One of the most beloved verses of Scripture is John 3:16.
“For God so loved the world,that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
An interesting detail is that this verse is part of an illeism. An illeism means to refer to oneself in the third person. In John 3:10-21 Jesus answers the questions of Nicodemus concerning eternal life. In these verses, such as in v.16, Jesus uses the pronouns “his” and “him” in reference to himself. Jesus, the Son of God, makes it clear that he is the one to believe in for eternal life. Verse 16 gives two reasons why this is true.
- God Put His Love on Display.
The first word of the verse is “for.” It links the previous thought to the new thought being shared. The previous truth is the description and story of Moses and the bronze serpent. The bronze serpent was lifted up and all who looked upon it were healed. Looking at the display of death on the pole was how someone was healed. (Numbers 21:5-9) The word “for” links the new thought for how we can have eternal life. Looking to the display of Jesus on the cross of death, he became our substitute as a sin sacrifice. Through this display is how one can obtain eternal life. It is by grace (our sacrificial substitute), and through faith (looking to Jesus), that one can have eternal life. Jesus was God’s display of perfect love for mankind. Jesus was lifted up, just like the serpent for healing; to heal us from our sin. God displayed his love for us by placing and lifting his son up on a cross of crucifixion.
2. God Proved His Love by Demonstration.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son …” The word “so,” the third word in this verse can also be translated “in this way.” We can say that God loved the world in this way, that he gave us his Son. The fact of displaying his only Son on a cross of death, is the greatest demonstration of his love. No one can ever say that God is not loving! The greatest demonstration of God’s love is that his Son was lifted up to be crucified for our sin. Because of God’s love, Jesus opened up the way for us to receive the gift of eternal life. Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Grace is receiving an undeserved gift. Jesus is the demonstration of God’s love and his gift for us. God, because he loves us, opened up the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. The end of this great verse states, “… that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
God’s love does not depend on your performance. God performed by the display, and by demonstration his love. We can never measure up to God. He is God, and we are incapable of attaining perfection. Yet, “for this purpose” God loved us “in this way.” He gave us his Son, Jesus Christ. This is the essence of love! When we had no other way out of our sin, God so loved the world.
Our worth and value is not based upon what we do, but on the fact that God loved us in this way. We are loved by God. He displayed and demonstrated his love for us by giving us his sinless Son.
A story is told of a little 5 year old girl who lived with her dad. She wanted to give her father a birthday present. She found a little jewelry box and bow and couldn’t wait to give her father the gift. The night of his birthday she presented it to him. He opened it, and there was nothing in it. Expecting to see something, he didn’t react well and hurt her feelings. After a while he went into her room and tried to explain what a gift is and what it means to give a gift. In tears she replied, “Daddy, I filled the box with hand-blown kisses for you.” Tears started to pour down his checks as he apologized to her. What appeared to be senseless, empty, and useless was the most precious gift he ever could have received from his little girl.
An event more than two-thousand years ago may seem senseless and useless, but it is the most precious and love filled gift anyone can ever receive! The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ was for sin. A payment we cannot pay. But, the love of God was on display for all.
Have you asked forgiveness of your sin and received this most precious gift? The gift of eternal life is God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Having just gone through the Easter season, was it a rote traditional occasion? If so, you can make this one who came to earth, your own personal Lord and Savior. He came, lived, died, and rose again for you!