The ‘Greatest’ Verse (John 3:16)
Arguably John 3:16 is the greatest verse in the Bible. One commentator said John 3:16 is the Gospel in a nutshell. Another commentator said it is the sum of the fourth Gospel. Now in John, we need to understand that the context is that Jesus is explaining God’s law from Moses versus God’s love and grace through Christ. God gave Moses the law. God shows love to us in the person and work of His Son, and there is a significant distinction between the two.
The Greatest Love (John 3:16)
Many miss that God is the subject, but the verse showcases His love. What we’re reading in John’s Gospel is the divine nature and the divine depth of this term. It’s different from human love and more profound than we can comprehend. It’s the divine nature and the divine depth of sovereign love. We typically love with conditions. Money, sex, and power are potent agencies in our economy.
It is easy to love things that we love. But God’s love is holy, ethical, sacrificial, and never based on performance. It’s an expression that God, the subject, chose to love. In the king’s English, the phrase ‘God so loved’ is ‘This is the way God loved.’ That’s what John is drawing our attention to. It takes a thinking mind to understand ‘this is the way God loved, that He sent His Son.’ Going back to John 3:14, he says, as the Son of man will be lifted, which is twofold.
It’s not just looking at the man who died, the Godman on the cross. A resurrection and an ascension are coming. Just as Moses lifted the serpent, so must the Son of man be lifted. So whoever believes in Him will have eternal life.
Nicodemus was a teacher of the law. Some argue that he was THE teacher of the law. He’s coming at night to talk to Jesus. Nicodemus is confused by Jesus telling him that he must be born again. Christ says, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?” This is the way God loves.
In the same way, Moses lifted the serpent in the wilderness; even so, must the Son of Man be lifted. So we have temporal salvation versus eternal salvation. In the case of Moses, looking upon the serpent only healed them temporarily. When you look upon Christ, however, it is eternal salvation. As we are told in John 1:11, Jesus’ own people (the Jews) rejected Him.
Part of the reason they will reject Him is undoubtedly connected to the Jew’s perspective of their chosen nation, people, and chosen race status. They were steeped in pride that they were God’s elect nation. It is funny how the modern man says he can’t believe in Jesus. God makes a universal offer to solve the condition of sin, and man still has a problem with it.
God made man in his image so man would worship God. Man’s been making God in his image ever since. Modern man accepts God as the Savior for all but can’t accept God as the only way to salvation. Conversely, the Jews rejected God’s love as a universal offer, believing it was for the chosen only. In this passage, we see that rejecting Christ is rejecting God and His plan.
The Greatest Gift (John 3:16b-17)
This unique action of God’s Perfect Love is His unique gift, His one, and only Son. Notice that God gave his Son. Other gospel writers say God sent his Son, but John says God gave Him. The Greatest Love—indeed the Perfect Love—is given so that those who believe, embrace, and trust in Jesus Christ shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:17 says God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved by Him. Later, in John 9:39, we read that Christ will judge the world. Many scholars and even casual readers will say that the Bible is confusing. The context of the verse is essential. Everybody’s going to hell. We’re already judged. When He comes with His offer of life, death, burial, and resurrection, He’s not coming to judge people at that point in time; He’s come to make the offer of salvation clear.
Many Christians are rejecting the doctrine of hell because it feels too harsh. However, you’re an eternal soul made in the image of God. You’re going to live forever. Hell is real. If hell wasn’t real, what is Jesus saving us from? Why did he send Jesus Christ to save if there’s no bad ending? Because man is depraved/sinful, Jesus’ entrance into the world, His offer of salvation, and His presence confront man with either reception or rejection. Those who align against Him are judged already.
He came to allow you to put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, so you don’t have to go to hell. FF Bruce said, “Self-judgment cannot be laid at the Savior’s door.” So don’t lay that blame at Jesus’ door. Jesus is solving the condition. 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 give us a helpful reminder that God does not wish for any to perish but for all to be saved. The goal was not to condemn; the goal was to give eternal life to anyone who believed.
In explaining the way we evaluate things, FF Bruce says, “where an artistic masterpiece is on display, the opinion of the reviewer tells more of the reviewer than the piece of art. When a pop star described the Mona Lisa as a ‘load of rubbish,’ he told us nothing about the Mona Lisa, only about himself… this is true in the spiritual realm. Any person who devalues Christ dismisses Him, thinks Him unworthy or one of many ways to God has revealed—judged—himself, not Christ.”
The greatest love did not come to condemn but to provide the means by which all are saved. The one who believes in Him is not condemned. Romans 8:1 and John 5:24 make this truth clear to us. Christ will return in judgment, but His salvation offer is to spare men & women from this self-condemnation.
The Greatest Justice (John 3:18-21)
John 3:18-21 the contrast of light and darkness in John 1:5. This is what judgment looks like. The light has come into the world, and men love the darkness rather than the light. No amount of darkness can quench a single match, but one match can dispel darkness. The passage talks about the fact that darkness hides sin; most immorality happens at night, not in broad daylight.
Notice the phrase at the end of vv. 21, ‘that his deeds are manifested, wrought by God.’ If you look through a Swarovski crystal, you can see right through. But if you turn it to the facet, the full spectrum of rainbow colors would appear. Notice it’s not what we do; it was wrought in God. It’s what God does through us. So even though we’re all sinners, the light of Christ draws people.
Observations About The Perfect Love
Nicodemus—a highly religious leader—had come at night to ask Jesus questions. Jesus told Nicodemus he must be born from above, born again, and explained what that meant to him in several ways. The Greatest Love, the Greatest Gift, and The Perfect Love were God motivated to remedy man’s sinful condition. God sent Jesus Christ, His One and Only Son, to die for our sins. This was not limited to a select group, not just the religious, it was offered to all. The purpose of God’s love is universal in character, sacrificial in nature, and eternal in purpose.
Three Purposes of God’s Love
Universal in character: No one can love like God. No one loves perfectly. We can get hurt, go through a divorce, or get fired. God’s love has not changed because of that. Sacrificial in nature: It’s for someone else. Jesus will later say, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” Eternal in purpose. It’s not just for a transaction; It’s eternal. There’s no greater gift, no greater love, and no greater justice than in Jesus Christ.
When my school teacher first showed me the Gospel of John, the story of Nicodemus specifically, the words shook my entire worldview. I said to my teacher, “You mean all I have to do is believe?” At that moment, I went from death to life. I cannot explain it. It was profound. But I understood that if I believed in Him, He gave me eternal life.
There is no greater gift, and we have soiled it. He loves you so much. He allowed us to kill His Son Because that was the only remedy for our sin. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. There is no greater love. Reframe your Christmas a little bit; reframe your thinking. See who this gift is.
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