Summary: We use the word 'But' quite frequently and it can change the meaning of something said. In the Bible the word BUT and the context is profound, we are not object of God's wrath as sometimes seen in the Old Testament but objects of His love.


John 3:16-17

In my working life I’ve been on many training courses either related to management, finance, dealing with the media and so on..

One course still comes to mind when I was criticised for using the word’ ‘BUT’

I was using this simple and very significant little word to clarify positive agreement with a caution.

I totally agree with you BUT…

BUT is a little word with a big meaning and it is ironic that in my endeavours to find a theme to use as an address for this mornings service I came across an article all about the significance of this little word.. BUT.

I have come to the conclusion that the Bible is effectively all oriented around this word, BUT .. I shall explain.

If we read the Old Testament we can come to some very negative conclusions, a very bloody history of a people continually abusing their privileged position as the chosen nation of God.

For example in the book of Joshua will see a God who not only wants His people to win a battle but to annihilate the enemy.

This is very far from the New Testament concept of a God as a loving Father.

But Jesus changes everything and that is why we must always read the OT in the light of the NT.

Jesus said, ‘'Whoever believes in me should not perish but have eternal life ...God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17

A word doesn't have to be long to be important and very often it’s the simplest things that have the most significance.

'BUT' is a very short word, both in English and in Greek, yet it is crucially important in understanding the message of the New Testament, in fact, 'but' almost sums it up!

The picture of the world offered by the Bible is one of vivid contrast between the good earth that God created and the present disordered situation we find ourselves today.

God created the heavens and the earth, the sea and skies, the fish, birds, animals and, as the crown of it all, human beings…US

In the simple but profound words of Genesis, God looked at what He had made and 'Behold, it was very good.'

Then chapter 2 offers us a picture of that Utopian world, with the Man and the Woman set in a wonderful garden of delight.

The trees were not only fruitful but beautiful to look at, a river watered the garden - no need for back-breaking irrigation!

Under the earth there was gold and crystal. As the writer might have added, 'What more could you want?'

BUT. ..but, as we all know, they weren't satisfied. In this strange and haunting story of Eden, these beings made in God's image presumed to know better than God.

They wanted to be privy to His secrets, to experience both good and evil.

In the language of the story, they 'ate the forbidden fruit' - we can let that stand for pride or presumption.

They wanted to be 'like God'; they weren't content to be made in his image, stewards of his creation, lords of the good earth.

They wanted equality with their creator; and in grasping at that, they lost everything.

They destroyed the garden of delight for ever.

Work, which formerly was satisfying and fulfilling, became a burden; their relationship, previously one of mutual support and respect, became one of male dominance and female subservience.

All the pressures and pains that we tend to think of as exclusively modern and contemporary are described in this ancient creation story in Genesis.

The beautiful world made by God is no longer 'very good', but infected with evil.

All of that, of course, is only one side of the contrasting picture offered by the Bible - the dark side. BUT. ..

But God did not cease to love his human creatures; they were still of infinite value, still made in His image, still objects of His love and concern.

So the 'other side' of the Bible's picture is the story of God's action within history to put right what had gone wrong, to restore what had been ruined and to find what had been lost.

The human race may have wandered off into a far country, distant from Eden, the Bible has that wonderful word for this sojourner.. But God had never left us nor forsaken us.

The motive for his concern comes out of the very heart of his nature. 'God is love', says St John - not just 'God loves' or 'God is lovely' but that He is love.

God is the personification of Love.

What love is, God is. By our actions, in the words of St Paul, 'we were by nature objects of wrath '.

Yet Paul goes on, 'But God, because of his great love for us, made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in transgressions. '

The argument may seem an odd one to modern ears, yet it can still speak powerfully to us.

If we got what we deserved, we would be the objects of God's anger; after all, it is us, not God, who has spoilt His beautiful creation with our greed, our pride and our anger… our stupidity!

BUT. ..but we are not objects of his wrath, but of his love.

That verse from St. John’s gospel, is so familiar and perhaps therefore so easily taken for granted, but put it simply it is the source of our eternal existence:

'God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. ,

It all hinges on that word 'BUT'; the situation is dark and desperate, BUT God has not abandoned us.

Evil and darkness often seem to hold sway in the world, BUT God has still got a purpose for His creation.

Death shadows the whole of human life, BUT God has made us alive in Christ.

That word, 'BUT' represents the realism of the Gospel.

The gospel is not a message of empty hope, a kind of whistling in the dark.

The gospel faces the reality of the world as we know it, but recognises that in the end all will be well because God’s love reigns supreme.

And that Love is shown and revealed in His Son.

Thank God for His Son Jesus Christ our LORD.