God So Loved The World
14 December 2014
A study in the series on the Gospel of John by John Dugas
Grace Bible Church, Tulsa
Full Audio Message
God So Loved The World
Hell will be filled with really bad people and really good people. The ancient Jews were right that the pagan nations that tormented them would perish under God’s wrath. But those same Jews were wrong when they assumed that they themselves would escape God’s wrath. Nicodemus probably taught Jews that if they wanted eternal life, they should obey God’s Law. And teachers like him probably taught Gentiles and Samaritans that if they wanted eternal life to become a Jew!
Some of us used to be really bad people but God saved us from the wrath to come. Some of you have always been really good people and I’m scared for you. Maybe you were born in a Christian family. Maybe you’ve never done anything really bad. Maybe you’ve always tried to do what is right. I’m scared because you believe that. I’m scared because you are already condemned.
God is the most beautiful being in existence. And He wants everyone to see how glorious He is. That’s where you come in, O Sinner. You stand condemned and God stands ready to save! At the core you are bad. And at the core God is love. That’s a recipe for God’s glory and your hope!
What we have in John 3:16-21 is an explanation of God’s motive in sending His Son the first time. This morning we get to peer into the deepest part of God’s heart. We will see why the cross is the peak of God’s glory. We will see how the cross—that despicable, dehumanizing torture device—is a source of glory to Jesus and His Father. We will look at what God’s motive was and what it wasn’t. Then we’ll see why. First, let’s look at what God’s motive was…
I. God’s love moved Him to give His Son for us (John 3:16).
If the new birth is required for eternal life, how does believing in Jesus bring eternal life? Jesus explains to Nicodemus how that’s possible. Providing salvation is the work of God. What motivated Him? Nothing in man. It was His own love that motivated God to act. I’ll say more on this in my sermon next week on Love and Glory in the Incarnation. Whom then did God love?
Nicodemus would be expecting Jesus to say God loved Israel. But instead, Jesus said that God loved the world. This was earth-shattering and ground-breaking in Jesus’ day! “God’s love is not restricted by race” (Carson, p. 205). We’ll see in chapter 4 that God’s love extends even to Samaritans (½ Jew, ½ Gentile) and to full-blooded Gentiles. The Samaritans were surprised that Jesus would save even them. They declared that Jesus “is indeed the Savior of the world” (John 4:42). So did Jesus die for everyone?
That’s not the point in this passage. Jesus used this term world to shatter Nicodemus’ wrong understanding of God’s love. He assumed it applied only to Jews. Jesus expands Nicodemus’ view. God loves people from every race. But Jesus did not die for everyone. Did He die for people who were already in Hell? He did die for everyone already in Heaven. John will say in John 11:52 that Jesus would die for “the children of God scattered abroad,” that is, for people all over the world.
How did God prove His love? He gave His one and only Son to die on the cross in our place. God gave that which was most precious to Him. Ought it not also be most precious to us?
Because of Jesus’ death, whoever believes in Him shall be saved. As the song goes, “whosoever will, may come” but without being reborn, no one will! John said in John 1:12-13 that those who believe are those “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God”. No one will believe without being first regenerated. And no man is saved unless he believes. What is believing?
Believing IN Jesus means putting your trust ONLY in Him. It means to accept His payment on the cross as the only payment and as the full payment for your sins. Those who believe shall not perish. Perish doesn’t mean cease to exist. Perishing is the opposite of eternal life. Both go on forever. Perishing means to experience eternal failure and loss, permanently separated from God. Perishing is the easiest thing in the world. In fact, you don’t have to do anything in order to perish!
Believing in Jesus means that you will have eternal life. You will possess it right now. You will possess the same quality of life believers have in the age to come. Jesus will say later that He came so that we might have life and have it abundantly. We have it now and it is increasing.
So God’s motive in sending His Son was love for sinners around the world. But Jesus felt it was necessary for Nicodemus to understand also what was not God’s motive in sending His Son.
II. God’s judgment did not move Him to send His Son (John 3:17).
Has it ever bothered you that John 3:16 is followed by John 3:17? Why does “judgment” come up right after such a sweet verse about salvation? Well, the Jews were expecting Messiah to not only set them free from Roman domination, but also to execute judgment on their enemies! Think about Ps 2 where Messiah will “break [the nations] with a rod of iron…shall shatter them like earthenware” and Isa 63:1-6 “I trod down the peoples in My anger and made them drunk in My wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth” (also Isa 9:1-7; 11:1-5; 42:3-4).
The Jews didn’t think they were in any danger when Messiah came. We now know that Messiah has two advents with two different purposes. Jesus shows Nicodemus that if Messiah came the first time for judgment, NO ONE would be able to stand. It was absolutely necessary for Jew and Gentile to first be born again BEFORE Messiah returns in judgment. Otherwise there is no hope for anyone!
While it is true that Jesus will later judge the nations, during His first coming it wasn’t His purpose to condemn. While Jesus certainly does announce judgment in His first advent, He won’t pronounce judgment until His return. Instead, Jesus came this first time so that the world should be saved through Him, that is, through His work on the cross. Now Jesus explains why all this is true.
A. Unbelievers are judged already (John 3:18).
Jesus divides humanity into two groups, not Jews and Gentiles but believers and unbelievers. Those who believe in Jesus’ name will not be judged or condemned (Jn 5:24; Rom 8:1). That’s already resolved because they put their trust in Jesus. He paid their penalty. But those who don’t believe in Jesus, have been judged already. Prior to believing in Jesus, all men are judged already. All men are guilty and stand condemned in Adam (Rom 5:16-18). Why are they already judged?
B. Unbelievers are judged for loving darkness (John 3:19).
After examining the evidence, the verdict (judgment) is that men loved the darkness. They love it for what it hides. Darkness protects their precious sin. God loved the world. They loved darkness. Why? Their deeds were evil. That is, worthless for pleasing God. They willingly reject the light which has come into the world in the person of Jesus Messiah. Why do they love darkness?
C. Unbelievers love darkness because light exposes them (John 3:20).
Jesus explains that everyone who does evil hates the light. Evil here is a different word from that used in v. 19. Here, it refers more to that which is wicked, morally evil, sinful. This word is also used of malignant (dangerous) sores. Think of skin cancer which can spread. Evil causes further evil.
You’d think people would want to be rid of that but they don’t. Jesus and His word shine light into dark places to expose evil for what it is. But unbelievers hate the light. They love darkness for what it can hide. They hate light for what it can expose. When light comes, they slink away into the shadows. They are like a boy I knew who was wild and undisciplined. Whenever he broke something he would skulk away hoping to go unnoticed and avoid his father’s wrath. By contrast,
D. Believers come to the light because it exposes them (John 3:21).
What a contrast between unbelievers who are repelled by light and believers who are attracted by it! The unbeliever is the one who does evil. The believer is he who practices the truth. His life is characterized by faithfully obeying God’s truth. The light that Jesus shines is like a magnet for believers. Just as an unbeliever has an uncontrollable urge to flee the light, so a believer has an uncontrollable urge to run toward the light. Why does he do this?
He comes so that his deeds may be manifested. One of these good deeds is repentance of sin. What I think is implied here is that believers relish the thought of their sins being exposed so that they can be purged and forgiven. A mark of repentance is a coming clean, a desire to expose one’s own sins so that they are adequately dealt with (Ps 26:2; 139:23). If unbelievers love darkness for what it can hide, believers love light for what it can reveal! (Guthrie)
More specifically this is what they want revealed: that their deeds have been wrought in God. They want the character of their deeds to be exposed. This gives all the glory to God. Whatever good is done, is done by God through them. Good deeds are being done in a former rebel! When God’s Spirit re-births a person, that person does what used to be unnatural. They yearn to have the light expose their new nature. By running to the light we know that the new birth has truly taken place.
Re-born sinners no longer hide, deceive and scheme to protect cherished sin. Now they run toward the light of God’s word, wanting it to be exposed that God has regenerated them and God’s Holy Spirit is the chief influence in their command center, motivating them to choose rightly.
If you still prefer to remain hidden, you need to hear Jesus’ words: you are condemned already. If that terrifies you—and it should—then know that you don’t have to clean up your life in order to be saved from God’s eternal wrath. You simply have to accept His work on the cross as a gift. Trust in Jesus’ work alone to save you. God so loves the world. Will you flee to Jesus?