This verse is probably the most famous verse in the Bible, let us have a look at it together:
It starts with “FOR GOD” –It begins with God, the God who takes the initiative, the God that intervenes, the God who does.
FOR GOD SO LOVE. That word “SO” in an important word, too often our idea of God’s love is not strong enough –just listen to aul talking about his experience of God’s love “so long and high and wide and deep, this love that surpasses knowledge!” (Eph.3.19) it is an extravagant love, a disproportionate love, a love that is excessive and vastly beyond what we deserve.
And the word “LOVED” is important here too, love was the motivating emotion from God, the Gospel begins and ends with love, it is all fueled and sustained by love. A love that exceeds the call of duty or a mere liking, but is defined by total unyielding commitment and complete sacrifice.
THE WORLD, the Greek word is COSMOS which feels vastly bigger than our planet, a God who loves all he has made, and this vast love stretches beyond our comprehension, but is also personal. My dad was converted when he realized that God’s love for the world also included him personally. God loves you and me, he knows us intimately and knows us by name. He is vast and powerful and yet he knows us and he loves us, he even knows how many hairs there are on each of our heads.
“That he gave” –God’s love is a love that is generous, it was his love that caused him to give. Love does not count the cost but love keeps on giving no matter what the cost.
“HIS ONE AND ONLY SON”: this is a unique event within the cosmos, never before had God given himself in such a way as this, the idea of ‘Son and Father’ has the idea of ‘from my flesh, carrying my DNA’ this is clearly no ‘dime a dozen messenger’ but rather the Divine giving of himself.
“SO THAT”, -God taking the initiative again!
“WHOEVER” is a big word, it is an open invitation, we as the people of the world are all ‘who-so-evers’ whether we are Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, male or female, black or white, slave or free… everyone is a who-so-ever. This gift of God himself is on offer for the whole of humanity.
“BELIEVES”… this idea that it is unearned gift that is received simply by ‘believing in Christ’ accepting/receiving the treasure, the pearl of great price, putting our trust in the completed work of Christ upon the Cross.
“IN HIM” Indeed the word “in” is a significant word, it conveys the sense of putting ones trust “in” someone, it isn’t just I believe some stuff ABOUT them or belief in an impersonal way e.g. “I believe aliens exist” but rather to believe “in” them requires an investment, trust. When someone ‘believes in you’ it means that they have seen something in you they are prepared to trust you with… in this case, we see in Christ his divinity, power and love which we can trust with our eternal destiny.
“MIGHT NOT PERISH”… Sin has consequences and separation from God is a reality and a possibility, a possibility he wants us to avoid at all costs. God’s rescue was needed for us as we were unable to save ourselves, we know that God does not want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3.9) and longs for all to receive salvation through Jesus.
“BUT” we have a God who gives us the amazing gift of free-will, a God who respects our choice to accept or reject him, a God who offers his love to us all a choice, a real choice!
His desire for us is to “HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE” –eternal life- that death is not the end for us, nor our final word, but God has destined and redeemed us that we might have life with him for all eternity.
What of us and our response to all that God has done for us through Christ?
Have we met the missional God that is the instigator of restoring the broken relationship with his people, his creation? Have we grasped the extravagance of God’s love? Do we know this love personally as well as universally? Have we wrestled with who Christ is, the unique invention of God in human form? Is Christ someone we want –and can- to believe in. Putting our trust in the God who is able to save us. A God whose desire for us is not for us to perish but to have life and to be with him for eternity.