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August 18, 2013 John 3:16 is everywhere. Tim Tebow has it painted under his eyes, it’s on giant billboards along the highway, fans hold it up on placards at sporting events, and it’s on the cover of several books. Some ministries and preachers use it as their central philosophy of ministry. It’s likely that we all had it memorized before we were 10 years old: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” And this verse is the bane of the Crazy-Calvinists. Ephesians 1 and Romans 9 must be balanced by this truth that God has loved every man, every woman, and every child equally from the beginning of time until now “for God so loved the world.” And even more than that, God has so loved them all that for each and every one “He gave His only begotten Son” as a payment for their sins which, if they’ll only accept it, will settle their accounts with the Father and satiate His wrath so that each and every can be called His friends and family and spend eternity in heaven with Him. It does not matter that “the LORD doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel” at Passover (Ex. 11:7). It does not matter that the LORD commanded Israel to “slay” every Amalekite “man and woman, infant and suckling.” (I Sam. 15:3). It does not matter that God says He hates the workers who do iniquity (Ps. 5:5) or that He hates with passion those who do violence (Ps. 11:5) or that He Himself sets the wicked in slippery places to cast them down into destruction (Ps. 73:18). It does not matter that God has rejected Ishmael as an heir or loved Jacob and hated Esau or set up Pharaoh for the sole purpose of tearing Him down; no! These must all be balanced by John 3:16. If God ever “hated” anyone it merely means that He only loved them slightly less than He loved someone else. John 3:16 is the answer, the ONLY answer, to predestination, election, and reprobation. We don’t have to listen to any argument anyone makes contrary to this belief; all we have to do is stick our fingers in our ears and shout “John 3:16” repeatedly until the Ridiculous-Reformed realize their error and give up and join us. And we, as the Crazy and Ridiculous, don’t often know how to respond to this, do we? We read John 3:16 and we say, “Well, it seems to say what they’re saying, and
I guess there’s just no way out of it.” And so we end up with this schizophrenic God who is sovereign over all things and controls the hearts of all men and who is the granter of repentance and author of faith, but who is also somehow mystically bound to the wills of the men He created and so loves. He is on control of everything and in control of nothing. And we just don’t know what else to do with it so we call it a “great mystery” and go on with it. But might I suggest that this wretched interpretation of this marvelous verse is nothing more than Satan’s monkey wrench meant to confuse and draw us away from the revealed glory and majesty of our eternal Lord and Savior? Might I suggest that with a more careful reading and with more special attention to the context that we who believe in the absolute sovereignty of our God have no reason whatsoever to fear it? As I’ve said before, it all begins in 2:23:
Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. 24But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, 25And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man. So, all these people saw Him working wonders at the Passover feast and they believed in His name because of what they saw, but He did not return faith because He knew what was really in them. They were nothing more than fallen sons of Adam and their Jewishness bought them no special favor. Now, I want you to just mark it in your mind that the Passover is a part of the context. All these Jewish references come into play in verse sixteen.
There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
Now, this is a man to be trusted, right? The people loved and respected the Pharisees; naturally so would the Messiah.
The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. He thinks he’s got good news for Jesus: “Your plan worked! We believe!’ But Jesus isn’t worried about that:
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Well, this isn’t what Nicodemus expects to hear, is it? As a Jew, as a Pharisee, he knows he’ll see the kingdom. But he’s never done this “born again” thing, and he can’t even understand it:
Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 5Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. Remember, this is a reference to Ezekiel 36:25-28: Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. 28And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. The water and the Spirit is one event and it comes from God. The reason for this is very important:
That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Being born through Abraham can’t save a man; God can raise up children for Abraham from rocks! (Lk. 3:8) The thing that matters is being born ek tou pneumato" (“out of the Spirit”).
Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. The Spirit (and therefore spiritual life) is under no control of the Jews. Nicodemus can’t make a man be born or prevent his birth any more than he can control the wind. He doesn’t even know the origin or the destination; he can only watch where it goes and what it does. Of course, this is contrary to everything he knows, so he’s having a hard time keeping up:
Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? 10Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? This “ruler” and “teacher” (along with all the other teachers) should have known from his Bible. Nicodemus sees God and salvation and Messiah as purely Jewish concepts. Sure, a Gentile might convert to Judaism, but these are still Jewish things. He is “called a Jew, and rests in the law, and makes his boast of God, and knows His will, and approves the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; and is confident that he is a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, and a teacher of babes.” (Rom. 2:17-20). And yet he doesn’t understand this most basic concept!
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. Ezekiel has spoken. Moses has spoken. Jesus has spoken. But they are not believed.
If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? Until Nicodemus can understand the types and shadows in the Scriptures he will never understand the spiritual fulfillment of those types and shadows.
And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And Nicodemus must realize that he has never been to heaven. It doesn’t matter what his mentors have taught him or how ancient his traditions may be—what is in heaven can only be revealed by someone who has seen it or who has heard from it. And the Son of Man is the Word who came down! But even more than that:
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. This was our topic last time, and we turned back to Numbers 21 where the people made God angry and He sent poisonous snakes to bite them. However, not all those who had been poisoned would die for He told Moses to construct a brass
serpent and set it up on a pole so that whoever would look away from the snakes and look up to it would live despite having being bitten. This, we believe, points us towards the Son of Man who became sin for us. This points us towards the foolishness of the cross and the real true gospel that “whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Now, we finally come to verse sixteen:
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. I want to start with the Jewish concept of God’s love for the world. Go to Acts 10: There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, 2A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway. 3He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. 4And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. 5And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: 6He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do. 7And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually; 8And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.
On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: 10And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, 11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending upon him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: 12Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. 13And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. 14But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. 15And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. 16This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.
Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made enquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate, 18And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there. 19While Peter thought on the vision,
the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. 20Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them. 21Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come? 22And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee. 23Then called he them in, and lodged them. And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him.
And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and he had called together his kinsmen and near friends. 25And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. 26But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man. 27And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together. 28And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. 29Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?
And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, 31 And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God. 32Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee. 33Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God. 34Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. 36The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) 37That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; 38How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. 39And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: 40Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; 41 Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. 42And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be
the Judge of quick and dead. 43To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.
While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. 45And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. 46For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, 47Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? 48And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. 2And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, 3Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them. 4But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying, 5I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me: 6 Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. 7And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat. 8But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth. 9But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. 10And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven.
And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me. 12And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man’s house: 13And he shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter; 14Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved. 15And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. 16Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. 17 Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? 18When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life. (Acts 10:1-11:18) The Jewish concept of God’s love did not include the Gentile!
Imagine Nicodemus’s amazement when he hears “for God so loved the world.” How can this be? How can God love pagans and reprobates? How can He love goyim? And this is why this verse is so fulfilling; it’s not because of Arminian Universalism but because of impartiality in election! And if the Jews had been paying attention they would have seen that it was always this way: Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee. 5Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 6Understand therefore, that the LORD thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people. 7Remember, and forget not, how thou provokedst the LORD thy God to wrath in the wilderness: from the day that thou didst depart out of the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place, ye have been rebellious against the LORD (Dt. 9:4-7). And this truth is as stalwart today. No man is chosen by righteousness. No man is saved by works. Every single one of us from Adam on is hopelessly devoid of any good thing so that even our righteous acts are filthy rags before the eternal and ever-burning Light. And so this love is not reserved for any particular race, language, tribe, or nation; it is not and cannot be given in return for any good thing. But even more than that, the love of God is not wasted so that it should return to Him empty; no! It is the basis of predestination and calling and justification and glorification! The Scripture does not say, “For whoever made the right choice He did these things,” but it says, “For those whom He did foreknow”! If a man is ever to be glorified in his body it’s without any doubt that his hope is first rooted in the fact that God has eternally loved him. God loved Jacob and hated Esau before birth. God’s plan for Moses and for Pharaoh was from the beginning: one He loved and the other was hated as a worker of iniquity. One would be chastened as a son while the other would be judged as a sinner. And so it is for us today. How arrogant of some to assume that God must be as they desire; how arrogant and silly to force American equal opportunity-ism on the framer of the heavens. How humbling to know that God has sought this wicked and depraved sheep despite his intentional wanderings and that He keeps my path straight all the way to the narrow gate.
This, my friends, is the result of God’s love. What waste to say that it’s poured out in equal portion to all? How useless it must be if the road to destruction is still wide; how ineffectual it is to our hope! But oh, how treasured when directed at a chosen happy few; how prosperous it is for us. Rest in this love and rejoice. Don’t be ashamed of God’s work; declare it! newgracebaptistchurch.wordpress.com
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