Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professors, theologians, and those interested in exegetical analysis of biblical texts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

John 3:16
“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 17:9

9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.

It is commonly believed, among many, that the word world in John 3:16, indicates that God loves all men and offers them salvation. Yet in John 17:9 Jesus says "I am not praying for the world".

How are these two sayings of Jesus reconciled ?

share|improve this question
Why do they need to be reconciled? The contexts are entirely different! – Jonathan Chell Oct 26 '15 at 8:47
up vote 3 down vote accepted

The word "world" (κοσμος) can have a number of meanings other than "every human being without exception," which is how it is often taken. A.W. Pink maintained that there are 7 uses for the word "world" and John Own offered (I believe) 16. In John's gospel there are a few meanings present, ranging from "every human being without exception" to "all nations of the earth" to "non-elect humanity." In John 3:16, I believe John is referring to this first use, reflecting a real love of God for all that he has made, and to the universal call to repentance and faith in Christ. In John 17:9, however, he is speaking about the world which does not (and will not–John 17:20) believe in him for salvation, or "non-elect humanity."

The importance of this is that Jesus intercession and prayer are tied to his sacrifice. As the High Priest of our confession (Hebrews 3:1), his prayers for his own will be as effective as his sacrifice for them. Jesus prays for his own, and not the world, and his prayer is heard.

To directly answer the question, I'd just say that we reconcile these two seemingly contradictory statements in John by examining their contexts. Upon doing so, I think the answer that emerges is that in John 3, Jesus is speaking about God's love for all mankind which moved him to send his Son as a real offer of love and salvation to all who would receive him. In John 17, Jesus is not praying for the world, that is, those whom he knows will not receive him because they are not his; they were not given to him by the Father and in that sense do not belong to him (cf. John 10).

share|improve this answer
@Daniel Stanley Yes Thanks for your time and welcome .! I believe the word that is often used as regards John 3:16 and the word "World" is the word Hyperbole a word you are familiar with no doubt. Hyperbole can be used as a figure of speech! The emphasis here, in John 3:16, is the Love of God. So great it is, that we cannot fathom its depths and no words can describe its fullness not even with the use of Hyperbole. That one sinner was saved would fully warrant the use of hyperbole in John 3:16. Another example... Matthew 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away – John Unsworth Nov 12 '13 at 12:30
@Daniel Stanley..I would argue, that the word 'World' in John 3:16. means the elect specifically. God did not love the world universally as seen by john 17:9 Given there is a definite sense, of a love to people in all nations, but this seemingly general terminology can only be defined by scripture which explains the purpose of God in Election. The 'world' here must mean the elect, as God cannot love any outside of Christ and His eternal purpose. The 'World' that God loved, was the 'World' of the elect, for which this world was created! – John Unsworth Nov 19 '13 at 17:46

If we say the Japanese or sport's world we mean that only, not everyone. John 3:16 is one of the most misinterpreted verses which many say is to mean everyone inclusively. Now, in reality, the bible reconciles or defines itself. For out of the mouth of two or three witness let a fact be established (2 Corinthians 13:1, Matthew 18:16) Thus, I bring the Messiah of Israel, himself, who says, "I spoke openly to the WORLD, I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple where the Jews always resort and said nothing in secret." (John 18:20) The Prophet Isaiah said, "But Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation, ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded, WORLD without end." (Isaiah 45:20)

Really, John 3:14 puts John 3:16 in context as it refers to an event which happened only to Israel in the wilderness as Numbers 21:6-9 explains. This event spoken of the Messiah being lifted up for Israel who needed a savior with living water, a rock striking Moses who will overcome the deadly serpents in a dry and thirsty land (the wilderness). "I am only sent to the lost sheep of Israel" the Messiah stated.(Matthew 15:24) For sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4) and the law was only given to Israel. (Psalms 147:20 and Romans 3:1-2). Israel due to sinfulness and slavery was considered both Jews and gentiles (Ephesians 2:11 and John 7:35).

share|improve this answer
Welcome to Stack Exchange, we are glad you are here. When you have a minute, be sure to check out the site tour and read up on how this site is a little different than other sites around the web. This is not a comment on the quality of your answer, but rather a standard welcome message. – ThaddeusB Oct 24 '15 at 17:22

Suggestions that "John" in John 3:16 intended κόσμος to refer to "the elect" are special pleading. BDAG lists 8 different extant usages of κόσμος and none of them refer to "the elect". And while John uses κόσμος 79 times in 58 verses it very frequently if not most often refers to the lost. Also, in that gospel the "chosen" come out of the κόσμος:

Joh_15:19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world [εγω εξελεξαμην υμας εκ του κοσμου], therefore the world hateth you.

And for "John", being "elect" just means to be chosen for a purpose, good or bad:

Joh 6:70 Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? Joh 6:71 He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.

So we can and must eliminate the view John 3:16 referred to a Calvinism styled "elect" as it is patently false.

Given the context, that leaves "the world of men" and "the world of lost men". I don't see where in this context it makes a gigantic difference which of these he meant though Jesus says elsewhere "I didn't come to call the righteous".

share|improve this answer

For God so loved the WORLD...Greek word is "kosmos" Short Definition: the world, universe Definition: the world, universe; worldly affairs; the inhabitants of the world; adornment.

God loves ALL of His creation. To assume or believe anything different is from the devil...."devil" meaning your own wrong thinking.

Now let me explain John 3:16 the way it SHOULD be interpreted, based on the GREEK meanings of the words- not the twisted English version so many of you read in your bibles: "For God loved the world SO much that he created descendants in His likeness & anyone trusting on Him (God, not Jesus) will have abundant life"....This life Jesus spoke of is our PRESENT life, not future. We will ALL be reconciled to God after our flesh is gone. I know this will be hard to swallow, but THAT is from God & if more put their faith in the spoken WORD verses their corrupt bibles, they'd hear the same message from our heavenly Father :)

Ephesians 5:14-18 Yes, everything is made clear by the light. This is why we say, “Wake up, you who are sleeping! Rise from death, and Christ will shine on you.” So be very careful how you live. Live wisely, not like fools. I mean that you should use every opportunity you have for doing good, because these are evil times. So don’t be foolish with your lives, but learn what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, which will ruin your life, but be filled with the Spirit.

You see, the WORD of God is NEVER scripture. The "Word" (Logos) means Spoken message. Reading scripture is great but it is corrupt- as all things touched by man. BUT when you hear the voice of God you KNOW it is pure Truth poured onto you. Many reading this will not accept what I am writing & that is because you do not believe God can speak to you. So-oooo it's better to just listen to the millions of views on forums like this. But SEEK God & His Kingdom & humble yourself before Him & tell Him you may have Him all wrong & He may just speak back to you ;)

share|improve this answer
Welcome to Stack Exchange! If you haven't done so already, check out the site tour. In particular, be sure to read the section on what constitutes a good answer and revise your post to either cite references that back your position or to more thoroughly explain how you get this interpretation from the text itself. Please note that "showing your work" is required for answers to be considered "good" and get upvotes from the community on this Stack Exchange. – James Shewey Oct 27 '15 at 19:42

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.