Study 6 THE MOST WONDERFUL PROMISE EVER MADE
GREAT STATEMENTS OF THE GOSPEL
by Francis Dixon
(Key verse: John 3:16)
Our key verse is generally regarded as the greatest verse in the Bible, and it seems a presumption to attempt to say anything about this inspired sentence of just 26 words; and yet, if by doing so we can see a little more of God’s amazing plan of redeeming love, then it will be worthwhile. There are two reasons why it is felt to be the greatest verse. Firstly, no other verse is so full of the gospel, with a complete survey of God’s redemption; secondly, no other single verse of scripture has brought salvation to so many people – the greatest statement of the gospel in the shortest possible space, God’s love being the theme.
1. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF GOD’S LOVE
- 1. It is divine love. It is God who loved the world. The only love that we know anything about, apart from the revelation contained in this verse, is human love; but God, who is the author of all human love, is the great Lover who is mentioned here. His love is divine love, for “God is love” (1 John 4:8 and 16), and this love is the greatest love in the world.
- 2. It is unspeakable love. He “so loved the world.” The little word ‘so’ shows us the intensity of God’s love, but how intense it is no-one can say. Nowhere does the Bible attempt to define God’s love; it only illustrates it, and John 3:16 is the great illustration. See how the Apostle Paul describes it – look up Ephesians 3:18-19.
- 3. It is eternal love. We read that “God so loved the world…” When did His love begin? God’s love had no beginning because God Himself had no beginning. It is not true to say that God did not love us until Jesus died for us. The fact is that God loved us and because of this He sent the Lord Jesus to die for us. This is what our verse tells us – look up and compare Romans 5:8. His love is an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).
- 4. It is a universal love. “God so loved the world…”, not just some part of it but all of it. Have you ever thought of the miracle of a universal love? Think of the millions of people in the world – people of all kinds and colours, good and bad, and yet God loves them all. He does not love us only when we are good and hate us when we are bad, but He loves us all the time, although of course He does not love our sin. ‘The love of God is broader than the measures of man’s mind; and the heart of the eternal is most wonderfully kind.’
- 5. It is unmerited love. When we remind ourselves that God loves “the world” we at once realise how unmerited His love is, for there is nothing lovely in any of us for Him to love. The word ‘world’ refers to the lost (Luke 19:10), the perishing world of men and women who are separated from God by their sin (1 Corinthians 1:18)
2. THE MANIFESTATION OF GOD’S LOVE
How did God’s love show itself? How do we know He loves us? His love is declared in the words, “He gave His one and only Son…”, and notice:-
- 1. It was practical. We read here that God “gave”. Love must express itself, and it does so by giving. The friend, the lover, the parent – all express their love by their giving. The proof that God loves us is that He gave His Son to be our Saviour. The verse does not say, ‘God so loved the world that He sent His Son’. This might mean that He came to do a special work which He accomplished, but that this work did not affect us in the slightest. The fact that God did not only send His Son but that He gave His Son, shows us that God has once-and-for-all given to us this great Gift, and He will never withdraw the Gift – look up Romans 8:32.
- 2. It was unique. God’s gift was that of “his one and only Son”. Think of the method he used to convey His love – He sent His own Son! This is the very heart of the gospel message; it is the meaning and significance of the Incarnation – look up and compare Galatians 4:4-5; 1 John 5:11-12.
- 3. It was sacrificial. We read that He sent “his…only Son”! If God had had ten sons and had sent one to be our Saviour this would have been a sacrificial gift, but He had only one Son – He gave His all.
3. THE PURPOSE OF GOD’S LOVE
What was God’s great objective in sending His Son into the world? This question is answered in the words “that whoever believes in him shall not perish but shall have eternal life.”
- 1. The breadth of the purpose – “whoever”. This does not mean everyone, but it does mean anyone. With the word ‘whoever’ we can go to anyone and tell them that God loves them. Some people think that salvation has been provided for only a certain number of people and therefore we must be careful that when we preach or share the gospel we preach it only to those people. But God loves everybody, everywhere!
- 2. The blessings of the purpose. Notice the words “shall not perish but have eternal life.” Everybody, everywhere, who does not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ is perishing. Christ has saved us from that possibility if we come to Him and trust Him as our Saviour – see John 10:28-29 – saved from perishing, but to life eternal.
- 3. The limitation of the purpose. God’s offer is unlimited on His side, but often it is limited on man’s side, because it is the person who “believes in him” who is saved from perishing and receives the gift of everlasting life. We have His assurance.
What, then, does it mean to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? This is the most vital question we could ask, because we are only saved as we believe. To believe on the Lord Jesus Christ is to accept Him, to receive Him as our personal Saviour, as John 1:12 makes perfectly clear. Do you have this assurance that you have passed from death to life?