Tag Archives: Sermon

I’m DONE with John 3:16!

Originally published May 18, 2011. I’m republishing this since the topic came up due to yesterday’s post on the Top 5 Bible Verses of 2011. Please note Stan’s comments at the end of the post.

This is what I told my congregation on Sunday night. Not that I don’t love the verse. What I do not like is the abuse of the verse, as if the verse comes along in a vacuum without the preceding 15 verses or the following 4 verses. So many know this verse without accepting the context of the verse that it is actually abused and twisted to mean whatever we want it to mean.

  • To the liberal, it expresses God’s love, therefore, there is no judgment or consequences to rejecting the Son. Since God so loved the world, He must love everyone equally and without exception. Never mind the fact that 2 verses later, Jesus tells us that to reject Christ stands condemned already.
  • To the Armenian, it expresses their view of free will, and places salvation completely on us. In other words, our salvation is all up to us, our wills are free and all we have to do is exercise our wills in order to force God to save us. Never mind that this verse is in the context of being “born again,” which is something that we cannot bring about or make happen in and of ourselves.
  • To the theologically dim, it’s the answer to every theological problem. Election? God so loved the world… Justification? God so loved the world… etc.

What this verse does cover is the gospel. It is simply a statement that God does indeed love what He created and provided the means for salvation to those whom He has chosen. This does not mean that all those who hear of God’s rich love do not have the responsibility to believe and be saved. They simply lack the ability. All of us lack the ability. This is why Jesus stresses the fact that we must be born again before He bring up the Father’s love. Being born again implies a work of God’s Spirit on and in us. Actually, it is more than implied: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

We do not control the Holy Spirit. He moves when and where and how He pleases and not at the beck and call of man (John 1:12-13). The point is that John 3:16 is not an open statement removing God’s hand in our salvation. It is confirming God’s hand. His Spirit MUST move in us, for us to be born again, so that we do believe and NOT perish.

Do I love John 3:16? Absolutely. It is a statement of God’s love for His people. But is it the end all and be all of our theology? In no way. Jesus gets onto Nicodemus for his limited capacity in understanding these truths, and He will do the same for us. We cannot just rest on John 3:16. We must understand John 1:1 through John 3:15, as well as John 3:17-John 21:25.

The following is the other problem I have with this. As Gunny once pointed out to me, that before he was a believer, he would see the sign of John 3:16 at a football game and thought they were calling a play. As believers, we are to preach the gospel, not sign it! Remember that the Apostle Paul labored to teach and preach the full counsel of God, not just John 3:16.

If you would like to listen to Sunday night’s sermon, go here.

Also, I wanted to pull Stan’s comment from the comments section and add it here:

I’m with you on the abuse of this verse … from Christians. Interestingly, they’re mistaken on the language. The word “so” in that verse is not a “so” of magnitude — “God loved the world so much” — but of type. It is not a quantity, but a quality. We use the word that way when we say, “You have to do this job just so.” Jesus said, “God loved the world in this manner …” In what manner did God love the world? He provided His Son for those who would believe. That falls far short of “God loves everybody so very much!” Indeed, it only says with certainty “God loves those who believe.”

Sunday’s Sermon… The Written Part

INTRO: And it was night.

These are the words that close the previous section of scripture. Judas Iscariot has been revealed as the one who would betray Christ. Jesus, taking a piece of bread, hands it to Judas as says: “What you do, do quickly.”

Then Judas departs and the Apostle John points out the fact that it is dark outside as if to say that the dark forces of the universe were about to have their greatest moment in history.  But alas, what the forces of darkness mean for evil, God means for good.

It is in this context that Jesus begins to speak of His glory, His departure, and finally, His commandment to us.

When we look at the verses and realize the context of which they were given, it really magnifies the meaning of them because we truly see the willingness of a loving Savior towards His children. No matter what storm may befall Christ in the coming hours, He is showing the disciples, and us, His self-sacrificing love towards us. This is the same love that He will command us to show one another. For through self –sacrificing love, we are marked out as His people.

Our text:

So when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately.”

Here we see His glory.

Jesus, after He has already told Judas to depart, and depart quickly, is now ready to be glorified and is glorified. What He is saying is that He is ready and willing to go to the cross on behalf of the Father’s decree, and on behalf of His children.

Our Savior has committed Himself to the storm that He faces. He did not shy away from what would take place, but accepts it. He even told Judas to do his evil act quickly. He is being glorified in this self-sacrificial love for His children and His obedience towards the Father.

Remember that the Father decreed that Jesus should die on the cross. Not out of a sense of cruelty or hatred towards the Son, but out of His loving provision for His children.

Both are glorified through the events of that night, in that Jesus willingly heads for the cross, and the Father willingly sent Him.

I like what J.C. Ryle writes about this:

“The crucifixion brought glory to the Father. It glorified His wisdom, faithfulness, holiness, and love. It showed Him wise, in providing a plan whereby He could be just, and yet the Justifier of the ungodly. –It showed Him faithful, in keeping His promise, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head. – It showed Him holy, in requiring His law’s demands to be satisfied by our great Substitute. –It showed Him loving, in providing such a Mediator, such a Redeemer, and such a Friend for sinful man and His co-eternal Son.”[1]

Just a few reflections on this quote.

First, the Father shows His infinite wisdom in this manner of bringing about redemption. Paul writes that God demonstrates His wisdom in the message of the cross.

1 Cor. 1:21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

What God did in wisdom, those who think they are wise, find the cross foolishness. Yet, it was God’s wisdom that Christ went to the cross because only Jesus could bring about salvation for mankind. The wise of this world think they can bring about their own salvation. They are blinded by their own sinful nature and will only have the truth revealed to them when they humble themselves before God and accept His wisdom.

Secondly, the Father is also glorified through His faithfulness. He was faithful throughout the generations to bring about salvation for His people. How awesome is it that He saved people who are vile and wretched, people who cannot save themselves, people dead in sin to the point that He needs to bring us back to life. His faithfulness drives Him to save people so committed to their sin, that He must given them a new heart before they can begin to believe in the truth, so blind, they need to be enlightened, so deaf, they need to given new hearing. That demonstrates His faithfulness.

We catch this concept through a number of passages.

Micah 7:18-18 Who is a God like You,
Pardoning iniquity
And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?

He does not retain His anger forever,
Because He delights in mercy.
19 He will again have compassion on us,
And will subdue our iniquities.

You will cast all our[a] sins
Into the depths of the sea.
20 You will give truth to Jacob
And mercy to Abraham,
Which You have sworn to our fathers
From days of old.

He made a promise to Abraham, and that promise of forgiveness and mercy is culminated in Christ.

We also see this faithfulness displayed and explained in His immutability.

Hebrews 6:17-18 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might[a] have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.

God does not change nor lie, we can trust in His promises to us for redemption through His Son. Again, this is points to His faithfulness. He is remaining the same in His mercy, wisdom, councils and grace towards us.

We need the reminder that God is faithful. He is the One that does keep His promises for His glory and Jesus going to the cross was a demonstration of His faithfulness to the disciples and to us.

These are just a few ways that the Father is glorified by the Son and His journey to the cross.

The Son is also glorified by going to the Cross. J.C. Ryle adds these words.

“The crucifixion brought glory to the Son. It glorified His compassion, His patience, and His power. It showed Him most compassionate, in dying for us, suffering in our stead, allowing Himself to be counted sin and a curse for us, and buying our redemption with the price of His own blood. –It showed Him most patient, in not dying the common death of most men, but in willingly submitting to such horrors and unknown agonies as no mind can conceive, when with a word he could have summoned His Father’s angels, and been set free. – It showed Him most powerful, in bearing the weight of all a world’s transgressions, and vanquishing Satan and despoiling him of his prey.”[2]

Let no one ever question Christ’s compassion towards us.

After telling us of the Father and His glory, Jesus then turn and tells us of His departure.

Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’

He begins this declaration rooted in compassion as well. He calls the disciples little children. What a loving thing to say.

This is not an insult at all, but a way to address the disciples showing His affection towards them. He knows that He is only going to be with them a few more hours and wants them to listen. His address of them shows the disciples their need to grow spiritually. They are spiritually immature.

This spiritual immaturity is demonstrated by Peter in his proclamation that he would gladly lay down his life for Jesus.

A more mature response would have been for Peter to ask Jesus what Jesus would have him do because that would have showed that he was trusting in Jesus, not his own zeal and self reliance.

We all need spiritual maturity. The problem with many is that many think it comes simply by attaining Biblical knowledge. It does not. Spiritual maturity does involve Biblical knowledge, but that is only part of the process.

It also involves the means of grace, the preaching of God’s word, the use of the sacraments and prayer, mixed with faith and the power of the Holy Spirit. This means that spiritual maturity does not come quickly. It takes time and God’s hand in our lives.

Given that we live in a society that demands satisfaction now, you can see that this truth would not sit well with much of the church.

Think about Peter. He spent three years with Christ, listening to the Savior’s sermons and lessons on the truth, yet he still lacked maturity. Peter goes on to preach the sermon on the Day of Pentecost and he still needs to grow spiritually. We see this truth in the confrontation that Peter had with Paul when Peter refused to eat with the Gentiles. The event showed he still needed to grow spiritually.

I do believe he did grow spiritually and matured as a believer. You don’t get two great epistles like Peter’s out of someone who is spiritually mature. There is just far too much meat found in those epistles to be written by someone stuck at being immature.

Just listen to this one line, and you can hear the depth of maturity:

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen[a] you love.

Rejoice in the face of suffering? Peter will grow to realize that it is our faith that is far more valuable to us, than our comfort. This comes out of maturity, not immaturity.

My main point here is that we need to grow spiritually and this growth is not based upon knowledge, but the Spirit working in our lives so that we produce fruits of the spirit, not fruits of the flesh. We cannot make ourselves “grow.” We must rely on the means of grace given to us by God and His Spirit working in our lives.

We must all admit that we are little children and be willing for God’s Spirit to work in our lives, thereby growing in our usefulness to Him.

Secondly, we see that He is going to depart from them.

Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’

He is going to the cross. He is going into the hands of evil men to suffer a death that only He can undergo. Only Christ can drink the cup of wrath prepared for Him. No matter what the world may offer in religion leaders, none of them can do what Jesus did on the cross because, they all need the atonement of Christ as much as we do.

Only Jesus could go to the cross. JTB calls Jesus the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. This is because He is the perfect sacrifice. The entire sacrificial system found in the Old Testament pointed to Christ. Whereas bulls and goats could not take away sins, but they did point to the One who could take away sins.

Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

He was a sweet-smelling aroma because His sacrifice was acceptable to the Father. It pleased the Father.

Hebrews 9:26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

All other sacrifices made by man, could only point to His sacrifice because they did not accomplish what was necessary, and those things sacrificed did not represent us in that sacrifice. The sacrifice needed to be a man, not a stupid animal in order to save us.

The disciples are saddened by this comment and they are still a bit in the dark to what Jesus will do. But remember, by doing so, Jesus and the Father will be glorified

At this point, Jesus now gives us “The command.”

“A new command I give to you…”

First we must see that this is a “new” command. We have already been given the command to love our neighbors in Leviticus 19:18.

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

But this command is new in several ways.

First, it is new in the sense that we are to love “one another.” That shows the special bond and relationship we have in Christ. We are more than a group of people gathered together out of special interest we have. We are drawn together by the love of Christ and because of His gracious kindness towards us.

This is how the command is also different. In fact, William Hendriksen calls this a precept, “which is a rule made by Jesus and illustrated by His own example, for the regulation of the conduct and inner attitude of the disciples, toward Christ, one another and the world.”[3]

This differs from what the Sanhedrin were in the habit of giving. They gave commands without any sense of love towards the people. Their laws were outward, official, and codified.

Not this command. It is directed at the inner man in Christ and given out of affection by Christ for that man. Therefore, we should have the desire to keep this command. We should long to keep it and do what He says, because of the interest that He has in us.

This is no cold law, but a precept given to us by the One who demonstrated for us. You have heard that often times law givers and rule givers have a saying in the back rooms: “do as I say, not as I do.” You can see the hypocrisy in one that behaves that way.

What is the command?

“Love one another.”

This sounds simple enough. In fact, many who claim liberal religion tout this command all the time and by it they mean that we can live however we want to without regard for God’s Law or moral purity in our lives. Liberals will say that to point out one another’s sin is to not love one another.

That is true on one level. If we in the habit of doing so just for the sake of pointing out one another’s sin, then we are not truly loving one another.

However, to love one another as He did, is far beyond our capacity to do. We cannot do so without the Holy Spirit working in us. The only way can we truly love one another is if God’s Spirit is working in us.

To love one another means that we are seeking the best interest of others before our own self interest. Philippians 2, again, helps us see this.

Philippians 2:3-4 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Ask the question: are doing what we are doing out of the best interest of others?

A better passage is 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 … go there. He is making the case that gifts without love are useless. But he also gives a wonderful expression of true biblical love.

Are we living this out? Do we truly love one another as we should? Or do we only do so when it is convenient and brings about something we want?

Jesus is not finished giving us the command.

In the Levitical command, we are told to love our neighbors. Jesus changes that to love one another. In the Levitical command He tells us to do so based upon how we would treat ourselves. Here, He changes the motivation by saying that He has loved us. In other words, we love one another as I have loved you.

How did Jesus love us? He lived out this command before and after He gave the command to the upmost. He did this by obeying God perfectly on our behalf. The Law demands absolute perfection, and this is what He did for us. You know the command: Love your neighbor as yourself? He did that perfectly.

Out of compassion for us, He refused to indulge in the pleasures of sin one iota. Think about that next time you are tempted to go off into the desires of the flesh.

He loved us so much that He went to the cross on our behalf. We underwent the whips and torture and abuse, all on our behalf. That is how much He loved us, all while we were still sinners.

The principle for our love towards one another is based upon His love of us. If we get away from this at all, it will skew our attempts to love one another. Our love for one another must be rooted in and based upon Christ’s love for us.

Finally, He gives us another motivation to love one another. He tells  us “by this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Our love for one another is a testimony to the world. Do we? Let me encourage you, I do believe we do. I believe this is the most loving congregation I have ever come across in my time of ministry. Let’s keep it that way and strive for more.

Let us pray that even though we are a loving church, that we would love eve more so. Let that be a mark about who we are.


[1] J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John, Vol. 3, Banner of Truth Trust, p. 40-41.

[2] Ibid., p. 41.

[3] William Hendriksen, NTC: John, Baker Books, p. 253.