The Love of God! How blessed is this to the hearts of believers, for only believers can appreciate it, and they but very imperfectly. It is to be noted that here in John 3:16 there are seven things told us about God’s love: First, the tense of His love—"God so loved." It is not God loves, but He "loved." That He loves us now that we are His children, we can, in measure, understand; but that He should have loved us before we became His children passes knowledge. But He did. "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8). And again: "Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee" (Jer. 31:3). Second, the magnitude of His love—"God so loved." None can define or measure that little word "so." There are dimensions to the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of His wondrous love, that none can measure. Third, the scope of God’s love—"God so loved the world." It was not limited to the narrow bounds of Palestine, but it flowed out to sinners of the Gentiles, too. Fourth, the nature of God’s love—"God so loved the world that he gave." Love, real love, ever seeks the highest interest of others. Love is unselfish; it gives. Fifth, the sacrificial character of God’s love—"he gave his only begotten Son." God spared not His Best. He freely delivered up Christ, even to the death of the Cross, Sixth, the design of His love". That whosoever believeth on him should not perish." Many died in the wilderness from the bites of the serpents: and many of Adam’s race will suffer eternal death in the lake of fire. But God purposed to have a people who "should not perish." Who this people are is made manifest by their "believing" on God’s Son. Seventh, the beneficence of God’s love—"But have everlasting life." This is what God imparts to every one of His own. Ah, must we not exclaim with the apostle, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us"! (1 John 3:1). O dear Christian reader, if ever you are tempted to doubt God’s love go back to the Cross, and see there how He gave up to that cruel death His "only begotten Son."
"For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved" (John 3:17). This verse enlarges upon the beneficient nature and purpose of God’s love. Unselfish in its character—for love "seeketh not her own"—it ever desires the good of those unto whom it flows forth. When God sent His Son here it was not to "condemn the world," as we might have expected. There was every reason why the world should have been condemned. The heathen were in an even worse condition than the Jews. Outside the little land of Palestine, the knowledge of the true and living God had well nigh completely vanished from the earth. And where God is not known and loved, there is no love among men for their neighbors. In every Gentile nation idolatry and immorality were rampant. One has only to read the second half of Romans 1 to be made to marvel that God did not then sweep the earth with the besom of destruction, But no; He had other designs, gracious designs. God sent His Son into the world that the world through Him "might be saved." It is to be remarked that the word "might" here does not express any uncertainty. Instead it declares the purpose of God in the sending of His Son. In common speech the word "might" signifies a contingency. It is only another case of the vital importance of ignoring man’s dictionaries and the way he employs words, and turning to a concordance to see how the Holy Spirit uses each word in the Scriptures themselves. The word "might"—as a part of the verb—expresses design. When we are told that God sent His Son into the world that through Him "the world might be saved," it signifies that "through him the world should be saved," and this is how it is rendered in the R. V. For other instances we refer the reader to 1 Peter 3:18—"might bring us to God" implies no uncertainty whatever, but tells of the object to be accomplished. For further examples see Galatians 4:5; Titus 2:14; 2 Peter 1:4, etc., etc.
"He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18). For the believer there is "no condemnation" (Rom. 8:1), because Christ was condemned in his stead—the "chastisement of our peace" was upon Him. But the unbeliever is "condemned already." By nature he is a "child of wrath" (Eph. 2:3), not corruption merely. He enters this world with the curse of a sin-hating God upon him. If he hears the Gospel and receives not Christ he incurs a new and increased condemnation through his unbelief. How emphatically this proves that the sinner is responsible for his unbelief!
"And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19). Here is the cause of man’s unbelief: he loves the darkness, and therefore hates the light. What a proof of his depravity! It is not only that men are in the dark, but they love the darkness—they prefer ignorance, error, superstition, to the light of truth. And the reason why they love the darkness and hate the light is because their deeds are evil.
"For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God" (John 3:20, 21). Here is the final test. "Every one that doeth (practices) evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light," and why?—"lest his deeds should be reproved." That is why men refuse to read the Scriptures. God’s Word would condemn them. On the other hand, "he that doeth truth," which describes what is characteristic of every believer, "cometh to the light"—note the perfect tense—he comes again and again to the light of God’s Word. And for what purpose? To learn God’s mind, that he may cease doing the things which are displeasing to Him, and be occupied with that which is acceptable in His sight. Was not this the final word of Christ to Nicodemus, addressed to his conscience? This ruler of the Jews had come to Jesus "by night," as though his deeds would not bear the light!
For the benefit of those who would prepare for the next lesson we submit the following questions:
1. What does the "much water" teach? verse 23.
2. What was the real purpose of the Jews in coming to John and saying what is recorded in verse 26?
3. What is the meaning of verse 27?
4. What vitally important lesson for the Christian is taught in verse 29?
5. What is the meaning of verse 33?
6. What is meant by the last half of verse 34?
7. How does verse 35 bring out the Deity of Christ?