Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 December 24, 2017
“For God So Loved the World”
Text: John 3:16-17
We come to Christmas Eve—the fourth Sunday in Advent this year. Again, let’s review the ground covered so far. We saw, from Psalm 42, that Jesus is our hope. Therefore, let us hope in Him. We saw, from John 14:27, that Jesus is our peace (cf. Ephesians 2:14); indeed, may Jesus give us His peace. We saw last week, from Luke 2:8-20, that Jesus is our joy; may His joy be our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Today we look at love—and we do so by looking at the verse that Martin Luther called the Gospel in miniature and the verse following. Let us once again give attention to the reading of God’s Word in this place.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
See how great the Father’s love is for us: He gave His Son. Let us enjoy this journey through the details and implications of this glorious truth. The Holy Spirit, through the Apostle John, tells us that God so loves us with the Greek verb agapao (agapaw). This Biblical love is a high, self-sacrificial, other-centered love. It is the love that God has for Himself in the Godhead. It is the love that God shows us—as we see both in today’s text and elsewhere in Scripture. It is also the characteristic love that Christians are to have one for another. This is the love that God has for the world, and it is the love that He shows especially unto His redeemed in Christ Jesus. By world, we mean a world system generally estranged from God and hostile toward Him. Yet those receiving Christ are redeemed out of this world system and re-made to resemble Christ Himself in ever-increasing measure. All of this rises from God’s matchless love.
Because God so loved the world, He gave His Son. He gave, without payment of any sort from us and without consideration of merit or demerit on our part. God’s gift, then, truly is free to us—and what a gift He is. God gave to us His only-begotten Son. Note that we who are in Christ are sons and daughters of the King by adoption (Romans 8:16, Galatians 4:6, Ephesians 1:5). Yet Jesus is the Only-begotten: born of Mary and conceived within her by the Holy Spirit. God gave the world His Son to a glorious end, as we now see.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16, ESV). Whosoever means people from every tribe, language, and people (Revelation 7:9) will come to faith in Christ and, thus, to eternal life and bliss with Him. It also means people from every demographic category in our land (rich/poor, old/young, single/married, et al.), upon believing in Christ, will join for all eternity in praising the Lamb Who sits on the throne. By believing we mean cognitive assent to Gospel facts. We note the Gospel record in Scripture and we find ourselves convinced that the record is true. Believing also means volitional trust. With our wills we entrust our souls to God’s safekeeping in His Son.
Those—yea, everyone—believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior shall not perish. True, our physical bodies die and decay. This is the decree since the sin of Eve and of Adam in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1 ff.). Yet our souls continue to live after physical death in Heaven with Christ. Moreover, at Jesus’ return—His Second Coming—the graves and the deep will yield their dead, and our bodies will be selfsame (in other words, we’ll somewhat resemble ourselves as we were on earth), glorified, and reunited with our souls. Our souls—that part of each of us that is uniquely each of us—will enjoy eternal life: life without end and with abundant dimension because of Christ. This is God’s Gospel promise—we note it once again in detail today.
Note God’s rationale in all of this—in addition to His great love. God sent His Son not to condemn the world. After all, He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and He desires that none should perish. Rather, God sent His Son in order to save the world through Him. Jesus Christ, God incarnate, Whose birth we celebrate this season, is infinitely powerful to save His elect ones—and His sacrifice is infinitely meritorious. Jesus is the Way (not to mention the Truth and the Life, cf. John 14:6) to rescue from our fallen condition—its penalty, power, and presence—and let us either rejoice in this afresh or receive Him by faith and be born anew today.
Dionne Warwick, et al.: “What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.” Actually the world is beloved of God—though it is not reciprocating that love. What perhaps motivates the old song, however, is that we see too little love between folks in everyday life. It is true that we see too little of God’s love in daily life.
We see all too little of God’s love in the world at large—though we shouldn’t expect to find it there. We have better hope of finding it in the Church, the redeemed society and family of God—but, alas, too often God’s Church emits a certain coolness of sentiment toward itself and the world. Too often those who would seek the warmth of God’s love in local congregations find themselves still cool—if not in fact frosted—when the congregation dismisses after worship. Even between Christians engaged in the nearest and dearest of relations sometimes find that relation chilled by a lack of love—or at least an insufficient amount if barely present.
Let us remember one thing, and this one thing will help the maladies referenced earlier. We are, you are, and I am loved by God in Christ Jesus, His Son—and that to infinite degree. Scripture testifies to this elsewhere. The Lord says through Jeremiah to His covenant people, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” God poured His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, Whom He gave us (Romans 5:5). Moreover, God commends His love toward us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Let us then, in accord with Scripture, love Him Who first loved us (1 John 4:19)
 “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” words by Hal David, music by Burt Bacharach, 1965.