Wednesday, April 13, 2011

John 3:16a: The Gospel of Divine Love

It’s finally time to dig into John 3:16 itself. I have taken some few days to cover the context leading up to it. I have stated in the last few posts that the testimony of Christ is also the testimony of the Father, that the Old Testament points to Christ, and that to deny the testimony of Jesus is to label God the Father a liar. Inclusivists do this by arguing that “one does not need to confess the name of Jesus in order to be saved” (to quote Clark Pinnock from his “A Wideness in God’s Mercy”). And yet, Paul said that God was true, but every man a liar (Romans 3:4). Inclusivism, then, is an outrageous attack against God the Father and an outright rejection of His good pleasure to save the world through Jesus Christ.

In this post, I will begin to tackle the Gospel of Jesus Christ by looking at one of the themes of the Lord’s Gospel: that is, God the Father’s love for the world. Notice that I said I will only deal with “one” of the themes of the Gospel. There is another theme of the Gospel, but I will deal with that in my next post...Lord willing. This post will show that God brought salvation to humanity in Christ as a demonstration of His love.
John 3:16 affirms that God the Father loved the world “so” (meaning “so much”) that He gave His Son, Jesus Christ. We see the love of God the Father for the world recorded in other places as well, including the Pauline epistles:

“For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8, NKJV).

Christ died for the world before men and women would ever come to faith in Christ. Paul tells the church at Ephesus,
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

Because of His “great love” for us, God sent His Son Jesus Christ on our behalf. Paul also reiterates this in Ephesians 5 with the words, “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Eph. 5:2).
Notice that Paul places “loved us” beside “given Himself for us.” Why does Paul do this? To demonstrate that the Father’s love moved Him to give His Son to die for humanity’s sin. Love moved the Father to sacrifice. Would to God that our love for God and people would ever move us to sacrifice!!! The theme of sacrifice is reiterated again when Paul uses Christ’s love for the church and His sacrifice of His life as the example for husbands to love their wives (Eph. 5:25).

God’s love is seen in the Pastorals, where Paul writes both Timothy and Titus. In his letter to Titus, Paul uses God’s demonstration of love to move believers on to good works:

“For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another, but when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared...He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:3-5).
What form did the love of God take on? Flesh; that is, God’s love was “poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:6).

The apostle John takes up the theme of God’s love in his epistles:
“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).

The love of God was revealed in the person of the Father’s Son, Jesus Christ. And what is so wonderful about this is that the Father loved the world so much (John 3:16) that He gave Jesus to us, to die for our sins. God was not obligated or forced to do this; He did it because He loved us. And we can only love others because He loved us first (1 John 4:19).

Why did I go through these verses on love? To show that Christians advocate a Gospel of Love. Contra inclusivists, universalists, and so forth, Christians do not advocate an idea of God who damns millions to Hell and has no love for them. Rather, the truth is that God sent Jesus to die on the cross for the sins of the entire world because He loved us. So when people ask, “How can a loving God send people to Hell?,” God’s love has not been compromised; God’s love is not on trial in such a statement. When skeptics ask this question (inclusivists, universalists, and conditional immortalists do too), one needs to remember that our loving God does not send people to Hell without providing for humanity’s salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ. In such a question it is not God’s love on the line; it is not that humanity cannot accept God’s love; rather, it is God’s judgment that mankind cannot accept.

God loved humanity so much that He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. And today, for those who believe, you can be saved from your sins. Paul said that the Lord is not far from us (Acts 17:27b), so He’s only a prayer away. Paul, Peter and the Old Testament prophets agree that “whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame” (Rom. 10:11, Isaiah 28:16), “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21, Rom. 10:13, Joel 2:32). So will you call on His name today? Will you acknowledge that you are a sinner, you have offended a Holy God by virtue of your sin in Adam (and every sin ever since), and that you need to be saved, you need your sins forgiven? Will you acknowledge that you are tired of living your life by your own rules, that it is tiring to be Lord over your life...that there’s a Lord who can rule you so much better than you can yourself? His name is Jesus. Call on Him and be saved today. If you desire to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, please contact me here at the blog. I desire to lead you to Christ; for love does not rejoice in iniquity, but the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). God Bless.

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