Summary: This is about Jesus conversation with Nicodemus.
It is perhaps the best known verse of the Bible. Almost anyone can quote it, at least in paraphrase. It is the verse that every child learns in Sunday school and VBS. I remember making a little wall plaque in Bible school with the verse on it.
I remember that 15 to 20 years ago, you would see it at sporting events. When you watched a baseball, football or basketball game you would see someone holding up sign with Scripture reference on it. You don’t see it as much anymore, but it is still a favorite verse.
The verse is, of course, John 3:16. It used to be that everyone knew this verse. It was in the days before WWJD and the other recent fads.
I learned it in the King James Version, “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.” I could quote that when I was a young lad, even though I had no idea what “begotten” meant. It’s the one verse that speaks volumes to people.
It is even more powerful when taken in the context in which the Apostle John originally penned it. Imagine the scene. Jesus has gained immense notoriety, and the religious leaders take notice. They discuss what do about this peasant, homeless prophet from Galilee. One of the leaders decides to go to Jesus to talk to him about all the miracles he has done. The leader wants to know if Jesus is a true prophet or not. He arranges a nighttime rendezvous with Jesus. No one is sure why they met at night. Perhaps the leader was fearful of his peers. He may have been concerned about how it looked. He may also have just wanted to meet with Jesus when there were no crowds so they could a quiet uninterrupted discussion. Either way, these two men meet on this particular night.
Turn with me to John 3. Read John 3:1-17.
Everyone has his or her favorite scripture passage, but John 3:16 has been called “everybody’s favorite passage.” It’s been the called the gospel in a nutshell. Perhaps this verse has been used to help people accept Jesus as Savior more than any other verse. It tells us a great deal.
I. It tells us that the INITIATIVE in all SALVATION is from God.
There is nothing we can do to achieve our salvation. We cannot work for it. We cannot earn it. We cannot even initiate it. We don’t go looking for God. He has come looking for us.
Every other religion devised by mankind seeks to “find” their god or gods. They try to appease their god. When things go well for them, they say, “Well, I must be living right.” People try to earn the favor of God. It doesn’t work that way.
A. God does not need to be PACIFIED.
We can do nothing to earn the favor of God. We cannot be good enough. We cannot go Church enough. We cannot read the Bible enough. We cannot fast enough. We cannot even pray enough.
This is where our friend Nicodemus had gone wrong. The Pharisees were a group of men who thought that by meticulously observing the Law of God they could earn the favor of God. They elevated legalism to an art form. It went beyond the Old Testament law. They had incorporated tradition. Through the years, various religious leaders had sought to interpret the Law so it was clear. The fourth commandment was to keep the Sabbath holy. So that there was no confusion about what it meant to not work on the Sabbath, the religious leaders had determined how far one could walk on the Sabbath. They figured out to the ounce how much one could carry on the Sabbath. This was nothing less than an attempt to try to gain the favor of God. Nick and his friends thought this was the way to get to heaven.