Objection 3. In John 3:16, and in 1 John 2:2, it is said that God gave Christ for the "world," and for the sins of the "whole world;" which must be taken literally.
Answer 1. The word "world" is has various significations. A decree went out that "all the world should be taxed" (Luke 2:1), that is, the Roman empire and the countries which were subject to it. The faith of the church of Rome was "spoken of throughout the whole world" (Romans 1:8), that is, throughout all the churches, and among all the saints in the world. The Pharisees said of Christ, "Behold, the world is gone after Him" (John 12:19), by which we find that they meant the multitudes who went out of Jerusalem to meet Jesus, crying, "Hosanna" (John 12:12,13). The Pharisees themselves, who said this, hadn't gone after Christ. The whole world couldn't have gone, since they didn't and are part of the whole world. The same applies to John 3:16: "God so loved the world" cannot be understood of the world in a strict sense, since this would include birds, cows, chickens and trout, not to mention all inanimate objects, such as stones and quicksand pits. None of these can have everlasting life. Nor can it mean the world of men, but only as God is the Preserver of both man and beast (Psalms 31:6). There is God's love to creatures, His love to men, and His love to good men. God's love was the cause of His sending Christ, and the word "whosoever" (in the verse) restrains this love of God to some and not to others. It must therefore be properly God's love to good men - not those He found good, but those He made good.
2. There is a world of believers (Revelation 5:9). Just as manna was only for Israel, likewise Christ, the true manna, the Bread from Heaven, is only for the world of believers (John 6:33). Christ was believed on in the world of believers only (1 Timothy 3:16); the reconciled world (2 Corinthians 5:19): and "all men have not faith" (2 Thessalonians 3:2). There is also the world of unbelievers. "All the world wondered after the beast." And, "they worshipped the dragon" (Revelation 13:3, 4). "The whole world lieth in wickedness" (1J ohn 5:19). The believing world is a world in the world ("these are in the world," John 17:11); and they are taken and chosen out of the world. They are in the world, sojourning among its inhabitants as strangers and pilgrims. This is not their rest, their home. They are waiting for a better country (Hebrews 11:13-16). Those who are chosen out of the world and given to Christ, are clear from John 15:19: "If ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore, the world hateth you." John 17:6, 9 says, "I have manifested Thy Name unto the men which Thou gavest Me out of the world . . . I pray for them; I pray not for the world."
3. It may be granted that God has a "love" for all mankind. "We trust," says Paul, "in the living God, who is the Savior," i.e., the Preserver, "of all men, especially of those that believe" (1 Timothy 4:10). "The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works" (Psalms 145:9). "He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good; and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:45). None of this implies eternal preservation, but only temporal providence and preservation. All that are redeemed are redeemed by Christ; but the elect only are given to Him; only they have, as the Puritans used to call it, an interest in Him. They alone are redeemed by Him. And only they will be glorified with Him.
4. The word "world" is sometimes used in Scripture for the Gentiles in contradistinction from the Jews. An example of this is 1 John 2:2. John wrote to the Jews, and ministered unto the circumcision (see Galatians 2:9), and he says to them, "Christ is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world," that is, not for the Jews only, but for the Gentiles also. The Jewish nation considered themselves as the peculiar people of God; and so they were, for to them "pertained the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises." And Christ was a Jew, "of whom concerning the flesh Christ came" (Romans 9:4, 5). The Jews were always taught that the Messiah applied exclusively to them. The Gentiles were utterly rejected. They were called "strangers," "uncircumcised," "common," "unclean," "dogs," etc. It was unlawful for a Jew to keep company or have any dealings with a Gentile (see Matthew 10:5; Mark 7:17; Acts 10:28, and Acts 11:3). The salvation of the Gentiles is in various parts of Scripture called a "mystery," a "hidden mystery;" the "mystery of Christ which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men ... that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs" (Ephesians 3:4-6; Colossians 1:27). But when this mystery was revealed and made fully known by Paul's mission, sent as he was by Christ to preach to the Gentiles (Acts 26:17,18), and when it was declared by the vision of the unclean beasts and the Lord's commission to Peter (Acts 10:9-15, 20), then the contentions of the circumcision ceased (Acts 11:2, 3). They found that "the middle wall of partition" between Jew and Gentile was "broken down." The Gentiles who had been "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise," were now "brought nigh by the blood of Christ." They glorified God saying, "Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." Jesus Christ is not only the propitiation for the sins of us Jews, but for the Gentiles also (Ephesians 2:11-18).
5. The foregoing point is further proven by Romans 11:12, where the two words, "world" and "Gentiles," are both used as signifying one and the same thing. "If the fall of them (the Jews) be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness?" There was a considerable controversy among the Jewish rabbis whether, when the Messiah came, the Gentiles, the 'world' would benefit. Most of them thought that this was not the case. Simeon was a notable exception. He knew that Christ would be 'a light to lighten the Gentiles,' as well as 'the glory of His people of Israel.' Most of the rabbis "concluded that the most severe judgments and dreadful calamities would befall the Gentiles; yea, that they should be cast into hell, in the room of the Israelites" (John Gill).