“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.”
John 3:16 is one of the most famous verses, not just in the Gospel of John, but in the whole Bible. And with good reason. ‘God so loved’ is the central theme of John, and of the Bible itself. This one verse sums up the whole of history. From the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation, history revolves around that one eternal act of love: ‘God gave his Son.’
And no doubt you’re already familiar with this verse. But do you know what the next verse says? John 3:17-18: “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 he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
The contrast only emphasises God’s love even more. God is a righteous judge. We have all sinned. We have all fallen short of his perfect standard. We all deserve to be condemned to eternal punishment. But God so loved us, that he sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering, and so he condemned sin in sinful man, that whoever believes in him shall have eternal life. (combining John 3:16 and Romans 8:4).
And that is God’s grace in action. He has executed righteous judgement, once and for all, against his own Son, because he loves us so much. And all that he requires of us is that we accept this gift of grace. For by grace you have been saved through faith – and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8).
This is fantastic news for the whole of mankind. If you have not already accepted God’s gift and believed in his Son, now is the perfect time to do so. Choose to follow Jesus! He is ready to welcome you into eternal life.
But I assume that most people reading this post have already chosen to follow Jesus. How should we apply these verses to our lives today? Just as God chose to love rather than condemn, so we must be careful to do likewise. Do you ever find yourself condemning people who are selfish or greedy, people who are criminal or violent, people who get intro trouble through their own carelessness? What about the poor, the alcoholics, the addicts? Or people who are of a different faith, or different values? Do you ever react in judgement – even just in your thoughts? I know I do.
Whoever does not believe stands condemned already, says John 3:18. They don’t need our condemnation. They need to know that God so loved them, that he sent Jesus... And we need to reflect God’s love to those around us.
So my challenge to you this week is this: as you go through the week, ask God to point out to you specific people to whom he would like you to show love where you might naturally choose to condemn. Then choose to demonstrate God’s love and grace to these people.
And if you have a story to share this week, add a comment to this blog post to encourage the rest of us.