By Stephen P. Willis
The Greek word kosmos is used by the author of the fourth gospel 78 times.1 It generally means: an apt and harmonious arrangement, an ornament, decoration, or arrangement.2 It has several specific uses that shed a different light on passages according to its meaning. In John, kosmos is used to mean the universe (or earth), the human inhabitants of the earth, the general public, sinful mankind, and the realm of the evil.3 I feel we can limit this to three categories: (1) the created world ,(earth), (2) the created inhabitants of the earth (man), and (3) sinful or alienated man or men.
The purpose of this article will be to examine briefly the relationships of Jesus in reference to the kosmos. In doing so, I was selective of verses cited in Young’s Analytical Concordance, in the article “world (kosmos).”
Creator of the World
First, we see Jesus as the creator who existed before the world (universe). We learn that all things came into being through Him (1:3) and that “all things” include the world (1:10). We read that Jesus was loved before the foundations of the earth; loved by the Father (17:25). Jesus is the eternal creator of the world.
Sent to the World
Secondly, all through the Old Testament we see that man was sinful, but God loved this world’s inhabitants and sent His Son into the world (in the earth and among men, 3:16,17). The Scriptures state that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (1:14). Jesus took on the form of a man and “tabernacled” in the world. Just as the Christ was sent by the Father, the apostles were sent forth by the Son (17:11-6).
Three items might be observed here: Jesus was a light in the world; He spoke in the world; and Jesus loved His own in the world. The term “light in the world” is used repeatedly in the Gospel, but is best explained in 1:4, 5, 9. The light shone in the darkness and gave life to men. He was rejected and not comprehended by the world. The world did not know Him.
Moses had foretold that there would be a Prophet raised up (Deut. 18:15). Jesus is that Prophet (6:14), and, therefore, speaks for God. He came to tell the will of the Father. He came to teach in order that the world might believe (17:21). He condemned the ruler of this world, that is, Satan (12:31; 14:30; 16:18). He claimed that He would leave this world (13:1) and showed that He was not of the world. All this He taught openly in the world, as He reported to Pilate (18:20). World, here, would refer to the men of the earth.
Still, Jesus was a man and had human compassions. He wept at the burial place of Lazarus (11:35). Jesus, though not of earthly origin, did show His humanity when He thought about leaving this world (earth and men). He did love His own people and was saddened to think that He would leave them behind (13:1).
Not of the World
Although Jesus taught in the world, He made it clear in His teaching that He was not of this world (probably all three definitions would fit here). He taught that His disciples, His peace, His kingdom, and His Spirit were not of this world (14:17, 27; 17:6-25; 18:36). When Jesus spoke to the Jews (8:23), He said, “. . . you are of this world; I am not of this world.” Jesus was from above. He proclaimed and established spiritual things (Mt. 16:18-20).
Purpose of His Coming
Often, we might be asked (or ask ourselves), What purpose did Jesus serve? Why did He come to be rejected and crucified? What did He care about the world? John’s Gospel will reveal the purpose of the Son on earth or in the world.
Jesus came to bear witness of the truth (18:37). He claims that He spoke the truth in 8:45. It is especially interesting to note the word witness. From its Greek root we derive the word “martyr.”4 Jesus was a “martyr” for the truth in every sense of the word. He gave witness to it and even laid down His life for it. He spoke the truth. He was truth.
Another reason Jesus entered the world was to judge the world, i.e. sinful man. We have identified Jesus as the “light of the world,” so let us look at 3:19, where it says, “This is the judgment, that the light is come into the world.” Jesus says, “For judgment I came into the world. . .” (9:39).
But let us seek His true motive, for Jesus said, “for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” Here world is men, whether sinful (totally alienated) or a “good-man-who-still- sins-a-bit.” Let us not think this to be a contradiction to the last paragraph. Many times a grammatical structure such as this is used to emphasize the latter idea (salvation, here), but not totally giving up the former statement (judgment) (cf. 6:29).
Behold! The Savior (4:42)! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (1:29)! With these names, let us not forget the eternal life that is given by the light (3:17). Jesus brought remission of sins, and eternal life to mankind-to the world! What a wonderful mission!
As we have observed, Jesus created the world, He was sent to the world and lived here proclaiming the Message of God. He was in the world, but not of the world. He came to bear witness of the truth, to judge and to save the world.
Victory Over the World
I have kept a very significant point until last. Reviewing these relations with the world, we see Jesus in action against the evil forces that have taken over. Yet during the struggle, Jesus knew the outcome. He spoke plainly to His disciples and told them that they should not fear. We can apply this to ourselves. We should not fear in this world. Why? “In Me you have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (16:33, emph. mine).
1 Jensen, Irving L., John: a Self-Study Guide. (Chicago: Moody Press), 1970, p. 14.
2 Thayer, Joseph, Greek-English Lexicon. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. Co.), 1962, pp. 356, 357.
3 Hendriksen, William, The New Testament Commentary: The Gospel According to John. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House), 1953, p. 79.
4 Robertson, A.T., Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. V. (Nashville: Broadman Press), 1932, p. 294.
Truth Magazine, XX:20, p. 13-14
May 13, 1976