John 3:16 — Passion
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. (KJV)
O. Henry wrote a short story called The Gift of the Magi. The story tells of a young husband and wife struggling to survive financially yet wishing to buy a Christmas for each other. Both the husband and the wife sold their most valuable possession to buy a simple, self-sacrificing gift of love.
O. Henry’s story of self-sacrifice is similar to the words spoken by Christ to a man named Nicodemus. Nicodemus came one night to Christ. John 3.10 says, “Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?” Nicodemus was a great scholar of the Hebrew Scriptures. In all likelihood, Nicodemus was one of the most prominent teachers in the land at the time of Christ. In short, Nicodemus was a powerful man. Despite his knowledge of the Scriptures and popularity as a teacher, Nicodemus still came to Christ to understand the simplicity of God’s love.
The human mind finds great difficulty grasping the simplicity of the Gospel. The Gospel is so simple yet so complex. The Gospel is best summarized in the shortness of the verse which records Christ’s words to a man who thought he understood love. God looked at us in love as we struggled in our miserable, sin-stained condition. He sacrificed something He prized infinitely to rescue us from our unlovely condition. God loves you with a passion. When I say passion, I do not mean the lustful passion the world conceives. When I say passion, I mean intense enthusiasm. I want you to understand to some small degree the infinite passion God has for you.
God’s love is extensive. John tells us that God SO loved. So is a word of passion or intensity. Although containing only two letters (five in the Greek), so is rich with immense and colorful meaning. God’s love is vast and immeasurable.
God’s love is impartial. God does not look upon you in disgust, despite the fact that God is so repulsed by sin. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
God’s love is inclusive. God loves the world. There is not one person who falls outside the scope of God’s love. God does not love the world as a unit; God loves every individual who has lived and ever will live. Even more amazingly, God loves each individual specially.
God’s love is universal. While God’s love is special for each individual, His love is extended in the same way to every individual. The uniqueness of God’s love for every individual can never be diminished because His love is infinite.
God’s love is self-denying. The Father had to deny fellowship with the Son in order to satisfy the debt of sin. The relationship between Father and Son is so intimate and infinite that the human mind cannot conceive such a wonderful love. God denied Himself to manifest that love to mankind.
God’s love does not condemn. John 3:17 says, “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” God did not extend His love to you so that He could punish you or vindicate His holy character upon you. God gave you His love so that you might love Him.
“For God so loved the world.” God loves the very creatures He created. God created man, knowing man would reject Him. How ironic that God would create creatures who would act so treacherously against Him. The fact of God’s creating a man who would rebel against Him raises a serious question. Why did God create man? Let us simply say that God created you because He is love. The very fact that you were created shows that you have value to God. To have value in God’s sight is the greatest value of all. To be self-centered is to diminish your value. God’s value of you is infinitely greater than any value you may place upon yourself.
“The proof of love is what it does.”1 Love would mean nothing if it did nothing. A love that did nothing would be a self-centered love. When we see God’s love, we see that God’s love is passionate. God’s love is intense. God’s love always gives. As a matter of fact, God could not love if He could not give. The word give is not simply the idea of handing a gift to someone. Give literally means to offer a sacrifice or to give one’s self.
The purpose of God’s love was to provide eternal life as an escape from perishing. Perishing bears the idea of changing from one state to another. In light of our text, eternal life and perish are placed in apposition to each other. Eternal life contrasts with eternal death. In life, man’s value lies in God’s love for him, but a person who refuses to believe upon the Son, who is the same as the Father, will experience a loss of value. He will be destroyed. To illustrate, if I were to beat my wristwatch with a hammer, I would destroy it. The watch does not cease to exist; it simply has no value nor use for me.
Man could not imagine nor invent such selfless love. God’s love revealed His love and passion for you. God’s love breaks through the barriers of man’s attempts to find value by offering His unique Son so that mankind might have life everlasting. God’s love is not a dispassionate force; God’s love is a passionate action on your behalf, doing what you could not do.
What are your thoughts on this verse?
How vast is God’s love?
For whom did God’s love sacrifice His most beloved Son Jesus Christ?
How can I reflect God’s love to someone today?