The football season is in full swing. Fans are already on a roller coaster of emotional ups and downs as their teams win or lose. During the holiday season, fans toast their teams’ triumphs or drown their sorrows. Whatever the results, they will return to the stadium every week to see their teams play. They’ll dress up in team jerseys, or they’ll brand themselves as die-hard fans and go shirtless, wearing only their team paint. And just as sure as we see a fan who’s painted their face in team colors, we’ll see a fan holding a sign with a familiar quote: John 3:16. Fans will find places in the stadium where the verse will have the most exposure. But what we don’t seem to talk about is message of John 3:16.
Many Christians can recite this verse from memory: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” In some ways, this verse has become so familiar that people rarely think about its meaning. As we do with so many Bible verses we love, we deposit this one into our emotional bank of good feelings and withdraw it when we need it. We savor the warm fuzzy feeling we get from knowing that God loves the world. For many people, John 3:16 reads like a God-sent Hallmark card. In fact, when some Christians talk about the gospel, they’re using a pun on Hallmark’s corporate slogan, “God cared enough to send the best.”
But John 3:16 is not a sentimental message. When God sent His Son into the world, He had no emotional reaction to the tragedy of sin. God, “in the beginning” (Genesis 1:1) had already decided that sin would be dealt with in the work of His Son, Jesus Christ. Basically, God gave us a part of His spirit in sending Christ. And Christ decided to complete God’s work of saving the world on the cross. He explained to his disciples that “he must go to Jerusalem and suffer much” (Matthew 16:21). John 3:16 reveals God’s divine mind, will, and purpose. His love for us does not stem from a warm feeling he had for the world. God has chosen to love us. He decided to love us. His love is an act of his will, and the way he chose to love us was through his Son.
In this verse we see the details of God’s plan of salvation. Sometimes it is in the small words that Christians can extract the greatest meaning. The meaning of the word “For” is such a word here. When you look closely at this little word, you find a big meaning: “in order to economize” (Dictionary.com definition 20).
From all eternity, God’s intention has been to save the world. And the ball of salvation and redemption was already rolling at the first dawn of the universe. Revelation 13:8 states that the book of life belongs to “the Lamb which was slain from the creation of the world”. Hebrews 4:3 states, “And yet his work is finished from the creation of the world.” And the Evangelist John reveals, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
The Son did not become the Savior in response to Adam’s sin and being swallowed up in death. The Son was already Savior before the world began. Jesus voluntarily and joyfully took the means of salvation. Through his Son, God created and redeemed the world on the first day of creation. The light of the new day was the dawn of redemption. When Adam sinned, redemption was already offered to the world. But the world rejected the offer.
To save the world from sin and death, God chose to make His Son the Savior, and His Son willingly complied with His Father’s will. Now the world needed to know that salvation through the Son was possible. Thus, the truth of Christ’s sacrifice was to be made visible to the world. In making visible the plan of salvation, God willingly placed His Son in the body of a man, Jesus Christ, and placed Him in the enemy territory of the fallen world. He was “Emmanuel, God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
Out of love for the Father, Jesus Christ voluntarily placed himself in the hands of the enemy, who is sinful humanity, to go to the cross and accomplish the divine will of God. Everything for salvation that had been in God’s mind on behalf of fallen mankind was now to be made visible for all to see. Humanity could witness this loving choice the Father made to redeem all creation from human sin.
This intentional plan was the way God chose to love the world. Let His Son become a man and die on the cross as an atoning sacrifice for all human sins. Jesus carried in his body the sin of every human being who has lived or would live, so that all who believe in him may receive forgiveness, mercy and redemption.
John 3:16 reveals God’s mind and loving choice to save the world from sin and death through the God-Man, Jesus Christ, who redeemed us by his life, death, and resurrection.
Denise LarsonCooper has a passion for Christ and shares his Word. She is an avid walker and spends many hours outdoors admiring God’s creation. She also enjoys photography, leading small group Bible studies, and investing the gospel in everything she does. Denise graduated with a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary and served ten years of ministry in downtown Rochester, New York. A wife and mother of two daughters, Denise currently works as a gymnastics coach. For Denise’s daily devotions, follow her on Facebook.
Publication date: December 7, 2015