What does it mean that God loves the world? Does this mean His love is unconditional? This week, we explore the deeper question behind John 3:16.
“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
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Transcript: Hi, welcome to Five Minutes With Pastor Lutzer. I’m so glad that you have joined us today, because we’re talking about the difficult attribute of God: namely, the attribute of love. As I began to show last time, God does not love everyone equally.
Today we come to one of the most famous verses in all the Bible—the one that we memorized when we were children, John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” What a marvelous promise that God has given. God loves the world. We can speak to people and we can say with authority, “God loves you.”
But I want to spend a moment talking about the hatred of God, and the wrath of God, and the anger of God against sin. You may say, “Well, that’s strange. I thought you were talking about the love of God!” My friend, today, you and I cannot really understand John 3:16 unless we understand passages like this. Psalm 7:11: “God is angry with the wicked every day.” Deuteronomy 25:16: “All who tell lies are an abomination.” 2 Thessalonians chapter 1—I think I can quote these verses to you—Jesus is going to come in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will be punished with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power when He comes to be glorified in His saints. I tell you, that does not sound like unconditional love to me.
You know, we talk about John 3:16, but let’s go to verse 36 of the very same chapter: “He who believes in me has eternal life; but he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him.” God loves the world, but it is not an unconditional love. And what you and I must do is to recognize that, those who receive Christ as Savior, they indeed are loved unconditionally. And here’s why.
I talked about God’s anger and hatred against sin—I have such good news to share. When Jesus died on the cross, He bore that anger and God’s wrath against sin. The first three hours, He suffered under the hands of men; the next three hours, He suffered under the hands of God. And when He cried out and said, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me,” He was taking the anger and the wrath of God against sin. And that’s why, having paid that price of justice, God can now love us unconditionally—because we are in Christ. Jesus bore the wrath of God on behalf of all who believe. And that’s why I urge you today to trust Him.
You know, years ago when there were prairie fires, many of the farmers were very concerned about their buildings burning. And so I’m told that there were times, when the wind was favorable, that they would actually burn the area around the homestead so that when the fire came, it only came so far; and then it would come to where the fire was already—had already been, and they were spared. When you trust Christ as Savior, you’re standing where the fire has already been.
The reason we love John 3:16, that God sent His Son, is that we also understand that God is very complex, and He hates evil. And thankfully, Jesus came in a rescue mission to bear it for us, so that we love God in return and be loved eternally. Today, go with God, and I’ll see you right here next time.