Monday, May 25, 2015
"God's Love" Sermon: John 3:16-21
May 24, 2015 Second Reformed Church
This morning’s text concerns the final section of Jesus and Nicodemus’ discussion that night. It contains one of the most famous and beloved verses in the Bible: John 3:16. And what it says is very often misunderstood.
Thus far in the conversation, Jesus has told Nicodemus that we must be born twice.
We can only be born twice if God the Holy Spirit gives us life.
And we can only be born twice if God the Son comes to earth as a real human being, perfectly keeps the Law, doesn’t sin, suffers crucifixion and death, pays the debt for the sin of everyone who will ever believe, and physically rises from the dead, credits us with His work, and ascends back to His throne.
This is what the Bible tells us is the Gospel – the Good News for all of humanity. The bad news is that we have sinned through our father, Adam, and personally, so we only merit God’s condemnation for our sin. God’s Kingdom is closed to we who are dead in our sins. It is only if we are born a second time – even raised from the dead – that we will believe in the Gospel – Jesus and the work He accomplish – and be received into God’s Eternal Kingdom.
Still, it would seem that if we ask most Christians what the Gospel is, they will say something along the lines of “Jesus loves you,” and if we ask them how they know that, they will say, “John 3:16.” But John 3:16 isn’t the Gospel and it doesn’t say that Jesus loves us.
So let us turn to our text:
We see, first, we have salvation because God the Father loves the world.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
We have to look at what comes before this: Verse 15, “whoever believes in [Jesus, the Son of Man] may have eternal life” – for – because – the reason this is true is:
Most people talk about John 3:16 as if it is about Jesus, but it is about God the Father – God the Father is the subject of this verse.
“so loved the world,”
Whoever believes in Jesus, the Son of Man, savingly, will have eternal life, because God the Father has an intense, incomprehensible, extreme love for the world – that God the Father did something:
“that he gave his only Son,”
God the Father gave God the Son – His Only Begotten Son – the Only Son of the Father – of the same Divinity – the Only One Who can naturally be called the Son of God – He Who was with the Father – in perfect communion with the Father and the Spirit – from before the Creation of all things – One of the Three Who lived as the One God in Holy Union for eternity past – this Son, God the Father, gave to incarnate in the Person of Jesus, live, die, rise, and ascend back to Him.
Why did God give His Precious Son? Why did God love the world?
It can’t be because God saw how much we loved Him and just needed a hand up to be right with God. No, Paul tells us:
“but God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God, For if while we were yet enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Roman 5:8-10, ESV).
Paul doesn’t say that we were cute and fluffy and loveable; he says we were enemies under the Wrath of God – that’s the bad news everyone needs to understand, isn’t it? Without understanding the bad news, who cares about the good news?
God loved us and gave us His Son for His Purposes and for His Glory.
The one other thing we can say is that all humans were created in the Image of God – and God loves Himself – so He loves the Image of God in us.
Whatever moved God to extravagant love caused God to give His Son for we who were enemies of God, so –
“that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
If we believe that Jesus is God the Son in the flesh Who accomplished salvation for us through His incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension, that is proof that God the Holy Spirit has caused us to be born again – born twice – born a second time – and we will not be condemned in the judgment for our sins – no, Jesus has paid the debt for them and credited us with His holy life – we shall have eternal life and be welcomed into the Kingdom of God.
John 3:16 tells us that all those who ever believe savingly in Jesus Alone as Savior will have eternal life. And the way that was achieved for us – who only deserve God’s Wrath for our sin – is that God the Father, out of His great love for the world, gave His Son to us and for us and for our salvation – that He would be our Substitute before God and under God’s Law – so all we who believe would not be condemned eternally under the judgment of God, but would have everlasting life with Him.
Second, the First Coming of the Incarnate Son was not about judgment, but salvation.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
There was a popular Jewish conception at the time of Jesus – many Jews still have it today – that when the Messiah – the Savior – comes, He will bring salvation for the people of God and judge the world. Their mistake was in reading the prophecies in the Old Testament as though the Savior was going to do everything in one coming.
What we actually have in the prophets – which is explained here in John – is that God sent His Son into the world – the first time – to secure salvation for all those who would ever believe in Him. God came to earth in the person of Jesus to pay the debt for all of the sins of everyone who would ever believe and to earn the merit of keeping all of God’s Law perfectly, so He could credit it to us
God’s work of salvation and judgment is a two-part work. First God the Son came to secure salvation. When He returns, He will judge the world – hear what Jesus said:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separated the sheep from the goats. … And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:31, 46, ESV).
Of course, the two comings of the Son of Man are related:
“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
Jesus came the first time, so that all those who will believe in Him Alone for salvation will be saved – they will not be condemned for their sins. So, if you believe, you won’t be condemned – you’re saved. If you don’t believe, you will be condemned – you are found guilty of your sin and will endure God’s Wrath.
Do we understand?
We are born sinners, deserving the full Wrath of God for our sins.
God the Father loved the world SO MUCH, that He gave His One and Only Begotten Son to live and die that by believing in Him and what He did – the Gospel – we would have everlasting life – everything restored, perfected, and eternally right on the last day.
And God the Holy Spirit causes people to be born twice – making them able and willing to believe savingly in Jesus – as He wills, when He wills. Like physical birth, we don’t choose it; it is done to us. Out of all of humanity – every one of whom deserves Hell – God chooses to save some. In His Love. For His Glory. For His Reasons.
Third, normally, evil does not like to be exposed.
“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
“And this is the judgment” – this is the divine verdict – the verdict of God: Jesus is the Light, and the world loves darkness, because its works are evil.
We are naturally sinners, and when we do something wrong – when we sin – when we do evil, we don’t want a spotlight on it.
Most people don’t blurt out their evil thoughts when they have them.
Most people who have a sexual affair try to do so secretly.
Most people who steal do so in such a way that it won’t be noticed – at least for a while, or at a time when people aren’t around to notice them.
We slink around in the dark, with masks, in places we normally don’t go, with other people of like depraved minds, and the very last thing we want is someone to come and shine a light on us – to come and expose what we are doing wrong.
Jesus puts a spotlight on us – He flips on the light in the room – He exposes us as sinners and knows our sins.
We may remember that Jesus was called by the scribes and the Pharisees to offer judgment on a woman caught in adultery, and Jesus bent down and wrote in the sand. We are not told what Jesus wrote, but the reaction is clear: “… they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones …” (John 8:9b, ESV).
One commentator has guessed that what Jesus was doing was listing the sins of the scribes and the Pharisees. So, they stood there wanting to trap Jesus and punish this woman, and then Jesus wrote in the sand, “Peter committed this sin yesterday….” So they left.
Have you ever lied? That’s a verbal way of keeping something in the dark.
“Did you break Mommy’s favorite vase?”
“No.” (You lie.)
“Did you meet so-and-so at a motel yesterday?”
“No.” (You lie.)
“Did you delete that tape?’
“Did you cut down the cherry tree?”
“Did you have sexual relations with that woman?”
We don’t like to have our sins exposed.
What response would we expect if a Person Who is the Light came into a world which loved darkness? We might expect the world to turn on Him and put Him to death, wouldn’t we?
What the world didn’t realize was that was part of the plan so God’s people would be saved.
Our text this morning tells us that God the Father made an incredible gift to all those who will believe in giving His Son for our salvation and out of the Father’s Love.
All people who believe in Jesus will be saved from the Wrath of God for their sin; those who do not believe will suffer eternally – as fits their crime.
Truth is the light that exposes the darkness of sin.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, Father of Your Son and all we who have been adopted by You, we praise and thank You for the Gift of Your Son and for the salvation that He has merited for us. We thank You for sending the Holy Spirit to raise us from the dead and give us second birth. We ask that the Holy Spirit would help us to hear what You have said in Your Word and present it faithfully to all who will hear us, that they would believe and repent and know Jesus as the Only Savior. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.