Many years ago an African Chief visited Queen Victoria in England. When he was leaving he asked her a question. “Your Majesty,” he inquired, “What is the secret of England’s greatness?” “The Bible was the immediate response of the Queen. The Bible is the greatest book in the world. No man is educated until he knows it. I have read it everyday of my life for over forty years, and I am going to read it every day until I see my Saviour face to face. I would urge you to do the same. This book means more to me than any other book. It is my meat and my drink. The more I study it, the more I love it. There is no other like it. It is God’s book. When I read it God speaks to me. I hear His voice. By it men are saved. By it men live, and by it men are going to be judged. It is our one and only authority. This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.
, Now the greatest book in the book is the Gospel of John. The greatest chapter in John’s Gospel is the third. The greatest verse in the third chapter is the sixteenth. And this is what it says: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” That is the greatest story ever told. This, my friend, is the heart of the Gospel. More souls have been saved through John 3:16 than through any other verse. It is the best known verse in the Bible and it has been translated into more languages than any other. It is the greatest statement concerning the love of God on record. Moreover it is God’s word.
About a thousand years ago now, a Jewish song-writer, Meir Ben-Isaac Nehoric, wrote a stanza about the love of God, which was later published in a book of Jewish thoughts, compiled by Joseph Herman Hertz, Chief Rabbi of the British Empire. But no one ever heard of it until one day it was found penciled on the wall of an insane asylum by an inmate who had died. How he had found it no one will ever know. In my mind it is the greatest poem on the love of God ever written. Here it is:
“Could we with ink the ocean fill? And were the skies of parchment made; Were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade? To write the love of God above, would drain the ocean dry; nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky. In John 3:16, we have four tremendous statements regarding the love of God.
First “for God so loved the world” “For God so loved … “ Salvation starts with God. You had nothing to do with it. Before you were born God provided it for you. Don’t think you can discover God. You never can. God is revealed, not discovered. He took the first step. “For God so loved … “ That little word “so” speaks volumes. It explains all that follows, all that Christ endured for you, all that God suffered when He gave Christ. All He saves you from and all that He provides for you is because He so loved you. “For God so loves … “ The gods of the heathen are gods of hate and fear. Our God is a God of love. The heathen are afraid of their gods. We love our God. Their gods are gods of judgment, power and cruelty bent on doing them injury. Our God is a God of judgment and power also, but first and foremost He is a God of love, seeking to do us good.
God does not love man’s sin, but He loves man. You do not love your child’s disease but you love your child. Such love as God’s is unfathomable. It is a love that cannot be understood, but a love that is real nevertheless. I want you, my friend, to know that God loves you. He loves you no matter what you have done, no matter how great your sin and He always will love you in spite of your attitude towards Him. “For God so loved the World … “ That is what makes it impossible for the human mind to comprehend the love of God. The world is made up of rebels, men who have turned their backs on God. Yet, in spite of their rebellion God love them. The Bible says that “God commended His love towards us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8); and again it says “Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6). God loved not alone the good but the bad. When Jesus was being nailed to the cross, He prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Such love is not human; it is divine. In spite of your enmity, God loves you. What marvelous, matchless love!
Had God wiped out the race as He destroyed the Antediluvians by the flood, and Sodom and Gomorrah by fire, we could have understood it, for that is what man would have done. We did not forgive the Nazi leaders of Germany and give them another chance; we executed them. The communists of China and Korea cruelly tortured their victims in a most revolting manner. Such is man’s inhumanity to man. That is the way man acts. But not so God, His love forgives. God is merciful. He loves the unlovely, the rebellions and the sinful. Such love is supernatural. Only God loves like that.
Had He loved only the lovely the good and obedient, we could have understood it, for we love those who love us. We love our friends; that is human love. But God loves His enemies. He loves the disobedient and sinful. That love we cannot understand. It is beyond our comprehension. The prodigal’s father, you remember, loved his erring son, even though he disgraced him by his life of debauchery and sin. “This my son was dead’ and his alive again,” he cried. “HE was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:24). What a welcome! Such is the love of God.
Second, “that He gave His only begotten Son” “For God so loved the world that He gave … “ Love demands sacrifice. Love produces action. Love must demonstrate itself. That is true even of human love. God has proved His love by giving. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son … “ He could have sent an angel or even an archangel, but He didn’t. HE sent His Son, His nearest and His dearest. Nothing could have demonstrated His love like the giving of His only begotten Son. A father will give everything he possesses before he will give his Son.
Bear in mind, if you will that God could have rescued His Son even from the cross, and yet He let Him suffer and never raised a hand to save Him. Would you have done that? Could you, as a father, have let your son suffer such excruciating agony, knowing full well that you had the power to rescue him, to save him from it all, and yet never make an effort to do anything? Impossible! There isn’t a father in the world that could stand by and see wicked men drive cruel spikes into the hands and feet of his son and not make an effort to save him. Not done.