Summary: We begin life ALREADY JUDGED. No chance to ’get it right’. But once we are born from above, our sins are ALREADY JUDGED.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
I’m going to state what should be obvious and I am certain it will be obvious to you, and I wonder if the thought will strike you the way it did me as I came to study this very popular and familiar portion of Scripture.
Let me approach it this way. John 3:16 is possibly the most widely recognized verse in the New Testament and possibly in the entire Bible. It is on greeting cards, it is on witnessing tracts, it is quoted over and over to prison inmates and hospital patients and homeless people in soup kitchens, and anywhere Christ followers are testifying of their Lord and the way to salvation.
In our home at Christmas time we even have a door hanger that looks like a narrow tapestry and we hang it on the outside of our front door for all visitors to see as they approach, and it bears the words of John 3:16.
Now listen once more to these words that are so familiar to us, we can chant them without even giving their meaning any thought.
“For God so loved the world, that He have His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
Now with those words fresh in your head, remember who said them.
It was Jesus. He was talking to Nicodemus. He was talking about Himself!
Could I paraphrase it for you? For My Father in Heaven loved the world He made so much, that He delivered Me up so that whoever believes in Me shall not be lost forever, but have eternal life.
This was said to Nicodemus on the heels of Jesus mentioning the bronze serpent that Moses raised up in the wilderness when the people were being poisoned by snakes. Very briefly, they had sinned grievously against God and God had sent serpents to bite them. Moses prayed for the people and God told him to make a bronze serpent, attach it to the top of a pole and raise it up so everyone could see. He said that whoever looked up at the bronze serpent would be healed, and of course, they were.
Jesus had just revealed the symbolism of that event to Nicodemus, saying that in the same way, the Son of Man must be lifted up so that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life.
That’s verse 15. So Nicodemus could hardly have missed the significance of what Jesus was saying of Himself in what we call John 3:16.
But here is what I want to illuminate for you, and this is only my introduction so we have to make the point and move on – in saying what Jesus said of Himself and of His Father in verse 16 and 17 of our text, He demonstrates that He has come to complete a plan that has been set before He came and outside and independent of the realm of worldly religion or the schemes of men.
He demonstrates a foreknowledge of things to come, and if Nicodemus pondered this through, he must have realized that this itinerate Rabbi had just foretold His own death and how He would die.
Look who’s talking. Listen to what He’s saying. God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.
This is at the very beginning of the earthly ministry of Jesus, and from the very outset, preceding all that He would go on over almost 4 years to teach and to do, He knew and declared that He had come to die so that men might have life.
Now let’s talk about why He had to come and to what He came and what His coming means for all who look up to the cross.