John 3:16, Acts 17:1-4
Rev. Abraham Park (Ph.D., D.D.)
The Bible Conservative Vol. I, No. 1 (April 2012)
The Old and New Testaments both record many of the essential statements of Christianity. Among those John 3:16, which states, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” can be said to sum up the core essence of the Christian faith as well as the redemption that is propounded by the Scriptures. Through this passage, we can fi the answer to the question, “What is Christianity?”
All human beings are sinners who cannot evade the penalty of eternity in hell and the lake of fi because the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). The Bible specifies that a believer will have his name recorded in the book of life, but the unbelieving one will not have his name recorded in the book of life; rather, they will all fall into the lake of fi (Rev 20:12-15). Jesus said in Mark 9:48-49 that a hell is a place “where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED. ‘For everyone will be salted with fi Also, in Revelation 14:11 the Scripture states, “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night.” That is exactly why we must have a proper view of the afterlife and subscribe to a religion that has a proper soteriology.
Christianity is God’s religion
Christianity is not a religion that man has devised in his mind. From human’s perspective, it is a heteronomous revelation. Heteronomy signifies something that is not self-determined but something that is subject to something other than the self.
Mankind believes that they are autonomous beings able to do as they please. However, when they are stricken with paralysis, they realize that they cannot even move their bodies as they wish. In such situations, the believer must cling to God for help because He is the source of life and the Lord of mankind (Matt 19:4; Gen 1:26- 27). God is the source of all creation as well as all natural revelation (Gen 1:1; Jam 1:17).
When mankind became transgressors before God, they were at enmity with God. However, Jesus took our sins upon His own body and died to atone for our sins on the cross. The crucifixion was the process in which the sins of mankind were destroyed.
When we were yet sinners, God sent His only Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins, thereby demonstrating His love for us (Rom 5:8). Can we ever think of giving even our delinquent son over to death? We have received the love that is unimaginable. In this world, love is given to those who are good to us; however, God first loved us who are sinners. First John 4:19 states, “We love, because He first loved us.” God gave us His one and only Son without cost. Therefore, we can only but choose Christianity.
Christianity is the only “so” religion of the world.
When we see a cute baby, we exaggeratedly say that they look cute enough to eat. They are so lovely that we are overcome with a visceral reaction. This is what the “so” of John 3:16 describes. When the Scripture states that God “so” loved the world, it means that there can be nothing more; it signifies the first and the last of love.
God created human beings according to His image (Gen 1:27). Therefore, we must not look down upon others. The person that one may look down upon, that person is also a precious creation of God. God loves each person as much as this (Matt 16:26; 18:5-6).
When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Who else would take our sins away? Jesus took away even the sins that are so embarrassing that we can never admit to anyone else. There is no other religion in the world that can deliberate over the shameful sins of mankind. But in Christianity, if we can only be honest in our fervent and contrite repentance before God, our sins can be forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ. Will we not choose Christianity even though there is such a way to have our sins forgiven?
The world is under the dominion of evil. Sin is abounding everywhere. According to Revelation 11:1-14, this world is Sodom and Egypt. It is the place that does know of God the Father; it is the place that hates Jesus Christ. The world disregards the Spirit of God for it belongs to Satan. It is where the believer is loathed (Matt 24:9- 10; Mark 13:13; Luke 21:17). It is where the saint is persecuted (John 16:33). It is the enemy of God (Jam 4:4). It is the place that opposes God’s love (1 John 2:15-17).
The people of the world mostly avoid transgressors. Even if they are family, they will most likely watch over them in suspicion. However, the gospel of the Christian religion is directed toward the transgressor. It teaches us to pray for our enemies, to love them, feed them, and clothe them. This gospel is not for those who are without sin; it is not for the haughty, the proud. It is not for those who are in love with their own wisdom. On the contrary, this gospel seeks out those pricked in their conscience, those in dire circumstances, those who are poor, those without anyone to trust; it seeks out those wretched souls and becomes their friend and their source of comfort. And in this gospel, the salvation of God is revealed. Romans 1:16-17 states, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”
Christianity is a religion of love.
In today’s text the phrase, “For God so loved the world,” is not speaking of the filial love of storge (στοργή) or of the brotherly love of philia (φιλία). It not speaking of eros (ἔρως), the romantic love between a man and a woman. The word agape (ἀγάπη), which is used here, is the kind of love where the sinless God became a sinner for the sinners, the He enabled the sinner to understand the Word and believe in it. It is the love that enabled the sinner to be pricked in the conscience so that he realized his sin and repented of it. This agape love is a love that never changes. It is a love that seeks out those wretched souls dwelling within the dregs of society and comes to them.
Moreover, this is a sacrificial love in which Jesus has given His life for the sinner. The sinless Jesus Christ has come to us, the sinners, in order to free us from sin by dying on the cross as a substitutionary atonement sacrifice (Matt 20:28, 2 Cor 5:21). This love demonstrates how wide and high and deep God’s love really is. Ephesians 3:18-19 states, “…to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be fi up to all the fullness of God.”
God’s love is immutable. God’s agape love is faithful until the end. Human beings may endure a while, then will explode in anger; however, God will seek us out even if we sin hundreds of times over. He will be compassionate and endure till the end to fi make us repent. There is no way to fathom the width, the length, the height, and the depth of God’s love that leads us to the path of salvation. God’s “so” great a love is, in fact, the “first” love of this world. It is the first-ever “so” after the creation of the universe. C. H. Spurgeon once said in regard to John 3:16, “there is no other word that is so meaningful and emotion-filled than the word “so” used here.” As such, Christians are people who have received such amazing love. In Zephaniah 3:17, God spoke of such a love saying, “The LORD your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”
God’s agape love takes a hold of the corrupt, rotten sinner and rejoices over him/her saying, “I have found my lost son/daughter.” Then, He heals them and makes them repent thoroughly of their sins so that they can stand upon His salvation. As people who have received this unending agape love, we must never betray this love and must realize what a great blessing it is to believe in Jesus Christ.
Christianity is the one and only religion.
God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:17, Rom 8:3, Ref – John 1:18). The expression “only begotten Son” signifies the one and only Son of God. In other words, He is the fi among many sons and yet He is a unique Son. But God put to death His heir and took a sinner like me as His son to make me His heir—this is God’s love.
God rejoices over one sinner repenting more so than thousands upon thousands of the host of angels. When we repent, we inherit our Father’s authority. In the parable of the vineyard in Matthew 21:33-36, the vine-growers killed the heir in order to “seize his inheritance.” But it was God’s love that took such heinously wicked sinners as His heirs on equal footing with His Son (Rom 8:17, 1 John 4:9). He has handed over to a sinner like the right to rule over all creation (Ps 2:7-8). So, how can we not believe in the Christian religion?
The only truth that enables you to obtain such a salvation as this is only one. Only Jesus is the way, the truth and the life to this kind of salvation (John 14:6). When you drink the visible water, you will thirst again. However, Jesus Christ is the one and only living water that quenches your thirst for eternity (John 4:14, 7:37). Even the sun will someday conclude its function and lose its light. However, only Jesus Christ is the same forever and ever; He is the everlasting light of the world (John 8:12). Jesus is the only “good shepherd” who gave His life for the flock (John 10:11). And Jesus is the only Lord of the resurrection which enables one to receive eternal life without seeing death (John 11:25-26). In this world full of sour and bitter tasting wild grapes, Jesus is the only true vine (John 15:1-5). Only Jesus is the Messiah (John 4:25-26).
As such, there is only one way to salvation—Jesus Christ; therefore, Christianity is the one and only true religion.
Christianity is a religion of grace.
In today’s text, the phrase “gave His only begotten Son” uses the past tense of the verb ἔδωκεν. Here, the past tense of the verb is used to signify that God’s sending of His Son is an already established fact. The word “to give” is used to express offering of the only begotten Son as a sacrificial offering as Abraham had offered up Isaac (Gen 22:2). Furthermore, it was not a coerced giving but a voluntary offering. Therefore, it was entirely the grace of God (Eph 2:8). However, people do not realize that it was grace, and they get haughty thinking that it was their own doing. King Nebuchadnezzar also thought that he had built up the Babylonian empire with his own strength. And due to his arrogance, he became like a beast of the fi for seven years, and the kingdom was in shambles (Dan 4:28-38). We must never be arrogant or haughty. Our satisfaction must always come from God. Second Corinthians 3:5 states, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.”
To say that Christianity is a religion of grace is tantamount to saying that it is a religion of faith. It is by grace we have been saved through faith. And this is not of ourselves but entirely a gift from God (Eph 2:8). Surely, Christianity is a religion of faith (Acts 16:31, Rom 1:17, 4:21-24). Then, what exactly is faith?
First, faith is receiving.
Whoever believes in Jesus Christ, they are given eternal life along with the right to become God’s children (John 1:12, 3:16). Here, believing means to receive. If we believe, then we must receive Him. Human beings discriminate who they would receive; however, there is no distinction in God’s love.
Second, faith is seeing.
When the Israelites were about to die from being bitten by serpents, God made a bronze serpent and put it on a standard. Whoever was bitten by the fi serpents would live if they looked at the bronze serpent (Num 21:4-9). This was a foreshadowing of how Jesus Christ would hang high on the cross and whosoever looks to Him, whosoever believes in Him will receive eternal life. John 3:14-15 states, ““As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.”
When you believe in Jesus Christ, anyone can receive forgiveness of sins. Even if one has committed thousands upon thousands of transgressions in the past, their sins at once will be completely cleansed as white as snow. The world speaks of fi great blessings but Christianity promises ten thousand blessings. Therefore, we cannot help but believe in Christianity where one receives abundant blessings from the God of all blessings (John 20:31, 1 John 2:25). The believer will not die forever and ever and will receive the rewards that God has prepared for them (Heb 11:6). By faith, we have been transferred from the world of darkness into the world of light, from the grips of Satan into the realm of Jesus Christ.
Beloved saints, please partake of the love of God and attain to eternal life (Dan 12:2, John 3:36, Jude 1:21). As believers of Christ, do not merely have a superficial observation of God’s love. We can truly realize God’s love only when we delve deep into His Word. Then, we can enjoy life in Christ forever (John 1:4, 5:26).
Christianity is God’s religion. It is the “so” religion of the world, the religion of love, the religion of the only begotten Son. It is the religion that provides the only way to salvation. Jesus became the door of salvation for us; and as the good shepherd, He gave His life for us. Moreover, Jesus seeks even the other sheep that are not of this fold in order to bring them in as well (John 10:7-18). Therefore, the redeemed saint must try their best to evangelize (2 Tim 4:1-2, Titus 1:3, 2:12-14). Thus, I pray this blessing upon you that you will live a life of evangelism in God’s bosom relishing in the great love of our God.