What does God love? The gospel of John tells us God loves the world. He loves the world so much that He gives His only begotten Son in order to save those who believe in Him. Those who believe in Him are given everlasting life. With this gift, they escape eternal darkness; they do not perish.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Christians ought to reflect God’s love of the world. True, we are asked to understand that love of the world is enmity with God.
“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.” (1 John 2:15, KJV)
Nevertheless, we misunderstand. God does not tell us to shun the world; rather, He commands us to go into all the world and preach the good news to its peoples.
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Matthew 28:19, KJV)
Yet, God warns us:
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” (2 Corinthians 6: 14-17, KJV)
God loves the world; He calls us to walk about in the world, reflecting His love of its peoples. At the same time, God tells us to separate from the world, not to envy it, desire it, follow after it.
“It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.” (Ecclesiastes 7:18, NIV)
I admire and appreciate the way in which the Holman Christian Standard Bible words John 3:16. The verse we know from childhood as beginning with “For God so loves the world” is translated in the HCSB version as “For God loves the world this way” and proceeds to tell what God does to reveal His love for the world.
Clearly, God loves the world a lot. He loves the world so much that He gives His only Son, Jesus as a sacrificial lamb to wash away its sins and justify it before Him. The wording of the HCSB version emphasizes not how much God loves the world, but how God loves the world.
God’s method is espoused. His motivation is clear — to avoid His own judgment against the world. His method is simple. The Light comes into the world, and those who “live by the Truth come to the Light.” The works of those who come to the Light are subsequently revealed as “accomplished by God.” (John 3:21) From beginning to end, the work is God’s. For this is the way God loves the world.
Lucifer, called ‘Day Star, son of Dawn’ and functioning as one of God’s great angels, decides at some point in his service to the Almighty to seek to “ascend above the heights of the clouds; [and to] make [himself] like the Most High.” (Isaiah 14:14) Lucifer’s pride and haughty spirit goes before his fall. (Proverbs 16:18) Since the fall of Adam and Eve, mankind reflects Lucifer turned Satan. Truly, mankind is made in the image of God, but our reflection is now of Satan, not of God.
God the Holy Spirit says to Satan, “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who lay the nations low! But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit. Those who see you will stare at you and ponder over you: ‘Is this the man who makes the earth tremble, who shakes kingdoms, who makes the world like a desert and overthrows its cities, who does not let his prisoners go home?’ ” (Isaiah 14:12,15-17)
And, we are Satan’s prisoners. We are his prisoners until and unless we are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. “For God so loves the world, that He gives His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God does not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already.” (John 3:16-18)
“The Lord is a jealous and avenging God… He is furious with His enemies. The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will never leave the guilty unpunished.”
And this truth about our God is the reason Jesus is crucified on a cross. God is unwilling to leave the guilty unpunished. He desires to quench His thirst for retribution and justice against the evildoer.
And who is the evildoer? You, me, your neighbor, my neighbor, my child, your child, my parents, your parents, my brother, your brother, my coworkers, your coworkers. And how is it that seemingly good people are called evildoers? Because we fall so short of God, so far from the perfection He expects. In short, we are sinners. Paul reminds us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
Yet, God provides the way out of darkness. John tells us: “For God so loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him. Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is ALREADY condemned, because he has not believed in the Name of the One and Only Son of God.” (John 3: 16-18)
“While we were still enemies, we were reconciled to God.” (Romans 5:10)
God — who leaves no one unpunished — nevertheless, saves us through His One and Only Son. When Jesus is crucified, He receives the severe punishment for our sin. At the point of Jesus’ death, God’s wrath is satisfied. Jesus says, “It is accomplished.”