WORDS OF JESUS - "GOD SO LOVED”
By Pastor Robert L. Donnelly
John 3:16 –“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Now let us turn our thoughts once more to the WORDS of JESUS. Though they were spoken so long ago, yet they grow ever dearer to us as we read them over.
We have chosen, for our meditation, the greatest verse in the Bible – the greatest statement that ever came from human lips – the most profound and far-reaching declaration that human ears have ever heard. It’s just a brief sentence, but the impact of the thought that is uttered has been felt around the world and has had a greater effect, on a greater number of people, than any other truth that has ever been discovered. It is a verse upon which a thousand preachers might preach at once, and each one take a different direction, and still come far short of fully exploring this exhaustless truth.
Its depth has never been fathomed, one may sail eternally but upon its surface, and its shores extend to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills. It is a divine storehouse to which the hungry millions may come and carry away all their hearts’ desires; and there will be as much left over when they have finished, as when they began. It is an impregnable fortress, within whose walls “whosoever will”may find safety, shelter, and protection from all their foes and all their fears. The verse we are speaking of is, of course, John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
It is the greatest verse, because it begins with the greatest Person, God – the infinite One, Who only has immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.
It is He, of whom the Psalmist wrote, “LORD, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” (Psalm 90:1-2).
FRANCES RIDLEY HAVERGAL wrote of Him, saying:
Holy and infinite! viewless! eternal! Veiled in the glory that none can sustain;
None comprehendeth Thy Being supernal, Nor can the heaven of heavens contain.
Holy and infinite! limitless, boundless, All Thy perfections, and powers, and praise!
Ocean of mystery! Awful and soundless All Thine unsearchable judgments and ways!
King of eternity! what revelation Could the created and finite sustain;
But for that marvelous manifestation, Godhead incarnate in weakness and pain!
Therefore archangels and angels adore Thee, Cherubim wonder, and seraphs admire;
Therefore we praise Thee, rejoicing before Thee, Joining in rapture the heavenly choir.
Glorious in holiness, fearful in praises. Who shall not fear Thee, and who shall not laud?
Anthems of glory Thy universe raises, Holy and infinite! Father and God!”
Jesus said, “For God so loved” and the emphasis is on the word “so” – He so loved, because He is God. He loved as only a God of infinite capacity could love. He loved with a compelling, consuming love – a love that would not count the cost, and could not rest while the object of His affection was in danger, or in sorrow, or in pain. Because it is God who SO loved, He loves the world without distinction, without reservation, and regardless of sin’s degradation.
This was a startling revelation to the Jews of that day, who fondly imagined that they, of all the people of the earth, were the special objects of divine favor. God’s love is still a wonderful fact, in present days of racial prejudice and discrimination. This is the only unifying force in a divided world. It is the love of God that sends a Swede to a Norwegian to share the Gospel message. It is the love of God that sends an Englishman to a Chinaman, to live with him and talk to him of redeeming grace.
The League of Nations would have been unnecessary, had the nations accepted the statement of John 3:15; and the United Nations is impossible, when this truth is rejected. When will we ever learn to live by the eternal principle that all men are equal in the sight of God, and that He loves them all with all the intensity and fervency of which His infinite nature is capable.
All this naturally raises the question: Then, if God so loves the world, why does He not do something to alleviate its sufferings? to heal its wounds? to cure its diseases? to comfort its distressed? to supply its needs? and to solve its problems? How many there are who argue: How can God love the world and show so little interest in its affairs, and seemingly be so indifferent to the injustices, inequalities, oppression, and crime that is carried on “at midnight and the destruction that wastes at noonday”? (Psalm 91:6). How can God love the world and yet allow Truth to be placed on the Cross, while falsehood takes the throne?
Listen, then, while I read the next three words: “. . . that He GAVE.” It has been truly said that the greatest act, of which a person is capable, is to GIVE – without cost to the recipient, – regardless of the attitude or worthiness of those to whom the gift is given.
It is the very nature of love to give without withholding – to pour out without reservation the best, the choicest, the most costly of all personal possessions upon the object of the heart’s affections. In this case, it is as though God had searched all the Gardens of Glory for the fairest flower that bloomed; as though He had searched all the mines in those eternal mountains for a jewel that would be the most priceless in all this wonderful universe; as though He had explored the ocean beds and coral strands where only angels’ feet have trod, in search of a pearl of such lustre and lasting beauty as would adorn the garments of His loved ones for all eternity.
But, failing to find that which would properly convey His deep and consuming passion, He called His only begotten Son to Himself, He who had shared fellowship with His Father from the beginning, and by Whom, and for Whom the worlds were created. And He vested all His eternal perfections, and Divine attributes in His Son. He then gave to Him the water of the River of Life; the imperishable Fruit from the Tree of Life, the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations. He gave to Him the balm of that heavenly Gilead; and the heavenly Manna, whereof if one would eat he would live forever. He then gave to Him the Sword of the Spirit, whereby He could defeat all the hosts of darkness and overcome the prince of the power of the air, and deliver those who were all their lifetime subject to bondage in the thraldom of Satan’s kingdom.
Having thus equipped and supplied Him, the next part of my text says “. . . He GAVE” Him. “For God so loved the world, that He GAVE His only begotten Son.” Think of it. He GAVE His only begotten Son.
Tell me, now, what more can He give than what He has given? What more can He do, than He has already done? “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). Who could be so utterly ungrateful as to charge God with indifference to His people’s needs, or unconcern about their problems? Who could be so unreasonable as to demand that God should do something about world conditions, when He has already done all that needs to be done? He cannot give more. He has given us Himself, in the Person of His Son. He cannot do more, for all His power is vested in His Son, and He stands ready to manifest that power on our behalf, wherever and whenever we call upon His name.
Let us move on in this greatest of all verses: Who is to benefit by this gift? Here it is: “that WHOSOEVER . . .” That is, the greatest possible number of people. He did not say: all the Jews, nor all the Gentiles, nor all the people of that generation, nor yet all the people for the next ten generations. He did not say: all the British, nor all the Americans, nor all the Russians, nor all the Germans. He did not say: all the Chinese, nor all the Africans. But the word He said is “WHOSOEVER”; and “WHOSOEVER” is the word that stands. This is, without doubt, life’s greatest opportunity!
But the sentence does not end there; in fact, there is not even a comma. The next word gives the only condition necessary to receive this greatest of all gifts. It suggests an act of the greatest simplicity, “whosoever BELIEVETH.” This brings it within reach of everyone, for all can believe. But, someone says, What shall I believe? And the answer is: It’s not WHAT I believe, but WHOM I believe. As the Apostle Paul declares, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). Jesus said, “Whosoever believes in Him.” That is the greatest attraction.
What, then, is the result? “. . . SHALL NOT PERISH” It is the greatest of all promises! It means that, though all the forces of destruction were arrayed against you, still you will not perish. As the Psalmist says in Psalm 46, “Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.”
But it is from the lips of the old patriarch Job that we have the most sublime utterance of faith in all the Bible. He says in chapter 19, verse 25, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God.”
“. . . he shall not perish,” said Jesus. And we read in 2 Corinthians 5:1 that, though the “if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
But even that is not all; for the promise is not only negative, but it offers the greatest positive difference: “. . . SHALL HAVE!” That’s the greatest certainty! “. . . EVERLASTING LIFE!” That’s the greatest possession! Jesus said it, I believe it!
“For what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”