John 3:16 (ESV) … “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
For God so loved the world. The Divine love to the whole of humanity in its condition of supreme need, i.e. apart from himself and his grace, has been of such a commanding, exhaustless, immeasurable kind, that it was equal to any emergency, and able to secure for the worst and most degraded, for the outcast, the serpent bitten and the dying, a means of unlimited deliverance and uplifting.
The Divine love is the sublime source of the whole proceeding, and it has been lavished on “the world.” This world cannot be the limited “world” of the Augustinian, Calvinian interpreters—the world of the elect; it is that “whole world” of which St. John speaks in 1 John 2:2. “God will have all men to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4). Calvin himself says, “Christ brought life, because the heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish.”
Pharisaic interpretations of the Old Testament had left the outside world in judgment, to cursing and condign punishment, and had made Abrahamic descent and sacramental privilege the conditions of life and honour and royal freedom. Here the poor world is seen to be the object of such love, that he—the Father-God—gave, “delivered up,” we do not know certainly to “what,” but we may judge from the context that it was such a deliverance, or such giving up, as is involved in the up-lifting of the Son of man upon his cross of humiliation and shame. But the Lord introduces a more wonderful term to denote his own personality. This “Son of man” is none other than his only begotten Son (cf. notes, ch. 1:14†, 18†).
Just as Abraham had not kept back his only begotten son from God, so God has not withheld his perfect Image his Well-beloved, his Eternal Logos, the perfect ideal of sonship. He gave him with the following view: that whosoever believeth in him (εἰς αὐτὸν) may not perish, but have eternal life. The previous saying is repeated as in a grand refrain for which a deeper reason and fuller explanation have been supplied. Perishing, ruin, the issues of poisonous corruption, might and would, by the force of natural law, work themselves out in the destinies of men. The awful curse was spreading, but it may be arrested. None need be excluded. Looking is living. Believing in this manifestation of Divine love is enough.