Summary: Probably the most familiar verse in the Bible, John 3:16, gives God's motive and means to provide salvation for a sinful human race.
No Greater Love John 3:16
How can a person escape hell and go instead to heaven? The answer is given through the very basic message of Jesus and Christianity: It is not by devoting yourself to religious activities, morality, virtue, philosophy or philanthropy but by faith in the works of Christ. We ended last week with Jesus’ words to the Pharisee, Nicodemus, who taught salvation by morality and religious works in John 3:14-15 “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. (OR that everyone believing in Him may have life eternal.) The work of Christ’s life, death and resurrection are the grounds for salvation and continual, ongoing believing is the instrument of God.
Romans 10:17 says: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Faith is a gift implanted in the human heart by God, His Spirit and His Word. Faith and the Word brought through the power of God’s Spirit cause spiritual life to be born, not by human will or flesh, but only by God, that’s why Jesus repeatedly tells us that “You must be born from above, from God, from the Spirit, not of the flesh.” Only He is able to give access to sinners to enter the Kingdom of God. This was turning Nicodemus’ world upside down because he’s a legalist: He didn’t buy it. He didn’t believe it. Jesus was telling him that something has to happen TO YOU that you don’t participate in. You need something from God that you cannot offer or accomplish. In other words: God is Sovereign in Salvation! This is the doctrine of divine calling, the effectual call, the efficient call or irresistible grace. This is the calling that identifies the church as the called by God. It’s what Jesus meant in John 6:37 “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” God’s “called” will come.
The Motive and Object of God’s salvation: “God so loved the world…”
Today we look at this most popular verse in the Bible which follows, in John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
The Son’s mission and God’s motive are tied up in the fact that “God so loved the world:” The love of God toward sinful humanity is a Supreme love toward a totally evil, wicked, sinful humanity that is in total rebellion against The Perfect and Holy God. There is an intensity and supernatural greatness of God’s “agape love” toward a lost human race which is not in the LEAST worthy of His Love and mercy. “Agape” is the highest form of the word “love” in the New Testament; It is a love of the will that chooses and keeps its object. It is unselfish love that desires the best for another at the giver’s own expense. It puts oneself at the disposal of another and is never self-directed or self-centered.
It is a love that seeks to lift up the lowly. It is not normally characteristic of human love but rather of God; that is why it is so foreign to our sensibilities and often we react AGAINST it. It is this love which God imparts to those who have been born by the Holy Spirit, and indwelt by Him. It is the fruit that is produced in such work and not manifested naturally in humankind. It has true moral and Godly character which will put itself against passion and feeling as is necessary. This Christ-like love is described in 1 Cor. 13:4-8, 13. It is the type of love which Paul requests in prayer in Eph. 3:18-19: (That you) “may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
At creation, God pronounced his creatures “Good”, but that goodness was shattered and totally corrupted at the fall of man into sin (“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom. 3:23. “Therefore, just as thorough one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Rom. 5:12) As a result, every creature ever born has been in active rebellion against Almighty God, and all of corrupted creation stands under God’s judgment and is in need of HIS merciful redemption: How could a righteous and Holy God love something so utterly wicked? IT IS a FACT THAT GOD IS INFINITELY separated from that which is human. He alone is God!