God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…
Suppose I told you that anyone could drive my car. What kind of car would you imagine? And if I told you that anyone could have my car, what would you suppose? Would you imagine a sports car? Probably not. More likely I was offering a rust bucket due for an expensive MOT.
If we give indiscriminately it’s usually because we don’t value the gift.
On the other hand, suppose someone allowed me to drive their Porsche 911. More than this, at the end of the drive they say, “This car is my pride and joy. I want you to have it.” What kind of relationship would you imagine we shared?
If we give generously it’s usually because we greatly value the recipient.
That’s the thing about human giving: We give cautiously to the well-deserving. But God is very different. He gives profligately to the utterly unworthy. He gives His very best to the very worst. That’s what Jesus tells Nicodemus in John chapter 3:
“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.” (John 3:16)
God’s very best is His “only begotten Son”, Jesus. He is God’s Word – the everlasting expression of the Father’s heart (John 1:1-2); He is the Co-Creator of heaven and earth – the Father’s Master-Craftsman (John 1:3); He is the Light of the world (John 1:4); He is the glorious grace and truth of the Father (John 1:14); He is the Beloved Son, abiding from eternity in the Father’s bosom (John 1:18).
The Father is Father because He has His Son. In that sense, to give away His Son is to give away His very Self. Nothing could be more precious than God’s “only begotten Son.”
It is stunning to think He would give His Son to anybody. Who could be worthy of such a gift?
Incredibly the Father gives His Son to the world. And that’s not simply a sign of His love for everyone, it’s proof of His love for the wicked.
“The world” in John’s language represents humanity organised in opposition to God. It’s “the world” which fails to know, or receive Jesus (John 1:5,10). It’s “the world” that not only dwells in darkness but hates the Light (John 3:19). It’s “the world” whose Prince is Satan himself (John 12:31). It’s “the world” that rejoices over the crucifixion and hates God’s people (John 16:20; 17:14). Yet it’s “the world” in all its God-hating, Christ-denying depravity that the Father loves. It’s the world that is given His Son.
What is God like? He gives His very best to we the very worst. God is Giver, though it cost Him everything.
Last week I read an atheist website which mocked this verse. The author wrote that God didn’t so much give us His only Son as lend Him to us for three days. Yet the gift of the Son was not a short-term loan recalled on Easter Sunday. The Son has always been the personal Gift of an eternally generous Father (John 4:10). And, in a deep sense, He was given as soon as there was an earth to receive Him. He was the Father’s Light shone upon a dark world (John 1:9). And in incarnation He was given into our humanity for all time. The Father gave His Son to man as Man. Easter was not the retraction of the Gift but the glorification of this Man for man. And He pours out His Spirit that He might be given to all who believe.
God gives His Son to us and for us. He gives His Spirit to be with us and in us. There is no more He could give. He withholds nothing from a world which only wants Him dead. Why? Because He so loves the world.
Think about His love for a minute. This love is not a grand feeling which He nurses in eternity. It is an outward-going, other-centred generosity that holds nothing back. This is not the benevolence of a feudal lord who bequeathes a portion of his estate to some peasant. This is the lord marrying the peasant, giving himself to her so that her destiny will be his. This is how God loves the world.
Notice something important here. Love comes first. God does not send His Son in order that He might love the world. It is not that God can love the world once the Son has redeemed it a bit. No, in all its darkness and unbelief God loves the world and therefore He gives His Son. We are not saved so that God might love us. We are saved because God loves us.
Therefore when we see Jesus given to us, it is not the sign that we are, in principle, now loveable. It is the proof that we are in fact loved. The Gift doesn’t purchase the love, the Gift proves the love.
Do you feel that God loves you? Look again at the Gift of the Son and you will see the Father – the Father of Jesus and your Father. See this Gift given to you and remember that He is yours not because you are good – you aren’t; not because you were receptive – you weren’t; but because of God’s own prior and indomitable love. See His nature expressed in Jesus. See Him spread His arms, though it cost Him His life, and know that this is the love of God for you.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son
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