Jesus and the World
The word "world" is used many different ways in the gospel of John. John presents Jesus and the world in a very interesting way. He shows the relations that Jesus sustained to the world. Sometimes "world" refers to the universe, sometimes to all humanity, and sometimes to those who are unbelievers and hostile to Christ.
Notice first the relation of Jesus and the universe. In John 1:10 it is stated that "He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world knew him not." This is in perfect keeping with the third verse of the same chapter which says, "All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made." Paul makes mention of the same fact in the epistle to the Colossians, and also it is mentioned in Hebrews 1:1-4. Jesus then has a relation to the world," when it means "the universe," and that is the creator.
Let it be pointed out that Jesus was with God the Father before the universe was created. When Jesus is praying unto the Father in John seventeen he says, "And now, Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." Again he mentions in the same prayer that the Father loved Him before the foundation of the world (universe) (v. 24). He is described as the "Word," and we know, as taught in the prologue that He was pre-existent with God.
Jesus was either a product of the world or he came from without as he claimed. Notice some of his claims to have come from without. John 1:9 says that the Light was coming into the world. When before Pilate, Jesus claimed to have come into the world in order to be a king (John 18:37). Martha made a similar confession as she said, "Yet, Lord: I have believed that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, even he that cometh into the world (John 11:27). Jesus claimed that God sent him into the world (John 10:36). The question is immediately raised, as to where he came from, from without. Jesus himself gives the answer when in the discourse on the Bread of Life, he said, "For the bread of God is that which cometh down out of heaven, and giveth life unto the world" (John 6:33), and again, "I am the living bread which came down out of heaven" (John 6:51). If we accept the evidence, we conclude that Jesus was, not a product of the world, but came from without, and the place from without was heaven with the Father.
During the time in which Jesus dwelt or tabernacled in the universe, he loved those who were close to Him, even as we love those that are close to us. John says of Him, "Having loved His own that were in the world, He loved them unto the end" (John 13:1). In the first part of the verse we have just quoted, John mentioned that Jesus was to depart out of this world. Jesus reminded His disciples of this when He said, "I came out from the Father, and am come into the world; again, I leave the world, and go unto the Father" (John 16:28).
Jesus came into the world from without, remained here a short period of time, thirty some odd years, and returned to the Father from whence he came.
The word "world" is often used to refer to all humanity. We want to show the relation that Jesus sustained to the world and still sustains. John, the Immerser described him as "the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). Jesus told Nicodemus that "God so loved the world, that he gave his on1y begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God sent not his Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through him" (John 3:16-17). After hearing and seeing Jesus the Samaritan said that "this is indeed the Saviour of the world" (John 4:42). Jesus was not only the "Saviour of the world," but also the "Prophet." After the feeding of the 5,000, the people remarked, "This is of a truth the prophet that cometh into the world" (John 6:14). Jesus was speaking unto the world the things of the Father (John 8:26). He claimed that He was the "Light of the World." At the feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem He said, "I am the light of the world: He that followeth me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12). Jesus shows that He is the light of the world by causing the blind man to see. At that time He told His disciples, "When I am in the world, I am the light of the world" (John 9:5). He gives this as one of His purposes in coming into the world: "I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me may not abide in the darkness" (John 12:46). And again, He mentioned that he came "that they that see may not see" (John 9:39).
We have shown some of the relations that Jesus claimed to sustain to the. world (humanity in general). Now we would like to notice that the word "world" is sometimes used in reference to those that are hostile to Christ. Remember that we stated that Jesus was the light of the world, but now we shall see that the world rejected the light: "And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil" (John 3:19). The world hated the Lord, because the works of the world are evil (John 7:7). Jesus warned his disciples of the hatred of the world. He told them, "If the world hateth you, ye know that it hath hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own: but because ye are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:18-19).
The world (those hostile to Christ) cannot receive the Spirit of truth, "For it beholdeth him not, neither knoweth Him" (John 14:17).
Jesus tells the disciples that the world will rejoice when it looks like the battle is lost for Him (John 16:20), but what actually happened was just the opposite to what the world expected. Jesus spake of His real victory over the world like this, "now shall the Prince of this world be cast out" (John 12:31) and "I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
We learn more of the use of the word "world" when we notice that Jesus called disciples out of the world (John 15:19) and they were not of the world, even as Jesus was not of the world, and notice especially, "I pray not that thou shouldest take them from the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil one" (John 17:14-15). They were in the world, and among the world and yet not of the world. Jesus told them that in the world they would have tribulation (John 16:33). He sent them into the world (John 17:18). They were in the world (universe) and among the world (all humanity) and were not of the world (those hostile to Christ), but were sent into the world (all humanity needing the salvation of the Lord). We can see from this the many uses of the word "world" in the gospel of John.
Our question might be "How can the world be converted to Christ?" There are two ways . . .One of them is the unity of the believers. Jesus prayed for all that should believe on Him as a result of the teaching of the apostles and said this concerning the unity He desired, "that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us: that the world may believe that thou didst send me," and again "I in them, and thou in me, that they may be perfected into one; that the world may know that thou didst send me, and lovest them, even as thou lovest me" (John 17:21, 23). The unity of believers is one way for the world to know of Jesus. If there is that perfect union then the believers will take the eternal Word of God to the world and will thus have the help of the Holy Spirit, concerning whom Jesus said, "And he, when he is come, will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father and Ye behold me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world hath been judged" (John 16:8-12).
The word "world" has been used in various ways in the fourth gospel. We have noticed its use in the following ways:
1. The Universe.
2. All humanity, in need of a saviour.
3. Those who are hostile to Christ.
Jesus came from without the world (universe) to save the world (all humanity). He chose disciples out of the world (all humanity) who were hated of the world (those hostile to Christ) even as they hated Christ, the Son of God.
Truth Magazine IV:4; pp. 2-3, 18