‘For God so loved the world’, March 11th 2018

‘For God so loved the world’, March 11th 2018

‘For God so loved the world…’

Fourth Sunday of Lent. March 11th 2018.

Passages:  Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:14-21.

Opening Prayer.

Father, may the words of my lips, and the thoughts of all our hearts be a blessing and a sweet savor to you. Amen.

Today’s sermon is about John 3:16.

Opening Story: About the colour blind being able to see color for the first time again. They have been given special glasses, a gift from family members. As they use them for the first time, family members are gathered around.

The first reaction was logical and rational – ”Wow, That must be orange! Is that orange?”

Second reaction which soon followed: confronted with the enormity of what they are seeing – tears followed.

So I pray that this very familiar passage’s colours will look a bit brighter and perhaps you may even see a colour you’ve never seen before.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that who(so)ever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

For” = how our Savior introduced the 3:16. “Because of this” – because of what?

John 3:14,15 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.

No doubt what would happen:

  • John 8:28 – lifted up
  • John 12:28-32 – lifted up, what manner

And Jesus points to events in Numbers 21.

It’s Tricky: If you believe in John 3:16, then…

Jesus believed the Old Testament was historical fact. This is very clear, even though from the Creation (cf. Genesis 2:24 and Matthew 19:4, 5) onward, much of what He believed has long been under fire by critics as being mere fiction:

  1. Luke 11:51—Abel was a real individual
  2. Matthew 24:37–39—Noah and the Flood (Luke 17:26, 27)
  3. John 8:56–58—Abraham
  4. Matthew 10:15; 11:23, 24 (Luke 10:12)—Sodom and Gomorrah
  5. Luke 17:28–32—Lot (and wife!)
  6. Matthew 8:11—Isaac and Jacob (Luke 13:28)
  7. John 6:31, 49, 58—Manna
  8. John 3:14—Serpent
  9. Matthew 12:39–41—Jonah (vs. 42—Sheba)
  10. Matthew 24:15—Daniel and Isaiah.

As an aside. At times people have questioned if Isaiah existed. We even now have a clay seal with the name of Isaiah on it. Discovered at the base of the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount, early this year by Eilat Mazar

 Summary: “For” – important as it gives us the “because of”. It opens the gates to all Jesus believed about prophecy and the Old Testament and doesn’t allow us the option of picking and choosing which parts of the Bible are convenient to believe.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that who(so)ever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

 Charles Welch (English theologian and preacher) asked his daughter what John 3:16 meant: “He loved us THIS (and stretched her arms wide) much!”  It’s a nice sentiment, but it is wrong.

The word “so” here (houto(s)) is a simile – “like” a thing, “God so loved the world”– not “soooo” (arms wide); not vastness, but character: “in this way” –

Houtos is used in these verses…


  • 1:18 – the birth of Jesus Christ was in this way
  • 6:9 – after this manner, therefore pray ye
  • 5:12 – for so persecuted they the prophets
  • John 3:14even so must the son of Man be lifted up


Loved: had to make a new word to express the kind of love: hardly found outside the Bible and then it only refers to “high esteem”. Had to re-construct a word to express this love.

Agape – Big love; How the Father loves the Son! (and vice versa)

  • The Father loves His Son, who is truly obedient (10:17).
  • … deeply (3:35).
  • … forever (17:24).
  • The Son loves the Father so much that He obeys the Father’s commandment to lay down His life for the world (14:31).
  • Not a sentimental love
  • No obligation to love the world
  • No possibility of forgiving a fallen, sinful creation – God is perfectly just

God’s compassion and justice are un-compromising and he had to find a way to save us completely and to be true to his perfect nature completely.  Aren’t we glad we have an uncompromising God? That he was willing to give his son in our stead.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that who(so)ever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

 John: “World as a whole” Kosmos – only reference in the Bible of God loving the world

Kosmos: When used in John commonly means to people everywhere, without racial distinction, but who are lost without Christ and in rebellion against God.

  • Matthew = 9 x kosmos; Mark = 3 x; Luke = 3 x
  • John = 79, epistles another 21 times, 188 times in the NT, John uses it 100.

Problem? 1 John 2:15,16 – Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. [Not a problem, if we love the world as God does, but we usually don’t – we love the “things” of the world to our own benefit]

From the hymn: Whosoever Will May Come


“Whosoever will, whosoever will,”

Send the proclamation over vale and hill;

’Tis a loving Father calls the wand’rer home:

“Whosoever will may come.”

The whole hymn is like that, but it’s not just “whosoever”, but whosoever “does” something – does what?  Believes.

Believes what?  Believes that Christ is who he said he was: the Son of God, Immanuel, the only possible, uncompromising sacrifice for the sin of the kosmos.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that who(so)ever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

  • A reflection of Abraham and Isaac. Take now then thy son, thy only son, who thou lovest.  The word is “did not withhold” – His one and only Son, the most precious gift from God
  • Ravi Zacharias story about Sheikh Talal, founder of Hamas
  • He says: ‘Do you know why the Middle East is in a cauldron of hate? Because it is living with the logic of unforgiveness. I was talking to one of the founders of Hamas, Sheikh Talal. I was part of a group of people who had gone to the Middle East to try and bring people to a peace table – a group which included the Archbishop of Canterbury.
  • Sheikh Talal gave us a great meal. He told us of the 18 years he had served in a prison. And how some of his children had been lost in suicide bombings.
  • We were later invited to ask questions of the Sheikh.
  • When my turn came to ask a question, I said, “Sheik, forgive me if I’m asking you the wrong question. Please tell me, what do you think of suicide bombing and sending your children out like that?”
  • After he finished his answer, I said – and he didn’t like his answer – , “Sheik, you and I may never see each other again, so I want you to hear me. A little distance from here is a mountain upon which Abraham went 5,000 years ago to offer his son. And as the axe was about to fall, God said, ‘Stop.'” I said, “Do you know what God said after that?” He shook his head. I said, “God said, ‘I myself will provide.'” He nodded his head. I said, “Very close to where you and I are sitting, Sheik, is a hill. Two thousand years ago, God kept that promise and brought his own Son and the axe did not stop this time. He sacrificed his own Son.”
  • He just stared at me. The room was full of smoke with all of his security people. I said, “I may never see you again, Sheikh, but I want to leave this with you:
  • Until you and I receive the Son that God has provided, we will be offering our own sons and daughters on the battlefields of this world for land and power and pride.”
  • Ravi continued: I could just see the man’s lips beginning to quiver; he was sitting right next to me. Nobody said anything after that.

Sheikh Talal – if only for a moment had seen a different colour…

Full Summary:

“for” funnels in all of scripture till then,

“so” shows us the manner and the character,

“agape” expresses a free, redemptive love,

“world” characterizes the whole of John’s gospel,

“whosoever” – for anyone who will believe

“gave” – did not hold back what was most precious, “one and only Son” the perfect uncompromising sacrifice,for the sins of the world.

 Let’s read it now with our refreshed understanding:

“Because of this, God loved the world in this way:

He gave – [he did not hold back] – even his one and only Son,

So that everyone who believes in His Son

Should not perish – but have eternal life.”


For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Closing Prayer: Father, let us be like those who have seen true colour for the first time. Let our rationality delight us in the depth of meaning we always knew was in your Word…

But then let our hearts feel the depth of love that you reveal in it. Love for us, love for all, love for a world that rarely loves you back.

if this doesn’t influence our life and our walk and our witness – there is something missing.  If we have been saved at such a cost; if love has been manifest to such a degree, how ought we to reflect it back to You?

Take these insights into your word and help us show them to others, let us be conscious of our role as believers in your Word and followers of your Son.  Let our walk be our witness, to your ultimate praise and glory.

We pray these things in the name of Christ. Amen.