By Peter Wade
A young US sailor had come to the end of himself, after squandering all his money on drink and gambling. Now he was determined to finish his life and, with revolver in hand, he made his final preparations. To prevent others from hearing the shot, he switched on the radio full blast, without thought of any particular station. With the revolver at his temple, and within a second or two of suicide, he heard the saving words “For God so loved the world.” His hand was arrested and he stood stunned and amazed. Down went his hand as he listened to the text and to the gospel message from the Moody Bible Institute. He changed his mind, sought Christ, and within a short time sent a letter to them to say that he had found the answer to life’s problems through John 3:16.
Constantly we hear of incidents such as this about the text which Martin Luther called “The Little Bible.” Others have titled it “The Gospel in a Nutshell.” Paul said that he was praying “that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge” (Ephesians 3:18-19). I want to examine John 3:16 using the four dimensional picture that Paul gave, in order that you might know the love of Christ.
“For God so loved the world…” When God loves, He loves the world. God is no respecter of persons. “Red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight.” God — the almighty, all powerful, all-knowing One — loves the world… and that includes you!
“God so loved…” Adam Clarke has written: “God has put an eternity of meaning into the word ‘so’, and left a subject for everlasting contemplation, wonder and praise.”
How much did God love? God so loved the world. No wonder the hymn writer pictured the love of God as a deep unfathomable lake when he wrote…
O Lake of God, so wide and boundless,
O Love of God, so rich and free;
I bathe my life in its abounding,
And I am satisfied in Thee.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…” When God gives, He gives His Son.
This makes the love that prompted the gift even more unfathomable. This is real giving, giving that hurts. “It’s beyond my comprehension, all my Saviour’s love for me, How He left His throne in glory, and to die on Calvary.”
The apostle Paul said in Romans 5:8, “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” He came to die, that we might live! His death and resurrection procured our release from the captivity of sin and sickness. Here then is the length to which God’s love has gone, so that you can have fellowship once again with Him who created you, and has now bought you back from the dominion of Satan.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish…”
Notice that word “whosoever”. It is all-inclusive, from the highest heights of society to the lowest levels of loose living! Everybody is included, no-one is left out.
One gentleman who was asked what the word “whosoever” meant, said, “It just means anybody that likes.” “Whosoever believeth…” does not mean that you just mentally accept the fact of what God has done for you. The word used here means to cleave to, to trust, to have faith in, to rely on. It means nothing less than an absolute personal reliance upon the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour.
“Should not perish.” Here is the depth of the love of God. There is no need to perish — accept the pardon offered you by believing in the atoning work of Christ. Following the pardon of a convicted criminal in the US who refused to accept it, the Supreme Court made this ruling: “A pardon is a paper, the value of which depends upon its acceptance by the person implicated.” The man was hanged, because he refused to accept the pardon.
This is what Paul teaches in Romans 3:22, where he says “the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ is unto all (in its offer) and upon all that believe (in its benefit).” It has no effect unless you believe it. Put your trust in Him now!
“Should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If we have believed, we have everlasting life. Joy, peace and love, here on this earth, and everlasting life with the One we love in Heaven throughout all eternity. What is everlasting or eternal life? It is the life of God in you, the nature of God directing every aspect of your life. Peter said that there “are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature” (II Peter 1:4). This great verse we are considering, John 3:16, is one of God’s great and precious promises.
Yes, we may know the love of Christ, Its breadth, length, depth and height. And knowing this great truth must bring us to the point of action, the place of decision.
Let us divide the verse into two parts. Here is God’s part: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.” And here is your part: “That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” God’s part is loving and giving. Your part is believing and having! So many people go around trying to be loving and trying to give, expecting God to do all their believing for them! You cannot change sides with God! God has done His part, it is useless for you to try to do it again. Your part is to believe, and through believing to have all that God has provided for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Copyright © 1997 Peter Wade. The Bible text in this publication, except where otherwise indicated, is from the King James Version. This article appears on the site: http://www.peterwade.com/