Reintroducing John 3:16

February 13, 2019 at 5:02 pm | Posted in John, Salvation | 4 Comments
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For many years the Bible verse that has been generally considered the most popular, or at least most well-known, is John 3:16. The danger for some of us when studying a very familiar verse is that we become inoculated through over-exposure and make the mistake of thinking we know everything we need to know about it already. Let me encourage you not to make that mistake with John 3:16. Sit down (with your spouse if you are married) and go through it word by word, slowly, considering the import of each word, and looking at the verses before and after it to better illuminate the context.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16

I didn’t really need to print it here, did I? Most faithful Christians probably have it memorized. But let’s examine it closely. The first word, “for,” refers back to:

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

John 3:14-15

Lest Verse 15 lead anyone to think that God the Father needed to be changed in His dispositional impassibility by God the Son from not loving us to loving us, the Holy Spirit had John make it clear that the Father’s love was the motivating cause of the plan of salvation.

“For God SO…” If you’ve been attending a Baptist or evangelical church for very long, you’ve probably seen the pantomime of a preacher stretching his arms wide to demonstrate a child’s expression of what it means to love someone SOOOOO much, but John 3:16 does not leave the question of “how much is so much?” open-ended. The word “that” is used to introduce the concept of: “THIS is how much the Father loved us.”

He loved us so much that He “GAVE.” This word, too, is worth closer inspection. God “gave” His Son in at least two respects: (1) In the Incarnation, the Father sent the Son from His Heavenly home to live in a world of sin, the effects of sin, and sinful rebels, and to experience, in His humanity, all the difficulties, pain, rejection, scorn, betrayal, sorrow, and human shortcomings and temptations known to mankind (but in response to which, He, unlike us, never sinned); (2) During His arrest and the events leading up to His death, the Father “gave” the Son into the hands of sinful men to be tortured and crucified, and to experience death as the substitutionary sacrifice for us.

This Son who came to live and die for His people was the Father’s “only begotten Son,” the Monogenes, His special and unique Son. He was the eternal Son of God, not “begotten” in the sense of having been born as touching His divinity, nor in the sense of His having been created (for He was not), but in an echo of the Old Testament type that we see in the episode of Abraham and Isaac.

And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

Genesis 22:1-13 (emphasis added)

Isaac was not, strictly speaking, Abraham’s “only” son, yet He was the son of promise – the special and unique son promised to Abraham by God. Yet he was designated as a sacrifice to be offered to God, not because Isaac’s loss was something to be lightly borne by Abraham, but rather because he was so precious to Abraham. In John 3:16 we see the ultimate fulfillment of what had been played out and interrupted in Genesis 22, and we learn that God loved us wicked rebellious sinners SO much that He gave His absolute best, His most cherished, His most valuable, His eternally perfect Son for us.

Would you give up your life to save the life of a loved one? Perhaps you would. But would you give up the life of one of your beloved children to save the life of another loved one? I doubt it. What about to save a stranger? Even less likely. Now, what about sacrificing the life of your only, beloved child to save the life of your worst enemy? Unthinkable. The love of the Father for us is too great for us to fathom. It is in a whole different realm of love from anything we can comprehend.

“God so loved THE WORLD… that WHOSOEVER…”

Does this mean that Jesus’s death on the Cross – the gift of the Father – secures the salvation of every single person? A consistent universalist would answer “yes.” He would say that Hitler and Osama Bin Laden, along with everyone else who has ever lived, will one day be in Heaven holding your hands and singing “Kumbaya.” However, this is incorrect, because the “whosoever” in John 3:16 is inextricably linked to the next word: “believeth,” and likewise to “in Him,” meaning Jesus, the Savior. The “world” that is so loved by God includes both Jews and gentiles, which would have been a radically different concept for the vast majority of those who heard Jesus’s teaching for the first time. The “world” in John 3:16 also means that all people are in fact “loved” by God in a general way, but not that God loves the world’s fallen, sin-controlled “system” that the words “the world” often describe in the Epistles. Not everyone in “the world” experiences the same benefits of God’s love that those who believe on Jesus Christ unto eternal salvation experience. The bronze serpent referenced in John 3:14 was lovingly lifted up by Moses for all to see, but only those to whom God granted faith looked and lived.

As you read this you might be wondering, “Am I a John 3:16 ‘whosoever’ or not? How can I tell?” You can settle this by looking to Jesus in faith right now, believing His Gospel. LOOK and SEE. If you will not look, see, and believe, you cannot be a John 3:16 “whosoever.” And there is only one other default position. If you will not be a John 3:16 “whosoever,” you must be a Revelation 20:15 “whosoever.”

And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:15

“Perish” is what it’s called in John 3:16, but do not imagine it as some peaceful extinguishment. It is not a blinking-out into oblivion. It is eternal death and destruction, never-ending, conscious, excruciating pain, darkness, and torment, as opposed to present tense eternal “have everlasting life.” Everlasting life is the opposite of perishing: light instead of darkness, joy instead of pain, peace instead of torment. I beg you to trust Jesus this very moment.

Power Foretold and Prophecy Fulfilled

January 9, 2019 at 1:51 pm | Posted in John | 3 Comments
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Before the Word revealed Himself in the flesh, God sent a forerunner – a witness – to illustrate, explain, and testify as to the significance and importance of the Light.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

John 1:6-7

The goal of John the Baptist’s mission was to bring about belief, but without supernatural intervention darkness lacks the ability to believe in light.

There is a certain poignant tragedy that the Creator would enter His creation, and that the creation would fail to recognize Him.

He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

John 1:10-11

Those who did not receive Him were His “own” in both senses: (1) the Jewish people; and (2) the people who would eventually believe, but did not at first believe. These people COULD NOT receive Him until He Himself gave them the POWER (the “right,” the “authority,” and the “privilege”) to do so.

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

John 1:12

This power that was needed was the power to become His “sons” (“sons of the Son”) or His children. How do “sons” happen? They are born. Plenty of children existed who were born of the flesh and of the will of their parents, but the Word, the Light, and the Life was believed on, and received, only by those who were born of the will of God Himself.

Up until this point, the reasoning used in John 1 had been oriented toward a gentile (or “Western”) way of thinking. Now John began to appeal to the Jewish people, who were supposed to have an understanding that Old Testament history contained not only specific prophecies, but also TYPES, of a coming Messiah.

The following is a list of “types” from the Old Testament which Christ fulfilled in a greater way:

1. The Tabernacle:

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

2. The preference of the second-born:

John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.

John 1:15

3. The Old Testament Law:

And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

John 1:16-17

4. Moses’s wish to see God (Exodus 33):

No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

John 1:18

5. The prophecy of Malachi 4:5:

And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.

John 1:21

6. The prophecy of Isaiah 40:1-3:

He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.

John 1:23

7. The “Prophet” of whom Moses was the type (Deuteronomy 18:15):

And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?

John 1:25

8. The lambs from the account of Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22), the Passover:

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God. Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!

John 1:29-36

The Disciples understood – at least partially – these connections and revelations.

One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.

John 1:40-41

Where Is Jesus in the Bible? (lesson 2)

July 14, 2014 at 1:59 pm | Posted in Biblical Teaching | 6 Comments
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In lesson one we learned that Jesus is everywhere in the Bible. Let’s look at just a few Old Testament examples.

When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they ruined it for everyone. No matter how many times I read Genesis Chapters 1 – 3, I almost can’t help feeling a little surprised that they did the only thing they weren’t allowed to do. It shouldn’t surprise me, though. Sadly, I am more guilty than them in my regular disobedience to God. And it definitely did not surprise God. He told the serpent who had successfully tempted them to sin:

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

Genesis 3:15

Somehow, one of Eve’s descendants would one day defeat the devil. That descendant turned out to be Jesus. In the Person of Jesus Christ God came into this world as a man born of a woman to reverse the curse which God had pronounced because of Adam’s sin.

Long before that, though (but still many years after Adam and Eve had been kicked out of the Garden), God decided to flood the earth and kill all the sinners – except for one sinner and his family. God chose one man – Noah – and He told him to build an ark, so that everybody that believed what God said through Noah would be spared.

And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life. And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in.

Genesis 7:15-16

That really happened. It’s not a myth or a fable. But why an ark? Why not put Noah on a mountain or in outer space? Because the ark is a picture of Somebody. It’s a picture of Jesus. Everybody who gets inside the safety of Jesus’s salvation is going to be spared when God destroys the world again (this time by fire, not by water). The story of Noah’s ark is true: a male and female giraffe really did get on a big ship with all the other kinds of land animals, and a big world-wide flood really did happen. But the key to truly understanding the message of this is to understand that it typifies important truths about Jesus.

Years after Noah (but still way before the New Testament), God found a man named Abram, and promised that he would be the ancestor of a great nation. God promised that through him would come the One who was promised in Genesis 3:15. Abram waited a long time, but he finally had a son named a Isaac, and here’s what God told Abram/Abraham to do with him:

And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

Genesis 22:2

Isaac wasn’t Abraham’s “only son” in the sense that we think of it. God is using that language in a special way to denote that Isaac was Abraham’s special beloved son, and the son who would be the legal “firstborn” designated to carry on Abraham’s lineage.

And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

Genesis 22:9-13

This story is true and factual, but, again, it is also given to illustrate a message and to point to Someone else, because thousands of years later, God would send “His only Son, the Son that He loved” to be an offering, and He would not stop Him from being slaughtered. Jesus went to the Cross on what used to be Mount Moriah, and He was the Lamb of God – the Lamb who was not spared – the Lamb who was slain.

Do you remember when all God’s people wound up in bondage in Egypt, and God forced Pharaoh to let them go free? Almost as soon as he did, he changed his mind and came after them. They were trapped between the oncoming Egyptian army and the Red Sea.

And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, [even] all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.

Exodus 14:21-23

This event really did happen, and God truly did deliver His people out of bondage, but the event was not just about Moses parting the Red Sea. It was also a picture of Jesus coming into this world where we were all in bondage to sin and Satan, and delivering us from that bondage, and leading us out, victorious over our enemies.

There are so many more true Bible stories we could go through. David slew Goliath, which is a picture of Jesus standing up to the mighty powers of this world and defeating them when they all thought He was dead. Jonah was swallowed by a big fish and went down into the sea, which is a picture of Jesus going down into the grave and coming back from the dead. Elijah and Elisha, Isaiah and Ezekiel and Jeremiah, and all the other prophets are types of our great prophet and priest, Jesus, about Whom they were prophesying. When Samson picked up the city gates, and carried them 30 miles away, the Holy Spirit gave us an image of Jesus picking up the burden of our sins and carrying them as far as the east is from the west.

The whole Bible from cover to cover is really about Jesus. He’s the hero, the main character, the protagonist, the reason for the whole thing. He’s the author and the finisher, and He is on every page and in every word. That’s exciting, but it’s also important to remember. When you read the Bible, look for Jesus. When you teach the Bible, teach it as though it is about Jesus. When you do your devotions, give your devotion to Jesus.

The Lambs that Were Silenced but Still Speak Today

April 10, 2014 at 11:23 am | Posted in Exodus | 4 Comments
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The Passover lamb was a foreshadowing “type” of Christ. It continued the Bible’s theme of a sacrificial lamb, which had already shown up in Genesis.

And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?

Genesis 22:7

We know from the New Testament that the Abraham and Isaac account is a clear foreshadowing of the death of Christ, so when the lamb becomes relevant in Exodus we can keep that same connection.

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

John 1:29

The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:

Acts 8:32

Most gentiles do not observe the Passover – and neither should Jews really any more – but it is still a crucial subject to study, because its significance helps us to understand the Gospel more clearly.

Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:

I Corinthians 5:7

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

I Peter 1:18-19

The title “Lamb” is so significant that Jesus will keep that title even in eternity.

And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:

Revelation 6:16

And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.

Revelation 21:9

And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.

Revelation 22:1

Other similarities worth noting about the Passover lamb as a picture of Christ:

1. The Lamb was examined – just as Christ was examined – and found to be without blemish. There was no other reason for the Jews in Egypt to kill their best lamb – except that God had commanded it and had attached His promise to it.

2. The Lamb was slain “between the evenings.”

And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.

Exodus 12:6

This may mean around twilight – the same time that Jesus laid down His life on the Cross.

3. The lamb’s blood was applied.

And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.

Exodus 12:22

It is not simply the fact of Christ’s death that saves us. It is the application of that blood to each individual personally – which is done by faith.

4. The lamb was consumed.

In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof.

Exodus 12:46

The Passover lambs were not boiled, but roasted. They were kept whole, with no bones broken, to help make the preparation and the meal go more quickly, but also to complete the type of Christ.

We can also note that bitter herbs were a part of the meal.

And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.

Exodus 12:8

This reminded the people of their suffering and tears, and it pointed to Jesus, the man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.

Tested Faith Is Strong Faith

April 9, 2010 at 9:45 am | Posted in Genesis | 9 Comments
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Thank You, Lord, for the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Please help me to be more than just a listener. Help me not to have itching ears. Help me to want more than a scratch on the neck or a pat on the head. Help me want to not just be entertained. Help me to be more of a learner than a listener. Let me be empty of pride, flesh, and self. Let me be filled with the Holy Spirit as I wield the Sword of the Spirit. Break up the hard soil of calloused hearts, so that the seed of Your Word will go down deep and plant roots, so that when it is exposed to the light of Your Truth, it will grow and not wither, and so that it will produce good fruit in lives – to Your glory. I pray in the name that is above all names – the only Name under Heaven given among men whereby we must be saved – the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

In Genesis 22 we can learn something about the growth process of faith. Faith must be tried, stretched, challenged, tested, if it is to grow.

And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.

Genesis 22:1

Dear Christian: Expect to be tested, but when the test comes, focus on the promise, not the reason for the test.

And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.

Genesis 22:5

Focus on the promise, and trust God to provide the “how.”

And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.

Genesis 22:7-8

Trust God to provide the “how,” and think about how this is going to bring glory to Christ.

And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.

Genesis 22:12-14

J. Hudson Taylor used to say that Christians live between Ebenezer and Jehovah Jireh. Ebenezer: So far the Lord has provided. Jehovah Jireh: The Lord will see to it. When your faith is tested, think about glorifying Christ, and get ready to be blessed to be a blessing.

And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;

Genesis 22:15-17

Aren’t you glad that God calls Christians to be living sacrifices? Some false religions try to earn their gods’ approval by telling their adherents to be dead sacrifices. One day we might be called upon to die for Christ, but it is a blessing to know that God has called us to be living sacrifices. We need to remember, though, that the trouble with a living sacrifice is that it doesn’t want to stay on the altar.


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