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In this the love of God was made manifest among us. That is, in an eminent manner, or this was the most signal proof of it. The apostle does not mean to say that it has been manifested in no other way but that this was so prominent an instance of his love that all the other manifestations of it seemed absorbed and lost in this.
That God sent his only begotten Son into the world. All mankind. It does not mean any particular part of the world, but man as man—the race that had rebelled and that deserved to die. See John 6:33 17:21. His love for the world, or for all mankind, in giving his Son, was shown by these circumstances:
- All the world was in ruin, and exposed to the wrath of God.
- All people were in a hopeless condition.
- God gave his Son. Man had no claim on him; it was a gift – an undeserved gift.
- He gave him up to extreme sufferings, even the bitter pains of death on the cross.
- It was for all the world. He tasted “death for every man,” Heb. 2:9. He “died for all,” 2Cor. 5:15. “He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world,” 1 John 2:2.
His only-begotten Son—This term is never applied by John to any but Jesus Christ. He applies it five times to the Savior, John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9. It means literally an only child. Then, as an only child is especially dear to a parent, it means one that is especially beloved. Compare Gen. 22:2, 12, 16; Jer. 6:26; Zech. 12:10. On both these accounts, it is bestowed on the Savior.
- As he was eminently the Son of God, sustaining a special relation to Him in His divine nature, exalted above all human beings and angels, and thus worthy to be called, by way of eminence, His only Son. Holy ones are called His “sons” or children because they are born of His Spirit or are like Him, but the Lord Jesus is exalted far above all and deserves to be called His only-begotten Son eminently.
- He was especially dear to God; therefore, this appellation, implying tender affection, is bestowed upon him. This is the highest expression of love that we can conceive. A parent who should give up his only son to die for others who are guilty if this could or might be done—would show higher love than could be manifested in any other way. So, it shows the depth of the love of God, that he was willing. to give his only Son into the hands of sinful men that he might be slain and thus redeem them from eternal sorrow.
That we might live through him. He died that we might have eternal life through the merits of his sacrifice. The measure of that love, then, which was manifested in the gift of a Savior, is to be found, (1) in the worth of the soul; (2) in its exposure to eternal death; (3) in the greatness of the gift; (4) in the greatness of his sorrows for us; and, (5) in the immortal blessedness and joy to which he will raise us. Who can estimate all this? All these things will magnify themselves as we draw near to eternity; and in that eternity to which we go, whether saved or lost, we shall have an ever-expanding view of the wonderful love of God.
By Albert Barnes and Edward D. Andrews
How Should Translators Handle the Greek Word “Monogenes” That Is Rendered “only begotten” and “only”?