“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Theologian J. C. Ryle writes, “Look at the well-known text which heads this page. Its words are probably familiar to your ears. You have very likely heard them, or read them, or quoted them, a hundred times. But have you ever considered what a vast amount of divinity this text contains? No wonder that Luther called it “the Bible in miniature!” -and have you ever considered what an immensely solemn question arises out of this text? The Lord Jesus says, “Whosoever believeth shall not perish.” Now, reader, DO YOU BELIEVE?
I love Ryle’s phrase, “A vast amount of divinity” in referring to John 3:16. The phrase refers to the subject of the verse, God, and His work in bringing people to salvation. It is not often this verse is used to emphasize God’s sovereignty, but rather the stress is often placed on man’s ability to come to Christ in and of himself. Let’s unpack this verse word by word and not only see what it says, but also what it means.
“For God.” From the outset, Jesus informs Nicodemas (remember the context) that the person who is responsible for regeneration and the salvation of sinners is no one else but God the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-8). The word God (θεός; Theos) refers to the One, True God of heaven and earth. This is the God who is the subject of the entire revelation of Scripture.
Jesus said in John 17:1-3 that, “When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
The great Puritan pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards writes in his sermon “God Glorified in Man’s Dependence”, “The redeemed have all their objective good in God. God himself is the great good which they are brought to the possession and enjoyment of by redemption. He is the highest good, and the sum of all that good which Christ purchased. God is the inheritance of the saints; he is the portion of their souls. God is their wealth and treasure, their food, their life, their dwelling place, their ornament and diadem, and their everlasting honor and glory. They have none in heaven but God; he is the great good which the redeemed are received to at death, and which they are to rise to at the end of the world. The Lord God, he is the light of the heavenly Jerusalem; and is the “river of the water of life” that runs, and the tree of life that grows, “in the midst of the paradise of God.” The glorious excellencies and beauty of God will be what will forever entertain the minds of the saints, and the love of God will be their everlasting feast. The redeemed will indeed enjoy other things; they will enjoy the angels, and will enjoy one another: but that which they shall enjoy in the angels, or each other, or in anything else whatsoever, that will yield them delight and happiness, will be what will be seen of God in them.”
Meditate upon what Edwards has written. It may not be Scripture but he certainly captures the essence of what Scripture teaches about God.
Pastor John Piper writes, “The gospel is ultimately about God. He alone is the author and goal of salvation. The good news of John 3:16 is that God is the chief end of the gospel. He so loved the world not simply to give us forgiveness or eternal life but to give us something even greater—Himself.”
Soli deo Gloria!