by Grover Gunn
Gospel: John 3:1-21
In John chapter 10, Jesus said,
11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.
In John chapter 10, the emphasis is on the love of God the Son as demonstrated by His giving His life for the sheep. In John chapter 3, the emphasis is on the love of God the Father as demonstrated by His giving His only begotten Son for the world. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son ..." We put so much emphasis on the love and sacrifice of God the Son that we sometimes forget about the love and sacrifice of God the Father. We sometimes forget about the love and sacrifice of God the Father even though that is the message of John 3:16, the best known verse in all of Scripture.
We will today look at this special love of God the Father under three headings:
The measure of Godís love
We will begin by looking at the measure of Godís love. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." The measure of Godís love for the world is His giving His only begotten Son. In eternity past, as the Triune God was planning and foreordaining the events of history, God foresaw a rebellious world fallen into sin. God the Father decided, for the glory of His grace and mercy, to give God the Son as a sacrifice for sin in order to save that world in rebellion against Him.
God gave us an event in redemptive history to help us to understand the pain of a father who must give up his beloved son as a sacrifice. In Genesis 22:2, God said to Abraham, 2 ...
"Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you."
Hebrews 11:17, commenting on that event, says, 17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, ...
Hebrews 11:17 refers to Isaac as Abrahamís only begotten. This helps us better understand this term. The term obviously is not to be taken in the most literal sense even in regard to Isaac. Isaac was not literally the only son Abraham had begotten or fathered. Abraham had fathered Ishmael thirteen years before Isaac was born, and Abraham would have other children after Isaac. Yet Isaac was special. Isaac was the son of promise which God had promised not only to Abraham but also to Abrahamís wife Sarah. Isaac was Sarahís only child, and his birth was a miracle. She was well past the age of child bearing when Isaac was born. Isaac was the child of promise miraculously born. And Abraham loved him with a love like unto that of a fatherís love for a son who is that fatherís one and only biological son. In this somewhat metaphorical sense, Isaac was Abrahamís only begotten son.
We all have some degree of understanding of the love which a human father can have for his biological son. Based on that understanding, we can identify with the pain which Abraham felt when he bound his son Isaac and laid him on the wood of an altar of sacrifice, and then raised up a knife to take away his sonís life. Of course, at that point, an angel appeared and pointed to a ram with his horns caught in a thicket, and that ram became the sacrificial victim in the place of Isaac. But Abraham did not know that was what was going to happen. He raised that knife in order to slay his only begotten son Isaac.
When we think of Abraham and Isaac at Mt. Moriah, we see a lesson in faith. Abraham knew that God had promised that God would fulfill His covenant through Isaac. Abraham knew that God could not fulfill His promises through a dead Isaac. And yet God had commanded Abraham to slay Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham obeyed God and prepared to slay Isaac in obedience to Godís command. Yet Abraham never doubted that God would fulfill His promises through Isaac. He assumed that God would raise Isaac from the dead to do so if necessary. That is faith. When we think of Abraham and Isaac at Mt. Moriah, we also see a picture of Jesus, the greater Seed of Abraham, the greater Son of promise who was miraculously born. Jesus died a sacrificial death so that God could fulfill the covenant made with Abraham. Isaac at Mt. Moriah was a picture and pledge of Jesusí sacrifice upon the cross.
But there is another lesson to be learned at Mt. Moriah, and that is the demonstration of a fatherís anguish when he has to give his only begotten son over to a sacrificial death. The great anguish which Abraham felt as he lifted that sacrificial knife over Isaac, his only begotten, was but a faint reflection of the anguish which God the Father felt when He sent His only begotten Son to take on a complete human nature and through it to experience the painful and shameful death of the cross as a sacrificial punishment for the sins of Godís people.
It is not that the first member of the Godhead looked at Abraham and Isaac as a human father and son and then said to Himself, "Hmm! Their relationship is similar to My relationship with the second Person of the Godhead. I will therefore call Myself God the Father, and I will call the second Person of the Godhead God the Son." No, that is getting it backwards. It is the other way around. God made human fatherhood and sonship to be a dim reflection of the close relationship which has existed from eternity past between God the Father and God the Son. God the Son is the brightness of Godís glory and the express image of Godís nature. God the Son is the divine Companion within the Godhead whom God the Father has loved as a Son from eternity.
God the Fatherís giving up God the Son to experience in His human nature the shameful and painful death of the cross is the measure of Godís love for the world. It is also the measure of the sinful worldís need. The death of Jesus is the only possible solution to the worldís sin problem. The radical nature of the solution is a measure of the radical nature of the problem.
The mission of Godís love
Our first point is the measure of Godís love. The measure of Godís love for the world is His giving His only begotten Son to be a sacrifice for sin. Our second point is the mission of Godís love. The mission of Godís love is not to save every individual who has ever lived. Godís mission in sending His Son is to save a select people who manifest themselves in history through faith. These are the people who believe in Jesus with a real, persevering faith. They hear the gospel message, and they respond in faith. They receive Jesus as freely offered in the gospel and rest upon Him alone for salvation.
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
To be saved is to have everlasting life, and according to this verse, to have everlasting life means not to perish.
There are some other verses which use the same Greek word here translated "perish" and teach clearly that those who will perish are those who do not believe in Jesus.
1 Corinthians 1:18
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
2 Corinthians 2:15-16a
15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.
16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. ...
2 Corinthians 4:3-4
3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing,
4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.
Those who do not believe in Jesus do not have everlasting life, which means they will perish. But what does it mean to perish? Some today are teaching that to perish means to be annihilated, to lose all conscious existence. No, that is not what the Bible means by perishing when it is an eternal punishment from God. Here is what the Bible teaches on this point. There is in the Greek a noun based on the Greek verb translated "perish." This Greek noun is translated in the New Testament by the English words "destruction" and "perdition." Jesus used this noun in Matthew 7:13-14, when He said,
13 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.
14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Now remember that the Greek word here translated "destruction" is a noun based on the Greek verb which is translated "perish" in John 3:16. This same noun, the Greek noun based on the Greek verb translated "perish," is also found in Revelation 17:11, and there it is translated "perdition." Revelation 17:11 says that that evil persecutor of Godís people called the beast is going to perdition. Does that mean that the beast will be annihilated and lose all conscious existence for eternity? No, it does not. And we know it doesnít because the Bible tells us in specific detail about the eternal destiny of the beast. Here is what we read in Revelation 20:10:
10 The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. This is what it means to perish as an everlasting judgment from God. It means to be consciously tormented day and night forever.
Those who believe in Jesus will not perish. They will not be tormented day and night forever and ever, even though that is what their sins deserve. By the mercy of God and through faith, they have everlasting life. Jesus defined everlasting life in His high priestly prayer recorded in John chapter 17:
3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
To have everlasting life is not only to live forever through a life sustaining communion with God and Christ but also to know God and Christ, to live in a relationship of personal friendship with God and Christ.
The reason those who believe in Jesus will not perish but have this everlasting life is because Jesus delivers them from condemnation.
18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; ...
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, ...
To fully appreciate this deliverance from condemnation, we must remember that the entire human race in its fallen state was already under condemnation. Condemnation, the divine declaration of guilt, came upon all of humanity when the father of humanity, the first Adam, ate that forbidden fruit. When Adam first transgressed Godís law and thus first stepped outside the bounds of obedience and thus first placed his foot firmly on the guilty ground of disobedience, he acted not only for himself but for the entire human race which he would father. All humanity, even Eve, the mother of humanity, who was made from a rib from Adamís side, finds its origin in Adam. He was the original die which carried the original image of humanity. A die is an engraved stamp made to impress its design upon softer materials. Every human who is conceived is stamped in Adamís image. When Adam sinned, he marred that image with both guilt and corruption. And that pervasive and perversive scar upon Adamís image affects not only Adam but also every human stamped with Adamís image upon his soul. When one damages a die, one also damages every image the die will stamp.
We are each conceived with the stamp of Adamís guilt upon us and with the stamp of Adamís corruption within us. As soon as we develop the facilities to express our corrupt nature in thoughts and words and actions, we confirm Godís original condemnation of our fallen race through our own individual guilty acts of sin.
Our race is guilty, condemned and destined to perish. Jesus came to deliver us from this destiny.
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous.
Our only hope is in Jesus, the second Adam, the one who obeyed God and submitted to Godís will, even to the point of dying the painful and shameful death of the cross. Through His obedience, all who believe in Him are delivered from our raceís guilt and condemnation and judgment.
The mockery of Godís love
Yet not all who hear the gospel respond in faith, and that brings us to our last point, which is the mockery of Godís love. To respond to the gospel in unbelief is to scorn Godís offer, and that results in greater judgment.
Yet we read,
17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
At His first advent, Jesus did not come into the world to judge the world. That was not the defining purpose of the first advent. Jesus came at His first advent to die upon the cross to atone for sin. At His second coming, Jesus will come to judge. Even so, there is a secondary sense in which even Jesusí first coming brought greater judgment into the world as a secondary byproduct or consequence. There are ramifications to unbelief, and there is no way to remain neutral to the light of the gospel message.
The sun rises to shine forth with light, but shadows also result as a secondary consequence. Jesus came into the world to shine forth with the light of salvation, but the shadow of judgment also results as a secondary consequence. You see, with greater opportunity comes greater responsibility, and with greater responsibility comes greater potential judgment. In that sense, the light of offered salvation does cast the shadow of potentially greater judgment. Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 12:41- 42:
41 The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.
With greater opportunity comes greater responsibility, and with greater responsibility comes greater potential judgment.
When people reject the gospel and refuse to come to Jesus, it is because they love their sinful ways and do not want Jesus to deliver them from their sinful ways or for Jesus to expose their sinful ways as sinfully wrong.
19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
Those who reject Jesus will be judged for doing so because it is the most dramatic possible demonstration of the evil nature of their hearts. They love the darkness and hate the light. When someone rejects Jesus, God will hold him accountable. It is not as if God somehow barred his way or held him back from coming to Jesus. The only reason one does not come to Jesus is because he loves his sinful ways.
Yet there are those who come to Jesus.
21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God. These should not pat themselves on the back and congratulate themselves. They too were a part of the common lump of sinful humanity from which God made both the vessels of mercy prepared for glory and the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction (There is that word again related in the Greek to the idea of perishing.) Those who come to the light need to thank God for transforming them from children of darkness into children of light. They need to thank God for taking away their love of sinning and replacing it with a love of doing the truth. This is the miracle of the new birth.
As we close, we have come full circle. Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, and Jesus said, "You must be born again." We too must look to Jesus to give us the spiritual life of the new birth. We will know He has granted us this spiritual life when we believe in Him, when we come to Him out of the night of our sinful rebellion, when we have learned to hate the darkness of sin and to love His light which delivers from evil and exposes the truth.
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Sermons, Bible Commentaries and Bible Analyses for the 3rd Sunday after Denaha (Baptism of our Lord)
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