Sunday – March 26, 2023
Word On Worship – Sunday – March 26, 2023
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
They say that familiarity breeds contempt, but it also can breed boredom. That means that when we come to a verse like John 3:16, which is likely the most familiar verse in the Bible, we are in danger of thinking, “Yes, thanks for reminding me of how lovable I am.” But, “God so loved the world” was just plain shocking! John wants us to understand that God’s love goes beyond the Jews to Gentiles from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9). And, His love extends even to those who are His committed enemies (Matt. 5:43-45; Rom. 5:6-8, 10).
The Bible speaks of the love of God in many distinguishable ways. There is the peculiar love of the Father for the Son, and of the Son for the Father (John 3:35; 5:20; 14:31). There is God’s providential love over all that He has made (Gen. 1; Matt. 6). Also, there is God’s particular, effective, selecting love toward His elect (Deut. 7:7-8; Eph. 1:4-5). And there is God’s conditional love toward His own people, based on their obedience (John 14:21; Jude 21; Ps. 103:9-11, 13, 17-18). Should you take any one of these aspects of God’s love and try to force all the other biblical references into that one mold, you sacrifice sound exegesis of those texts and your understanding of God’s love.
A balanced view of God’s great love should rightly affirm that Christ died for all, in the sense that Christ’s death was sufficient for all and that Scripture portrays God as inviting and desiring the salvation of all, out of His great love. But this also requires us also to confess that Christ Jesus, in the intent of God, died effectively for the elect alone, in line with the way the Bible speaks of God’s special selecting love for the elect. This is the tension we find in the complexity and beauty of God’s love.
In practical terms, this means that we can tell unbelievers that God loves them so much that He sent His only Son to die for their sins, if they will repent and believe in Christ. At the same time we should warn them that if they do not believe in Christ, they are still under God’s righteous judgment (John 3:18, 36), which will be finalized for all eternity if they die in unbelief. And, since we know that none are able to repent and believe in Christ unless God grants it (John 6:44, 65; Acts 11:18), we should be praying as we proclaim the gospel that He would be merciful in opening their blind eyes and imparting new life to them so that they can repent and believe.