God so loved the world

July 31, 2007 | 14 comments

I’ve often puzzled over the meaning of this Bible verse:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

I believe a common interpretation of this verse is that God so loved the material world and mortals within it, that he sacrificed his only son, Jesus, on the cross, to show us how much He loved us, and made this sacrificial offering of Jesus to save all those who believed on the risen Savior.

I’ve struggled with this interpretation because my concept of God is one of a loving Father-Mother, and a loving Father-Mother does not sacrifice His son to pain and suffering.

Christian Science explains that it was the human material concept of Christ called Jesus that suffered on the cross. It was not the Son of God that suffered. The Son of God was the Christ that Jesus reflected in his healing ministry. The Son of God was not a physical body that suffered at the hands of mortal tyrants and terrorists. The Christ is spiritual, immortal, and divine, forever living in Mind, not in matter. And we find our spiritual selfhood in Christ too.

So, in trying to understand the original spiritual meaning of the above verse, I came up with:

“God’s love is revealed in His Son, the Christ, in which we find eternal Life.”

I’m still thinking on this verse, but feel I’m getting closer to the original spiritual meaning before it was translated.

God has given us His Son, the true idea of Himself, which serves as the example of who we are in His image and likeness. (Please excuse using the male gender here, for the word Her works just as well.) And we have Christ, or God’s direction and guidance at work in our lives, to lead us to eternal life.

Christ never died, and is never at the mercy of hate, evil or death. This is the example Jesus’ resurrection left for us to learn from, and we can faithfully follow.

The invisible Christ was imperceptible to the so-called personal senses, whereas Jesus appeared as a bodily existence. This dual personality of the unseen and the seen, the spiritual and material, the eternal Christ and the corporeal Jesus manifest in flesh, continued until the Master’s ascension, when the human, material concept, or Jesus, disappeared, while the spiritual self, or Christ, continues to exist in the eternal order of divine Science, taking away the sins of the world, as the Christ has always done, even before the human Jesus was incarnate to mortal eyes.” Mary Baker Eddy


14 thoughts on “God so loved the world”

  1. This verse was the one I chose to memorize at my teacher’s behest in the Presbyterian Sunday School 70 years ago. Don’t know why it was my choice from the list of possibilities she provided to her class, but whenever I come across it in the weekly Bible lesson, I remember the memorizing, the reciting.
    I don’t remember that we discussed its meaning then — understanding came much later, after I took up the study of Christian Science.
    I agree with your how- the-world-interprets-it explanation. Yes, it does read like that, and that explains the guilt and confusion I always felt about Jesus’s sacrifice — until the Spirit-based logic of Christian Science cleared it up.
    When we start and stay with the allness and goodness of Spirit, the mortal dream of life/death, sin/sorrow, wars-and-rumors-of-war, loses its power to impress and depress us. We find that line of demarcation between the real and the unreal.
    Truth-knowing is inevitably accompanied by joy and dominion. I thank God for my own “gracious preparation!”

  2. I don’t like the concept of a sacrificial death at all, not even when it is dismissed as the dual nature of Jesus not suffering. In my view, Jesus’ death was a political one: whatever it was he was doing – empowering, healing – meant he was a nuisance, a threat to the ordered control of the Roman Empire.

  3. As a Christian Scientist, I agree with your spiritual meaning of this verse. However, there is part of this verse I’ve always wondered about…”that he (God) gave his only begotten Son”.
    I see every person as God’s idea, perfect and whole. These ideas (man) are also eternal, pre-existing this material “world” we are currently seeing. What does it mean then that God gave “his only begotten Son” if we are all on the same path as Jesus, working to realize our true identity of “at-one-ment” with our Creator and Father-Mother.

  4. I was talking with my 10 year old daughter about this verse the other night and was telling her that Jesus, being a virgin birth, having no human father, was humanly, the son of God, in the flesh. This made him awesomely special and explains why he was able to claim dominion over the flesh and material circumstances–walking on water, healing the sick, and his pinnacle achievement of raising himself from the dead. If Jesus hadn’t lived to do these things or hadn’t been willing to go through with the trials he faced, what hope would we have of overcoming what the world throws at us even in the simplest demonstrations. Jesus made it all possible for us–he opened the way for us and is our way-shower. We need Jesus’ example and the help of the ever-present Christ, and divine Love met that need by sending us Jesus.

  5. I’ve given birth to two children at home. They were relatively quick and easy births. There was some discomfort, but I was hardly aware of it because I was deep in prayer–“being absent from the body and present with the Lord”.

    I think even though Jesus went through a terrible crucifixion experience to the eyes around him, his eyes and consciousness were focused on God and that’s where he lived and lives now. Soul has always been and will always be his master. He wasn’t moved by what the body told him. He was only moved by God.

    I think as healers and followers of Christ Jesus, we’ll make great progress as we lean less on matter and more on God.

  6. To Sue,

    In reply to your question…

    For starters, I think we have to consider the word “Son” generically, meaning all children of God–daughters and sons alike unified as God’s image in Christ.

    The wording “God gave his only begotten Son…,” spiritually considered, could be thought of as, “God revealed (or gave) the true idea of Himself/Herself through Christ–the one perfect reflection of the Divine Creator.”

    Or, here’s another take, “God revealed true Sonship/Daughtership through the one Christ.”

    Anyone have another view to consider??

  7. Here’s a verse below that I think sometimes gets overlooked regarding the initial necessity of Jesus’ death as an individual, so that his unique Spirit as God’s only begotten Son (yes, begotten, not created) could be glorified (poured out, shed forth – different versions of the Bible use similar terms) in those who would willingly receive It following Jesus ascension:

    “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive; for the Holy Ghost was not yet given: because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)” – John 7:37-39.

    Jesus’ crucifixion was the catalyst for his subsequent glorification as/in omnipresent Spirit, I think, which could then be poured out (“shed forth” K.J. – Acts 2:33) on all men. As an individual prior to his crucifixion Jesus couldn’t be inside anyone except himself! But ten days following his ascension his Spirit was poured out upon his disciples, and then upon thousands more – and is now available for the whole world to receive, if so desired. This is how I understand this portion of the Gospel.

    Jesus’ going down as a human was similar to the one sun in the sky going down below the horizon at sunset, which initiates the coming forth of the sun’s glory being colorfully reflected in the millions of dust particles in the sky. This is a parallel (to me) of Jesus being transformed from being the only begotten human Son of God into being the mystical Body of Christ, with his Spirit as the Head of his new Body (of believers).

    Sure, God’s Spirit was in the world before Jesus was born. God’s Spirit was a guide for Abraham, Joseph in Egypt, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, King David and the rest of the OT holy men. However before Jesus was glorified following his crucifixion God’s presence was exclusively outside of men, directing them as servants – turn to the right, turn to the left, or say to the people, “Thus says the Lord.”

    But now, since the Son’s crucifixion and subsequent glorification, the Holy Spirit, Christ in you, wells up from within our own mind – it is part of ourself – which makes believers in this Spirit of truth not just household servants, but sons and daughters of God who are becoming – hopefully – one collective spirit in Christ, as God’s only living Child..

    This is what I have to share.

  8. I have been thinking about your post for the last several days and had this thought. Isn’t the ascension for us right now? Since Jesus the mortal was of a Virgin birth I have no illusions that I or anyone of us is going to ascend the way he did. He proved it can be done and it is up to us to demonstrate this through our lives “right now”. For me ascension is a higher thought, a more spiritualization of consciousness, the Christ, that proves we are reflections (expressions) of God. As I go deeper and deeper into CS, every day my thought ascends more and more and I see (sense) less sin, disease and death and more of the true ideas we really are. My point is it doesn’t go any farther than our own consciousness. There is no “out there” to worry about. It is the Christ “within us” that heals and regenerates and ultimately, proves God’s existence. Thanks for your insights.

  9. To anon,

    Yes, ascension is a moment by moment experience, the uplifting of thought to Spirit as consciousness is spiritualized by Truth.

    Like baptism. Baptism is not a single event in time. Baptism is a purificatin of thought that goes on continually.

    Ascension, too, doesn’t happen at a later date only. It’s happening now as we grow in spiritual understanding or our at-one-ment with God where there is no matter, no disease, no sin or death.

  10. To continue this thought(s), I would like to know what your view is on the transition of death? Do we continue on as Mrs. Eddy says and that if our consciousness is spriritualized enough will we see and communicate with those gone before us? My confusion centers on these states or stages of growth spiritually as we deal with the human consciousness. At what point will we know absolutely that what we are doing is correct. I realize as we sin less and less, we gain a better understanding of God’s presence however there are times it seems like this human condition is such a lie that it would be better to leave it altogether (mentally) and can that be done while here in this plane of belief. What does that feel like? Floating around stating “God is Love” and “Just see other people as perfect children of God” as I see many fellow Scientists doing doesn’t cut it for me. There has to me more because there is no healing going on with these people and they seem very condemning when I question them on this. Like I’ll just wake up some day and get it! Your matter blog helps greatly yet it just seems like the human condition is so real and when a healing does occur, or is going slowly, how do you get it or know it! Is it just so indivdual that it really can’t be explained properly!

  11. To anon above,

    Oh, I think it can be explained properly, if we understand the question. You list many!!!

    Yes, the material condition seems very real to the material senses. Like the claims of astrology seem very real to the astrologist. But to the one who doesn’t believe in astrology, the claims have no influence or significance.

    As thought is spiritualized, matter becomes less and less to the spiritualized consciousness. One learns this through experience.

    A spiritualized consciousness is focused on the things of Spirit, mentally in a higher place than the matter-bound thinking focused on things and objects of the flesh.

    Until human thought is totally spiritualized, matter will appear real to some degree to that thinking, but it simply becomes less and less of a big deal. It starts to become a “small deal.” And that’s where we all want to head mentally to obtain the maximum freedom from it.

    Life in Spirit! That’s the reality we all will find sooner or later. Jesus has led the way, and Christian Science shows us how to get there.

  12. Thanks for the insight. I was lead to read Atonement and Eucharist over the weekend and this put things in further perspective. I sometimes have a hard time with the experience part however I do see that by degrees we can spiritualize our consciousness quite dramatically if not trying to force it. Much appreciation!!!!!!

  13. Hello.

    In thinking about what you wrote, I realized that I never thought of that as meaning that God sacrificed His Son. I look at it as He gave us His Son as a gift to the world – He sort of sent Christ to us in the form of a human baby, Jesus. To walk with us and show us the way to eternal life, which eventually resulted in his resurrection.

    I decided long ago to only accept the crucifixion as a necessary prelude to the resurrection. You can’t have a resurrection without a death, essentially. I choose to give much more importance to his resurrection as that is what made all of his teaching and healing works really take hold in our thinking.

    Those are my thoughts, anyway.

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