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Now the main word to focus on here is the term world. God proclaims His love for the world by sending his one and only begotten Son to die for the world so that the world may not perish. You can find the above from the Book of John.

John 3:16

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.

Now later in the gospel of James we learn that the same world that God sent his Son to die for is His enemy. God says that to be friends with the same world that he died for in human form is to be enemies with Him. Backing this claim with this verse.

James 4:4

Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

How do I discount that the fact that the Bible is literally saying that God loved the world and also hates it?

This is because the Love of God manifests in terms of family love where he is a Father and the world is His family.

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  • 5
    Many "contradictions", including this one, are created by the legalistic assumption that a scriptural word can have only one meaning. In this case, there is also a negative sense of the word "world" (i.e. "humanity ignoring God") which is frequent in the new Testament. Apr 14, 2023 at 15:59
  • 1
    @StephenDisraeli, True. The bible needs an inspired heart to understand it not a simplistic literal mind.
    – Dong Li
    Apr 14, 2023 at 16:04
  • Consider John 3:16 in conjunction with John 3:36---``Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him. '' Herein we are told what it means to believe.
    – I. Chekhov
    Apr 14, 2023 at 19:17
  • 2
    A word does not always have the same meaning. It's meaning depends on the context. That doesn't make it a contradiction. Here is a similar question: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/31814/…
    – Perry Webb
    Apr 15, 2023 at 11:31
  • This is only a contradiction for those who never ever heard about the concept of homonyms.
    – vsz
    Apr 15, 2023 at 14:19

5 Answers 5

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Both statements are truth. Jesus came to bring a transforming love. That love confronts us with our sin, leads us to repentance, forgives us, heals our diseases, transforms our character, and infuses us with the Holy Spirit to teach and guide and comfort.

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)

As John said, Jesus died for his enemies in order to make them friends. However, once we become his friends, we must join his body, the church, and forsake our former allegiance to the world, its systems, morals, ethics, and practices. That is what James is speaking about. We have left one kingdom - which we must now hate - in order to join the Kingdom of Heaven.

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)

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  • Does the world become an enemy by rejecting this truth?
    – Dong Li
    Apr 14, 2023 at 15:50
  • 1
    We are to be like Christ, viewing the world as an enemy but living out our calling to love those enemies. Jesus tells us that the world already hates us and considers us its enemy, because it hated him and we identify with him. Apr 14, 2023 at 16:00
  • True, I also wanted to ask a question on how millions of species fitted in an ark whose dimensions are so small, in the range of meters but came through a post suggesting that everything in the Bible poses a miracle and its our duty to believe these miracles and literal mind cannot be applied to the Bible but inspired hearts.
    – Dong Li
    Apr 14, 2023 at 16:03
  • @DongLi, Scripture does not mention "species" — which is a highly problematic system of classification in the first place — anywhere. It speaks of kinds of animals, of which there are only perhaps a few thousand land-dwelling vertebrates. Also, "small" is a strange way to describe the Ark. Have you seen it? It's huge. But this is wildly off topic; please either ask a Question, or alternatively, we have a chat room dedicated to such topics.
    – Matthew
    Apr 14, 2023 at 17:12
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The way to reconcile these two verses is to understand that "the world" as James uses the term refers to what we now call the the evil world that opposes God's values. John uses "the world" to refer to all of humanity. I do not find a biblical verse stating that God hates the world. Rather, in both James and John, it is "the world" that is enemy of God.

The context of James' admonition in his chapter 4 is strife among Christians, which James attributes to lust, jealousy and failure to consult God:

Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? 2 You want something and do not have it, so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it, so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.

Similarly the phrase "God so loved the world" in John 3 is part of a warning against evildoers who refuse to see the light:

God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned, but those who do not believe are condemned already because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.

Thus, if we consider the context, the message of both verses is the same: true believers must reject the darkness of "this world" and turn to the light. God offers love to everyone, but "the world" rejects it.

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  • And the world rejected the light for the pleasure of unrighteousness.
    – Dong Li
    Apr 14, 2023 at 16:08
  • Good answer +1. And with that, welcome to the 5,000 reputation club! Apr 17, 2023 at 4:19
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Dan's answer is essentially correct; "world" has different meanings in the passages cited.

...but what if we disregard that? We're left with:

  • Alice (God) loves Bob ("the world").
  • Bob hates Alice.

Where's the contradiction? Especially when Christ tells us we should love our enemies?

Note, however, that James isn't speaking about Bob. James is speaking about Chuck, Bob's friend, who, by that friendship, is implicitly endorsing Bob's hatred of Alice. The word "friendship", as used in James 4:4, doesn't mean loving one's neighbor or even one's enemy. It means endorsing the sinful ways of "the world", or, more directly, endorsing sin itself. Clearly, that makes one an enemy of God. (You are either with God or against God; there is no neutral — Matthew 12:30.)

...but the upshot is that God hates sin, but loves sinners. As Dan rightly notes, the "world" that God loves in John 3 refers to people, or even to Creation (i.e. people, but also animals, plants, rocks, etc.). The "world" in James 4 is not Creation, but the sinful ways of the fallen Creation.

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  • but rocks and plants do not sin, its only humanity who have a conscience, why is the whole creatin condemned due to the actions of one man? or is it because the whole creation was under the authority of Adam and ten then the person in charge sinned so everything under him is condemned?
    – Dong Li
    Apr 14, 2023 at 17:28
  • @DongLi, it is. Congratulations, you answered your own question! Note also Romans 5:12, Genesis 3:17-19, and Did the Fall Have Consequences on Creation?.
    – Matthew
    Apr 14, 2023 at 17:35
  • I guess the bible also answers the billion worlds and the billion stars question where there are billions of bodies like earth with no life on them except here on earth. We must really be special to God to plant a garden here in Eden, what if the garden of Eden was referring to planet earth ?
    – Dong Li
    Apr 14, 2023 at 17:53
  • @DongLi, of course. The heavens ("billions of stars", etc.) declare the glory of God, but God's focus has always been here, on Earth. It's unlikely Eden referred to the whole planet, however. First, Genesis speaks of "earth" and "the garden" separately. Second, after the Fall, Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden and a flaming sword was set to guard it. It seems pretty clear that humans weren't kicked off the planet.
    – Matthew
    Apr 14, 2023 at 18:13
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From the Greek interlinear New Testament here:

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As you can see, in the first the translation of the Greek word cosmos (κόσμος) in John 3, the reference is to the people in the world (hence the prefix gen-, which by implication is the human race, as in the word generation). In other words, God loves humankind, even in its fallen state. He proved this love by sending his Son to die for the sins of humankind so that those who believe in Jesus' sacrificial, substitutionary death would not perish but have eternal life.

As for the translation of the Greek word cosmos (κόσμος) in James 4, James is indicating the spiritual world order that is opposed to God, his purposes, and his people (i.e., believers, or children of God), with the prefix acc-, which by implication indicates Satan's modus operandi. At the heart of this system or world order are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (see 1 John 2:16).

Think of lust and pride as comprising the primary weapons in Satan's arsenal against God and against people in general and God's children in particular. Satan is nothing if not organized. He and his minions are engaged in a spiritual campaign of destruction and disruption. On the other hand, God loves humankind. His desire is for people from every people-group in the world to be saved. Once in God's Kingdom, they are assured of God's victory over sin, death, and hell.

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  • The genitive case (gen) is used in James 4.4 rather than John 3:16. In John 3:16, κόσμον is used, which is the accusative singular masculine form of κόσμος, i.e., the world as the direct object of the verb loved, in "For god so loved the world..." In James 4:4, κόσμου is used, i.e., the genitive singular masculine form meaning "of the world."
    – moonpoint
    Apr 16, 2023 at 1:50
  • @moonpoint: Thank you for the Greek lesson. I hope that others who read your comment are helped. Don Apr 16, 2023 at 3:06
  • I use other Greek interlinear New Testament sites and books on my Kindle to aid me in my study of Greek, but I was not familiar with the site you linked to until I read your post. I've bookmarked the link you provided to the Abarim Publications version since by providing not only the word for word translation, which other sites I use provide, but also the "Greek grammar parsing codes" the site will be immensely helpful to me when I don't recognize words. The additional information the site provides for words in its dictionary links will also be helpful to me.
    – moonpoint
    Apr 16, 2023 at 16:33
  • @moonpoint: That's great! Thanks for letting me know. Don Apr 16, 2023 at 23:57
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I think you're focusing on the wrong word.

The predicate in James epistle is "Philia" the predicate in John's Gospel is "Agape". Agape, is the love on a higher order than philia. Agape is willing the good of another, a disinterested love that is God's perfect kind of Love.

Philia is brotherly love. It's love, indeed, but more like comradery, so it's perfectly consistent for God to want goodness for world while acknowledging that there is badness when you walk among the creatures of the world.

Stopping at friendship with the world would cut you off from perfect love - which is the gift love of God when He sent His Son among us.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_words_for_love

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