According to the NIV Exhaustive Concordance, The word “WORLD” occurs in the whole Bible for 261 times, including “WORLD’S” and “WORLDLY”. This word has triggered a lot of arguments and debates not only among the theologians, but also among the lay believers. The theologians might argued whether the “World” in John 3:16 refers to the whole human race, or just the chosen believers. As for the lay believers, many husbands feel unfair to be described as “one loves the world” by their wives simply because of buying a new IPhone.
Occurrences in Paul’s Letters
Paul uses this word (including “world’s” and “worldly”) frequently in his letters. There are totally about 60+ explicit usages and 2 more implicit references to this word. The meaning of this word according to context can be categorized into 5 meanings: the world of space (the cosmos), the creation by God, this age, and the coming age.
The World of Space is a geographic usage of the Greek word kosmos. It can be translated to “the earth” or “the universe”. In Romans 10:18, when Paul quotes Ps 19:4 that “to the ends of the world”, he is indicating the earth. In some cases this word might mean the Promised Land instead of the planet earth.
God’s creation is a generic usage of this word. While the word is used in this way, it’s talking about the creation of the God. “The World” then is a neutral word as the object of God’s divine creation. Such usage can be found in Romans 1:20, 25, 4:17; 1 Cor 1:28, etc.