Wednesday, December 9, 2009

John 3: 16- 21 "How does God love this World ?"


As we consider these familiar words  from John’s gospel, we  have prayed that  we will not be deaf to  the truth of  God’s word. There  is always  the  frightful prospect of a  divinely  induced  deafness! We learn from the Scriptures  that a  people  that is privileged  to hear  the gospel  often   without   yielding their lives  to its claims, may eventually find  themselves   gospel  hardened  in due season.  The Psalmist Asaph says in Psalm  81:11,12: “But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels.” 

We thank God  for the privilege of gathering under His Word to hear  familiar truths explained to us again and again. But let us make sure that  we  do not let familiarity breed contempt. The  church father Origen  (185- 254 AD) reminded the people in his day that  “the same sun that melts the wax, hardens the clay!“
When  Isaiah received his call, he received  a call to preach to an unresponsive people   (see Isa 6:8-10; also quoted in  Jn. 12:39-40 ; Acts  28:46).

How I pray  then that God  would not harden  our hearts  to the revelation of His Word  and  His Son as we now meditate  on the extent  of the love of God  in the giving of His Son.

Understanding the  love of God  in Christ

Why did  God give us His  Son   in the first place?  There are essentially two answers  to this.

(i) God has a general love   for the whole world. He loves this whole world and has made a Saviour available for the whole world.   This is the primary focus  of John 3:16

(ii) God has  a  particular love  for His  covenant people. This is a primary focus  of the entire Scriptures. Let me explain:

1.      God loves this world !  

What does the text mean here by “world?”  Well, it is  clear from the context in John’s gospel that  the “world”   generally  refers  to  all  fallen, sinful, human beings  (past , present , future). This text  therefore  clearly  teaches us  that God truly  loves this whole sad,  sinful, fallen  world,  and He loves it so much that  He  gives  His only begotten Son  that  whoever believes in Him should not  perish but have eternal life!

This text is therefore  a  great and wonderful  and hopeful affirmation  that God has genuine concern  and compassion for  every human being in this world. Now I  know that  some  Reformed brothers would be  offended by this statement. There is  a  strand of Reformed teaching   that holds that God  only loves the elect,  and that  for this reason He cannot possibly love   sinners. They would  quote  Psalm 7:11,  “God is angry with the wicked every day"(KJV)[1]

Let me stop here , and explain something very important.  Love and hatred, love and wrath, are not mutually exclusive. We may think so, but they aren’t!  This is supremely demonstrated at the cross. At the cross God’s love and wrath kiss each other!
Love and  hatred aren't even mutually exclusive in our  idioms. We speak of having a "love-hate relationship".
Can you understand that  God’s hatred towards the wicked can indeed be accompanied by a sincere compassionate love for them?
Jesus  confirms this  for us in  Matt  5:44 ff: “But I say to you , Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you , so that you may be the sons  of your Father who is in heaven . For He makes His  sun rise on  the evil and on the good , and sends  rain on the just and on the unjust.”    

Do you see what Jesus says  here? He  affirms that  there are God’s enemies, and those that persecute, and those that are evil  and unjust. But He also says that  God nevertheless sends His rain and sunshine on them.  He does so without favour.  We see this, and  for this  reason  John McArthur  makes the  helpful observation  that  “while  we are  all eager  to ask why a loving God lets  bad things happen to  His children, surely we should also ask why a holy  God lets  good things happen  to bad people . The answer is that God is merciful  even to those that are not His  own. [2]

I am going to show you in a moment that  God does have a  particular love for His children, but right now  my first  concern is to ensure that  you understand that  God  really does love this world!  And  you must learn to love  this world in the same way “so that you may be the sons  of your Father who is in heaven”!
That means   that  you may say to every human being on the face of this earth:  "God really  loves you!  Look  here! He has given you a Saviour. If you believe in Him  you will not perish   and be condemned in eternity. You will receive eternal life."
That is what  we    call the “free offer of the gospel”. There are no limits to this offer. You may take this promise  to all the houses in Windhoek and in Namibia and  to the whole world. That is the substance of the Great Commission  (Matt 28:18-20).  You may take this word  with confidence to the worst of sinners. If there is hope for the apostle Paul , the  foremost   of sinners  (1 Tim  1:15), there  is hope  for all!    You must  place no limits  on the  use of this text. Use it. Tell the world: God loves you – and here’s how He loves you . He has given you a  Saviour, Jesus Christ His  Son. If you believe Him , you will not perish
So,  in this Christmas  season  tell sinners everywhere that there is a Saviour! Do not be ashamed of this  gospel. It is the power of  God  for  the salvation of unconverted  men and women. (Rom. 1:16,17)

2. God loves  His sheep  with a particular love!  
I have shown you from our text and from the greater context of Scripture   that  God sincerely  loves this world, and that He wants us to share this love with the world, by offering the gospel freely to the world.
 “Whosoever  will may come …”  Whoever may  come  to drink of the water that  will never make you thirsty again, says Jesus (Jn. 4:14)

But now let  me stop there  and help you to see an  even more wonderful aspect  of God’s  love -  the love for His  covenant people, His chosen people,His sheep (Jn. 10).  This truth means so much to  those  who  have  come  to know the love of God experientially,  having believed in Christ.   This truth  affirms that there  is a love of God  that moves Him to  act  beyond the free offer of the gospel!

This is the profound doctrine of election.

The Bible teaches  us that over and above the free offer of the gospel  to the whole world,  God  chooses a people for Himself, stirs up  their faith in Him,   and brings them into  an everlasting  covenant  with Himself.This  love is greater than  the love portrayed in a free offer.  This love  compels  you to come  into that covenant. This fact is not difficult to illustrate from the Scriptures  at all:

1. God  chose  Israel above all the tribes of this world- see  Deuteronomy  7: 6-8:  “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”

The text  illustrates  that God freely chose Israel. He  loved  them  before they loved Him.  They did not choose Him first. The  same is true for Israel's entire history. Remember that before He chose  Israel as a nation, He chose Abraham , and from Abraham’s children he loved Isaac, and from  Isaac’ s children  he loved Jacob – the father of the  12 tribes of Israel.   God  did not  negotiate. He freely, sovereignly and unconditionally chose Israel.  This does not mean  that all of Israel  was saved. But it does mean that  God  had placed every citizen  in Israel  into a close and special proximity  to Himself. Thus, when you are privileged to be in a church community like ours, under the word of  God, it means that you are near to His blessings and  near to His Word. But you must take  care how you hear!  (Mk. 4:9;23)

2.  God chooses  His  New Testament  people  through the gift of  the New Birth
Becoming a child of God,  one of Jesus’ sheep is not a matter of free will , but of  sovereign  election. Nowhere is this better asserted than in the  third chapter of John’s gospel: In  Jn 3:8  Jesus says, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  
Here we plainly see  that  being "born again“   happens because the Holy Spirit  wills it  You do not control a human  conception or  birth  anymore than  you can control  the  wind  -  and by way of application – you do not control the work of the Sovereign Holy Spirit.  We see here plainly  that  He does as He pleases with His  regenerating power. He  sovereignly  chooses  to pour the love of God  into  the hearts of His elect people  (Rom 5:5)
This  is  the great  love which Paul expounds  in  Eph.1:4,5: In love  He predestined us  for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will”. And again in  Eph. 2:4–5:God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ”.
Can  you see that this  is  not an ordinary love?  It is  a “great love”. It goes beyond the ordinary; it goes   beyond  making a free offer to  all sinners of this world.  It is a love that  awakens us  from  our spiritual death  (Eph.2:1,5). 
This particular love  of God  for His elect  people is seen especially   in John 10. Jesus says in John 10:11, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. ”  Here we see  that  the Good Shepherd has a particular, greater love for His sheep, and it surpasses  the general love for the world portrayed in John 3:16
Why do the sheep  come? They come because the Father has chosen them and has given them  to  His Son.  John 6:37: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”  See also John 6:44, 65]  

So the question then arises: “Why doesn’t everybody believe in the promise of John 3:16? Why does not everybody believe in the Son for eternal life? Read the rest of the text. Jesus answers  that question in  John 3:19–20:
“This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light.”

Can you see now that there is a love  at work in this world that  is greater than John 3:16? 
It is the compelling love of God. John 3:16 is wonderfully wide and rich. It shows us that all may come.  But the question is: Will they  come?  The answer is   provided  in Jn. 3:19-20. The world  wont  come because the citizens of this world  love darkness more than light. Man’s unbelief  at  this point  is  very profound !  But  what is even more profound is  that God  comes to  those  that are in the darkness  and in their deadness  and rebellion and  He  does more  than  only offering eternal life . He  draws  them to Himself with irresistible grace. The mystery of particular redemption!

  • We marvel that God has such a rich, open  armed  love for the world. That is the scope of the love of God  in Jn.3:16.  Nobody  at the end of the ages , and before the judgement seat  will be able to say: “But God, you did not show your love  to  me!”  He will say : “Then why did you not embrace my  Son?  I have sent gospel witnesses into the entire world, and you did not listen to them. You rejected them.  And why did you not  worship me  in response to  my daily care  for you? (Life , Health , Food , shelter etc )? "
  • We  marvel that despite this wide love of God, nobody will come!  Truly  mankind is too lost in   themselves , too proud, too self centered  to come  and accept this  gracious  free offer. 
  • And so  we marvel even more that  God  has a definite, particular love for His elect sheep, and if you are a  believer  today, then you  must know that  you are loved  with a very special, particular, irresistible, conquering love.. 
  • If you are  not yet  a believer  in Christ - then let this grand text, the great offer  speak to you. You may come. Come NOW!  Amen 

[1] ESV  “ God is a righteous  judge and a God who feels indignation  every day. “ NIV:  “God is a righteous Judge , a God who expresses His wrath  every day
[2] John Mc Arthur : The Love of God , p.  15,16

1 comment: said...

Dear Joachim Rieck,

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All the best!

Akinyi Adongo