God So Loved
God So Loved
John 3:14 “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;”
“And as” – Jesus doesn’t give up on Nicodemus, and neither is Jesus brining up a new topic. The faith needed to bring about the new birth, is produced by what has been stated in Scripture (3:5; Romans 10:17; Mark 16:15). Jesus goes back to the Old Testament and picks out an event which Nicodemus would have been familiar, and compares that event to what will happen in His own life. The new birth will be something inherently connected to His own death and resurrection.
“Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness” – This means that the event recorded in Numbers chapter 21:6-9 was a real historical event as are all other events in the Old Testament. The people really did speak against God and Moses, God really did send fiery serpents among them, God really did command Moses to make a fiery serpent and set it on a standard (flag-staff), and the people who looked to it after being bitten, were cured. “Even so” – Jesus is saying that His death upon the cross and the brazen serpent on the pole have many things in common.
In both cases: 1) There was only one cure available. Jesus is the only answer for our sins. 2) Faith was necessary, and faith had to do something, even if it was nothing more than looking. 3) Man could not provide his own remedy. 4) The cure was accessible to all (any man: Numbers 21:9), God did not require the impossible. 5) One had to be very stubborn or very foolish to reject such a simple and with reach cure. 6) The cure is understandable, the language is clear as concerning what to do to be healed. 7) God didn’t give the Israelites a detailed medical explanation of how looking at the serpent could cure them. God doesn’t answer every ‘how’ (Deut. 29:29). 8) There is a warning here to the person who won’t obey God, until they have all their questions answered, to their own personal satisfaction. People with that attitude died in the wilderness. Like those who died in the wilderness, some mock the cure, some say it doesn’t make any sense, some resent the fact that only one cure exists, others stubbornly refuse to ask for help, and so on. 9) The cure was real, people really did recover. So if you are wondering about the truthfulness of the Gospel Message just examine the lives of those who have accepted it. How did the Gospel change the lives of your mom and dad? Did it heal them?
“Must the Son of Man be lifted up” – This is said right at the beginning of His public preaching. God didn’t change His plan, from the beginning it was clearly stated that Jesus must die, and Jesus has already told Nicodemus who the Son of Man is (3:11-13).
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
“God” – Both Testaments affirm that the evidence for God’s evidence is clear, clear to all men in every generation (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:20). Thus the beliefs of atheism and humanism are greatly flawed, for they are wrong at the most foundational and beginning point from which all reasoning proceeds.
“So loved” – This goes against the deistic concept of God, that God created the universe and then went off and left it alone. God does have emotions, God feels, God cares, God is immensely concerned about what happens to His creation (Romans 5:6-8). Therefore, it would be inaccurate and unfair to characterize God as uncaring, insensitive, apathetic or unmoved by what happens to people on this planet. God showed up, Jesus was God in the flesh (John 1:1,14), and He expressed some very strong emotions.
- He was very upset when He saw people corrupting the place where God was to be worshipped and all nations were to learn about the true God (John 2:13-17).
- He was angry when men and women were dishonest (Mark 3:5).
- He loved specific individuals (Mark 10:21; John 11:5).
- When He encountered human pain and suffering, He grieved (John 11:35).
“The world” – So God did not look ahead into the future and love or predestinate just certain individuals for salvation. When Jesus died on the cross He did not die for just a certain group of individuals, rather He died for all men (1 Timothy 2:4-6). It is sad that the adherents of Calvinism which includes the doctrines of predestination and limited atonement while feeling that John 3:16 is their verse, do not even believe what the verse says. This statement also makes it very clear that God is distinct not only from the world of men, but also from the rest of creation as well. God is not in every rock and tree. Neither are we all little gods.
“That He gave” – Love gives, love is not a taker. God did not say, “You need to meet Me half-way, you need to prove your worthiness and then I will send My Son to die for you”. Rather, “For while we were still helpless Christ died for the ungodly… By God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6,8).
“His only begotten Son” – He gave the best that He had to offer. He did not send a mere good man or teacher. He did not send an angel. He did not send a hologram or avatar.
“Only Begotten Son” – The term “begotten” here does not mean that Jesus was created or had a beginning. This Gospel started with the point that Jesus was with the Father from the beginning and was God from the beginning (John 1:1). In John 1:18 Jesus is called “God only begotten”. “Only begotten” has the idea of unique, one of a kind, just like were Isaac was called Abraham’s only begotten son, even though Abraham had a previous son (Hebrews 11:17). John 1:18 further says about Jesus, “who is in the bosom of the Father”: The phrase “is in” expresses the idea of a timeless relationship. The word “bosom” reminds us of the perfect intimacy that exists between the Father and the Son. Their relationship is pictured as a child putting his ahead on his father’s chest. “To be in the bosom of someone is the Hebrew phrase which expresses the deepest possible intimacy possible in human life… It is because Jesus is so intimate with God, that He is one with God, that He can reveal God to men” (Barclay, p. 56). This reminds me that when Jesus came into this world, the Father was sending a Son which He dearly loved, and when Jesus left heaven to come and die for us, He was leaving the presence of One that He cherished. So the Holy Spirit is telling us that Jesus is of the same nature as the Father (Hebrews 1:2-3; John 14:9). We also learn that Jesus and the Father are two distinct beings. Finally, this verse and many others contradict the idea that Jesus was nothing more than a prophet in a long line of prophets.
“That whoever believes in Him” – One more statement that strikes at the heart of Predestination. Our salvation or damnation has not been locked in from eternity. Rather, there exist conditions for salvation, which all can meet if they so chose, one of those conditions is faith in Him.
“Believes in Him” – Contrary to the claims of some, the faith that saves in this verse is not faith only, because that type of faith never saved alone (John 12:42-43; James 2:14-26). From the context Jesus in talking to Nicodemus has already spoken of the need to be born of water, that is, to be baptized (John 3:5). Then the very last verse of John chapter 3 contrasts believing with its opposite, which is disobedience to Jesus (John 3:36). So if faith and disobedience to Jesus are opposites, then to truly believe is to obey. The person who truly believes will obey and submit to whatever conditions are necessary for salvation, including repentance, confession and baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Romans 10:9-10). Faith will naturally trust God’s way of saving us (Colossians 2:11-12).
“Should not” – The verse says “should not” and not “will not”. Those who believe in Jesus should not perish, yet other passages make it clear that all who become Christians do not remain faithful Christians (2 Timothy 2:11-13). If I cease to believe, I will perish.
“Perish” – There is a place where people do perish. This verse contradicts the idea that God will save everyone, or the love of God is incompatible with the idea of an eternal hell. John 3:16 affirms as do many other passages that hell does exist. More to the point, the verse very strong states that whoever does not believe in Jesus will perish, no matter what else they believe in or how religious they happen to be. “But have eternal life” – Only two destinies exist, eternal life or eternal destruction (Matthew 25:46).
|For God||The Greatest Being|
|So Loved||The Greatest Measure|
|The World||The Greatest Need|
|That He Gave||The Greatest Act|
|His Only Begotten Son||The Greatest Gift|
|That Whosoever||The Greatest Scope|
|Believeth in Him||The Greatest Provision|
|Should Not Perish||The Greatest Deliverance|
|But Have Eternal Life||The Greatest Reward|
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017