“‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life’” (John 3:16).
John 3:16 is undoubtedly the most familiar and beloved verse in all of Scripture. The first thing you notice is God’s motive for giving Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 9:15)—because He loved the evil, sinful world of fallen humanity. There was nothing in man that attracted God’s love. Rather He loved because He sovereignly determined to do so.
It is important to note that “world” is a nonspecific term for humanity in a general sense. The statement in verse 17, “that the world might be saved through Him,” proves that it does not mean everyone who has ever lived, since all will not be saved. Verse 16 cannot be teaching universal salvation, since the context promises that unbelievers will perish in eternal judgment (vv. 16–18). Our Lord is saying that for all in the world there is only one Savior (1 John 2:2), but only those who are regenerated by the Spirit and who believe in His gospel will receive salvation and eternal life through Him.
Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:19, used “world” in a similar way: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” The reason God was reconciling the world to Himself is that the world has no other reconciler. That not all will believe and be reconciled is clear from Paul’s plea in verse 20: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
How else might you respond to someone who believes that “a loving God would not send anyone to hell” and therefore everyone will be saved in the end? What does this probably tell you about the person making this claim?
From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610