John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
This verse by far is the most quoted in my judgment. It is one if not the most important verses in the entire bible. I also believe is one those verses abused if not looked at in its context to make it amazing. Grace is not amazing until you bring to light what enables grace to shine.
Had Jesus given Nicodemus John 3:16 before addressing John 3:14-15, it would have made no sense to him or appreciated it. The same way if a doctor gave a patient medicine to cure him without first letting him understand his need for it, the patient will despise it and will not consider it precious. Jesus took Nicodemus back to Numbers 21 where the Israelites spoke against God and Moses; they murmured and complained for not having water or food. God had blessed them but they were never grateful. They called the bread God had provided worthless. It is at this point “… the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died”, Numbers 21:6. This was judgment to a disobedient people that led to death. “Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.”, Numbers 21:7. They did not justify their sins, or even believed they were being punished unjustly. They saw that they deserved judgment and no one to blame but themselves. In the midst of condemnation they were also reminded of the mercies of God.
When they understood what they deserved, they did not plead with God on the basis of their goodness but God’s. God in His goodness did something for them without compromising His justice, He provided a way for them to live, “8 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived”, Numbers 21:8-9. Jesus later tells Nicodemus “14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”, John 3:14-15.
John 3:16 has very little meaning to sinners unless you address with them John 3:14-15 which would point them to Numbers 21. Without these two verses, men would have an idea that they are loveable. Men would think God saw something in them the reason He loved them and sent His Son into the world. The cross (Jesus being lifted up) is where the love of God is demonstrated. Paul helps us understand John 3:16 by writing Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. Romans 5:8 is a clearer way to see what God’s love does. God acts righteously, Jesus is the act of love God demonstrated.
The gospel that brings about the new birth must be Grace centered, why? Because Grace is love in action. Our message to the world must be that they have sinned against God and are under God’s wrath/judgment as demonstrated to Nicodemus in Numbers 21. He is angry with them and the only way they can escape the fiery judgment is to look upon Jesus, believe and live, that is love. Ephesians 2:8-9, “8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast”
God is love, it is the product of God that is given by God because of who He is and not because of who we are. “Love is the mutual and binding grace between God and man; it may also be said that in Christ is made God human and man divine.”, McGarvey and Pendleton
The gospel that brings the new birth does not show us how special we are, we are under God’s wrath. It does not show us how much God needs us or wants us. It is not man centered. It does not begin with God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. “The sober, biblical truth that needs to be presented to the sinner’s mind is “You have made yourself an enemy of God, and in your present state of rebellion there is absolutely no hope for you.” In fact, God’s “plan” for the sinner at this point in his life is to separate him from His presence forever, in hell”, Keith Green. The gospel must show us how much we need God by first convincing us of how dead we are with no ability of saving ourselves, that is when John 3:16 (Gospel, God’s pill) brings us life. “…, it is an impossibility that you bring glory to God, His Christ, and His cross, because the cross of Jesus Christ and the glory thereof is most magnified when it’s placed in front of the backdrop of our depravity!”, Paul Washer. The dying words of one ancient saint were, “Grace is the only thing that can make us like God. I might be dragged through heaven, earth, and hell and I would still be the same sinful, polluted wretch unless God Himself should cleanse me by His grace.”
Men will never learn the true meaning of grace and desire it unless they are confronted with what they deserve, the wrath of God, Numbers 21. Blessings Ev