We’ve been going through the New Testament and trying to come to a deeper understanding of the doctrine of the blessed Trinity. We’ve mainly been looking for clues that Jesus had to the understanding of his own person as well as clues to what those closest to him had to say about who he was. We’ve been going through the gospel of John lately and right now, we’re in John 3 and we’re going to start tonight’s reading looking at what was once the most quoted verse of Scripture.
16“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. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
Yes. There was a day and age when John 3:16 was the most quoted verse of Scripture. Today, it has been overtaken by Matthew 7:1 and only part of it with the “judge not” idea. It is my judgment that those who quote “Judge not” in such a way do not properly judge to have a clue about what Jesus is really saying here. Now some of you might be angry that I’ve said that. Please do complain. I want to hear your judgment that I am wrong in my judgment while all the while you don’t believe we should judge. The message is about hypocritical judging. Not all judging.
Martin Luther called this verse “The gospel in minitaure”, and while it has the great message of the love of God in it, let’s be sure we don’t miss the other side. The message came so that people might not perish. Perishing is a real possibility. In fact, as we look at this passage, we see shades pointing back to the prologue with the message of light coming into the world and people not accepting the light.
Also, some Bibles might have this included in the text of what Jesus said. I think that’s in error. I don’t believe Jesus said these words, but this is John’s inspired commentary in response to the conversation Christ had with Nicodemus.
Note the goal is not condemnation but salvation. The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost. We can be reminded of the message in Ezekiel that God does not delight in the death of the wicked. It is my contention that God is doing all he can without being overwhelming ot people and restricting their freedom further to bring about salvation to them. God is looking for people who really seek the truth for the sake of the truth. I will also contend that if anyone is following that path, they will eventually find Christ.
Part of the hesitancy though is that mens’ deeds are evil. C.S. Lewis once compared the idea of man searching for God to the idea of a mouse searching for a cat. We might find him, but we didn’t mean to find him as he is! Surely it didn’t come to that! If any other concept of god can be found, let us go with it! Let us go with all the popular ideas of a god who is a force or one who needs us or one who is simply love and makes sure everyone is happy in the end. We can chase those gods all we want, but we will not find them, simply because they do not exist.
This is also one reason I try to not be hard on the sins of my fellow man. It’s really easy to do of course. Don’t get me wrong on this. We should call sin sin and we should not tolerate it. However, we must remember that we are fallen as well and we don’t desire to come to the light in our sins either. How many of us have been quite good at justifying things that we know are wrong?
The message of Christianity reminds me that God did not come to save pretty good people who just needed an extra boost. He came to save sinners. He came to save people who could not save themselves. He came to save the worst of the worst.
Note though again that Jesus is the focal point. All of eternity hinges on what someone does with the Son of God. He is the light and if people come to him, then they are saved. If they do not, then they are not. Of course, I am speaking of those who know the message. My answer of those who have never heard is quite different, though readers of my blog will probably know my answer by now.
The light isn’t always pleasant at first and in many cases, none of us like it. We think it would be easier to stay in sin rather than come to Christ, even though it is far better for us to come to him. Whatever it is you are dealing with, it is easier often to stay in it than to come to him. Of course, I’m not saying Christ cures you instantly. I believe this is a huge misnomer we’ve given to people who suffer from a variety of temptations that we give the impression of disappearing immediately if they will just repent. Can that happen? Yes. Is it the norm? No. Often times, it could take good counseling and the presence of the Christian church being a body of fellow believers in love.
Yes. Christ is the ultimate light that saves, but let us remember that he said we are to be the light of the world. Let us not live in darkness either but let us be tiny beacons pointing to the true light. If we act as darkness, it will make it all the harder for those in darkness to find the true light.