Summary: A salvation sermon asking & answering these questions: 1) What if God had not loved the world; 2) What if God had not sent his son; 3) What if God's offer of salvation was not for the "whosoevers"; and 4) What if God's offer were not based on faith.
What if John 3:16 Were Not True
August 4, 2013
NOTE: The skeleton is based on a sermon in one of Roger Cambell’s “Preach for a Year” outline books, but the meat I put on this skeleton is all my own fault! BTW, both times I have preached this message, God blessed it with salvation decisions: two the first time; three the second.
TEXT: John 3:16
Open your Bibles please to John 3:16.
We’re walking on familiar ground here with this verse. This is, without a doubt, the most familiar and beloved verse in the whole Bible. I have more sermons on this one text than any single text in the Bible. Luther called John 3:16 “the Gospel in miniature.” No matter what denomination or church group you may have grown up in, if you went to Sunday School or church as a child, you probably memorized John 3:16.
Read it out loud with me (and say it from memory if you can): “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.”
What is the setting for this verse? It was spoken to a good and religious man who, though he was good and religious in man’s eyes, was nevertheless lost and on his way to hell.
Look at verses 1-3 for context: “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. 3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Though Nicodemus was RELIGIOUS, he needed to be saved, to be born again—first a physical birth and then to be born again spiritually in God’s family. Though he as a Pharisee gave alms to the poor and knew the Old Testament scriptures backwards and forwards, and avoided evil activities and people, Jesus looked him straight in the eye and said in essence, “Nicodemus, all your good works and all your religious deeds and all your good intentions and all your sincerity will not do one thing to get you into God’s kingdom.” Jesus told him the same thing He tells us: “YOU–MUST–BE–BORN–AGAIN.”
So that’s the setting of this marvelous, precious verse later in the chapter—John 3:16. Jesus told Nicodemus what He did in John 3:16 so that Nicodemus could know how to be born into God’s family and thus have forgiveness of all his sins.
But let me ask you a question: WHAT IF JOHN 3:16 WERE NOT TRUE? That’s what I’d like for us to consider this morning. What if this precious jewel in the coffers of God’s Word were not true?
Illus. – Beatle John Lennon had a notoriously anti-religious song titled “Imagine.” Some of the lyrics talk about imagining there’s no heaven or hell or churches. Well let’s take his point of view: What if John 3:16 were not true. For instance…
I. WHAT IF GOD HAD NOT LOVED THE WORLD? – The verse begins, “For God so loved the world…”
Without God’s love, there would be no hope at all in this world. Roger Campbell said that if God had not loved the world, “Our world would be a dark planet hurtling through space without hope. There would be nothing to live for and no purpose for existence. It would be a world where prayers were but useless cries to the skies. Every death would be the end of personal hope and every grave a place of despair.”
Illus. – I’ve shared with you before that when I was a young assistant pastor getting paid peanuts, I used to sing at funerals in North Carolina for people who did not have a church, and thus hired the funeral home to do the funeral. The one thing that stands out to me above all others is the hopelessness of lost people who lost loved ones in death. I’ve heard wives scream sobs of sorrow saying, “He’s gone; he’s gone!” You could hear the hopelessness of people without Christ.
Truth of the matter is that those who don’t know Christ as Savior have no hope at all beyond the grave. So just think for a moment if God had not loved the world and sent the living Savior. Think of a whole world in hopelessness and despair with no hope beyond this life.
But, praise God, I want to tell you this morning that God DOES love the world: Everything speaks of God’s love to humanity. Every sunrise; every blade of grass; every fountain of water; every birth; the face of every child—ALL speak of and are evidence of the love of God.