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;
would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels.” Israel
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).
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. “
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 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. Namibia
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
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.” Israel
The text illustrates that God freely chose
. 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) Israel
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