John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." This is one of the most often quoted verses of the Bible. Some people think that this verse is the entire Bible condensed down into one verse. These are the words of Jesus spoken in privacy to the man Nicodemus. John 3:16 starts off with Jesus telling us the most important attribute of God. Sometimes when we think of the attributes of God, we think of His omnipotence, His all-knowing intelligence, or His ever-present existence; but there is something about God that is more important to be aware of than those other attributes, and that is great eternal love of God.
Jesus said, "For God so loved the world..." One of the greatest needs of any human being is to be loved and to know that they are loved. No one could be happy in life if they thought that no one loved them. Jesus reassured us all; that God loves us. The apostle John would say in I John that "God is love." When things start going bad in your life, it will help you a great deal to keep the faith, if you remember that God loves you. Nothing that happens can change the fact that God loves you. You will never learn to love God as much as you could, unless you truly believe that God loves you. "We love Him, because He first loved us."
You can believe that God loves you, because Jesus told you that He does, and because God has proven that He loves you. Jesus said, "For God so loved the world that He gave..." For someone to tell you that they loved you would not mean much, unless they also proved that they loved you by what they did. God has proved that He loves you by what He has given. God is the greatest of all givers, because He has the greatest of all love. He proves His love by what He gives. If you understood and recognized and appreciated all the things that God has given to you, then you would realize how much He loves you. God gives life and all of the things that sustain life, God gives wisdom to all who ask for it, and God gives gifts unto men. Whatever you are capable of doing, it is only because of the gifts that God has given you. If you have any good thing, it is God who has given it to you, because He loves you.
But the greatest of all gifts that God has given is the gift of His Son. Jesus said, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son..." One of the greatest and strongest of all loves, is the love of a parent for a child. Because of this, there may be no greater suffering than that of a parent for a child. Itís the normal and natural instinct for the parent to protect the offspring. How great the love of God for us must be, in that He gave His Son to die for our sins. You might lose every gift that God ever gave you, but you will never lose the gift of His Son. You will always be able to thank God for the gift of Jesus Christ. Every day of every year you could thank God for His unspeakable gift. If you believe in Jesus, nothing shall ever separate you from the love of God. Not height nor depth, not life nor death, nor any other thing shall ever separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.
The degree to which the love of God is great and vast and all encompassing is also revealed in John 3:16. Jesus said, "For God so loved the world..." That means the entire world. It means everyone in the world. No matter how bad they are, no matter what they have done: God loves them with the same eternal love that He has for you. No matter how much you understand the sinfulness of the world or the craziness of the world: donít ever let that cause you to forget that God loves the world. Love that is like Godís love; is capable of loving people in spite of their failures and in spite of their sins. We read about the cruelty of man to his fellow-man every day in the newspaper and sometimes we experience it ourselves, but never forget that when Jesus hung nailed to the cross by the cruelty of the society in which He lived; He looked to heaven and said, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Jesus also said in John 3:16, "...that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Jesus already said that God loves the world, the entire world. Now He is saying that anyone and everyone can be saved. God did His part: He sent His precious Son to die for you. Now you must do your part: you must choose to believe in Him. The end of John Chapter 2 said that Jesus did not believe in man because He knew what was in man. Now that you know what is in God: His great love for you, surely you will believe in Him.
Itís important that you believe in Jesus, not only to return Godís love that He has offered you: but also to escape the judgment to come. When Jesus said that "whosoever believes in Him would not perish", the implication is that whosoever does not believe will perish. There is a judgment to come. The Bible says that it is appointed unto men once to die and after this the judgment. How shall you escape, if you neglect so great a salvation?
Jesus said in John 3:17, "For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." Even though there is a judgment to come, the message that centers around the person of Jesus is not the message of condemnation but the message of salvation. This is the age of grace. The law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. Itís not Godís will or Godís desire that anyone ends up being condemned. God forever proved what He wanted to happen in regards to the eternal destiny of the human race by sending His Son into the world to die for the world.
God did His part to save every person. There is one more thing that is left to each individual to be done: the choice to trust in Jesus or the choice to not trust in Him. John 3:18 says, "He that believes on Him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." Some believe and some do not believe. Why? because of the choice that each person makes.
There is a great division in the human race. Itís the division that God sees. Some of you may be surprised, but the division is not racial. God sees all the races equally. We are all of the human race, and equally related to Adam. The great division that God sees in the human race is not economic either. You are not going to take anything with you when you leave this world except your character. The rich and the poor will stand equally before God in the judgment. When God looks at the human race, He sees much differently than man. God sees one great division in the human race: those who believe in Jesus and therefore are not condemned, and those who do not believe.
Why is it that one person would choose to believe and to trust in Jesus, and that another person would not? The ultimate reason that one person will believe in Jesus, but another person will not; is given by Jesus Himself. You might call it the psychology of salvation. Jesus said in John 3:19-21, "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that does truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God."
John 3:16 says that God loves the world, which means everyone in the world. Now we are told what humans love. Jesus said that, "men love darkness." John told us in John Chapter 1 that Jesus is the light of the world. If anyone wants to be enlightened about the truth about God, then they must come to Jesus for that enlightenment. The thing that will keep people from coming to Jesus, is the love of darkness. Not only do they love darkness, Jesus said, but they also hate the light. Those are very strong words. You will either love darkness or you will love Jesus, who is the Light. No man can serve two masters. He will hate the one and love the other.
Everyone is a sinner, but if you come to Jesus or not will be determined by your attitude to your own sins. If you plan to continue in your sins, then you will not come to Jesus. On the other hand, if you are ashamed of your sins and plan to do better next time and desire to do what is right, then you will come to Jesus and believe on Him, "because he that does truth comes to the light."
And so we see in the teachings of Jesus in John Chapter 3 that He emphasized the love of God for all the human race. And then Jesus emphasized the free choice of man to determine if he comes to God or not. If anyone ends up condemned at the judgment, it will be because they chose to hate Jesus Christ. If someone does not come to Jesus for salvation, it will be because they are doing something that they ought not to do, and they know that they ought not to do it, but they are determined that they are going to do it anyway. Thatís why Jesus said, "Except you repent, you shall all likewise perish."
John 3:1-21 is a great and very detailed explanation given by Jesus Himself of what is salvation. Jesus told Nicodemus that salvation is a spiritual birth. No one can enter heaven without the spiritual birth. Jesus made it clear that the spirit of God is central to salvation: thatís why He called it a spiritual birth. Jesus also made it clear that He was central to salvation, because He said "the Son of man must be lifted up." Jesus emphasized the motivation of God for sending Him into the world and creating the spiritual birth for humans so that they could enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus said, "For God so loved the world." Finally, Jesus also emphasized the free choice of humans as the last determining factor in anyoneís salvation. Humans choose to either stay in darkness or come to the light. Itís the same spiritual principal as the challenge that Joshua gave to the children of Israel when he said, "Choose you this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." What choice have you made?
As we follow the path of Jesus through the book of John, we know that in His conversation with Nicodemus that Jesus was in Jerusalem because He had gone there for the Passover. Now Jesus leaves Jerusalem, but He stays in the region of Judea for a while. Because of the things that we are told in the rest of John Chapter 3, evidently one of the reasons that Jesus stayed in Judea was so that He would have His final contacts with John the Baptist. John 3:22-24 says, "After these things came Jesus and His disciples into the land of Judea; and there He stayed with them and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. For John was not yet cast into prison."
We know what ended the work of John the Baptist. He was put in prison and then murdered because he said what was true to those in authority who did not want to hear the truth. Remember that Jesus said that those who love darkness, hate the light. And the servant is not greater than his Lord. The world will always eventually treat the believers in Jesus the same way that they would treat Jesus Himself. Those that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. Be prepared for it. Itís going to happen. "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you as though some strange thing happened unto you."
We are willing to suffer the persecutions that the world gives us, because we do it for Jesus. We appreciate so much the fact that Jesus came to die for our sins that we will do anything in order to honor Him. In spite of the fact that there are sufferings and persecutions and that there is a price to pay for following the Lord, we do not fear and we do not treat the people of the world the way they treat us. We do not fear because Jesus said, "In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." The people of the world and the authorities may eventually kill us also, but what we will give them in return the message of the love of God and the hope of salvation in Jesus. You havenít learned to follow Jesus, until you learn to love your enemies. Anyway, no one can kill you unless the work that God has for you is finished, and unless He is ready to take you out of this world into His kingdom. Do the work of God while you can: the end may be closer than you think.
The work of John the Baptist was finished once he was cast into prison, but he had one more contact with Jesus first. John 3:25-30 says, "Then there arose a question between some of Johnís disciples and the Jews about purifying. And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with you beyond Jordan, to whom you bore witness, behold, the same is baptizing, and all men come to him. John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven."
The disciples of John the Baptist made the same mistake that is made by many people today: both in religion and out of it. They viewed those who were not in the same group as being competitors. Competition is negative and counterproductive when you compete with those with whom you ought to be cooperating and with those whom you ought to regard as fellow servants. The spirit of jealousy and the spirit of competition has done much in the history of the human race to limit what man otherwise could have accomplished. Think what a mighty army there would be if all of the believers in Jesus were capable of joining together in common efforts to spread the gospel and to serve the King.
At least John the Baptist was spiritually minded and smart enough to avoid the divisions of competition, and instead to enjoy and to applaud the successes of others. He said, "A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven." If someone is doing the work that God has given them to do, then why should you tear them down or be afraid of what they might accomplish? To their own master they will stand or fall.
Copyright; 2000 by Charles F. (Rick) Creech
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