John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
I’ve received some pretty amazing gifts over the years. Cars. Money. Trips (and that’s just from the other pastors that I serve with). I’ve also given some pretty amazing gifts over the years (or at least I thought they were amazing).
John 3:16, the greatest declaration in the Bible, describes for us the greatest Giver giving to us the greatest Gift ever. You might remember that John 3:16 comes in the middle of Jesus’ conversation/bible lesson with Nicodemus about being born from above, or born of God (see day 130). Jesus has just said these words to Nicodemus:
John 3:13-15. 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
And then comes the best commentary ever written. John summarizes the whole conversation, and the whole of redemptive history with these famous words:
For God so loved – “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Love (agape) surrenders its own gain for the gain of others. This love is amazing to us, for none of us have ever lived this way apart from first being loved by God. Only God has done everything he has ever done completely for the good of another.
the world – God’s love is an all-encompassing, world-wide love. God loves everyone. God loves YOU! And not because you’re so easy to love. We are all part of the world. The cosmos. This is the word John uses over and over to describe those that are in opposition to God.
John 1:10. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.
John 3:19. the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
God doesn’t just love those who love him back. God loves us because he loves us. He loved us even when we were still sinners, enemies, evil. That’s true love.
that he gave his only Son – Love gives. Love shares. Love never holds on. Love never hoards. God’s love gave so deeply, so personally that he sent his “one and only Son.” This is incomprehensible to us. That in a moment in time, God gave his Son to his enemies. “His very best to the very worst” (Glen Scrivener). The One that was in the Father’s bosom (KJV), wrapped up in his eternal hug, the co-creator, the eternal Word, the Beloved, God himself. God gave God. And there is no greater love than to give yourself.
that whoever believes in him – Every single individual ever is invited to believe in the Son. Jesus Christ. He alone is the way into the new birth of the Spirit. Belief is the singular response sought by God from us. This is not mere rational acceptance, but an ongoing entrusting of our lives to Jesus. And at the same time it is simple faith. There is no adverb surrounding the word believes here (praise God). We do not believe “deeply,” or “fully,” or “sincerely,” or “wholeheartedly.” Any such word would make our faith a work to be done. No, we simply believe. We do nothing but entrust our lives into the life of the One who has lived and died in our place.
should not perish but have eternal life – Condemnation avoided, eternal life gained! There is no neutral ground between these two extremes. Death or life. Those are the world’s options. Our options. God offers us the promise of his salvation received in the Son. Eternal life is not just a future promise of heavenly bliss. It is our ongoing reality, in Christ, TODAY. Nor is eternal life our own lives going on forever and ever. It is God’s own zoe life (see day 112). By our union with Christ, we have been given the very life of God. An intimate relationship with him. All of his Trinitarian love, respect, and favor now shared with us.
Let that soak in for a second (or for an eternity).
“To live is Christ” is never about giving to God. It’s about receiving the best Gift you could ever get, from the best Giver ever – the love and life of our God and Savior Jesus. Now may we live lives as the givers of his love as Christ lives and loves in us.
What’s the best gift you ever received?
You in Christ
How can you be a receiver of the Father’s love today?
Christ in you
How can you be a giver of the Father’s love today?
Playlist: Songs of John 3:16.