Nicodemus then is given the shocking thing from the lips of our
Lord, that salvation is by faith alone. A faith that commits itself
to the Son of Man, and the Son of Man lifted up and crucified, makes
that full commitment, and anybody, whoever he is, who makes that
commitment will have eternal life—Jew or Gentile.
just devastating. Nicodemus was a racist, very much so, as the Jews
were. Their hatred of the idolatrous blasphemous nations was settled
long before he came long. And now the shock is “whoever.” And it’s
while Nicodemus is trying to process that that Jesus gives us the
most familiar verse in the Bible, John 3:16. And this is an
explanation of verse 15, ’cause Nicodemus is going to be saying to
himself, “Why in the world would God do this? Why would God give
eternal life to anybody who just believed in Him? Why would God not
reserve eternal life for the people who kept the rules, right? For
the people who followed the Law, for the people who kept the
Sabbath, for the people who were traditionalists, for the people who
were zealous for holy things, did the ceremonies, offered the
Wait a minute. Why does eternal life get to be
given to whoever believes, and not just Jews that believe but
whoever believes? How can this possibly be?
And the answer is
this, here’s why, verse 16, “For God so”...What?...“loved the
world.” What’s behind this whole thing? What’s behind it all?
God’s...What?...God’s love, God’s love. Now this is a heavenly
thing; this is a heavenly thing. Whoever believes in Him shall not
perish but have eternal life, because God who so loves the world
gave His only begotten Son to make that possible. I think our very
familiarity with this verse sometimes locks its truths in and we
don’t understand. I mean, we all say that, we knew it from, you
know, elementary school or Sunday school. Do you know Reformed
theologians have just worked this verse to death through the
centuries? Here would be a classic Reformed theological explanation
of John 3:16.
First of all we have the remote efficient
cause. Then we have the approximate efficient cause. Then we have
the instrumental cause. And then we would add the material cause.
Does that move your heart? Is that gripping you? That’s the
theological way to explain John 3:16. The remote efficient
cause—God’s love. The approximate efficient cause—God’s grace. The
instrumental cause—belief. And then they would add the material
cause—the cross. And the result, eternal life.
But let’s not get technical. So let me give you a simpler outline.
How about the motive for salvation? The motive? God so loved; God so
loved. This is way beyond their confined racism. This is way beyond
their hatred of Gentiles and the nations around them and the Romans
living among them. God loves the world; God loves the world. How
long had they justified their hatred for the world and defended it
on the basis that this is how God felt? Right? They were the people
of God. They were the representatives of God. This is the teacher.
He hated the world ’cause God hated the world.
Not true. The reason that God makes salvation available to anyone
who believes and the reason that anybody can believe is because God
actually loves the world. Shocking, absolutely shocking. That’s the
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