GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD
Key Verse: 3:16
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16. Martin Luther called it, “the heart of the Bible – the essence of the Gospel.” This might be the most favored verse in the Bible. In this few words, it tells us the eternal truths: the love of God for sinners. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.” God’s love is the love which loves sinners, sacrifice his one and only son for sinners, and give eternal life to sinners. How sweet it sounds! Then, this passage concludes with verse 36. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” Maybe we cannot fully understand what it means that God loves us. Yet, we need to accept his love for us, by believing in His son Jesus as our savior. Those who believes in Jesus will have eternal life now and forever, but those who reject Jesus will not see life for God’s wrath remains on them now and forever. Especially the cross of Jesus is the demonstration of his love for all sinners. How would you respond to God’s love for you? We may respond to this love by believing in the Son, Jesus, so that we may have eternal life now and forever.
First, God so loved the world.(16a).
Nicodemus came to Jesus at night. Outwardly he was the most successful man, but inwardly the neediest one. Jesus did not advise him “You must have a better job or better education.” Jesus said to him “No one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” Out of pride, he did not accept Jesus’ testimony. He was such a proud sinner. Then, here Jesus teaches him the most wonderful love of God for sinners like him.
Let’s read verse 16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Here ‘the world’ refers to people in the world. It refers to your and me. Then what does this tell us about the world – people? People are desperate in need of God’s love. Why? In verses18-20 we can find the reasons. First of all, we are already condemned in our sins. What does it mean we are already condemned? Since sin entered the world through one man’ disobedience and death through sin, all people were doomed to perish – death. Even after death, we are destine to face God’s judgement and eternal condemnation. (Heb9:27) This is the destiny to all people without exception. Living under the power of sin, we were totally separated from God. Look at verse 19-20. We loved the darkness and hated the light because we did evil. By choosing and loving and following our sinful natures, we deliberately rejected the truth of God and worshiped and served created things rather than God.
Romans 1 depicts what men become when they live without God. “They have become filled with every kinds of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, and boastful. They invented ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents, they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love and no mercy.”(Rom 1:29-31) Simply, we became hopeless under the power of sin and death, waiting for death and God’s eternal condemnation. Then, what was God’s reaction to that? It is not one of anger, hatred, or ruthless justice. Look at verse 16. God so loved the world. God so loved sinners like us. Definitely we were not lovely at all. Though we covered ourselves with fancy clothes or heavy makeups or tiles, we are nasty, ugly, proud, rebellious, argumentative, violent, immoral, selfish, greedy, un-thankful and so on. We became the object of God’s wrath – enemies of God. Many of us are struggling to love ourselves. But God so loved us. Why should he move sinners? I could not find any quality or reason why God should love a sinner like me.
Verse 16 simply tells us “God so loved the world.” We, sinners love to add conditions like “If or Because.” Here, there is no ‘If’ nor ‘Because.’ Simply God loved the world. God’s love is unconditional. It is God’s decision to love sinners. Therefore, no matter what we may think of ourselves; no matter what others may think of us, no matter what our sins or our attitude towards God; even whether we accept the truth of his love or not, God loves us! Nothing can change this truth “God so loved the world.” You can put your own name here. That little word “So” is an important. No one deserve God’s love; no one can earn God’s love. God simple chooses to love us out of compassion.
God didn’t merely say, “I love you,” but he gave his one and only Son. God's love was not limited to feelings. God demonstrated his love for us in action. The word “gave” includes not only coming of Jesus in the incarnation, but also the crucifixion of Jesus. God sacrificed what was most precious and valuable to him for sinners who are so ugly due to sins; who are deserved to perish eternally. Paul says in Romans 5:8, “God demonstrate his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Loving sinners was costly. It took pain, blood and death. It look awful separation and unspeakable shame upon the cross. Still God so loved sinners that he gave his son.
Sinners are desperate in need of God’s love. This love of God is like the living water that quenches our thirsty and weary souls. This love of God is like the bread of life that satisfies our empty and hungry souls. This love of God is like the light of life that shines in our heart and drives out all darkness. Just like a woman can be blooming like a flower when she is loved by her husband, this love of God make sinners (who are like dried-withered branch cut off from the vine) to come back to life (as strong and health branch) and to bear much fruit. This love God changed sinners who were like dry born into living being. 1 Corinthians 13 is about love “Love is.” This also teaches us how the love of God changes sinners into new creation – from the man who lived without God (Roman 1) to the man who has the love of God. The love of God changes sinners. They become patient, kind, do not envy, not boast, not proud,… not delight in evil but rejoice with truth,… always protect, always trust, always hopes and always persevere. This love of God for sinners enable us to fight good fight and even overcome the evil. This love of God gives us victory over the power of sin and death. This love of God makes us victorious. Through him who loved us, we are more than conquerors in all troubles and hardships. (Ro8:37) “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son.” God loves you.
Second, whoever believes in him shall not perish (16b - 21).
Verse 16b says, “...that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God knew from the beginning what it would cost. Still God loved us and gave us his one. It is to give us the eternal life in the kingdom of God. It is to save us from the condemnation through him. Look at verse 17. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” God knows all of our sins and mistakes in detail and could condemn us justly. We deserve it. However, God sent his son to save us from this condemnation by faith in him. When we just believe in Jesus, amazing things happen. We are freed from condemnation and become glorious children of God. Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus....” This is God’s promise to whoever believes in him (18a). Through Jesus’ suffering and death, God has removed all the condemnation and made it possible for us to come freely to God. “Just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.”(Ro5:16) By faith in Jesus, we are justified. But those who do not believe in him stand condemned already (18b).
The cross of Jesus is demonstration of his love for sinners. How would you respond to God’s love for you? In verses 19-21, we can learn how we respond to this wonderful God’s love for us. First of all, we need to make decision to love light instead of darkness. Not believing in Jesus is not an intellectual problem, but a matter loving darkness. Loving the light is our intentional decision. It is our act of love. Look at verse 21. “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” Second of all, we need to make willing and intentional decision to live by the truth, the word of God - not by the emotion nor feeling. Choose by faith to love God and to obey God - against our emotion and feeling. This is what it means to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.
John 3:16 “for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son.” It is like “marriage proposal – Will you marry me?” How would you respond to this love? The decision about who you will marry is a stressful thing. It is hard. It ought to be, because that decision is going to affect you for the rest of your life. How you respond to this love is more important because the decision is going to affect your for the rest of your life and even after death. “Will you marry me?” Before you answer, you should practically consider lots of things such as if he has a job, how much he makes money, if he has a house or car…, most of all if he truly love you.” How would you respond to God’s love for you? He is the one who loves you in this way – loving you while you were sinners. He is the one who prepares places for us in the kingdom of God. He is the one who forgives all our sins and heals all our wounds and restores us as the kingdom of God. We need to make decision to love light instead of darkness, then we do not need to not live in fear that the way we live is going to be exposed – it already is exposed to God. We need to make decision to live by the truth. This is our act of love for God. “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son” “How would you respond to God’s love?”
Third, John testifies about Jesus (22-36).
Look at verse 22. After his meeting with Nicodemus, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside where Jesus spent time with them and baptized. It was quiet and peaceful place with no distractions. Jesus spent quality time with the disciples. Spending time at the feet of the Master, they were strengthened and prepared for future work. To be the disciples simply meant this: “You spend time with Jesus.” Spending much time in Internet – checking out everything about celebrities, people become followers, even super followers. We need to spend quality time with Jesus by reading and meditating the word of Jesus. We need to focus on learning from Jesus by checking out everything about Jesus and his teaching. Early morning Daily Bread time is good time for us to spend quality time with Jesus and learn from him. In this way, we can continue to grow as disciples, the follower of Jesus.
Look at verses 22-23. God’s history was in transition from John’s ministry to that of Jesus. As the forerunner of Jesus, John preached the baptism of repentance to prepare the way for the Lord, Jesus. Finally Jesus the Messiah had come and John introduced him to the world, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” In the past, John had been very popular. But now, his ministry began to wane, while Jesus’ ministry grew and grew. Then look at verse 26. John’s disciples came to John and said, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan - the one you testified about - look, he is baptizing and everyone is going to him.” We can sense their jealousy, envy and even hatred toward Jesus’ growing ministry. Humanly, they were really faithful and royal to their master, but they became blind to see the work of God in history; and they became deaf to hear the word of truth even from their mast John. Then they became depressed, out of all kinds of humanistic thought out of jealousy, envy and hatred. If we see the work of God from a human point of view, we will become blind or deaf and even miserable spending much time comparing ourselves to others. We will become victim of jealousy and fall into devil’s trap.
What about John the Baptist? He should have been the most hopeless and miserable one? However, he testified that he was the most joyful one; the most blessed one. Look at verse 27-36. How did John help the disciples to overcome their jealousy problem? In the first place John accepted God’s sovereignty over his ministry. Verses 27-28 read, “To this John replied, ‘A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, “I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.”’” John accepted God’s sovereignty. Accepting God’s sovereignty over his world redemptive history, John did his best to please God and to complete the mission given to him. God is the one who gives man mission, so that the mission is God’s blessing and gift. God has given John the great privilege to serve God as forerunner of the Messiah. He testified again clearly that he was not the Messiah.
Each ministry comes from God and has an absolute value. Therefore, we should not see our ministry from a human point of view and compare it with others. Thank God for RURP Bible Study in NB and also Newark campus. I believe that God has called each and every one of us to serve his mission. Whether our mission seems great or small, if we receive it from God, we can find true satisfaction in doing it. Anything we receive is from God and anything others receive is also given from God. We may not envy or jealousy. Rather we may be faithful and diligent to do the work God has given to us.
In the second place, John knew the secret of joy. He said, “The bride belongs to the bridegroom” (29a). Jesus is the bridegroom and all people who come to him are his bride. John was “the friend who attends the bridegroom,” like a “best man” (29b). When the bridegroom is united to his bride, the best man the bridegroom’s joy. “the bride belongs to the bridegroom.” No friend would ever try to take the bride from the bridegroom. People belong to Jesus because Jesu is the Lamb of God who shed his blood for their sins. When he saw crowds of people leaving him and going to Jesus, he delighted in that because Jesus can do for them what he could never do. Jesus has power to rescue them from the power of sin. Jesus, the bridegroom, will take them to the kingdom of God as his bride. John was full of joy when people came to Jesus (29c). He said “That joy is mine, and it is now completed.”
Look at verse 30. John concluded by saying, “He must become greater; I must become less” (30). John understood that Jesus must become greater; he should become less. Jesus is the Messiah and he is the forerunner. This was the secret of John’s successful, fruitful and satisfying mission life. His life purpose was to glorify Jesus. If he could glorify Jesus, he did not mind sacrificing himself. He wholeheartedly accepted God’s will, God’s plan and God’s purpose. We can be joyful and fruitful when we have the same attitude. “He must become greater; I must become less.” This is so different from what we ordinarily feel. No one likes to become less. Everyone wants to become greater. People encourage each other by saying - “get more, do more, accomplish more, get bigger and bigger, get faster and, get higher.” But what is true greatness? Jesus teaches it in Mark 10: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus acknowledged John as the greatest man of God. John had clear spiritual priority system “He must become greater: I must become less.” We will be the great servant of God if we are willing to be less for Jesus. This is a great truth that we all need to learn.
In the third place, John explains why he exalts Jesus. Fundamentally, Jesus came from above and everyone else came from the earth. So Jesus is above all. Even though Jesus incarnated and became a man, he is from above; he is God. Jesus is not just a great teacher or an example of a perfect man. Jesus is, in very nature, God. When he testifies, it is not just one reasonable idea among many, it is the very word of God. Those who humbly accept Jesus' testimony can come to know that God is truthful and his word is true. This is because Jesus speaks the words of God, for God gave him the Spirit without limit. The Father entrusted Jesus with the authority to judge and to save men (35).
In conclusion, let us read verse 36. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on them” To believe in Jesus or reject Jesus is a matter of eternal life or eternal condemnation. Let’s read John 3:16 one more time: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” I compare this to “marriage propose.” How would you respond to this love? Would you accept God’s love for you? We may respond by faith in Jesus, saying “Yes!” When we accept this love in our hearts, we are getting into new love relationship with our Lord Jesus and God. We will be filled with joy and happiness that comes from God. This is because there is no fear in love; in fact, perfect love drives out fear (1 Jn 4:18). When we accept the love of God deeply into our hearts, we can overcome any life challenges and live victoriously. “God so loved the world”
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