Sunday, October 01, 2023

“God So Loved the World” [Matt's Messages]

“God So Loved the World”
Life in Jesus’ Name - The Gospel of John
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
October 1, 2023 :: John 3:16-21 

“For God so loved the world...”

Those might be the most famous and beloved words to open a verse of the Bible.

“For God so loved the world...”

John 3:16 is so famous and beloved for good reason. It is a beautiful encapsulation of the entire message of the gospel in just a few perfectly chosen words.

What an wonderful summary of the good news, of the best news in the whole wide world!

Pastor Kerry talked about it a little bit last week. I listened to his message online.

How many times have we heard this quoted or quoted it ourselves or seen it held up on a poster or a banner at a sporting event?

“For God so loved the world...”

Every word in this verse is vibrant and vital and crucial for understanding the most important message in the whole wide world.

It starts with the word “for.” So it’s connected to what came right before it. We studied that last time.

Remember, Nicodemus came at nighttime. He came in the darkness.

This leading Pharisee came to see Jesus at night and tried to butter Him up, but Jesus was not fooled by his flattery or impressed with his religiosity, and He straight-up told Nicodemus, “You must be born again.”

No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. It’s not our good works or our rule-following that gives us entrance into the kingdom. It is the new birth. “You must be born from above.” “You must be born once more.” “You must be born again.” Remember that?

Nicodemus did not understand what Jesus was saying, and that disappointed Jesus even more because He thought this was biblical theology 101. Nicodemus should have known all about the new birth and taught it to Israel.

But instead, all he could he say was, “How can this be?”

And Jesus told him how it could be possible. He said (vv.14&15). “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man [Jesus] must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
Jesus predicted His own crucifixion three years in advance. Jesus was going to be like the snake on the pole in the wilderness in the story of Numbers 21. If the people looked up in faith at the snake on the pole, they would be rescued and healed from the venomous snake-bites. So likewise Jesus was going to be lifted up, and if people looked to Him in faith they would be rescued and healed and saved and given eternal life.

FOR (v.16) “For God so loved the world...”

That’s the connection. I think the Apostle John is making sure that we all understand what Jesus was saying to Nicodemus. It’s possible that verses 16 through 21 are more of the words of Jesus to Nicodemus. It might be printed in red in your Bibles. That’s possible.  But I think it’s more likely that John takes over here and explains the story that he’s been telling. Either way it’s God’s Word. And it’s about a God Who loves.

“For God so loved the world...” Here’s the reason why Jesus had to go to the Cross. Here’s the reason why the Son of Man had to be lifted up.

It’s because of the great love of God for the world.

Now we’ve heard these words so many times we just might miss just how amazing these words are.

Just start with the word “God.” God is the supreme being that made the world, that made you and me. God is all powerful, all knowing, all present, all sovereign, all worthy of all worship, all holy. And John 3:16 says that that holy, holy, holy God...LOVES! He isn’t just neutral. He’s isn’t just calm, and cool, and collected. He isn’t just all powerful, all knowing, all present, all sovereign, all worthy of all worship. He is also love! And He is loving. God loves. 

And this is even more amazing...God loves the world. That’s mind-boggling. Not just because the world is so big. But because the world is so bad. This word “world” (Greek: “kosmos”) is almost always used by the Apostle John to describe something bad, something evil. Sinful human beings connected together to oppose God!

This is what we’ve heard so far from John about “the world.” In the Prologue. Chapter 1, verse 9: [The Word, the Son of God] “was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (Jn. 1:10-11 NIVO).

The world said to God, “No thank you!”
The world said to God, “We don’t want you.”
The world said to God, “Go away. Get lost. I wish you were dead.”

And that’s the world that God so loved?!

This verse is not so amazing because we were so lovable. So cute and cuddly. So desirable. So deserving. So lovable.

This verse is so amazing because we were so unlovable. And yet God so loved the world.

And that word “so!” The Greek word is “houtos.” It’s used to emphasize the manner in which something is done. The degree or the way something is accomplished.

The Christian Standard Bible says, “For God loved the world in this way...” This is how He did His loving. And this is the intensity with which He loved the world. V.16 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son...”

I’ve got three points this morning, and none of them will probably surprise you, but I hope we feel how amazing they are once again. Here’s number one.

God so loved the world:


That is astonishing love.

How great must your love be to give up your son? I have three sons and a daughter, and I don’t want to give any of them up. For anyone. But God just had the One. 

And just think about how great He was, how precious to God!

Jesus was (and is) God’s “monogenays.” “Only begotten Son.” “One and Only Son.” “Unbelievably Unique Son.”

Remember that word “monogenays” from the Prologue in chapter 1? Let’s review.

Chapter 1, verse 1. Say it with me one more time: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God [with-ness], and the Word was God [was-ness]” (Jn. 1:1 NIVO). That’s how close they are, the Father and Son. With and was.

Now chapter 1, verse 14:

That eternal Word, “...became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the [monogenays] One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14 NIVO). From the Father.

Then chapter 1, verse 18:

“No one has ever seen God, but God [monogenays] the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known” (Jn. 1:18 NIVO).

That is the Son that God (v.16), “gave!”

He gave Him. We’re going to see in a second that He sent Him. But He didn’t just send Him as messenger. 

He gave Him as a gift.
He gave Him as a sacrifice.
He gave Him to be lifted up on a pole like a snake.
He gave Him up to die.

That’s what we’re going remember at this table in just a few minutes.

Jesus wasn’t just a great teacher, as wise as His teaching was.
Jesus wasn’t just a great miracle-worker, as wonderful as His miracles were.
Jesus wasn’t just a great example, as perfect as His example was.

Jesus was the Lamb of God, sacrificed to take away the sins of the world.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son...”

Notice, again, that He did this for the world, not just for Israel. He didn’t just give His Son for the biological children of Abraham, like Nicodemus. But He did it for all who will believe.

That’s point number two this morning. Point number two.

God so loved the world:


There are two “that’s” in verse 16. God so loved the world THAT He gave. And that giving had a purpose and a result. V.16 

“...that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

What a promise! God’s gift is so great that if we believe in Jesus, we will not have eternal death but eternal life. If we look to Jesus, like the snake lifted up on the pole, then we will not perish, we will not be eternally destroyed, but we will have eternal life. Life that starts now and goes on forever in and with God.

The ultimate blessing.
The ultimate good.
The kingdom of God.
And the God of the kingdom.

All ours, all yours and mine, not because of anything we do, Nicodemus, but because of what God the Father has done in giving God the Son for us.

And that’s for anyone. “Whoever.” The Old King James, “Whosoever.” We don’t use that word anymore. “Whosoever.” You, me, anyone. 

“...whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Do you believe in Him? That’s what it all comes down to. And that’s why Jesus came down in the first place. Verse 17.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Jesus was sent on a rescue mission. 

This time. Next time He comes, He will carry out the judgment that the world deserves. But when He came that first time, He was coming to save the world that had hated Him.

And our part, as those in the world needing to be saved, is simply to believe. V.18.

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned...”

We should be! We have earned condemnation. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and the wages of sin is death (see Romans 3:23 and 6:23). But “whoever believes in Him is not condemned” (v.18). “There is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).


See that crucial word in verse 18? 

“...but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.”

Don’t miss the warning that is in these verses. Don’t miss the perishing in verse 16!

If you do not believe in the God’s "monogenays.” God’s “only begotten.” God’s “One and Only.” God’s “Unbelievably unique and precious Son,” then you stand condemned already. You are already headed towards eternal death, eternal destruction, eternal perishing. 

Verse 36 will teach us, “whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him” (Jn. 3:36 NIVO).

Hear this warning. If you do not believe in God’s One and Only Son, you are headed right into the wrath of God, another name for which is Hell.

Jesus divides all humanity into two groups. And ultimately we are either in one or the other.

It’s not both/and. It is either/or.

It’s either unbeliever or believer.
It’s either perishing or eternal life.
It’s either condemned or not condemned.

But we don’t have to be condemned!

God so loved the world that we could have eternal life if we believe in His One and Only Son. It’s that simple.

In verse 19 through 21, John says it another way. He contrasts the two groups as light and darkness. Verse 19.

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”

He said something like this back in the Prologue in chapter 1, didn’t he?

“In [the Eternal Word] was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it [or overcome it, beat it]” (Jn. 1:4-6 NIVO). Humans loved the darkness instead of the light because they had bought into the darkness. “Their deeds were evil.”

Remember, Nicodemus came at night. He came with the darkness swirled all around him. But Jesus is the Light, and He invites us to come into the light. V.20

“Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God” (vv.20-21).

Point number three and last.

God so loved the world:


Doesn’t that sound good?!

I know it’s a little scary. It’s scary to be exposed. That’s what scares the world. The world is scared to be seen and known for how evil and shameful they are. That’s what verse 20 says. They “will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”

Nicodemus was afraid that his deeds would be be seen for what they really were. The Pharisees wanted to be seen as religious and holy in their own right. In their pride, they wanted people to be impressed by their religiosity and their rule following. But they didn’t want the real light to shine on them.

Did you ever have your room inspected and you hoped that they did the inspection at nighttime and didn’t turn on the lights? Don’t look too closely under the bed! Don’t turn on the lights!

Verse 21 again, “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

Don’t be afraid to come into the light or to walk in the light. 

Yeah, we know that we are a mess! You and I are a hot mess. But we know that Jesus has died for our mess. So we don’t have to pretend. We don’t have to be self-righteous. Because we have Jesus’ righteousness. And then whenever we do what is right and what is good, then God gets the glory!

“So that it may be seen plainly that what [we have] done has been done through God.”

Or “in the sight of God” or “carried out in God.” The old King James says, “wrought by God.” If we do good, if we love others, if we love God, if we obey, we know Who really did it ultimately. It’s the work of God. Because God so loved the world!

Don’t be afraid of the light.
Don’t be afraid to leave the darkness and come into the light and to walk in the light.
Don’t be afraid to own your sin and confess your sin.

Because Jesus died for your sins, and He gives you His righteousness. He came to save, not to condemn. To give eternal life, not eternal death. To all who believe in Him.

Because God so loved the world.


Messages in this Series

01. "That You May Believe" - John 20:30-31
02. "In The Beginning Was the Word" - John 1:1-18
03. "John's Testimony" - John 1:19-34
04. "Come and See" - John 1:35-51
05. "The First of His Miraculous Signs" - John 2:1-11
06. "This Temple" - John 2:12-25
07. "You Must Be Born Again" - John 3:1-15