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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10:45 am , 2007-07-22

Text: John 3:16-21

This morning we will be looking at one of the most famous verses in the Bible - John 3:16. This verse is an important summary of the Gospel. It tells us how greatly God has loved us in giving us His only begotten Son. It teaches us that salvation is a free gift to be received only by believing in Jesus Christ. And it offers the most wonderful and comprehensive blessing any mortal creature can ever hope for - eternal life. That is the whole Gospel message in a nutshell. Martin Luther called John 3:16 the heart of the Bible and Matthew Henry called it the Word of reconciliation in miniature. 

No other passage of scripture has been used so often by missionaries and evangelists in every age as John 3:16. No other proclamation has thrilled the hearts of millions of people as John 3:16. No other words have brought such multitudes to the feet of Christ as the simple and yet overpowering message of John 3:16! Even the prince of preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon said about his own preaching, 'My heart's desire has been to sound forth, as with a trumpet, the good news that, 'God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.'

This verse is also very dear to me. John 3:16 was the very first verse my father taught me to memorise when I was only 5 years old. And he made sure that I would never forget it. I still remember that when I was in primary 5 autograph books were the rage in my school and everyone was trying to see who could collect the most autographs. When I asked my Dad to sign my autograph book he promptly wrote these words above his signature, 'Son, remember John 3:16.' Even the home where I grew up was a constant reminder, because the house number was 316!

If I were to ask all of you right now, 'Which verse of the Bible has made the greatest impact on your salvation?' most of you would probably reply without any hesitation, 'John 3:16!' Many of you would even be able to recite the whole verse from memory. (Let us all try to recite it together right now, shall we?)

This morning we will endeavour to find out what makes this verse of Scripture so well-loved and well-used by God's people in all ages. We will discover two contrasting truths that are revealed in John 3:16 - Firstly, it reveals the Miserable Wages of Sin. Secondly, it reveals the Marvelous Gift of God. Both of these truths will help us to ponder how greatkGod's love is. Let us consider the first one which is:

I. The Miserable Wages of Sin

This makes the love of God appear so bright and prominent by providing the darkest possible backdrop for it. That dark backdrop is the intense blackness of eternal death. This is found in the words, 'Whosoever believeth in Him should not perish.' This implies that if God had not given His Son, the world would have remained in the most hopeless, perishing state. No words can describe the terror and horror of this miserable state. The souls of sinners were not doomed to be merely annilihated into non-existence, but to be tormented endlessly in the fires of hell! The prospect of perishing in hell is so horrible th!t Jesus said it is worth losing your right eye or your right hand in this life than to be cast into hell. 

But how did this perishing of the world come about? Something must have caused it. The next 3 verses mention at least 3 causes. Firstly, there is God's fair and just condemnation of all who have sinned. This is stated in Verse 17 which is worded in such a way as to show that God's condemnation was fully expected 'For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world.' Rightfully God should have sent His Son into the world to condemn the world as that was exactly what the world deserves for all its sins. Two thousand years before Christ He had sent 2 angels to the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to condemn and destroy them for their homosexual sins. And the world deserves the same condemnation.

But John 3:16 tells us that instead of sending His Son to condemn the world for its sins, God gave His Son to be condemned on the cross to take away the sins of the world! How can it be? How can we get off scot free, while the Son of God bears the condemnation we deserved? This reversal of roles is really unexpected, and it should make us all amazed at the infinite depth of God's love for us. 

Now, besides God's righteous condemnation of our sins, another cause for man's perishing state was the hardness of the sinner's heart. 

If God had not loved us and saved us, our hearts would have remained desperately wicked and unreasonably cold toward Him. This explains the response of unbelief mentioned in v.18 'he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.'

Do you know that man's unwillingness to believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God indicates how intractably wicked the human heart is? All other sins are committed against the Law of God. But the sin of unbelief is committed against the Love of God. It is bad enough that sinners should rebel against God's laws either by breaking them or by failing to keep them. But it is astounding beyond all measure that sinners should also spurn God's supreme act of love and mercy as revealed in the cross where Jesus died. If you find it incredible that men could actually be so cold and so unfeeling as to crucify the Prince of glory and subject Him to such shame and humiliation, then you would understand how incredible it is that sinners would not want to believe in His name for salvation. How desperately wicked are the hearts of all men! How can God love such a hard-hearted race? Surely we all deserve to perish in our sins.

And that's not all. There is one more cause for man's perishing state and it is found in v.19 'and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.' What a distinct contrast we see here between what God loves and what man loves. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to die for sinners. But man so loved the darkness that he hates the Light which exposes his own sins. Can you see the vast difference between them? God's love for the world is merciful compassion. But man's love for darkness is an abnormal obsession. How pitiful it is to see sinners loving to wallow in the filth or their own sins and not wanting anything to diminish their perverse enjoyment of it. 

Only one week ago there was an article in the Today newspaper on atheism versus religion. And it began with a description of The Blasphemy Challenge, which dares atheists to upload into YouTube 'a short message damning yourself to Hell' in exchange for a DVD. The frightening this is that this challenge drew responses from hundreds of young people who were only too willing to renounce religion. This is what a 25 year old man named John Pritzlaff, said in his uploaded video: 

'Jesus as depicted in the Bible does not exist. God does not exist. And therefore I deny the Holy Spirit. I'm going to Hell, thank you.' How awful it is that people should love darkness rather than light! How can it be that God should love a world that is like this? A world that rightly deserves to perish?

Thus we have seen that the causes of man's perishing state are: God's fair and just condemnation of our sins, the unreasonable hardness of our hearts against God's love, and our strange love for darkness and sin. From now on, whenever you read the word 'perish' in John 3:16 let it cause you to remember the intense blackness of the miserable state that you were once in before God saved you. 

But perhaps there may be some who are thinking, 'This may all be true of many people, but it was certainly not true of me. I was really not that bad. I do not deserve the condemnation. My heart was not as hard as you say and I did not really love darkness and sin.' Dear friends, it does not matter whether you have sinned more or sinned less than others, or whether your sins are more evil or less evil than others. Sin is the mo3t terrible paymaster. It does not care how much you have sinned or what kind of sins you have committed. It does not care whether you have sinned by commission or omission. Sin pays every sinner the same wages. Romans 6:23 simply says, 'For the wages of sin is death'. And these wages are what you deserve. Whether you like it or not, they are yours. Whether you like it or not, you had earned those miserable wages of sin - an eternal death of being endlessly tormented in the fires of hell. Thankfully, John 3:16 reveals morekthan just the wages of sin. It also reveals the good news of: 

II. The Marvelous Gift of God

This is the second truth in John 3:16 which helps us to ponder how immeasurably great the Love of God is. The unique feature about this Marvelous gift of God is that there are actually two gifts in one. The first gift is the only begotten Son as John 3:16 plainly says. The second gift, which comes within the first gift, is eternal life. As 1 John 5:11-12 says, 'And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.' We shall look at the second gift first:

A. Everlasting Life

What is eternal or everlasting life? Is it merely an eternal existence of the soul after death? No, because if it is, then those who are not saved would also have it, except that they spend the entire duration of eternity in hell. Does eternal life then mean that after a person dies his soul will live forever in heaven? Yes, it does. And this shows that what is meant by the term is not merely quantity of life but quality of life. What good is there in being able to live forever and ever unless it is in a permanently blissful state? 

Now since what is meant by eternal life is quality rather than quantity, then it follows that eternal life begins not at death but at the moment of salvation. Eternal life isn't just a future hope for you. It is already a present reality. This means that if you are truly in Christ, your eternal life has already begun! You are already experiencing a different quality of life - a life that is lived with Christ, walking with Him and enjoying fellowship with Him, all the way from the day you were saved, and right into eternity. 

The first part of eternal life is naturally spent here on earth, where you now walk with Christ by faith. The second part of eternal life is more exciting - for it is the part where you will walk with Him by sight in Heaven. Do you know that Christ is the most attractive feature of Heaven? Heaven is a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace only because the Lord Jesus is there. If Jesus is not in heaven, I wouldn't want to be there. And neither would you, because Heaven would be a desolate place without Him.

From this, I hope that you can understand now that eternal life is inseparably tied to Jesus Christ. Eternal life is comes only with Jesus. You can't possibly experience it without having Jesus, whether on earth or in heaven. And Jesus is not merely a channel or stepping stone to get to eternal life and heaven. He is eternal life itself, and He is heaven itself! 

One important implication of this is that no one can rightly say that there are other ways to heaven. No non-Christian religion can ever lead a person to heaven and eternal life. I want to say very boldly and on the authority of God's Word that no Buddhist, no Muslim, Hindu, Sikh or follower of any other religion can ever have eternal life. That leaves only one possible outcome for all of them - They will perish! They may be the most devout and dedicated follower of their religion.

They may be the most highly revered saint or benefactor of society. But as long as they do not receive Jesus Christ as their only Lord and Saviour, the Bible says they will perish in the eternal fires of hell! 

Now, next week will be Gospel Sunday here at this worship servic. And if you have any relatives, friends or colleagues who are still not in Christ, I plead with you to use all your power and influence to get them to come and hear the preaching of the Gospel. This is the action point of knowing that eternal life is inseparably tied to Jesus Christ. But perhaps you have seen how deeply entrenched, sincere and devout they are in their own mistaken beliefs; perhaps you have seen how their lives seem to have benefited much from pursuing all those beliefs. And so you hesitate to persuade them and you think that perhaps in some exceptional way they may not end up in hell. Please stop entertaining such false hopes as they do not help these people at all. 

You must warn them that without Christ they will surely perish. You must tell them that the only way to have eternal life is to have Christ. These two are inseparably tied together! Dearly beloved, if you truly understand John 3:16 and take what it says seriously you would be most willing and earnest to bring lost souls to Christ, since it says in no uncertain terms, that 'whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.'

Now that you know this, can you bear the thought of seeing your loved ones and friends perishing since they are without Christ? And so, what will you do now to bring this most marvelous gift of God into their lives? And here is yet another motivation to do this: If you have truly known the Lord Jesus and enjoyed a close walk with Him, you would have an even greater reason to be passionate for their salvation. You would know that there is something even better than just being saved from eternal death and hell fire, and that is to know Jesus and have Him in your life! Jesus is really the greater gift, greater than the gift of eternal life. This is what we will now focus our thoughts on.

B. The Only Begotten Son

Please listen to this: No one can receive any gift that is greater than Jesus Christ. In our earlier messages from the Gospel of John we have already seen that Christ is the eternal Word through whom all things were created.

We have seen that He is the true Light that lights every man that comes into the world. We have seen that He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We have seen that He is the Messiah and the King of Israel. All these ought to make us treasure Him dearly in our hearts. 

But here in John 3:16 we see that in addition to all that, He is the only begotten Son whom God gave to us. And this should now make Him most precious to us! Why? Because He was most precious to God Himself. God had lovingly declared Him to be His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased (Matthew 3:17). The Son had always been glorified with the Father long before the foundation of the world (John 17:5), and nothing could ever separate them. And yet, out of His great love for the world, the Father gave Him up, to die for sinners. How can it be? 

Look now at cross where Christ was crucified, and listen carefully to the mournful cry of the only begotten Son, 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?' (Matthew 27:46) Why have you My dear Father abandoned Me, and turned your face away from Me? We cannot even begin to fathom how deeply grieved the Son was to be forsaken by the Father. And we cannot even begin to fatherm how deeply pained the Father's heart was when He forsook His beloved Son! 

A story is told of a family that faced starvation because of a severe famine. The only hope they had of surviving was to sell off one of the children into slavery. And so, when the parents could no longer bear to see their 4 hungry children crying out for bread they decided to proceed with the idea of selling one of them in order to save the rest. But which one should they sell? It must not be the first, because they could not bear to part with their first born son. Their second son looked so much like the father that his mother said she could never part with him. The third son looked so much like the mother that the father said, 'I would rather die than see him become a slave.' As for the fourth son, he was their little darling. How could they ever part with him? And so they concluded that it would be better for all of them to die together than to part with any of their children. I am sure we can all feel for their plight. 

And yet God loved us so much that He was willing to part with His own dear Son and let Him suffer and die alone on the cross to save us. At that moment He even seemed to love us more than He loved His only begotten Son! And God would rather let Him bear the awful penalty for our sins than to see us perish in those sins. 

How can it be? How can it be? For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son! How can it be? 'When I survey the wondrous cross on which the prince of glory died, My richest gain, I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride!'

Dearly beloved, now that we have seen how immeasurably great God's Love is according to John 3:16, let us consider two applications of this: The first application is for the unsaved - You must come to Jesus! He is the only one who can save you from your sins. Come to Him now because John 3:16 says, 'whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' What does it mean to believe in Jesus? 

Firstly it means accepting everything that the Bible says about Him and about yourself as true - that Jesus is the Son of God who came down from heaven to be made a sacrifice for sin, and that you are a sinner who deserves nothing but judgment from God. Secondly, you must put your trust entirely in Jesus alone to save you, and throw away whatever confidence you may have in your own good works or in any other thing to save you. And thirdly, surrender your life to Christ once and for all with no thought of turning back. He must be made the Lord and master of everything in your life.

And now, for those of you who are already saved, what you have just learned from John 3:16 ought to do at least two things for you: Firstly it should strengthen your faith in the Lord to give you all that you need. You may be a student struggling to cope with all your subjects. You may be a young adult trying your best to cope with the heavy demands of the working world. Or perhaps you may be a parent, wondering how you can successfully raise up your children to fear God against the tide of sin from the world. Perhaps you may be a retiree trying to cope with failing health and loneliness. 

Listen to what God says to you now in Romans 8:32 'He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?' How comforting it is to know that God who gave His Son for us who are saved will also give us every blessing, and every thing that we need to meet our daily trials. They are all included in the package! Your Heavenly Father who loves you wants you to have faith in Him to give you freely all things that you need.

Secondly, what you have learnt from John 3:16 should make you willing to give much to the Lord in return. God has loved you and given you so much! Will you love Him and give Him of your time, your talents and treasure? Will you present your own bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God? (Romans 12:1) No matter how much you give please remember this: You will never be able to outgive what the Lord has given you.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25