The Divine Perspective of Salvation
Text: John 3:16-21
Jesus is giving an explanation to Nicodemus about true salvation. We need to listen to these words with Jewish ears. Nicodemus was a master at keeping all the Pharisaical rules. He had mastered the regulation of his life to the point that he was elevated as an example to all. He was ruler in Israel.
But Jesus drops one bombshell after another on his worldview.
First, salvation is something God gives without any contribution from the benefactor.
Second, salvation is by faith alone.
Third, salvation can be obtained equally by all.
None of this was new. If Nicodemus really understood the OT scriptures he would have recognized that. But as Jesus points these three things out to him it completely destroys him. And perhaps the last one was the most difficult to swallow. The Jews had become hardened in their racism. They were God’s chosen people, and instead of that making them immensely humble, it made them damningly proud.
And so the most famous text in all the Bible is given in the context of addressing Nicodemus’ racist tendencies. In Nicodemus’ mind there are these questions? How can one be saved without keeping all the regulations? How can one be saved by just believing? And how can one be saved without being a Jew?
And Jesus says, here’s how, “For God so loved the world…”
I. THE PLANNED MISSION OF SALVATION v16
1. The Motive Behind It – “God so loved…”
This smashes through Jewish racism. It smashes through their hatred for the other nations. That had lived for centuries with the notion that God hates the other nations, and we should hate the things God hates, so we should hate them too. They thought His loving grace toward them meant God hated the other nations. But Jesus says salvation is open to all because God loves the world.
2. The Object Requiring It – “the world”
The term has a broadness in it, but Jesus is not saying he loves the entirety of all that’s in the world to the same degree. If you said to me that you ‘love people’, would you appreciate it if I interpreted that as you meaning you loved all people the way you love your spouse, or your children, or your parents? Would that not be a misinterpretation of your intended meaning?
What God is saying to Nicodemus is that His love does not discriminate by ethnicity. Showing that Jesus, the Jew, died for those in all nations is an important part of John’s exposition. “And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.” John 11:49-52 Compare with “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:2
Now there is a sense in which God shows love to the entire world, and there are verses to support that. It’s revealed in what theologians term, common grace. “For he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matt 5:45. There is a goodness God shows to all humanity that should lead everyone to repentance.
But those who see that love in this passage are missing the point. Jesus is not giving an exposition of common grace here. He is giving an exposition of saving grace. This is all about salvation. How men are saved. He is exposing Nicodemus’ false view of salvation, and in doing so Jesus reveals it’s not bound up in one nation, but it is experienced by all the nations of the world. This is an explanation of why Jesus can use the term whosoever.
3. The Action Necessitating It – “that he gave his only begotten Son”
“begotten” = monogenes. A compound word. mono = one, genes = gene/genetics. i.e. one of a kind.
The extent of His love is shown by the immensity of His gift. He SO loved. The extent of His love for the world was so vast He gave His only begotten Son. Doesn’t show the utter plight man is in? This is the divine answer for the Fall?
4. The Instruction to Receive It – “that whosoever believeth in Him”
Believe. That’s it. Faith in God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Faith in His person and His work; in who He is and what He has done for sinners. And this is how you gain God’s saving favour my friend. Believe. Believe that Jesus God’s remedy for sin. Believe that on the cross he died for your sin.
Whosoever: it is sufficiently broad to embrace the most wretched man who believes, and sufficiently narrow to exclude the most moral man who does not believe. Any man who denies faith alone doesn’t believe. Any man who denies the real deity or real humanity of Jesus Christ doesn’t believe. Any man who denies the exclusivity of Jesus Christ as the only way, doesn’t believe.
5. The Result of Acquiring It – “should not perish but have eternal life”
The positive and negative. Eternal death vs eternal life. Which do you choose? You are choosing one or the other right now. You can’t choose later. By choosing to choose later you choose eternal dither now. Do you realize that?
II. THE POSITIVE MESSAGE OF SALVATION v17
Christ came not to judge the world, but to save it for the simple reason that the Father was not moved by His anger but by His love. The Father sent Christ to save the world from His wrath.
Nicodemus wanted and expected Messiah to come and judge the nations. Jesus tells him that the Father loves the nations and sent His Son to die for the nations.
III. THE PERSONAL MANDATE IN SALVATION v18
There is something we must do. There is no such thing as universal salvation for all regardless of how they live or what they do. We must believe. “condemned already” – this is a startling truth to many. You think you’re going to be judged by God on your life after you have lived it. That God will determine where you deserve to go after you have lived.
Now it’s true that your works, words, and thoughts will be judged, but the purpose of that is not to determine where you go, but to determine the severity of judgment you have earned. Where you are going has already been determined. If you do not believe you are “condemned already”. God’s mind is made up. Unbelievers go to hell, regardless of their lifestyle.
The verdict is passed for unbelievers. The only way to reverse it is by placing your faith in God’s Son. All sin brings judgment, but rejecting Jesus Christ is the one sin that seals your eternal destiny. Regardless of what else you have done in your life, if you do not believe you are damned.
IV. THE PREFERRED MENTALITY TO SALVATION v19-20
So why do you reject? Why do you choose to continue in unbelief? There is no more serious matter in all the world, and yet you trifle with it like it’s of secondary importance.
You prefer moral darkness to divine light and life in Christ. You prefer to be your own God. You prefer to engage in your desired sins. You love your sin. And messages like this make you feel uncomfortable BECAUSE you don’t want to come to the Light. You are morally nocturnal. You live in the darkness and run from the light.
You resent the Light because it exposes who you really are. You hate anyone who refuses to approve of your moral corruptions. You want to engage in adultery, fornication, lies, covetousness, idolatry, theft, etc. “The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.” John 7:7
Let me tell you that ministries that do not expose sin are false ministries. Ministries that sell a Jesus that you should try because it makes your life better is a false Jesus. The Rick Warren approach of try Jesus for 30 days and see the difference He can make is a false gospel. Jesus came to expose sin. He came to make sinners aware of their wretchedness. He came as Light to the darkness, and by in large humanity ran from His Light – and they still do. Sin is ugly and so is the sinner.
V. THE PURIFYING MIRACLE OF SALVATION v21
Why are you here believer? Because you love the light of God’s Word. You love its purifying effect in your life. You love how it instructs you in righteousness and your love for that shows that you are a recipient of God’s salvation.
Listen, I want people to come here, I do. But if people walk away, and go somewhere else where the light is less strong, and darkness is more prevalent and acceptable, what am I to do? Change the message?
The genuine believer loves the communion of Christ in purity.
Close – so have you believed? Have you come to the Light?