We have been looking at various revelations of God’s love. Last week, we explored the love of God that was revealed through the parable of the Prodigal Son.
Today, let’s study the most famous Bible verse ever!
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
An American football player once sported this verse below his eyes during a football match. Television broadcasters zoomed in on the verse during the match and before long it went viral. Millions of viewers looked it up on Google over the next few days!
That’s how global this verse is!
So, let’s unpack it and try to understand another aspect of God’s love.
This profound statement was part of a very private conversation between Jesus and a Pharisee called Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a member of the Jewish Council, also called the Sanhedrin. As we already know, the Jewish leaders DISLIKED Jesus. They not only considered Him to be a heretic who kept claiming that He was the Son of God, but also thought of Him as a rebel who disobeyed the Mosaic Laws of observing the Sabbath. Even though Nicodemus was part of ‘the anti-Jesus group’, he had his own reservations and doubts. He saw Jesus doing amazing miracles and felt that those wouldn’t have been possible unless God was with Him. Curiosity got the better of him and so one night, he sought out Jesus privately.
Jesus stumped Nicodemus!
Nicodemus had always thought that by virtue of being a descendant of Abraham, he was part of God’s Kingdom. But Jesus said that it wasn’t enough. He needed to be ‘born again’ to be part of God’s Kingdom! Jesus said that the Spirit of God would knock at people’s hearts and those who invited Him in would be ‘born again’.
This baffled the scholarly Pharisee!
It was at this point that Jesus made the most power packed statement in which the whole Gospel is contained.
Let’s break down these historically famous 25 words!
1. LAVISH LOVE
For God SO loved the world…
Notice that the operative word here is ‘SO’. It indicates that God’s love is lavish and extravagant. The idea that God could love would have been revolutionary for a Jew. They had always associated God with reverence and fear, and there was no room for love.
But God in flesh, Jesus Christ, now told a startling truth; that God loved them! SO VERY MUCH!
Now, some people assume that it was Jesus who brought out the loving character in God. That’s not true at all. In fact, it was the love of God the Father that sent Jesus the Son to the world. It was the same extravagant love of God that compelled Jesus the Son to take on human flesh, live among men and die on the Cross of Calvary for people who were steeped in sin.
2. FAR REACHING LOVE
For God so loved the WORLD…
God’s love is far-reaching. It is not limited to a certain group of people, but runs over to the entire world! Jews believe that God loves them. Period! According to them, the rest of the world or the Gentiles were outside God’s fold and were destined to be thrown into hell. But we see glimpses of the Father God’s loving heart that cared for the whole world, even in the Old Testament. It was His love for them that sent Jonah with the message of repentance to the Ninevites. (Read earlier sermon summaries to know more – 12 July & 19 July) It is this love of God for the whole of mankind that Jesus underscored to a stunned Nicodemus.
Let me hasten to clarify that the word ‘world’ here refers to people. It mustn’t be confused with the ‘world’ referred to in 1 John 2:15. 1 John 2 says, ‘Don’t love the world and the things of the world’. In that book, John is implying that we are not to love the worldly outlooks and approaches influenced by Satan. God hates sin and its impact on the world but He loves every person here in the world.
…to be continued…