“For 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.” – John 3:16
It seems that, wherever people gather, there is always a sign that reads “John 3:16”. From sporting events to protests and gatherings of support for a particular cause, this verse is the most commonly used “goto” verse in all of scripture and rightfully so, for, in this particular portion of scripture, the way is marked. In John 3:16, we read what is necessary for all people, at all times for the purpose of salvation and the implications of hope and relief from uncertainty. It is fair to stop there and most do indeed, but what is this really saying?
The latter half of the sixteenth verse in the third chapter is the consequence of the first half, in that we can be saved by trusting in that which has happened. Jesus did not stop there, for, in the following verse, He speaks that He did not come to the world to condemn it; instead, He came so that we might have life and be saved through Him. Going further, warning that, while they who truly believe would be saved, those who do not stand condemned, because they did not believe in the One who would be the ransom for our sins. He judged that the world was dark, yet He was the light that had come into the world and those who loved the truth would come to Him from the darkness.
Of the first half, however, we read the most fascinating and crushing truth: God loved the world and God gave His only Son. How hopeless, indeed, would life be if we had to come to God for our sins! No, instead, God moved to man. The infinitesimal gap between God and man could not be crossed, except by He who could not be contained or thwarted. Where man has proven himself to be wicked and sinful against a holy Creator, one in whom there is no sin; God sought reconciliation with His beloved creation. God moved to man. It is not even enough to leave it at this, for the sheer magnitude of what sin really is has not been observed.
God is holy, yes, but what does this really mean? Isaiah, upon seeing the LORD seated upon His throne, cried out (Isaiah 6), “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” God’s holiness was sang of by His very creation and, upon seeing Him, Isaiah saw his inadequacy – his hopeless and desperate state, that is his utterly despicable sinfulness. He cried out, “Woe to me!” because he knew his just reward for his sin from even the sight of his holy God.
The wages of sin are death, yes, but the act of sin is against a holy God, the Holy of Holies, who loves us for some inexplicable reason; who, despite our constant sinning, sought us out for reconciliation. That is what Jesus is really saying here: God loved us and God gave a way for us to be reconciled to Him, while meeting the requirements of His justice. We did nothing and could do nothing where which we could ever be saved or reconciled to our Creator and He, in His glorious and limitless mercy and grace, offered us a way when He was perfectly just to let us remain condemned and hopeless.
What do we say of this, then? “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved” (Rm 10:9-10). For those of us who have surrender to Christ, trusting in His work on the cross, we should be encouraged and beyond thankful for we could never have accomplished what Jesus did, not to mention the incredible love displayed for us. For those who remain, that is the ones who have not, know that the One who formed you in the womb loves you so much that He gave what was eternally significant to Him for your reconciliation with Him. God loved you so much that He gave the way for you to finally live with hope and to be in fellowship with Him for the remainder of your days. Do not let this day pass without surrendering your life to Him.
To the One who sits on high, all praise and glory forever and ever. Amen.