THE SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD
“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:17.
I’d like to draw your attention to a verse of Scripture that perhaps has been one of the most overlooked verses of God’s infallible Word. This verse of Scripture follows directly after that most well-known of all verses, viz., John 3:16. John 3:16, as you know, goes: “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.”
John 3:16 is an awesome verse of Scripture, isn’t it? Let me just spend a moment reminding you of what it means (in case you’ve forgot!) John 3:16 tells us that God does not hate the world, but loves the world. John 3:16 tells us that God gave the world His only true Son. God gave the world His only begotten Son as an act of His goodness and mercy. John 3:16 tells us why God gave His eternally begotten Son. God gave the world His only begotten Son as Saviour of the world, which is to say that God the Son became also a man to save the world as a man. And John 3:16 tells us that His Son is Saviour of all those who believe in Him as Saviour, which is to say that all those who gladly receive God’s gift of His eternally begotten Son (who became also a man in the womb of the Virgin) will never perish.
In John 3:16, to perish doesn’t mean to disappear or vanish forever as in being annihilated. But rather the kind of perishing spoken of here is to remain forever in a state of mental and emotional and physical torment forever. So you can see why John 3:16 is often called the Good News in a nutshell. It is telling us that God gave His Son to save sinners from the everlasting torments of Hell. And John 3:16 also tells us that those believing in His only begotten Son will have everlasting life. This means that all those who receive the gift that God is giving the world will enter into a state of mental and emotional and physical and spiritual bliss forever and ever. There’s a lot in John 3:16. So, it’s little wonder that John 3:16 is often referred to as the Gospel, i.e., the Good News of Glad Tidings, in one verse!
Let me repeat John 3:16 so that you can hear the Gospel in a nutshell one more time, “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.” So we see then that God is not hiding Himself of the planet Mars. We can see that He isn’t trying to avoid spaceships and Hubble telescopes by hiding Himself behind rocks on the dark side of the moon! Can you see that God has revealed Himself to man? Can you see that He has revealed Himself to man in the Person of Jesus Christ? God has given the world His only begotten Son Jesus Christ. Why did God give the world His only begotten Son Jesus Christ? God has given His only begotten Son to the world because He does not hate the world, but loves the world.
If God hated the world he wouldn’t have sent His Son into the world. Why did the Son leave His glory in Heaven and enter into this world by becoming also a man? Well, that’s where John 3:17 comes in. Many people overlook John 3:17 because they’re too much enamoured with John 3:16. But John 3:17 helps us to understand John 3:16 more fully. And it also helps us to understand why God gave the world His Son.
Now, if you think God gave the world His Son just to make it possible for people to be saved then you really need to read John 3:17. Somehow over the years the attention has been taken off the fact that it was God who gave the world His Son by sending His Son into the world. God is no longer the centre of attention nowadays. When it comes to the Gospel, i.e., the Good News the attention is all on man! It’s as if man has become his own saviour and not God! That’s why it’s good to look at John 3:17.
God did not send His only begotten Son into the world to make it possible for some people to be saved from everlasting torment. For if you believe that, then you are believing that a person can be his own saviour. But that’s not what the Good News is all about. The Good News is all about God sending His Son into the world as the Saviour of the world. If you don’t believe me then grab a Bible and just look at John 3:17, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” How is the world saved? The world is saved through Him, not through you or me, or you plus Him, or me plus Him. No! The world His saved through the One God has sent into the world to save the world.
Now, I’ll grant to you that that little word “might” might cause some people to misunderstand what John 3:17 is actually saying. Let’s say you asked me why I wheeled my wheelie-bin out to the kerb. I might say to you that I wheeled my wheelie-bin out to the kerb so that the bin-man might collect it. Do I mean to say that the bin-man might perhaps just possibly collect my garbage? Or do I mean that I did it so that the bin-man would definitely take away my garbage? So, God did not send His Son into the world just so that He might perhaps just possibly take away the sins of the world as a bin-man might take away our garbage. No! God sent His Son into the world so that the world through Him would definitely not perish like rotting garbage, but rather be saved.
When viewed properly, i.e., when viewed from God’s perspective, the focus is back on the action of God, isn’t it? God is the one who has entered into the muck and rotten filth of sinful humanity. Why? He became also a man to take away the sins of the world. This is what the world is reminded of each Christmas. The eternally begotten Son of God was miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit and the power of the Highest in the womb of a virgin by the name of Mary, Luke 1:35. And nine months later He is born in the usual manner, but in an unusual place. He was born in a place where ordinarily where animals are kept. And He was laid in a manger, i.e., a trough from which animals eat! God the Son has entered into the muck and filth of sinful humanity. Why? He came to take away the sins of the world, which is to say that He came that the world through Him might be saved.
Let’s read that verse again, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” Now, I once belonged to a congregation that had printed this verse of Scripture on many sheets of paper, along with an invitation to come to their church. We then placed those many sheets of paper (with this verse written on it) into over five hundred letter boxes around the community. I don’t know about the rest of the congregation, but when I was delivering my lot of leaflets, I was pondering that verse over and over in my mind.
Notice that John 3:17 begins with the word “for”. This tells us that it is attached to the verse that comes before it, i.e., the famous John 3:16. Therefore John 3:17 is given to explain John 3:16, which is to say that God’s action of sending His Son into the world should not be seen as God’s condemnation of the world. Sometimes a person’s actions can be misread and taken as hostile. However, God’s action in sending His Son into the world should be viewed as the expression of His love for the world. But most importantly His action of sending His Son into the world ought to be seen by all the world as His actual saving of the world.
So, why wouldn’t God save the world seeing as He is the One who created it in the first place? The very first verse of the Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” And we know that the God who created the heaven and the earth is Triune, which is to say that God is the Trinity – the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. These three Persons are One God. So, God the Father sent God the Son into the world. How did the Son come into the world? He came into the world by clothing Himself in flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary. And He was born in a stable in Bethlehem.
Now, notice that John 3:17 does not say that God sent Santa Clause from the North Pole to bring the world presents. No! It says that God sent His Son into the world that the world through Him might be saved.
Now, as we’ve already noted, this saving of the world is contrasted with condemning the world. Put negatively, God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world. Put positively, God did sent His Son into the world that the world through Him might be saved. What does it mean to be condemned? And what does it mean to be saved? Well, to be condemned means that you are as good as being in the wheelie-bin at the kerb-side. To be condemned is to be awaiting transportation to the world’s dump – “Hell” the Bible calls it. But the Good News is that that’s not what God’s Son Jesus Christ came into the world to do. No! He has come into the world to salvage, i.e., to save the world!
Now then, this is where we need to find our thinking caps and put them on. If God sent His Son into the world to save the world, then God must believe that the world needs saving? So, let me ask you: Are you with God? Do you believe the world needs saving? If you look through the eyes of the same God who, in the beginning created the heavens and the earth and all therein and declared it to all be very good then you’d agree with Him. The world is no longer very good – therefore the world is in need of saving. Well, that’s what the birth of Jesus Christ is all about. It’s about God sending His Son into the world to save it because it’s no longer very good. And when something is not very good, then what is it good for?
What is a broken toy good for? What is a broken lawnmower good for? What is a dead goldfish good for? What is a rotten apple good for? What are human beings who won’t stop sinning good for? What is a world full of sin, misery, and death good for? After all the Christmas presents are opened, all the wrappers go into the wheelie-bin, don’t they? And so do all the broken bits and pieces of toys. So do all the apple cores and half chewed chocolate bars, leftover turkey bits and bones. Well, John 3:17 is saying that God did not send His Son into the world to throw the world in the cosmic wheelie-bin like so much broken and rotting rubbish. But rather God sent His Son into the world to repair and restore and renew the broken and rotting world.
Have you got the picture? The world was already in the cosmic wheelie-bin sitting at the side of the road with all us in it! But God has sent His Son into the world to save it, to rescue it from final destruction. So, this must mean that the world is condemned already, mustn’t it? And that’s exactly what the verse following John 3:17 says, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but He who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18).
So, it’s simple then, isn’t it? If you want to know whether you’re still in the cosmic wheelie-bin or not, you just ask yourself whether you believe in God’s only begotten Son or not. By not believing in the God’s only begotten Son you are proving you are condemned But if you are believing in God’s only begotten Son, then you are no longer condemned. As the Scriptures says elsewhere, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1.
You’re either in Christ Jesus where you’re saved and safe or you’re in the cosmic wheelie-bin where you’re condemned and ready for the cosmic dump. The cosmic dump is Hell, a real and permanent place, a place where real people perish forever! But the Good News is that, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
The sad fact is that some would rather perish than believe in Jesus Christ! However, I would urge all of you to give glory to God by thanking Him for sending His only begotten Son into the world, not to condemn it, but as Saviour of the world.
Is Jesus your Saviour? If He is, then rejoice in the good news that “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”