. I trust you agree with that. It is referencing all the unbelievers on earth in John's day, and by application refers to all unbelievers in our day. They constitute a "system" in the sense that collectively they form organized cultures of rebellion in opposition to the ways and word of God. Every single one of us (even those of us who have been translated into the Kingdom of God according to Col. 1:13) have been a part of that rebellious team under the sway of the wicked one, at one time or another. So, once again, kosmos references all of humanity BY APPLICATION or logical implication.

I was once under the sway of the wicked one, and so were you and everyone else reading this. Of course the passage distinguishes between the godly and the unbelieving. I stated that above. However, if you are going to deny that kosmos has application to all of humanity when they are in unbelief, then you will have to deny that you were once under the sway of the wicked one.

Sewing said...

Ha ha, now that I've had time to read through the whole comment thread, I saw my comment was a bit of a non sequitur! Well, it still stands.

Gummby said...

I'm completely boggled at how I went from saying that John didn't say in context what you said he said, to saying that I wasn't a sinner and neither was everyone who has ever lived (apart from Christ, of course).

Not wishing to argue, and since I have a report I really need to work on, I'm going to leave it be.

Cheers.

YnottonY said...

Hi Gummby,

You said:

"...to saying that I wasn't a sinner and neither was everyone who has ever lived..."

I hope you didn't read me as claiming you said that. I was just arguing the point that one would have to say that if they want to deny that kosmos in 1 John 5:19 references all humanity by application or logical implication.

Anyway, thanks for the interaction.

God bless,
Tony

YnottonY said...

In comments #5 and #7 above, Dan (DJP) said the following:

"My challenge: find one verse in the Bible where "world" unambiguously and beyond reasonable dispute means "everyone who ever was born and ever will be born, without any distinction."

One verse. Just one.

I'm not saying there isn't one. I'm just saying I've never seen it."

and this:

"...and I'll add this to my addition. If someone does succeed in finding one such unambiguous, not-reasonably-disputable usage — that's one.

One such usage would not reasonably control the interpretation of every usage."

Here's another verse that I think satisfies the challenge:

NKJ Acts 17:31 "because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead."

Is there a prize? :-)

Becky said...

As to the world having limited meaning, look at Jn.12:19 where the Pharisees said the world had gone after Jesus. Is this true. Obviously not, since the Pharisees did not go after him, or the American Indians, or the natives of New Guinea or other people in the world at that time. Also look at Acts 17:6 referring to Jason and some other Christians-they said that they had turned the world upside down? Is this true? They had not even been to the other parts of the world. But I wonder what giving any verses that disproves that the word world means everyone at all times without distinction will help. Since some on the site already have stated preconceived ideas and are not open to understanding differently?
pp