Many are familiar with the following biblical text:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten [i.e., unique; one and only] Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”John 3:16; KJV
The phrase “so loved the world” raises the question of who or what? Does the phrase mean all mankind? If so, then in what sense? Or does the phrase refer to the whole created order; in other words, all the earth and those things contained therein? Again, if so, then in what sense?
In the general sense I believe that the phrase refers to all creation. God created all things in six days (approx. 24-hour periods of time; YOM), and His evaluation of His creation is that it was “very good.” There is no question that the sin of His creatures marred it, but in the sense of consequential cursing. In God’s judgment of His fallen creatures, He removed a portion of the blessing He had bestowed in order to all suffering and pain and death to be the burden to be bore by His representatives.
This does not mean that creation became evil. The grass of the field is not evil. The warming rays of the sun is not evil. But the intention of man’s heart is. The experience of thorns and thistles, of disease and death is; in the sense of being a reminder of what was lost in the garden. A constant ringing in our ears that we are not God and our will in opposition against His is unholy and unrighteous. The exclamation point on this reality is this… “we all die.” We are not self-sustaining for we are, by nature, finite.
The verse above is a reminder of that truth. Apart from God we perish. But if our faith rests in Him alone, then we shall live. And yet, God is still gracious because of Christ Jesus to all the earth regardless. Something Dr. Gary North does an apt job explaining to his readers,
“His Son’s representative death is the basis of all God’s gifts to mankind in history. Grace is an unearned gift, meaning a gift earned by Christ at Calvary and given by God to all men in history. Christ’s restitution payment serves as the basis of common grace to covenant-breakers in history and special grace to covenant-keepers in history and eternity. The words of Christ on the cross are the basis of common grace in history: ‘Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23.34). Ignorance of the law is no excuse, but Jesus Christ grants grace to the ignorant anyway. He paid God’s price; He suffered God’s sanctions; so He has the right to grant temporal (common) forgiveness on no terms at all, and eternal (special) forgiveness on His own terms.”1Gary North, Tools of Dominion, 286-7
1Gary North, Tools of Dominion: The Case Laws of Exodus (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990), 286-287, PDF e-book. Emphasis in italics in original.