Sermon: Lent 4, Year B
Text – John 3:16
In the name of the +Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
I believe this to be the greatest verse in all the Bible.
There are only 25 words in this verse yet no other single verse in all the Scriptures has been as blessed in the salvation of so many souls.
Martin Luther called John 3:16 the miniature gospel.
It has been called the Gospel in a nutshell.
It has been called a love letter from God written in blood and addressed to all.
Years ago a doctor in a hospital Intensive Care Unit gave me only 2 minutes with a lost dying woman who had called for a priest in her dying hour. The doctor told me he would give me only 120 seconds with her. What could I say in so short a time?
I just sensed that God had given me the words needed: John 3:16 and the Jesus prayer. It was all she needed. She died in peace and I am sure died at peace with her Saviour.
There are many ways to look at this verse but for a few minutes I want us to look at some of the words of this great verse.
FOR GOD – John 3:16 begins as the Bible begins, with the existence of God taken for granted. Think of Genesis 1:1 (“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”). Only a fool would think otherwise. See Psalm 14:1 (“Only a fool would say, “There is no God!”) The whole Bible stands on belief in God, and our whole existence is suffused with his place in our lives – a God engaged with our existence.
The Bible says that this God…
SO LOVED – What is love? It cannot be defined in words. The word “loved” occurs 56 times in the Book of John. The dictionary says love is “to have a feeling, affection, or regard for, to be strongly attached to or attracted toward, to hold dear”. There are also synonyms
like affection, charity, devotion, fondness, liking, and passion. All these definitions are weak when defining the word “love”. The difficulty becomes greater when you add the word “so”. GOD SO LOVED… “so loved” surpasses illustration.
THE WORLD – The word “world” is found 77 times in John. This is not talking about the matter-world or the world system but the world people. The greatest love of man or woman is love of self. What a narrow love that is!
Walter Wilson said that “No one in all the world could possibly love everyone in the world. In fact most people find it difficult to love all their relatives.” But God has found it possible, with His great heart of love, to love every individual in the entire world in spite of their faults.
God loves the Jews (we know that from Scripture) but also the French, the Arabs, the Americans, and the English.
God loves the civilized – but also the heathen.
God loves the Baptists and the Methodists, the Free Church and the Roman Catholics and even the Anglicans
God loves the progressives, the fundamentalists, conservatives, liberals and the communists.
God loves priests and good Christians like yourselves – but also murderers, gamblers, drug addicts, and prostitutes.
God loves ALL – ALL colors, ALL individuals, ALL social groups, ALL…
God loved a world of saints – NO – rather he loved a world of sinners.
He loves the sinner not the sin,
the criminal not the crime,
the rebel not the rebellion,
the liar not the lie,
the idolater not the idol.
THAT HE GAVE – The world knows a little about giving but God’s giving costs something. Most of the giving we know about is giving that really has no element of sacrifice in it.
God did not give riches or silver or gold, land or stock options. He gave all he had in the person of his Son. “He gave” means suffering.
We think a lot about the suffering of the Son but have you ever thought about the suffering of the Father. Could you stand in a window of your house and watch an angry mob spit on, beat, abuse, and kill your son with the power to stop it in an infinity of a second’s notice. God could have stopped it but HE GAVE… Because he loved us.
HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON – Here is a word of relationship. David was a “son” to King Saul in I Sam. 26:21-25 by association. God the Father is called “Father” not because of relationship to his creatures but because of his relationship to his Son.
A child was once trying to quote this verse and said “his only forgotten Son” and it struck me how true it is. He has been forgotten by most people.
THAT WHOSOEVER – This means all. All have sinned and all need a Saviour. It means any who will. It means those who believe. It means you. It means me. No-one is beyond redemption.
BELIEVES – The word “believe” with its various endings occur 100 times in John. Believing is at the heart of the Gospel
IN HIM – Acts 4:12 and I John 5:12 show us that salvation is in a Person and that person is the Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation is not found in believing in the preacher, the church, a good Christian, but in Christ.
SHOULD NOT PERISH – A life without God is a life of annihilation
BUT HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE – Life is mentioned 36 times in the Book of John. Notice the verse begins with God and ends with life.
Of course, you recall from last week that the most important Scripture for me is also concerned with life: “I come that you may have life – life in all its fullness” and it is this Scripture under consideration this morning which gives it full meaning.
I saw a poem years ago that said:
For God – the Lord of earth and heaven,
So loved – and longed to see forgiven,
The world – in sin and pleasure mad,
That he gave – the only Son he had,
His only Son – to take our place,
That whosoever – Oh, what grace,
Believes – placing simple trust,
In Him – the righteous and the just,
Should not perish – lost in sin,
But have everlasting life – in HIM.
Simple words. Powerful theology. Profound love.