Our pastor gave this sermon yesterday and I was so led by the Spirit to share it that I demanded he give it to me so I could do just that. It’s a fresh look at a very familiar verse, but I invite you to read this, contemplate it and then, perhaps, share it with someone else. And, if you have more questions, please contact our pastor or your own and get to the bottom of your questions, your fears and even your doubts about what this passage means to you. ~ Sue
Let’s take our Bibles and turn to John 3:16. This is probably the most familiar and most loved verse in the whole Bible. It’s been called “the Gospel in miniature”, or “the Gospel in a nutshell.” No matter what denomination or church group you may have grown up in, you probably memorized John 3:16. I don’t think it’s any kind of stretch to say that more sermons have been preached on this verse than any other verse in the Bible. That being the case, you may be wondering at the sermon title. How can we possibly take “a fresh look” at a verse that’s so well-known to all of us?
Well, I propose to do that by asking the question of, “What if John 3:16 wasn’t true?” What if this wonderful, precious jewel of a verse wasn’t true? What would follow from that? What would the consequences be?
1) What if God had NOT loved the world? – The verse begins, “For God so loved the world…” What if He hadn’t? What if He hadn’t loved the world? I submit that one of the biggest consequences of that would be – Without God’s love, there would be no hope at all, either in or for this world. We would simply be a planet hurtling through space…without hope. There would be nothing to live for and no meaning/purpose for our existence. It would be a world of darkness, where prayers were merely useless cries to the sky. Every death would be the end of any and all personal hope and every grave a place of despair.
I’ve shared this with you before – Years ago, in my first church, I did the funeral for the town atheist. The thing that stands out to me the most is the despair, the hopelessness of that service. You could see it in the faces of the family and friends; the feeling was so strong it was almost tangible. I’ve done funerals for suicides and babies, and they were easier than this one was. Those who don’t know Christ as Savior have no hope at all when this life is over. So just think for a moment if God had not loved the world and sent the Savior. Think of a WHOLE WORLD in hopelessness and despair with NOTHING to look forward to beyond this life.
But, the good news this morning is that He DOES love the world. There are many evidences/demonstrations of that. But the greatest demonstration of God’s love is the Cross of Christ. And that makes me wonder…
2) What if God had NOT given His Son? What if Jesus hadn’t come? The verse goes on to say, “…that he gave His one and only Son…” What if that hadn’t happened? What if, instead of God giving us His Son, He gave us what we deserve for our sins? What if we, ourselves, had to pay the penalty for our sins, and ended up forever separated from God in the Lake of Fire that the Book of Revelation speaks of? (Revelation 20)
Just TRY to imagine it – Try to imagine someone experiencing the isolation, the darkness, the torments of experiencing the wrath of God – and maybe the two biggest torments are two thoughts: a) “It’s too late for me; it’s too late for me to repent and be saved; I’m lost”; and b) “Where I am now – This is FOREVER!”
Friends, that’s the eternal destiny of everyone apart from Christ. That’s the consequence of God not loving the world and not giving His Son. But the Bible says that God showed/proved His love for us by giving His most treasured/ precious possession. Romans 5:8 says, “But God showed/demonstrated His love for us in this – that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God DID send His Son to die on the Cross for our sins. God HAS given His Son, and apart from Him, there is no salvation. Next…
3) What if God’s offer of salvation WASN’T for “Whosoever?” The verse says “…so that whosoever believes in Him…”
That word, “WHOSOEVER” is a wonderful word. It’s a word that is general, and yet particular. It embraces all of humanity, and yet it touches each and every one of us. It means the Gospel is for EVERYONE, which means it’s for YOU and for ME! Do you see it? God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, so that WHOSOEVER believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life!
Who can be saved?—WHOSOEVER! You may be thinking, “But you don’t know what I’ve done; you don’t know my sins.” No, but God does, and He knew all about your sins two thousand years ago when He gave this wonderful promise. Listen again to the verse I read a few minutes ago – Romans 5:8: “But God showed/demonstrated His love toward us in this – while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” You hear that? God doesn’t save us AFTER we get rid of our sin. He saves us just as we are.
God doesn’t save us once we clean up our lives to be good enough for Him. He doesn’t save us after we’ve made ourselves holy or religious. It’s just the opposite – He saves just as we are, as sinners. He saves us from the penalty for our sins, and then He begins to make us what we ought to be!
Are you here this morning with a burden of sin? I’ve got good news for you: “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, so that whosoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Are you here loaded down with cares and problems from the mess you’ve made of your life? I’ve got good news for you: “God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, so that whosoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Whoever you are; whatever you’ve done – Come to Jesus today! Let Him take away the penalty for your sins. Let Him forgive you. Let Him make you “right” with God the Father. Let Him make you a child of God. Next….
4) What if God’s’ offer of salvation WASN’T based on faith alone? The verse says, “…that whosoever BELIEVES in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” You know, people try all kinds of ways to get to God and be “right” with him. Many try to do it by being nice, and good, and moral, and religious, and hoping that their good works will outweigh the bad stuff.
That’s kind of where Nicodemus was at. He was respected, he was a good, moral, religious man…But Jesus basically told him, “Nicodemus, all your good works and all your religious deeds and all your good intentions and all your sincerity will not do one thing to make you “right” with God or get you into His kingdom.” (John 3:1-21)
Now, compare Nicodemus to the thief on the cross who was dying next to Jesus. He was a criminal. His whole life had been lived in sin. He hadn’t tried to obey the commandments; he hadn’t tried to do good deeds, or give to the poor, or do anything that might commend him to God. And he doesn’t even say to Jesus what we would call a “proper salvation prayer.” He just looked to Jesus, and said, in faith, “Lord, remember me when You come into your kingdom.” His request was a plea for mercy – He recognized that he had no hope but divine grace, and he (somehow) recognized that Jesus had the authority/power to give him that grace.
And Jesus responded and said, “Most assuredly I say to you – Today, you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) You see it? The dying thief was given the promise of eternal life with Jesus on the basis of only one thing – FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST, who took the penalty for all of that man’s sins upon Himself and died in his place.
And my question for you is this: Have YOU put your faith wholly in the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you ever, like the thief on the cross, called out to Jesus and said, “Lord, I don’t have enough good works to offer; I don’t have enough religious acts to give that could ever turn away Your wrath against my sin. But I believe that You died for me and took the penalty for my sins. And by faith, I lay hold of the salvation which You have freely offered by grace.
Aren’t you glad that John 3:16 IS true? God DID love the world, and that means God loves YOU. God DID give His Son to die for your sins. His sacrifice on the cross is the only thing that can save you from your sins. Jesus was your Substitute – He paid the penalty for sin that you deserved to pay.
And God’s salvation is for “WHOSOEVER.” That means ANYBODY. That means young and old; smart or average; educated and not; lower class to upper class; wicked sinners like that thief on the cross with Jesus; and sinners like Nicodemus who was an outwardly good, moral and religious man.
And God’s offer of salvation IS by grace through faith alone. Don’t try to clean up your life first; just trust Jesus to save you from your sin.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, so that whosoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
For more information on God’s plan for salvation, please check out your local church or find a pastor to speak to. Here is my church’s website. Please feel free to share this post.