If God So Loved the World, Why Does He Tell Us Not to Love the World
The basis for Arminian (man-centered) theology is that God loves everyone. This idea is taken from John 3:16, “For God so the loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” In a seeming contradiction, the apostle John wrote, “Do not love the world, nor the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 Jn 2:15).” Note: these two verses were written by the same human author, the apostle John.
Why does God love the world, but prohibits Christians from loving the world? The reason should be obvious, but obviously, it is not so clear, when masses of professing Christians believe God loves everyone in the world. The use of the term “world” (Gk. kosmos) is the crux of the problem.
The world loves its own (Jn 15:19). Jesus loves His own (Jn 13:1). Men love darkness rather than Light (Jn 3:19). We love God because He first loved us (1 Jn 4:19). Clearly, Scripture is showing us two distinct groups of people. The first group is loved by God, and they love God in return. The second group is loved by the world, and they love the world in return. Both groups are physically found in the world, but Jesus said to His own, “…but I chose you out of the world (Jn 15:19).”
The world hates God’s beloved elect (Jn 15:19), and this is because the world did not know Jesus, nor does it know the children of God, who have had God’s great love bestowed upon them (1 Jn 3:1). This love is perfected in Christ’s union with His people (1 Jn 4:17). This love also manifests between the children of God (1 Jn 5:1).
God is love, and God is Spirit. When the Spirit of love takes up residence in the heart of God’s elect, He shines the Light of Truth there. Jesus Christ is the Light of the world (Jn 8:12), and He instructs His disciples, who are lights in the world (Mt 5:14), to shine His light before men (Mt 5:16), so they might see the light of the Gospel (2 Cor 4:4).
Demas loved this present world and proved himself to be a traitor to the kingdom of God (2 Tim 4:10). So again, we ask, “Should we love the world like God, or not love the world like God commanded?”
The concept of “world” has many definitions, which reveal many meanings. God loves His creation, the world. God manifests His love in the world by sending His only begotten Son. God’s elect fall under one definition of world, the world of humanity. Thus, the contradiction is resolved by understanding that God obviously does not love the evil world system.
So which “world” does God love? Which “world” does God prohibit His Spirit-filled people from loving? We cannot be 100% sure. We know there are multiple meanings to kosmos, but for Arminians to claim they know 100% that God loves everyone, the “world,” is false teaching. The reason is that this idea must correlate with God’s hatred (Ps 5:5; 7:11; 11:5; Rom 9:13). It does not. It also must correlate with Christ’s death in the place of His people (1 Pet 2:24; Eph 5:25). It does not. God’s demonstration of love in Christ’s death is for “us.” If “us” is everyone, then nothing can separate “us,” that is, everyone without exception, from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:35–39). None of “us” is lost. None of “us” can be plucked from the Father’s hand (Jn 10:29). Thus, for Arminianism to be consistent, it must be Universalism.
Universalism claims that God loves everyone, just like Arminianism. Universalism claims Christ died for everyone, just like Arminianism. Universalism claims that everyone is saved, but Arminians, knowing this is obviously not true, must add a condition, also from John 3:16…faith. By adding this condition, the Arminians take salvation away from God, and they hand it to everyone in the world to be their own savior. Because not everyone chooses to be saved, God’s love fails (remember He loves everyone!) at the hands of man’s poor decision. By this, Arminianism fails, for man is a terrible savior.
God is the one and only Savior. God loves His people, Christ died for His people, and the Holy Spirit causes God’s elect, redeemed people to be born again of God. He teaches the world of His people, in the world of His creation, to not love the evil world system. This is how God loves the world and prohibits believers from loving the world. In this way, the “world” is consistent, even if Arminianism is not.
Spokane Valley, Washington
August 21, 2021