DISCUSSIONS ON DISPUTED TEXTS
4. “THE WORLD”
We move on now to that part of our text that many emphasize in joy, though it be not in truth, and that is “the world.” According to haters of the truth, this world is every single individual that has been on the face of the planet (may we add, ‘since the cross’?). That this world is the object of God’s love is clear to all. As we have Scripturally proved above, the love manifested on the cross was extended to none other than the elect. But, are the elect ever identified as the world? Indeed, they are.
As there is “the world of the ungodly”
(2 Peter 2:5) And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;
so there is the “world of the elect,” which we will prove from three Scriptures:
(John 1:29) The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
(John 6:33, 51) For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world...I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
(2 Corinthians 5:19) To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
2Peter 2:5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;
Before we move on, let me state that the purpose of this discussion on the identification of the world is not to show who the object of God’s love is, for that has been demonstrated above already. Rather, it is to prove Scripturally that the Scriptures do identify a world that can be none other than the elect, and it is not peculiar to this verse.
Beginning with John 1:29, we read, “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
Let it be made known now that this is not a possible or conditional taking away of sin, but an actuality that is accomplished, as it is so clearly stated. This act is something that Christ does perform, not makes possible. If the world were inclusive of every single individual, then every single individual has their sin taken away, but such is not the case.
Those who have their sin taken away are the elect of God. John the Baptist proclaims Christ as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. Proving that is the elect, the apostle John tells us (the author of the very same gospel) that Christ “was manifested to take away our sins” (1 John 3:5). He also tells us that Christ the Lamb has “washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Revelation 1:5). Christ is said to have given “himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity” (Titus 2:14). Paul also tells us that Christ “by himself purged our sins” (Hebrews 1:3). As noted above in our argument on Ephesians 5, Christ displayed His love for the church and her alone by His sacrifice. Realizing that, it shouldn’t be hard to realize that the world is the elect, for the elect are identified as “the Lamb’s wife” (Revelation 21:9; the connection we wish to known is that the Lamb is being spoken of in John 1:29 and He as a Lamb has a wife; hence, the same argument presented for Ephesians 5 [and the result if one says it’s for all and every single individual] can be rightfully applied here). Christ “gave himself for our sins” (Galatians 1:4) and “hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Must we keep reminding the reader that those being spoken of are “us,” “we,” “our,” etc. and that these people are the elect and them alone? Who does the Scripture present as having their sin taken away, Christ having bore their sin? None other than the elect, for Christ bore our sins and as a result we are dead to sins (1 Peter 2:24). That simply cannot be said of the reprobate, but is true for all those whose sins were borne by Christ.
Isaiah prophesied of Christ saying, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all…for the transgression of my people was he stricken…Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:4-6, 8, 10-12). Those for whom Christ died, He did indeed justify, He made intercession for them to apply those blessings procured by His death. Our sin debt was paid by Christ on the cross, once and for all, for His people. Christ here is the Lamb personified, but in John 1:29, He is the Lamb identified. The work of the Lamb of God is prophesied herein, where the objects of His saving death are not all, but “many,” even God’s people.
And yet another argument is presented in the very new covenant itself, which was made to God’s people and them alone! In Hebrews 10, we read, “But this man [speaking of Christ], after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin” (Hebrews 10:12-18). This new covenant was shed for many, not all (Matthew 26:28). Let us be honest with the Scriptures and admit that only the elects’ sins, those whom God and Christ made a covenant regarding, are those that have their sins taken away, not “the world” (in the Arminian sense that is). Christ surely does take away the sins of His people (Matthew 1:21) and them alone.
To further prove this is the elect world, we will show why this can’t be true of every single person. First, because there are unbelievers who will die in their sins (John 8:24) and dying in sins only proves they were not taken away, which John 1:29 says they are for the world. Second, Babylon’s sins are said to be remembered of God (Revelation 18:5), yet in the covenant God made with His people, God said He would not remember their sins no more, for Christ hath taken them away (Hebrews 10:17). Third, the blood shed from the Lamb that takes away our sin also washed us in that very blood (Revelation 1:5). Because of this, we are indeed washed (1 Corinthians 6:11), but those who shall eternally perish are not washed (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10). Fourth, if the Lamb indeed takes away the sins of every single individual, then Christ lied when He told the Pharisees their “sin remaineth” (John 9:41). Fifth, and last, there will be those who are judged for their sins and sent to everlasting torment in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). Examining the Scriptures on this subject, it is rather apparent that the world is the elect of God being spoken of in John 1:29.
Next, we move on to John 6:33, 51, where it says, “For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world…I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” In the same gospel, Christ speaks of those to whom He gives life to, and those are His sheep (10:28). Christ came for the purpose of giving His sheep life (John 10:10). That those receiving life are not all and every single individual is seen in the fact that this life is given to His sheep and not all are His sheep (10:26). Christ only gives life to those whom the Father gives Him (John 17:2). Those that the Father gives Him are the sons of God, adopted by the Father, Christ’s very brethren (Hebrews 2:11-14). This life that Christ gives is to the elect and them alone, for it is them that were ordained to eternal life (Acts 13:48). God’s elect are they that are promised eternal life (1 John 2:25; Titus 1:2), which is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 1:1).
That the world spoken of is the elect is clear from the above, and that it’s not all and every individual is clear as well for the following reasons. First, the lost are separated from the life of God (Ephesians 4:18). Second, there are those who never will receive life, for they were never written in the book of life, and that from eternity (Revelation 17:8). Third, there are those who will take part in the second death (Revelation 21:8). Fourth, Christ’s sheep are given life and not all are His sheep (John 10:10, 26). These reasons are sufficient to prove our point.
The next Scripture we shall turn to in proof of an elect world is 2 Corinthians 5:19, “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” If it isn’t sufficient for the reader that the very verse before, 18, says that it was “us”, those given the ministry of reconciliation, who were reconciled to God (therefore defining itself in its own context), we shall prove it from other Scriptures, though this should be sufficient for any child of God. Christ Jesus came to make reconciliation for His people (Hebrews 2:17), fulfilling the prophetic Scriptures (Daniel 9:24). Those people in Hebrews 2:17 are those spoken of as “sons” (verse 10), “they who are sanctified” (verse 11), “brethren” (verse 11, 12, 17), and “children” (verse 13, 14). That those are the elect is clear them from God’s holy word. By the death of Christ, the elect were reconciled unto God (Romans 5:10). This was done when we were enemies, and again is emphasized in Colossians 1:21. It is clear from the Scriptures that those reconciled are the elect of God, and them alone.
The following reasons are given to prove that this world is none other than the elect of God. First, there are those who are still enemies of God (James 4:4). Second, at the judgment, there are those whom Christ will tell to depart from Him, showing there is no reconciliation for them (Matthew 7:23). Third, being reconciled also implies being saved by the life of Christ (Romans 5:10), but not all are or will be saved, hence all are not reconciled.
Now, one may wonder why the “world” would be used in Scripture to designate the elect of God. Beginning with the three texts we used to prove that there is such an elect world, we shall give the following reasons to consider:
1. The elect are called the world in John 1:29, because the sacrifice was then limited to the Jewish nation (see Leviticus 16), but not it extends unto the Gentiles as well.
2. In John 6:33, 51, they are so called for the same purpose. The gospel went to the Gentiles whom God elected to this life and they also were granted repentance unto life (Acts 13:46, 48; 11:18). It was no longer limited to the nation of Israel.
3. Then, in 2 Corinthians 5:19, the world is put for the elect for the same purpose once more. The Gentiles are also reconciled to God now, for Christ reconciled both unto God, Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:16). The very casting away of the Jews was for the purpose of including the Gentiles unto this reconciliation (Romans 11:12, 15).
Those three points are actually one main reason. This reason is further realized in the context of John 3, hence the elect are there called “the world.” God’s love was unto the nation of Israel, not the heathen nations. “The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 7:7, 8). This love was an unconditional love. One may notice that the Lord loved Israel because He desired to keep the oath He made unto their fathers. One may deem this love conditional for that, but the first reason given for His love is “because the LORD loved you.” The same truth is taught in Amos 3:2: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” The word “known” is used in the stead of love. Here it is made known that it was peculiar to Israel. Speaking of the nation of Edom, God said, “And I hated Esau” (Malachi 1:3). This love was no longer extended to Israel alone, but unto to the Gentiles also. Christ made this point known, for he was speaking to “Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews” (John 3:1). Nicodemus, being a Jew, would have this idea of a peculiar love to Israel in his mind already. Christ, knowing his mind, presented the truth of God’s love to the Gentiles, for they were included in the work of the prophesied Messiah (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6; 54:3; 60:3; etc.)
Arminians would have us believe that the world being spoken of should include all and every individual. As has been Scripturally presented above, this simply is not the case. To force this text to speak of all and every individual is false and they “are unlearned and unstable” and wrest the Scriptures “unto their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16). “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness” (verse 17). To further prove the world doesn’t always mean all and every single individual in the world, we add the following concise catalogue presented in John Owen’s work, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ” (pages 192-3).
The word "world" in the Scripture is in general taken twelve different ways. I will demonstrate five ways:--
I. Pro mundo continente; and that,--First, generally, oloV for the whole fabric of heaven and earth, with all things in them contained, which in the beginning were created of God: so Job 34:13; Acts 17:24; Ephesians 1:4 and in very man other places.
Secondly, Distinctively, first, for the heavens, and all things belonging to them, distinguished from the earth, Ps. 90:2; secondly, The habitable earth, and this very frequently, as Ps. 24:1, 98:7; Matt. 13:38; John 1:9, 3:17, 19, 4:14, 17:11; 1 Tim. 1:15, 6:7.
II. For the world contained, especially men in the world; and that either,--First, universally for all and every one, Rom. 3:6, 19, 5:12. Secondly, Indefinitely for men, without restriction or enlargement, John 7:4; Isa. 13:11. Thirdly, Exegetically, for man, which is the most usual acceptation of the word, Matt. 18:7; John 4:42, 12:19, 16:8, 17:21; 1 Cor. 4:9; Rev. 13:3. Fourthly, Comparatively, for a great part of the world, Rom. 1:8; Matt. 24:14, 26:13; Rom. 10:18. Fifthly, Restrictively, for the inhabitants of the Roman empire, Luke 2:1. Sixthly, For men distinguished in their several qualifications as,--1st, For the good, God’s people, either in designation or on possession, Ps. 22:27; John 3:16, 6:33, 51; Rom. 4:13, 11:12, 15; 2 Cor. 5:19; Col. 1:6; 1 John 2:2. 2dly, For the evil, wicked, rejected men of the world, Isa. 53:11; John 7:7, 14:17, 22, 15:19, 17:25; 1 Cor. 6:2, 11:32; Heb. 9:38; 2 Pet. 2:5; 1 John 5:19; Rev. 13:3.
III. For the world corrupted, or that universal corruption which is in all things in it, as Gal. 1:4, 6:14; Eph. 2:2; James 1:27, 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17; 1 Cor. 7:31, 33; Col. 2:8; 2 Tim. 4:10; Rom. 12:2; 1 Cor. 1:20, 21, 3:18, 19.
IV. For a terrene worldly estate or condition of men or things, Ps. 73:12; Luke 16:8; John 18:36; 1 John 4:5, and very man other places.
V. For the world accursed, as under the power of Satan, John 7:7, 14:30, 16:11, 33; 1 Cor. 2:12; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 6:12. And divers others significations hath this word in holy writ, which are needless to recount.
As is seen from the Scriptural definition of the word “world,” it surely doesn’t signify all and every individual in the world the majority of the time. The burden of proof lies upon all Arminians who insist that the word world must be taken in the sense that they understand it to mean. Such an interpretation doesn’t rise from a Scriptural, God-led study of God’s word, but of a reading of God’s word based upon previous unscriptural assumptions, dead and void of God’s Spirit.
"That He Gave"