Warfield On “Love” And “World” In John 3:16

Strange as it may sound, it is true, that many—perhaps the majority—of those who feed their souls on this great declaration, seem to have trained themselves to think, when it falls upon their ears, in the first instance at least, not so much of how great, how immeasurably great, God’s love is, as rather of how great the world is. It is the world that God loves, they say,—the world: and forthwith they fall to thinking how great the world is, and how, nevertheless, God loves it all. Think, they cry, of the multitudes of men that swarm over the face of the earth; and have swarmed over it through all the countless generations from the beginning; and will swarm over it in ever-increasing numbers through perhaps even more countless generations yet to come, until the end: and God loves them all, each and every one of them, from the least to the greatest; so loves them that He has given His only begotten Son to die for them, for each and every one of them—and for each and every one of them with the same intent,—the intent, namely, that he may be saved. oh how great the love of God must be to embrace in its compass these uncounted multitudes of men; and so to embrace them that every individual that enters as a constituent unit into the mass of mankind receives his full share of it, or rather is inundated by its undivided and undiminished flood!

Certainly this is a great conception. But it is just as certainly not a great enough conception to meet the requirements of our text . . .

. . . We discover, then, that the distribution of the term “world” in our text into “each and every man” in the world not only begins with the obvious misstep of directing our attention at once rather to the greatness of the world than to the greatness of God’s love and only infers the latter from the former; but ends by positively belittling the love of God, as if it could content itself with half-measures,—nay, in numerous instances, with what is practically no measure at all. For if it is satisfied with merely opening a way of salvation and leaving men to walk in this way or not as they list, the hard facts of life force us to add that it is satisfied with merely opening a way of salvation for multitudes to whom it should never be made known that a way of salvation lay open before them, although their sole hope lies in their walking in it.

The text is given to enhance in our hearts the conception of the love of God to sinners: to make us to know somewhat of the height and depth and length and breadth of it, though truly is passes knowledge. It will not do, then, as we read it to throw limitations around this love, as if it could not accomplish that whereto it is set.

Benjamin B. Warfield | The Saviour of the World (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 103–105, 108, 111.


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One comment

  1. I look at the context, the conversation Jesus is having with Nicodemus. He’s sure God’s love and favor is for the Jew only and what is of God will be dispensed by them into the world.
    He like the majority of Jewish leaders have no concept of the love, grace and mercy to all of mankind in Christ Jesus. It’s why He must be preached in all the world.
    I think about Jonah. He was sent to proclaim God’s love and mercy to a pagan people. Man he hated that.


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