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Please open your bibles to John 3. We are continuing our study of Jesus interaction with Nicodemus.
Nicodemus was a Pharisee.
He held a high regard for the word of God, in particular the law and the prophets of the Old Testament which were all the scriptures they had at that time.
Nicodemus studied and taught the law, so that people would know what is right, and how to be right with God.
Yet, for all his study and teaching, he still had a burning question himself.
It likely stemmed from reading passages like Psalm 15, or Psalm 53:3.
If there is no one that is truly good, truly righteous, how can one hope to enter God’s righteous kingdom.
Jesus knew the hearts of all men, John 2:25
So, when Nicodemus came to him, Jesus answered the question that was in his heart.
This led to Nicodemus wondering how one could be born again, or why the need?
He was born a Jew, a true descendant of Abraham.
Wasn’t that what was needed?
Jesus expected Nicodemus to get this because it was all in the scriptures.
However, Nicodemus did not.
So Jesus used a real life example to explain what he meant about needing the Spirit to work in him to give him a new life, a new heart.
Jesus went back to Numbers 21, when the Israelites were grumbling against the God who had rescued them from slavery in Egypt, the God who showed his power and authority, the God who made the Israelites plunder the Egyptians without raising a finger.
The God who protected them from the Egyptian army with the cloud and fire.
The God who parted the sea so they could walk through in safety, and brought it crashing down on their enemies.
The God who provided water, and food in the wilderness.
The God who appeared to them at the mountain.
The God who promised to be with them, and cared for them in spite of their constant rebellion.
Still they grumbled.
So, the Lord sent serpents to teach them a lesson.
When the people confessed, God provided salvation.
It didn’t make sense, yet simply looking at a serpent on a pole, was all it took.
Believing God, and looking resulted in God healing those sinful, grumbling people.
Jesus said that in the same way, He was going to be lifted up so that anyone who believed in him would have eternal life in him.
And that brings us to where we are today.
John 3:16-17.
For God so loved...
What does this mean, “God so loved the world?”
Is is like you would say on Valentines Day, “I love you so much!”
Interestingly, This is actually not a quantitative word.
That is, it is not a word that indicates the degree to which God loved.
Rather, it is a comparison word.
If I were to translate it I would likely say,
In this same way,
Why the difference?
Well, so can be used a comparison.
Just look back at how this same word is used here in the context.
Look at John 3:8, and John 3:14.
‘So’ can be, and is often used to mean, ‘in this same way’, or ‘similarly’.
And in the old English when the William Tyndale first translated into English, and then when the King James writers used this expression, I am sure everyone knew what they meant.
However, English usage has changed, so we need to pay attention to what is really be communicated here.
Jesus was still drawing the comparison for Nicodemus.
He had explained how God provided for the Israelites to live by believing his promise that all who looked at the snake would live.
He had told Nicodemus that in the same way (‘even so’) the Son of Man must be lifted up so that everyone who believes may have eternal life.
But Jesus went even a step further.
A step that would have been a shock for Nicodemus.
You see, in the Serpent situation, what people were being saved?
Well, in the same way that God loved Israel, even rebellious Israel, and provided salvation for them, God loved the world!
God loved the world
This would have been a shock.
The Pharisees looked down on the world, and looked forward to God destroying the sinners!
God would love the sinners?
God would love the world?
This was not just for the Jews?
This was not just for ‘His people’?
Some even today are like the Pharisees, and want to say that God only loves his people.
They would claim that the word, ‘world’, refers only to those chosen by God.
Is that the case?
Well, look up how the word is used in John.
He uses it a lot.
But just as a quick reference, turn to John 1:10.
Or, look at John 3:19 in this passage,
The people of the world did not come to the light!
Their deeds were evil.
The world includes both those who will see, and those who will become blind.
Later, in John 13 and 14, Jesus refers to the world, and his disciples, who were in the world, but no longer a part of it.
He says in John 15,
The world hates Jesus, and will hate believers because we do not belong to it.
The way the word world is used is for the evil, sinful world of which all people are a part.
Some will see Jesus and be saved.
Others will refuse to come to him to be saved.
But we all start out the same.
We are worldly.
We are sinful.
That is what Jesus was communicating with Nicodemus.
In this same way, God loved the world!
No, God loved the world.
God loved the sinful, stinking, grumbling, rebellious, idolatrous, perverted, depraved world.
And God did not just say He loved the world.
This past week was Valentines.
It is the custom to tell people you love them.
But what if you only ever said it?
What if you never actually did anything to show love?
Would that be love?
God did not just say he loved us.
He demonstrated it!
Therefore, God Gave
God not only said, “I love you.”
He demonstrated his love.
Remember Romans 5:8?
Or as John records in another of his letters,
God gave to man, God acted for man, gave as sacrifice, no other religion has God sacrificing for man.
Most religions are about what one does for the god.
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