For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
If people know only the basics about Christ they usually know the verse above, the tension he had with the pharisees, and the story of the cross and resurrection. Our minds often default to picturing Jesus delivering teachings like John 3.16 while surrounded by agreement and joyful response. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
The observation of John 3.16 is that God loves the world and gave his Son. This reality is radically different than the religious options Jesus’ audience had. Most gods don’t love the world; they want to see it destroyed. Jesus’ Father was so set on redeeming the world he sacrificed his son to make it possible.
The promise of John 3.16 is that whoever believes shall not perish, but have life. But who is this promise for? At the moment Jesus is not talking to the faithful; he is talking to a Pharisee named Nicodemus.
The Pharisees were the sworn enemies of Christ. They disdained him, betrayed him, took glee at his beating, and relished in his execution. John 3.16 is a promise for the enemies of Christ.
Before we distance ourselves from this group we must remember Nicodemus was an enemy of Christ not because he was a Pharisee, but because he was sinful — he sought his greatest good in himself (and his religious performance) instead of in God.
“The covenant of grace is excellently fitted to bring us to the chiefest good,” writes the puritan Samuel Annesley. “Now the chiefest good consists in communion with God. That was broken by sin; and can never be perfectly recovered, until sin is abolished.”
“Therefore,” Annesley continues, “when the guilt of sin is taken away by justification, and the filthiness of sin is taken away by sanctification, and the penalty of sin taken away by resurrection, then what can hinder our communion with God? When we have once obtained perfect holiness, nothing can hinder us of perfect happiness. Thus you have the promise of the gospel.”
Lord, thank you for loving us before we loved you. Thank you for sending your Son to live the life we should have lived and die the death we deserve to die. Thank you for offering us your grace, so richly and so fully. Renew our hearts though your love.
Hope in the Darkness
Part 5 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org
This Weekend’s Readings