God's Great Love
by James Smith
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life!" John 3:16
When our Lord appeared on earth in human nature, and attracted great attention by his doctrines and miracles — a Jewish ruler came to him by night to converse with him respecting his mission and work. At once the Savior directed his attention to a subject of the greatest importance, telling him that he must undergo a change similar to a new creation, or a regeneration — before he could discern, or enter into the kingdom of God.
Nicodemus ought to have been well versed in the Old Testament Scriptures, in which a new heart is promised and prayed for — but he did not catch Christ's meaning. He was caught in the meshes of religion, and asks, "How can these things be?" His notions were wholly carnal, and supposed that such a change must be effected by some extraordinary effort of man, or some miracle wrought by God.
Our Lord led his mind back to a piece of old testament history, to illustrate his subject, saying, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness — so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whoever believes on him should not perish — but have eternal life." As if he had said, "How was that wonderful change effected in the Israelites, when they were suffering and dying by thousands? Was it not by simply looking at the bronze serpent, which Moses had set up?" Just so, when the Son of man shall be lifted up — soul-healing, health and everlasting life shall be received and enjoyed by simply believing in him! "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life!"
GOD'S GREAT LOVE.
He loved the world. That is, the inhabitants of our globe. He loved men — though they were guilty criminals, having broken his law, cast off his authority, and acted as basely as they could. They were feeble sinners, weakened by their wickedness, so that they were "without strength." They had no will to please God, nor had they the power if they had the will. They were the prey of Satan, taken captive by him at his will. He possessed them, worked in them — and they gladly yielded themselves to his dictates and impulses!. They were a race of ungodly creatures. They were all gone out of the way, they had all renounced God's authority, they were all in heart, set against God. But as bad as they were — God loved them! And his love was unspeakably great, no tongue can set it forth, no heart can conceive its vastness.
His love to them was perfectly free, there was nothing in them to induce him to love them, nor could anything be expected from them to repay him for his love!
His love to them is the source of all the good they enjoy, and of all the good they can expect in time or eternity!
LOVE'S GREAT GIFT.
God so loved the world, and his heart was so set upon saving sinners, that to render salvation not only possible or probable — but certain; he gave his only begotten Son. A greater gift — he could not give. A costlier favor — he could not bestow. He had one Son — that Son was his equal, his only begotten Son. That son was the brightness of his glory, the express image of his person. That Son was with him, rejoicing always before him, and was the object of his highest delight. The whole creation was as nothing to him. Indeed all things were made by him, and for him, and by him all things are held together. By his word they were created, for his pleasure they were made, and for his glory they are continued in existence.
This Son, this only begotten Son, this great, glorious, divine Son of God — was given by his Father, to be, to do, and to suffer all that was necessary to make the salvation of sinners of the human race certain; so that man may have only to look and live. This Son he gave — unsolicited, unasked, undesired. No one would, or could ever have thought of his doing so, or if such a thought could ever have entered into a creature's mind — no creature could have dared to ask such a thing!
Unsolicited favors are always prized the most — and so should this be. God gave his Son, not reluctantly, but cheerfully! Though it was to stoop to the lowest act of humiliation, to endure the most tremendous suffering, and die the most ignominious death, yet "he spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all." He gave him with the kindest motive, that every one might see the deep, intense, and wondrous love of his heart; that every one may see the truth of his own solemn declaration, "As I live says the Lord, I have no pleasure at all in the death of him that dies." That every one that wishes to be saved, or is willing to be saved, may be — by simply looking to him as he said, "Look unto me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth!"
LOVE'S GRACIOUS DESIGN.
"That whoever" — any person, of any race, at any time, under any circumstances — "that whoever believes," gives credit to the gospel report, fixes the eye of the mind on the crucified Savior, goes out in the exercise of the heart to him, and trusts in his word and work, "should not perish, but have everlasting life!"
It is a terrible thing to perish! See the branch separated from the parent stem, acted upon by sun, wind, rain, and frost — it perishes. Faint, very faint representation of a sinner, separated from God, acted upon by all kinds of evil — making it miserable, wretched, and awfully unhappy, and that ever.
Perish! That is what every sinner deserves. Perish! That is what every sinner without Christ must expect. To perish! It will take an eternity of torment, an incalculable amount of misery — to make up that is contained in this one word PERISH!
But God tells us in his word that he "not willing that any should perish — but th all should come to repentance." Gracious and beneficent God, how wondrous your love, how gracious your gift, how manifest your design — that men, such vile men as we are — should not perish — but have everlasting life! This is the greatest, the best, the most glorious thing we can have.
Everlasting life! That is life from Christ — life like that possessed and enjoyed by Christ — life with Christ, enjoying his presence, his love, and his -]or forever. Everlasting life! Life in God's favor — life in God's likeness — life in God's happiness, and that forever!
Reader! You have heard of God's love, do you believe it? Do you believe that God, instead of hating the world, refusing to have anything to do with the world, unless to punish it as it deserves — loved it! And so loved it, as rather than deliver it over to suffer its desert of eternal punishment — sent his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish — but have everlasting life. So loved the world, as not only to provide a way of salvation — but a way so easy, a way so free, a way so suited to the guilty, feeble, and degraded men! O wondrous love!
You have heard of Gods gift — will you receive it?