Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: The result of God’s love is life because of the perfect sacrifice of His Son!

Nicodemus tells Jesus that he believes, but Jesus confounds him in return: “You must be born again to see the kingdom of God. Being Jewish won’t save you; you must be born of the water and the Spirit. You must be cleansed by God and be of His Spirit” (2:23-3:6). This fact had been lost on Nicodemus and most of the Jews. They just couldn’t see how God could save anyone but the Jews, but the Spirit works according to His own will and man can’t tell His origin or destination (3:7-8).

And how can they believe? If they read the Scriptures and don’t see Christ, how can they know about anything spiritual? The tabernacle was only made of cloth. The things in it were only earthly materials. The priest was a mere man and the sacrifices were mere animals. If they can’t see Christ in these things, then they have no hope of relating the physical things to the spiritual things (3:9-12). What they need is to listen to someone with authority; they need to hear from someone who’s seen it for Himself (3:13).

And what does this One say? How does He show the heavenly substance belonging to the earthly shadow? And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life (3:14-15). This, of course, refers to Numbers 21:

And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. 5And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. 6And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. 7Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. 8And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. 9And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.

This little story seems so strange and it’s so abrupt within the chapter, but Jesus uses it to show Nicodemus how the earthly things are tied to the spiritual:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Now, we started this verse last week and we saw how it’s so abused by Arminian Universalism. They take “For God so loved the world” and apply it to every person in existence from the beginning of time until now despite other clear Scriptures telling us of God’s hatred for the wicked and despite the context of Nicodemus and his reliance on Judaism. God’s love is not universalism but rather the impartiality of election. He doesn’t just love Jews, but rather (as He promised Abraham in Genesis 12) all nations are blessed through him. In other words, God’s elect are not confined to those of Jewish descent. God’s love for His multi-national elect is the reason for what we read next:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Let’s look at this in three parts: (1) God gave His only begotten Son that (2) whosoever believes in Him (3) should not perish but have everlasting life.

First, what does it mean that God gave His only begotten Son? He provided the means of salvation just as He had for Israel in the wilderness with the bronze serpent. But in doing so He had to give His only begotten Son. The Father loved the Son. This wasn’t just an animal as the Israelites offered every year at the Passover; this was the Son He loved. This is the One who had been with Him in the beginning. This is the One Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2:6-8).

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