One of the most well-known verses in the Bible is John 3:16, “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.”
“God so loved the world…” This statement is profound. By “world” He’s talking about people. That’s clear from the context of the verse. But He says “world” because it encompasses all people everywhere regardless of any other qualifiers (or disqualifiers). God loves people. Period.
He even loves us when we rebel against Him, deny Him, curse Him, and throw our fists in defiance against Him. “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) And “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
But sin gets in the way. Sin is essentially rebellion against God. Sin is going our own way. For each of us, sin is all about “ME.” “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
The problem with sin is that it destroys relationships. Sin destroys our relationship with God and with others. We cannot master our sin. In fact, sin masters us. We are all slaves to sin—until we trust Christ to free us from that slavery. Until we come to know Christ, we think we are free to do as we want, numb and blind to the fact that we are slaves to sin.
Paul reasons with us, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience [to Christ], which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16)
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son….”
Since we could not free ourselves from slavery to sin, God, in His great, unfathomable love for us, stepped in and provided a way of escape: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)
Christ died for us. He died for you and me. He paid the penalty for our sin. His mercy, grace and love are so rich, so generous, and so complete that Jesus even prayed to the Father while hanging on the cross being taunted by those who crucified Him, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
There is no greater love than this: “For God so loved you and me that He gave His one and only Son.”
But if we’re still trapped in sin, serving it as our master, skepticism rises to the surface and we think, “Okay, Jesus died for me, but what’s the catch? There’s always a catch.” The “catch” is that in our sin and our slavery to it, we cannot imagine that anyone, much less God, who knows everything we’ve ever done and thought, would actually love us to this extent… but He does!
Or in our sinful state of mind we might counter, “If God is a loving God, why would He send people to hell for their sins?” But God doesn’t send people to hell; they choose to go there. You see, we either choose to believe and put our trust in Him, or we choose to disbelieve and spurn His offer.
“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.”
What does God ask us to do in exchange for His love and Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for us? He simply asks us to put our trust in Him. To believe in Him. But He’s not talking about a flippant, “Sure, I believe in God.” For, “Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” (James 2:19)
Instead, the belief or trust that God seeks from us is relational. He wants us to trust Him. Trust Him that we cannot save ourselves from our sin. There is no cosmic scale on which the good things we do may outweigh the bad. Sin isn’t like that. Sin is like a virus or bacteria that has spread and infected the whole person.
God simply asks us to trust Him that Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins was a complete and sufficient sacrifice. And when we do that, He says we will “not perish but have eternal life.” What does this mean? It means that we will not pay the price of eternal death for our sin but will live with our Lord and Savior forever.
In fact, God’s love is so rich, so magnanimous that when we accept His free gift of cleansing and forgiveness from our sins, He makes us His children. “To all who receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)
Finally, the Scriptures promise that Jesus is coming back again soon to receive His children to Himself. And so much of what’s going on in the world today points to His soon return.
Peter reminds us, “In the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this “coming” He promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’ But do not forget this one thing: The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:3-4, 8-9)
“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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:16-18)
The choice is ours to either put our faith and trust in Jesus or to reject Him. But we must be ready to accept the consequences of our choice.