Studies in John's Gospel -- Part 5
By: A.J. Higgins, M.D.
Passage: John 3:16
So powerful was the oratory and eloquence of the late Sir Winston Churchill that John F. Kennedy, when conferring upon him an honorary citizenship remarked, "He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle." Sir Winston Churchill’s word embodied the spirit of a nation and rallied the free world.
While we revere every word from God recorded in our Bible and join with the Hebrew Psalmist David in defending the inerrancy of the Scriptures (Psa.12:6,7), there are, nevertheless, individual verses which like Mt. Everest rise above others and command our attention. They are, if we may borrow the imagery of the late President Kennedy, the mobilizing of the yearnings of the heart of God, sent into battle against the darkness that envelops our world. Such a scripture is John 3.!6: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." Our readers will forgive us this once if we devote this article to one verse on this occasion rather than to a section of John’s Gospel.
With elegant simplicity, yet profound depth, the twenty five words of our text emerge from the vast armory of God to do battle with the darkness and sin that surround the human family. From its words we gain
An Invaluable Revelation.
"God so loved the world " Please don‘t hurry past these words. Allow neither familiarity with them, nor skepticism rob you of their meaning for they contain an unmistakable message. A message unforeseen by men who limit the horizon of their thinking to the limits of their own intellect; who worship at the shrine of reason. They tell us that in a world increasingly characterized by hatred, distrust, and disillusionment, there is a love that has known no ebb nor change. And this unflinching love has provided
An Infinite Redemption.
"God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." The cynic and agnostic point to man’s inhumanity to man and question the love of God. They point to history which records so few years of peace that their number would not tax the knowledge of a kindergarten child. Does the triumph of evil and the cruelty of man refute the love of God? It only makes it more a mystery that God should love such a world. The reality of God’s love is forever proven at Calvary. For a world of sinners and sin that man had committed, God gave His only Son to provide salvation. And that principle of salvation had been enunciated a millennium and a half before to Moses: "It is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul." (Lev. 17:11). If the sin of man was to be atoned for, a sinless perfect substitute must die. God gave His only Son to save men from the dread consequences of sin. That atoning work was no longer just for Israel but embraced the need of the world. A redemption that can meet any man and any need has been provided by God in His love.
Our verse however reveals that each man must face the issue of divine love and provision and pass judgment upon it. God has clearly spoken that He is satisfied with the work of Christ upon Calvary to put away sin and forgive the sinner. The redemption provided by God must be received by men. Heaven will be peopled by volunteers, not conscripts. Its basis is decision, not draft. Men are free to refuse divine love and divine provision, to turn from Christ and seek some other way of salvation. Our text makes clear however that every decision has
To those who believe on the Son, who depend upon His substitutionary suffering upon Calvary, God promises eternal life. Those who refuse His gift of grace have a promise from the same God, backed by the same authority: they will perish. This does not mean cessation of being, but eternal separation from God in the lake of fire. Men who have refused God’s love will know its absence forever. As C. S. Lewis penned: "The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly save from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell." The solemn choice belongs to each man and woman. It belongs to you.