Sermon on John 3:16-21 – “God’s Love in Christ”

June 30, 2019 at First Presbyterian Church of Unionville

Scripture reading: John 3:1-21

[Jhn 3:1-21 ESV]1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 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. 18 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. 19 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. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 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.”

Sermon Text: John 3:16-21

[Jhn 3:16-21 ESV]

[Jhn 3:16-21 ESV] 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 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. 18 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. 19 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. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 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.”

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. Amen

INTRODUCTION

We are going to look at our passage today from John 3:16-21 under two headings.

I. GOD’S LOVE IN CHRIST

II. THE PURPOSE OF GOD’S LOVE IN CHRIST

[REPEAT]

I. GOD’S LOVE IN CHRIST

John 3:16 is the most well-known Bible verse of them all. But, I must agree with the late R.C. Sproul that John 3:16 is “probably the most distorted verse in the New Testament.” It is a verse that is commonly misunderstood.

And there are two words in particular in this verse that are frequently misunderstood. Misunderstanding either (or both) of these words distorts the true meaning of the verse. These two words that I want to look at, each in their own turn, are the words “so” and “world.” [REPEAT: the words “so” and “world.”]

God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.

A. SO

The word “so” commonly, but mistakenly, is taken to refer to the intensity of God’s love. It is as if one might emphasize that word and say “For God SO loved the world that he gave his only son.” This is a mistake perhaps understandably made in reading the English translation of the verse, but one that does not hold any water in the original Greek language of the New Testament.

The Greek (οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον) is better translated “For IN THIS WAY God loved the world.” [REPEAT: John 3:16 is better translated: “For IN THIS WAY God loved the world.”]

When a small child asks his parents “How do I tie my shoes?” Mom or Dad might respond by saying, “Like so.” “You tie them like so.” And then the explanation or demonstration follows.

Our verse—“God so loved the world”—is like that. God loved the world, LIKE SO. And then the explanation follows. How did God love the world? Hegave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. How did God love the world? How did he demonstrate his love? Like so, for in this way – He gave his only Son.

Thus we have in view here not a general love of the world and everything in it, but a particular manifestation of God’s love. A most important demonstration of God’s love. He loved the world, like so. God loved the world in this way. He sent His Son into the world in order that the world might be saved through him.

B. WORLD

The other word in this verse which is commonly misunderstood, and with perhaps even worse ramifications is the word “world.”

1. “World” does not mean “each and every person.”

It is very important NOT to translate “world” as “each and every person.” “World” does NOT mean “each and every person.”

The word “world” (kosmosin the Greek) is used in many various ways in the Scriptures. One thus must be very careful in assigning a meaning to a particular instance of IT.

We know that “world” (or kosmos) in John 3:16 cannot be in reference to a universal salvation of “each and every person” since the very same passage speaks both of some who have eternal life and others who are condemned.

And we know that “world” (or kosmos) in John 3:16 cannot be in reference to an opening up of merely the possibility of salvation to “each and every person” for salvation in Christ is not merely a possibility, but a guaranteed done deal, and Christ does not lay down his life for all, but for his own; for his sheep.

So then, if “world” in John 3:16 does not mean “each and every person” what does it mean?

2. “World” means the world of elect believers; both Jews and Gentiles.

Many of the Jews of Jesus’s day believed they were saved merely because they were Jews.

But being born again as children of God, as we know from John’s Gospel is not of blood, nor of the will of flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God; it is of the Holy Spirit.

So it is not merely Jews who find salvation in Christ, but gentiles too.

This is known even from the Old Testament. God said to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you ALLTHE FAMILIES of the earth shall be blessed.” And in Isaiah 42:6 we read of the Lord’s Chosen Servant: “I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the GENTILES.” And in Isaiah 49:6 “I will make you as a light for the NATIOS, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

God’s love is not restricted by race. It is for the whole world, but Jews and Gentiles of every nation.

In John 3:16 “world” then refers to BOTH Jews and Gentiles who believe in the Lord. God’s salvation is not restricted to one nation, but extends upon the whole world of both Jews and Gentiles.

There are indeed additional Biblical verses that prove that “the world” in John 3:16 refers not to each and every person but to both Jews and Gentiles.

In John 1:29 we read “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” The world here consists of believers; those whose sins are taken away. Likewise in John 6:33 we read “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” The world consists of who have been given life; those who have been reborn.

And we read not from John but from Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:19 who says “That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses again them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” The world is that which is reconciled to God.

“The world” in all of these places is ALL BELIEVERS – Jews and Gentiles over the whole earth, of every tongue tribe and nation.

Do you see clearly how salvation is all of God? Salvation is of God’s love, and the gift of Christ, and the birth of the Holy Spirit. All three persons of the Trinity work in harmony for the salvation of God’s people.

And so we can see John 3:16 in its proper meaning and answer that question “How did God love the world?” This is how God has demonstrated his love. He gave his only son. And those born of the Holy Spirit shall never perish but have eternal life.

II. THE PURPOSE OF GOD’S LOVE IN CHRIST

I’ve mentioned in previous sermons in this series on the Gospel of John that Jesus’s main purpose is yet out ahead of him. As he was turning the water into wine in Cana or driving out the animal sellers in the temple, he yet had a focus on one event yet to happen. He said to his mother “my hour has not yet come.” And he said to the Jews “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” His focus was on his main purpose, and now we find what that purpose is. Strengthening John 3:16, almost doubling up on the verse, we find John 3:17 saying “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.”

A. TO SAVE THE WORLD

This is Christ’s purpose! It is the answer to the question “why”? Why did Jesus Christ die on the cross? To save the world.

The purpose of the savior is to save his people. His name tell us that – “you shall call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins.”

And he succeeds. In his death, and verified by his resurrection, Christ saved his people from the wrath of God. The “world” that is saved are those who believe; those who have been born again of the Spirit. God’s love was demonstrated in the sacrifice of his son for the purpose of saving his people from the consequence of their sins.

In saving his people Christ ensured that they will not perish but have eternal life.

B. NOT PERISH

Those who believe in Christ are no longer under condemnation. They will never perish; they will never receive God’s final and eternal judgment. But instead they will have eternal life.

C. ETERNAL LIFE

The gift of Christ is everlasting life with God. It is not just an extension of the life we have now, but one far greater, with no more tears and no more sorrows.

And all of these – salvation and eternal life – comes to us a gift from God. He GAVE his only son. All of the emphasis is on the astounding greatness of the gift. The Father gave his best, his unique and beloved Son.For us.

D. WORKS OF GOD CARRIED OUT

Now it is clear that the purpose of God’s love in Christ is to save his people, and that this salvation is a gift from God. But as we continue in the text we’ll see another gift. Even the works we do—those works done in the light as believers—even these good deeds are carried out in God.

19 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. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 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.”

These words of Jesus are the continuation of his speaking to Nicodemus. And, if you recall, Nicodemus came to Jesus at night when it is dark! And now Jesus is saying to the Pharisee Nicodemus that those who do evil love the darkness! Why do they love the darkness? So that their works cannot be seen of men. God can see them! Nicodemus fears his fellow men when he comes to Jesus at night. He doesn’t want to risk having men disparage him if Jesus should prove not to be the Messiah.

Those who are not in Christ do not do good works. They love the darkness rather than the light. And it is not obvious that non-Christians hate Christianity? Above all other faiths, people hate Christianity. Why? Because it tells them that they are sinners. It points out their sins! And it says that Christ is the only way of salvation. The Biblical message attacks the pride they wish to have in their own selves and their own actions. They love their actions. They love the darkness. And the Bible shows those actions for what they really are – depraved darkness; sin.

Matthew Henry wrote, “Christ is hated because sin is loved.” Not only to non-Christians avoid the light but they love the darkness. What a terrible mistake. The darkness does them no good. It brings only disgrace upon them, and depression, and disease, and death.

Those who are not in Christ do not do good works. 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.”

Good works are the result of faith in Christ. They result from us being saved and born again. Good works do not lead to salvation, they flow out of the person who is saved.

“How did God love the world?” This is how God has demonstrated his love. He gave his only son. And those born of the Holy Spirit shall never perish but have eternal life.

And for what purpose, or to what end did God love the world in Christ? To save his people so that they will not perish but have eternal life AND have their works carried out in God.

APPLICATIONS and CONCLUSION

In concluding my sermon today I want to look at two applications; applications on self-worth and on assurance of faith.

First, self-worth. Do you struggle with you own view of yourself? What is my value? What am I good for? Maybe this is an occasional struggle, or maybe it is a lifelong one. And it can stem from many causes. Am I not smart enough? Am I not pretty enough? How can I possibly be loved? What is my worth? This is a difficult struggle. Know this, believers in Christ; God loves you. [REPEAT: God loves you] You, yes you, are valued by God. He created you, and in sending his Son Jesus Christ he redeemed you. You are his child, a forever possession. You are greatly valued. God gave his only begotten son because he loves you. Take heart in that.

Now, in last week’s sermon I mentioned the assurance of salvation that a Christian should have by looking in faith to Jesus Christ. As we look at today’s passage, we see a continuation of that theme of assurance. God gave his only begotten son for our salvation. That he has done so assures us of his love for us. In this way he loved us; he gave his only son. And in that Son, Jesus Christ, we have eternal life, guaranteed. We can be assured of our salvation because we have been given faith in Jesus Christ our savior. Be assured of your salvation, all you who believe. God spared not his own son for your sake for mine.

Let us pray.