Sunday Morning Bible Study
July 16, 1995
Last week ...
We got to peek in on an appointment Jesus had with a Jewish man named Nicodemus.
Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a strict follower of the Law of Moses. He had lived his life, trying to earn his way into heaven by being obedient to all the Law in the Old Testament.
Jesus told him that he needed to make a new start in his life, that he needed to be "born again", and that the new start could only come if God's Holy Spirit came inside him and made him brand new.
The way to become born again was by believing in Jesus.
To illustrate His point,
Jesus mentioned the Old Testament story of how the people in the wilderness had been bitten by snakes.
God told Moses to make a bronze snake, put it up on a pole, and if anyone was bitten by a snake, and looked upwards at the bronze snake, he would be healed.
It didn't make sense, but it worked.
Salvation came by believing.
We're now going to get an even more expanded commentary on what it means to believe in Jesus.
This verse is called by Martin Luther, "the Bible in miniature".
It's also called "the little Gospel", and "the comfortable word".
:16 The Gospel
:16 For God so loved ...
The word "so" isn't used here as if to say, "God loved the world so much that ..."
The idea conveyed in the Greek is meant to get us to look at the thing that was described in the previous verse.
The word "so" (outwV) means "in this manner"
The people under Moses (vs.14-15) were saved through the bronze serpent being lifted up on the pole.
In this manner, in the manner of lifting His own Son up on a cross, in that manner, God has loved the world.
There are several Greek words that are used at various times to express our one English word, "love".
There is a word that means physical, sexual love (eroV).
There is another word that is used for family love, as between parents and kids (sturgh).
There is another word used for affection, friendship, an emotional feeling between two people (jilew).
None of these words are used here.
The Greek word used here is agapaw, the verb form of the word agaph.
It means a kind of love that rather than being centered in the hormones (eros), or being centered in the emotions (phileo), it's centered in the will.
It is the choice that a person makes, out of their own free will, to place value on another person.
It is an unconditional kind of love in the sense that it depends not on the object to meet certain requirements, but on the lover, who chooses to love.
Agaphis an unconditional choice.
This is the same kind of love a husband is to have toward his wife:
»Ephesians 5:25-AV Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
The kind of love a husband is commanded to have, is a love based on a personal committment.
It's a love that is based upon a husband's choice to love his wife, not because she can still fit into a certain dress size, or her abilities in the kitchen, but simply because he has chosen to love her.
"I choose to love you because I choose to love you"
God in His love says,
»Romans 9:15-AV For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
It's a love that you don't "fall out" of.
It will only stop when the lover chooses to stop.
This may all sound a bit too hard.
"Gosh, I don't think I should waste my time with learning how to love like that"
»1Corinthians 13:1-3 AV Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become [as] sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have [the gift of] prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed [the poor], and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
When you're having a hard time knowing how to love someone, just come back here to old John 3:16.
The best lover of all is God.
:16 the world
God's love is not just for nice people.
It's not just for people who are going to respond by saying "I'll follow Jesus".
But God loves the entire world, dirty rotten sinners included.
»Romans 5:8-AV But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Love the unlovable.
God loves the unlovable. So should we.
Jesus said that we were to learn to have that kind of love as well.
»Matthew 5:43-48 AV Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more [than others]? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
When you are learning to love the unloveable, you're proving that God is your Father.
:16 that He gave
The Greek word (didwmi) means "to give".
The grammatic construction in the Greek is such that it is meant to convey that the practical result of God's love was that He gave.
The natural, expected, obvious result of God having agaph love for the world was that He gave His Son.
Because God had agaph love, He HAD to give His Son.
Here's one of the primary qualities of agaph love.
Agaphis not characterized by gushy feelings that can change with the kind of pizza you order for dinner.
It is not qualified by what it gets in return.
It is simply characterized by giving.
AgaphHAS to give.
Why did God have to give His only begotten Son?
Because He saw the problem of our sin.
He saw that we needed a permanent solution to the problem of our sin.
Anything that doesn't meet up to the standards it was created for, is called sin.
And none of us meet the standards we're intended for.
Cars on the assembly line.
Quality assurance inspectors look for parts that have flaws.
Hopefully, if you buy a new car, when you drive it away from the dealer, it's going to run properly.
If it doesn't, you take it back and either have them fix it, or you want your money back!
When God comes to take you home to heaven, He's going to expect you to meet all the manufacturer's specifications, He wants you to in perfect running order.
But the problem is that we have way too many flaws to meet God's standards.
God can't even get His key in the door lock for most people.
And to get those flaws fixed, it's going to be very expensive.
The Bible says that the pricetag of taking care of sin, any sin, is death.
»Romans 6:23-AV For the wages of sin [is] death; but the gift of God [is] eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The price of taking care of your sins is death.
One human death.
One human separated from God forever in spiritual death.
Because God knew that it would be too much for us to pay for our sins, God decided to pay for them Himself, by sending His own Son to die in our place.
Since Jesus Himself was God, when He gave up His life to pay for our sins, He didn't just lay down the price of an ordinary human, but the eternal, immortal life of God Himself.
He paid enough for all of our sins.
»Hebrews 10:14-AV For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.
This is why God gave us His Son.
Love gives to needs.
The focus ofagaph is always on the needs of the other person, and how to meet them.
It's not giving just for the sake of giving.
It's not like the father who has been away on too many business trips, and is always giving toys to his kids so he won't feel so guilty.
Agaphgives to others what they really, really need.
»Philippians 2:3-4 NAS Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; 4 do not [merely] look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
God realized that our greatest need was for our sin to be taken care of, once and for all.
And so He gave ...
Husbands, what is it that your wife really needs?
Wives, what is it that your husband really needs?
Parents, what is it that your kids really need?
:16 His only begotten Son
What's this talking about?
This does not refer to Jesus as being some sort of created being.
It does refer to the fact that as the eternally existing Word, He came down from heaven, put on flesh, and was born from the womb of a virgin named Mary.
But I have to admit, that since I've been a dad for almost eight years now, I've looked at this verse in just a little bit different way.
Ever since my first born son, David, was born, I've had a whole new appreciation of the words used here like "Father", and "Son".
I know what it's like to hold your baby boy in your arms, and to feel this overwhelming flood of feelings come over you as you look in your baby's eyes.
God didn't just go out to the store and by $10 worth of groceries for us.
He gave His Son for us.
The Dad, the son, and the train.
The priceless gift that God has given freely to us.
God could use this against us, to make us feel guilty over His great sacrifice that He has given to us.
Do you know people like that, who have given you a gift, then make you feel guilty for taking it, because it was such a great sacrifice for them?
But that wasn't His purpose in sending Jesus.
His purpose was to demonstrate just how awesomely great His love for us is.
»Romans 8:32-AV 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?
God really, really loves you.
:16 that whosoever
There isn't one person here who doesn't qualify as a "whosoever".
This is the purpose for which God gave His Son.
The purpose being that we might all have a chance to believe.
:16 believeth in him
As we mentioned last week, this is the way in which we receive our salvation.
The method by which we are saved from the price of our sins is by believing in Jesus.
It's not just enough for God to give the whole world the gift of His Son.
But for a gift to be of any value to you, you must accept the gift.
1. If a girl gets a dozen long-stemmed roses delivered to her door, but it's from somebody she doesn't like, she might end up refusing the gift.
The man who sent the roses might think he's doing something to further his cause with the woman, but if she refuses the gift, then they haven't accomplished anything.
2. When you buy a new computer, it often comes equipped with all kinds of software, including things like a free introductory membership to an online service, like Compuserve.
But even if the software is already installed, you still have to sign up with the service and logon before you get any benefit from it.
Believing is like the key to a locked door.
To get through the door, you have to insert the key and turn it.
To receive God's salvation from your sins, you need to learn to believe.
Believing is not just intellectual assent. It's trusting. It's putting your confidence in something.
It's not agreeing in your mind that Jesus died for your sins.
It's putting your whole confidence in God's plan to save you.
It's placing your entire eternal destiny in God's hands, and trusting the Jesus' sacrifice for you was enough to secure you a place in heaven.
When you came in today, you believed in your chair.
You trusted enough in your chair that you placed your entire body weight in the chair, and you expect it will keep you up off the floor for the entire time we're in church.
Will your chair let you down?
Maybe you should divide your weight evenly among two chairs, just in case?
Maybe you'd better just stand during the entire service.
Is there something that's keeping you from believing?
In fact, you're actually already believing, but just in the wrong thing.
Do you realize that whatever your excuse is, it's keeping you from God's love?
It's keeping you from receiving the joys of heaven itself.
It's keeping you from knowing that when you die, you will be safe in heaven.
:16 should not perish
The word "perish" is a word used to describe what happens to a person who refuses to accept God's free gift of salvation.
It's important that we have a correct concept of this.
Some teach ...
That since this word in the Greek literally means "to destroy", that when a person dies without salvation, that their soul is literally annhialated.
Once their dead, that's all there is, baby.
That would be actually much nicer than the truth.
The Greek word does indeed means "to destroy", but the false concept some have is that this destruction would someday be completed.
The truth is ...
Every single human being will live forever.
Some will live forever with Jesus in heaven.
Some will live forever apart from Jesus.
What's hell like?
There's a common idea that hell is where you're going to party forever with your friends.
Actor Hugh Pryor just before he shot himself in Las Vegas. The note read, "Tell my friends I'll meet them in hell."
Others just think it's a joke.
Ted Turner, told the folks at a Baptist church luncheon "I'm looking forward to dying and going to hell because that's where I'm headed." If he only knew what it was like. -- Associated Press 6-14-90
On a church sign outside Atlanta:
The name of the church, the name of the minister and, under that, the title of the sermon.
The title of the sermon was "Do You Know What Hell Is?"
Under that title, in capital letters, it read, "Come hear our organist Sunday morning."
Actually, it's far from a laughing matter.
Jesus gave a good picture of what it's like:
»Luke 16:23-24 AV And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
It is a place of eternal torment.
»Isaiah 66:24-AV And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.
The picture is that of a person's body being consumed by worms, but in a way that never ends. The body will somehow endure and not waste away, but be under constant decomposition.
"How can a God of love send someone to hell?"
You are right in calling Him a "God of love".
The truth is that God has done the one and only thing to keep you from going to hell.
He paid the price of your sins by sending His only Son.
All you have to do is receive God's payment for you by believing and following after Jesus.
The question you should be asking yourself if, "Why would I be so stupid as to refuse God's offer of salvation through Jesus?"
:16 but have everlasting life
As I said before, every will indeed live forever.
But this is talking about living forever with Jesus. In heaven.
The Greek word carries an emphasis on the immeasurableness of eternity.
Eternity is a long, long time.
What's there to do in heaven?
It's not going to be boring.
»Psalms 16:11-AV Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence [is] fulness of joy; at thy right hand [there are] pleasures for evermore.
We're going to be in a place that's better than you could even begin to imagine.
»1Corinthians 2:9-AV But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
And best yet, it doesn't just start after we die. It starts now.
»Ephesians 3:20-AV Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
What are you waiting for?