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.
What must we believe? …whoever believes in him. It is not “whoever believes in whatever.” We are called to believe in the One and Only, Jesus Christ. The One begotten by God, not some idea “begotten” by us or made up in our minds. The term “begotten” or “one and only” distinguishes him from anything else, any other idea, or any other creature in all of creation. He was not created by God. He was “begotten” and therefore the same in substance and being, eternally of and from the Father – “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word (Hebrews 1.3).” As a Christian, I do not simply believe that Jesus is one possibility among many, but the One and Only. God has completely and only shown us himself in Jesus Christ. To know Jesus is to actually know God.
What world did God love? God so loved the world. He has loved this world, our world, completely, just as it is. The term used is “kosmos.” This term is not used in the Bible to describe the world that is to come, but this world just as it is. This is the world, as we know it and experience it, all of it, the good, the bad, and the ugly – spinning around helpless and hopeless. It is the term that describes the world estranged from its Creator in all the darkness and dreariness of sin. The use of this term to describe the world hints at the unconditional nature of God’s love. Neither the world nor we need to be changed or made presentable to solicit his love. Not only we, but the world can sing- just as I am …
Why the past tense? God so loved the world. Why does the Bible describe the love of God this way? Why not the present tense – “God loves the world”? Because not only has God completely shown us himself, but he has completely shown us his love. In 1John 4.7-11 we read, In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins. In Romans 8.37 Paul says of all that life and death can throw at us …in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. We should dwell on this for a moment. The point of the past tense seems to be that God has fully proven his love, and nothing remains for him to do in this regard. There is absolutely nothing more for him to show or do with regards to the reality of his love, and so there should be no doubt about it!