There is probably no greater statement of God’s love than that found in John 3:16. There is so much in the Bible about God’s love that I doubt anyone can ever come close to fully comprehending it.
In John 3:16 Jesus said,
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
This is only one sentence. And that sentence contains only twenty-five words. Yet that one sentence is packed with so much truth that it is hard to imagine the extent of God’s love.
From this one verse we can find at least seven truths (probably more) about the love of God. Let’s look at them now.
1. THE LOVE OF GOD IS UNCONDITIONAL
For God so loved the world, (John 3:16)
- The Greek word for world (kosmos) is defined as “the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to Christ.” This is the world that God loved. . and still loves! It doesn’t say that God loved all the good guys. Or that God loved all the Jews. Or that God love all the saints. It says,
“For God so loved the world.”
- That God should love the world (this ungodly mass) only makes God even more of a mystery. Were we to imagine the world, fresh from creation and unpolluted by war, waste, freeways, wires and pipelines, we could more easily understand God’s desire to love and save it. But His wayward world which doesn’t live according to Jesus’ teachings would seem like a poor choice to love.
God’s love clearly isn’t based on our behavior or our attitude toward him. Rather, God’s love for mankind is universal and unconditional and eternal. He loves everyone. And this is one of the things that sets him apart from every other god of every other world religion. No other religion has the world and everyone in it saved by God’s grace.
The evangelical writer Philip Yancey said: “There is nothing we can do to make God love us more. There is nothing we can do to make God love us less.”
2. THE LOVE OF GOD IS SACRIFICIAL.
that he gave (John 3:16)
- How did God love us? He loved us by giving, by serving, by sacrificing. So here we learn something important about the nature of true love. Some people think they love others because of what those people do for them or how them make them feel. But God shows us that true love has nothing to do with what you can do for me, but everything to do with what I can do for you.
And what are the results of God’s sacrificial love? He gave his only Son, the best, perfect example of Himself – to save us – there is no better example of sacrificial love.
3. THE LOVE OF GOD IS VALUABLE.
his only (John 3:16)
- Here we see the value of God’s love for us. Not only was He willing to give His most valuable creation – His Son, but we see here that He was willing to give His only Son, His only child.
How many times have you heard or even said yourself: “I can’t give you that because it’s the only one I’ve got.” We’ve probably all said that. But we are taught that God didn’t have a backup child; God didn’t have a spare. But he loved us so much that He was willing to give us the only son he had.
“The power and passion of God’s love comes through the length to which God was willing to go for the sake of the world.”
4. GOD’S LOVE IS PERSONAL.
To give his one and only Son (John 3:16).
- God’s love is not merely some abstract concept. It isn’t just a philosophy or a theological idea. God’s love was shown in this world through the person of Jesus Christ, His only Son. Jesus came into this world to reveal to us the love of God in human form.
- A child was once trying to quote from John 3:16 in the King James Version, which says,
his only begotten Son.
But the child misquoted it and said, “his only forgotten Son.”
It was one of those slips of the tongue that carried more truth than we would care to admit. For Jesus is truly forgotten by most people in the world today. His life is forgotten. His love is forgotten. His sacrifice is forgotten. It is our job as Christians – as God’s ambassadors – to help them remember.
5. GOD’S LOVE IS FOR EVERYONE.
that whoever believes in him (John 3:16)
- The really good news about God’s love is that it is not limited to a select few. It is not available only to those who were born with right color of skin or on the correct continent. Nor is it difficult to obtain. It is not reserved for only the intellectual elite or the power brokers or financial wizards. No, the love of God is accessible to “whoever believes in”.
God has made his love available to average, ordinary person like me and like you. He is not a distant God who loves us only from some mystical, faraway place that is completely removed from us. Rather He has entered into our world and He longs to enter into our hearts and lives.
Will you believe in his Son who made the ultimate expression of God’s love by giving his life on the cross for your sins? By choosing to believe in him you receive the love of God, the grace of God and the forgiveness of God. By believing in Him you access the new life that only He can provide.
6. GOD’S LOVE IS NON-JUDGMENTAL.
should not perish (John 3:16)
- God’s goal in sending his Son was not to condemn us or to show us how bad we are, how unworthy we are or how hopeless we are. God’s only desire in sending his Son was to show us His love and draw us into a love relationship with Him. Jesus didn’t come into the world to rebuke us; He came to rescue us. He didn’t come to criticize us; He came to cleanse us. He didn’t come to punish us; He came to save us. He didn’t come to destroy us; He came to deliver us.
However this does not mean that God is not a God of judgment. For there is a huge difference between recognizing right and wrong and being judgmental. Being judgmental means not only looking for the bad in people but also not condemning them when it is found. This is how most of us see life – good or bad, right or wrong. God, on the other hand, is sickened, saddened by our sin and evil-doings because it takes us away from Him into our own sense of separation and Hell. Another way of looking at it is that it isn’t so much that God sends us to hell as that we choose hell over heaven – we choose Satan over God – we choose sin over righteousness and do not see that God is there always – loving, forgiving, waiting!
7. GOD’S LOVE IS BENEFICIAL.
but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
- That is the power of love – being loved by a perfect, divine love. As a result of God’s love each of us, we have eternal life.
- Years ago a young man who had quarreled with his father left home. He continued to keep in touch with his mother, and wanted very badly to come home for Christmas, but he was afraid his father would not allow him. His mother wrote to him and urged him to come home, but he did not feel he could until he knew his father had forgiven him. Finally, there was no time for any more letters. His mother wrote and said she would talk with the father, and if he had forgiven him, she would tie a white cloth on the tree which grew right alongside the railroad tracks near their home, which he could see before the train reached the station. If there were no white cloth, it would be better if he went on.
So the young man started home. As the train drew near his home he was so nervous he said to his friend who was traveling with him, “I can’t bear to look. Sit in my place and look out the window. I’ll tell you what the tree looks like and you tell me whether there is a white cloth on it or not.” So his friend changed places with him and looked out the window. After a bit the friend said, “Oh yes, I see the tree.” The son asked, “Is there a white cloth tied to it?” For a moment the friend did not say anything. Then he turned, and in a very gentle voice said, “There is a white cloth tied to every limb of that tree!”
In some sense, Jesus is the white cloth God tied to the tree – to the cross of Calvary – signaling that we are always welcome.
And that is want we need to remember every day of this Lenten Season – and every day of our lives –
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Are you going to accept God’s love and have eternal life?
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 16 Mar 2014