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Salvation Sermon

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john
John 3.16-21
John 3:16–21 NKJV
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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. “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. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
John 3:16–21 NKJV
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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. “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. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
Hebrews 9:11–15 NKJV
But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
John: An Introduction and Commentary ii. The Evangelist’s Comments (3:16–21)

16. Following his account of the conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus, the evangelist comments on its significance in 3:16–21. He begins his comments with the much-loved words For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Traditionally, the first part of 3:16 has been interpreted to highlight the ‘degree’ of God’s love for the world, i.e. ‘how much’ he loved the world: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son’. While it may be said that the degree of God’s love for the world is demonstrated in the giving of his Son, this may not be what the evangelist is saying here. The word translated ‘so’ (understood by most to mean ‘so much’) is houtōs, a word used frequently elsewhere in the Fourth Gospel, never to denote degree (how much) but always manner (in what way) (8, 14; 4:6; 5:21, 26; 7:46; 11:48; 12:50; 13:25; 14:31; 15:4; 18:22; 21:1).

Further, houtōs, indicating ‘in what way’, always refers back to something previously mentioned, not something about to be explained. Allowing these things to guide us, we should translate the first part of 3:16 as follows: ‘For in this way (referring to something already mentioned) God loved the world …’ An understanding of the way God loved the world, then, is to be sought in the preceding verses, 3:14–15, where Jesus speaks of the Son of Man being ‘lifted up’ as the snake was lifted up on the pole by Moses. This means that the rest of 3:16 really belongs with what follows in 3:17. Thus the thought of 3:14–17 may be set out as follows, the two main clauses being in italics:

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert,

in the same way the Son of Man must be lifted up,

that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life,

for in this way God loved the world;

And so [as a consequence of this love] he gave his one and only Son,

that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have

eternal life, for God did not send his Son into the world

to condemn the world,

but to save the world through him.

There are no great theological differences between this approach and the more traditional approach to these verses. However, it is closer to what the evangelist actually wrote in this passage.

When the evangelist says ‘for God so loved the world’, the word ‘world’ signifies humanity in general. It was God’s love for all humanity that led him to give his ‘one and only’ (ton mongenē) Son. In some older translations monogenēs is translated as ‘only begotten’, but this is misleading, for the word monogenēs emphasizes uniqueness, not ‘begottenness’ (see Additional note: Monogenēs, pp. 71–72). What the text is saying, therefore, is that God had only one Son, and because of his love for humanity he gave him to make eternal life available to the world.

The purpose for giving his only Son was so ‘that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’. To ‘have eternal life’ is to know God, i.e. be in relationship with him and experience all the blessings which flow from that, both in the present age and the age to come. In the Fourth Gospel these involve fellowship with God now and a share in the age to come (see Additional note: Eternal life, pp. 113–115). ‘To perish’ means to miss out on these blessings, both now and in the age to come, because the wrath of God remains upon us (36).

On the human side, the key to experiencing eternal life is believing. The word ‘to believe’ (pisteuō) is used in a number of ways in the Fourth Gospel, but in 3:16 it denotes believing in the person of Jesus. However, this cannot be divorced from belief in his words, because knowledge of his person is mediated through his words.

17. To explain further the gracious act of God in giving his one and only Son, the evangelist adds, For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. The idea of being sent is found in several places in the Fourth Gospel. However, it does not necessarily carry the idea of being sent into this world from outside. Speaking to his Father, and referring to his disciples, Jesus says, ‘As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world’ (17:18). In this context, to be ‘sent into the world’ means to be commissioned for a ministry to the people of the world; it does not mean entering the world from the outside. A couple of other texts are susceptible to the same interpretation (6:14; 11:27). However, there is one text which clearly implies that Jesus entered this world from the outside: ‘I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father’ (16:28). Finally, there are several other texts where the meaning of being sent into the world or coming into the world could be construed either way (1:9; 3:17, 19; 9:39; 10:36; 12:46; 18:37). The upshot of all this is that when in 3:17 the evangelist says ‘God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world’ he could be alluding either to Jesus entering the world from the outside or his being commissioned to ministry on behalf of the people of the world (or both).

The evangelist says that ‘God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world’. There are three places in the Gospel where similar assertions are made (8:15, 26; 12:47), but there are also two places which imply that Jesus does pass judgment on people (5:22, 30). How shall we explain the apparent contradiction? The answer appears to be that in this world Jesus did not pass judgment upon people, because his purpose in coming into the world was to save, not condemn. However, having carried out that commission, the Father has now put into his hands the responsibility for the final judgment (5:22), and on the last day the very words Jesus spoke in this world will condemn those who rejected them (12:48). In a sense such people stand condemned already by their own refusal to believe in God’s Son (18) (see Additional note: Judgment, pp. 119–120). What that condemnation involves is not clearly spelt out but there are some statements that provide clues. Those who reject Christ and do evil are said (1) to forfeit life because God’s wrath remains on them (36); (2) to die in their sins, i.e. to die unforgiven, and therefore to bear the consequences of their sins themselves (8:21, 24); and (3) to rise from the dead only to be condemned (5:29).

Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but ‘to save the world’. The word ‘to save’ (sōzō) is found only six times in the Fourth Gospel (17; 5:34; 10:9; 11:12; 12:27, 47), and of these only four relate directly to the salvation Jesus came to bring. Also of these, only three throw light on what it means to be saved. It is the opposite of being condemned (17; 12:47) and involves coming under the care of the good shepherd (10:9). The reason for the relative scarcity of salvation language in the Fourth Gospel is that the evangelist uses another set of concepts to express his understanding of salvation, i.e. eternal life consummated in resurrection, and these concepts pervade his Gospel (15, 16, 36; 4:14; 5:24, 29, 39, 40; 6:27, 33, 40, 47, 51, 54, 68; 10:10, 28; 11:25; 12:25, 50; 17:2, 3; 20:31).

God’s purpose in sending the Son into the world was to save the world ‘through him’. What ‘through him’ means has already been explained in 3:14–15, i.e. it was by allowing his Son to be ‘lifted up’ on the cross that salvation was made available ‘through him’. By giving his one and only Son in this way God made provision for the forgiveness of sins so that people might experience eternal life now, culminating in resurrection life in the age to come.

18. In this verse the evangelist makes clear that, viewed from the human side, what distinguishes those who are condemned from those who are not is believing in Jesus: Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already. He then explains why failure to believe is so serious an offence: because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. God has given his one and only Son, allowing him to be ‘lifted up’ for our salvation. To refuse to believe in him, to accept his words and to live by them, is an affront to God himself; and those who affront God in this way, the evangelist says, ‘are condemned already’ (see commentary on 3:17 for explanation of what it means to be ‘condemned’).

19. The evangelist spells out the basis for the condemnation of those who do not believe: This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Using the noun krisis (verdict), which is a cognate of the verb krinō (condemn) found in 3:17–18, the evangelist explains that the root cause of the condemnation of unbelievers is their rejection of the light because of their love for the darkness. The reason why people have not welcomed the light is that ‘men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil’.

Light and darkness are metaphors that have many and various meanings in the NT. Here the light refers to Jesus himself who came into the world and by his ministry brought the light of truth and righteousness to bear upon all whom he encountered. To be exposed to the light was not comfortable to those who wanted to persist in evil; they preferred not to be associated with Jesus, nor to accept his words—‘they loved darkness instead of light’.

20–21. Two different reactions to Jesus as the light are teased out in these verses: Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by (lit. ‘does’) the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God. People who want to persist in evildoing hate Jesus, for he exposes their wickedness (cf. 15:22). But those who want to ‘live by the truth’ delight in the presence of Jesus and welcome his teaching because it confirms for them that they do what they do through God’s grace). Instead of avoiding Jesus and his teaching like those who want to do evil, they seek him out (‘come to the light’) to make sure that what they are doing is pleasing to God.

Hebrews 9.11-15
John: An Introduction and Commentary ii. The Evangelist’s Comments (3:16–21)

16. Following his account of the conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus, the evangelist comments on its significance in 3:16–21. He begins his comments with the much-loved words For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Traditionally, the first part of 3:16 has been interpreted to highlight the ‘degree’ of God’s love for the world, i.e. ‘how much’ he loved the world: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son’. While it may be said that the degree of God’s love for the world is demonstrated in the giving of his Son, this may not be what the evangelist is saying here. The word translated ‘so’ (understood by most to mean ‘so much’) is houtōs, a word used frequently elsewhere in the Fourth Gospel, never to denote degree (how much) but always manner (in what way) (8, 14; 4:6; 5:21, 26; 7:46; 11:48; 12:50; 13:25; 14:31; 15:4; 18:22; 21:1).

Further, houtōs, indicating ‘in what way’, always refers back to something previously mentioned, not something about to be explained. Allowing these things to guide us, we should translate the first part of 3:16 as follows: ‘For in this way (referring to something already mentioned) God loved the world …’ An understanding of the way God loved the world, then, is to be sought in the preceding verses, 3:14–15, where Jesus speaks of the Son of Man being ‘lifted up’ as the snake was lifted up on the pole by Moses. This means that the rest of 3:16 really belongs with what follows in 3:17. Thus the thought of 3:14–17 may be set out as follows, the two main clauses being in italics:

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert,

in the same way the Son of Man must be lifted up,

that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life,

for in this way God loved the world;

And so [as a consequence of this love] he gave his one and only Son,

that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have

eternal life, for God did not send his Son into the world

to condemn the world,

but to save the world through him.

There are no great theological differences between this approach and the more traditional approach to these verses. However, it is closer to what the evangelist actually wrote in this passage.

When the evangelist says ‘for God so loved the world’, the word ‘world’ signifies humanity in general. It was God’s love for all humanity that led him to give his ‘one and only’ (ton mongenē) Son. In some older translations monogenēs is translated as ‘only begotten’, but this is misleading, for the word monogenēs emphasizes uniqueness, not ‘begottenness’ (see Additional note: Monogenēs, pp. 71–72). What the text is saying, therefore, is that God had only one Son, and because of his love for humanity he gave him to make eternal life available to the world.

The purpose for giving his only Son was so ‘that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’. To ‘have eternal life’ is to know God, i.e. be in relationship with him and experience all the blessings which flow from that, both in the present age and the age to come. In the Fourth Gospel these involve fellowship with God now and a share in the age to come (see Additional note: Eternal life, pp. 113–115). ‘To perish’ means to miss out on these blessings, both now and in the age to come, because the wrath of God remains upon us (36).

On the human side, the key to experiencing eternal life is believing. The word ‘to believe’ (pisteuō) is used in a number of ways in the Fourth Gospel, but in 3:16 it denotes believing in the person of Jesus. However, this cannot be divorced from belief in his words, because knowledge of his person is mediated through his words.

17. To explain further the gracious act of God in giving his one and only Son, the evangelist adds, For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. The idea of being sent is found in several places in the Fourth Gospel. However, it does not necessarily carry the idea of being sent into this world from outside. Speaking to his Father, and referring to his disciples, Jesus says, ‘As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world’ (17:18). In this context, to be ‘sent into the world’ means to be commissioned for a ministry to the people of the world; it does not mean entering the world from the outside. A couple of other texts are susceptible to the same interpretation (6:14; 11:27). However, there is one text which clearly implies that Jesus entered this world from the outside: ‘I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father’ (16:28). Finally, there are several other texts where the meaning of being sent into the world or coming into the world could be construed either way (1:9; 3:17, 19; 9:39; 10:36; 12:46; 18:37). The upshot of all this is that when in 3:17 the evangelist says ‘God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world’ he could be alluding either to Jesus entering the world from the outside or his being commissioned to ministry on behalf of the people of the world (or both).

The evangelist says that ‘God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world’. There are three places in the Gospel where similar assertions are made (8:15, 26; 12:47), but there are also two places which imply that Jesus does pass judgment on people (5:22, 30). How shall we explain the apparent contradiction? The answer appears to be that in this world Jesus did not pass judgment upon people, because his purpose in coming into the world was to save, not condemn. However, having carried out that commission, the Father has now put into his hands the responsibility for the final judgment (5:22), and on the last day the very words Jesus spoke in this world will condemn those who rejected them (12:48). In a sense such people stand condemned already by their own refusal to believe in God’s Son (18) (see Additional note: Judgment, pp. 119–120). What that condemnation involves is not clearly spelt out but there are some statements that provide clues. Those who reject Christ and do evil are said (1) to forfeit life because God’s wrath remains on them (36); (2) to die in their sins, i.e. to die unforgiven, and therefore to bear the consequences of their sins themselves (8:21, 24); and (3) to rise from the dead only to be condemned (5:29).

Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but ‘to save the world’. The word ‘to save’ (sōzō) is found only six times in the Fourth Gospel (17; 5:34; 10:9; 11:12; 12:27, 47), and of these only four relate directly to the salvation Jesus came to bring. Also of these, only three throw light on what it means to be saved. It is the opposite of being condemned (17; 12:47) and involves coming under the care of the good shepherd (10:9). The reason for the relative scarcity of salvation language in the Fourth Gospel is that the evangelist uses another set of concepts to express his understanding of salvation, i.e. eternal life consummated in resurrection, and these concepts pervade his Gospel (15, 16, 36; 4:14; 5:24, 29, 39, 40; 6:27, 33, 40, 47, 51, 54, 68; 10:10, 28; 11:25; 12:25, 50; 17:2, 3; 20:31).

God’s purpose in sending the Son into the world was to save the world ‘through him’. What ‘through him’ means has already been explained in 3:14–15, i.e. it was by allowing his Son to be ‘lifted up’ on the cross that salvation was made available ‘through him’. By giving his one and only Son in this way God made provision for the forgiveness of sins so that people might experience eternal life now, culminating in resurrection life in the age to come.

18. In this verse the evangelist makes clear that, viewed from the human side, what distinguishes those who are condemned from those who are not is believing in Jesus: Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already. He then explains why failure to believe is so serious an offence: because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. God has given his one and only Son, allowing him to be ‘lifted up’ for our salvation. To refuse to believe in him, to accept his words and to live by them, is an affront to God himself; and those who affront God in this way, the evangelist says, ‘are condemned already’ (see commentary on 3:17 for explanation of what it means to be ‘condemned’).

19. The evangelist spells out the basis for the condemnation of those who do not believe: This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Using the noun krisis (verdict), which is a cognate of the verb krinō (condemn) found in 3:17–18, the evangelist explains that the root cause of the condemnation of unbelievers is their rejection of the light because of their love for the darkness. The reason why people have not welcomed the light is that ‘men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil’.

Light and darkness are metaphors that have many and various meanings in the NT. Here the light refers to Jesus himself who came into the world and by his ministry brought the light of truth and righteousness to bear upon all whom he encountered. To be exposed to the light was not comfortable to those who wanted to persist in evil; they preferred not to be associated with Jesus, nor to accept his words—‘they loved darkness instead of light’.

20–21. Two different reactions to Jesus as the light are teased out in these verses: Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by (lit. ‘does’) the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God. People who want to persist in evildoing hate Jesus, for he exposes their wickedness (cf. 15:22). But those who want to ‘live by the truth’ delight in the presence of Jesus and welcome his teaching because it confirms for them that they do what they do through God’s grace). Instead of avoiding Jesus and his teaching like those who want to do evil, they seek him out (‘come to the light’) to make sure that what they are doing is pleasing to God.

Here Christ presents us with the cause and as it were the fountain of our salvation, so as to remove all doubt; for our minds cannot come to rest in tranquillity unless they arrive at the free love of God. Since we are not to seek the ground of our salvation anywhere but in Christ, we must try to find out where he came to us from and why he was offered up to be our Savior. This verse distinctly teaches both truths: faith in Christ means life to all men, and Christ had this life because God loved mankind and would not let it perish. This sequence must be carefully noted. When it is a question of the source of our salvation, we must consider the inborn and wicked ambition of our nature, which traps us into the devilish fancy that we deserve to be saved. Therefore we imagine that God is good to us because he judges us worthy of his favor. But Scripture praises everywhere his pure and unmixed mercy, which does away with all merit.

By this text, Christ means to do nothing else than establish the love of God as the ground of our salvation. When we try to go beyond this, the Spirit himself slams the door in our face; he teaches us by Paul’s mouth that God’s love is founded in his own will and purpose (Eph. 1:5). And it is obvious that Christ spoke as he did so as to turn men’s attention from themselves to the mercy of God alone. God does not declare that he was led to deliver us because he found us worthy of such a blessing. On the contrary, he attributes the glory of our deliverance solely to his love. This appears more clearly from the added statement: the Son was given to men that they may not perish. Therefore, unless Christ rescues the lost, all are doomed to eternal ruin. Paul expresses the same thing in terms of temporal sequence: We were loved while we were enemies because of sin (Rom. 5:10). For surely, where sin reigns, there is only the wrath of God which carries death with it. It follows that mercy alone reconciles us to God and, in so doing, restores us to life.

The above may seem to conflict with many testimonies of Scriptures that Christ is the ground of God’s love for us, since apart from him they present God as hating us. We must remember what was said before: the secret love with which our Heavenly Father embraces us, being his eternal purpose for us, takes precedence over all other reasons for our deliverance. But it is true that the grace which God wanted to show us, and by which we are moved to the hope of salvation, appeared with the reconciling work of Christ. Since sins are of necessity odious to God, how can we maintain that God loves us freely, unless an offering has been made for these same sins which are offensive to him? Hence, before we receive any knowledge of God’s Fatherly good will for us, the blood of Christ must intercede for us and restore us to God’s favor. Besides, as we were formerly told that God so loved us as to give up his Son to die for us, so it is immediately added that in a strict sense faith should look to Christ alone.

He gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish. Faith looks to Christ rightly when it sees in him the heart of God overflowing with love. Faith rests upon the death of Christ as upon a firm and solid support, and finds in it the only surety of salvation. Only-begotten is emphatic, commending to us God’s love in all its fervor. And because it is hard for men to be persuaded of God’s love, he removes all doubt by saying, We are so dear to God that for our salvation he did not spare his only-begotten Son. Since, therefore, God has testified to his love for us so sufficiently and abundantly, anyone who is not content and still doubts offers no small insult to Christ, as though he were someone who was killed by accident. Rather, we ought to reconsider that since God had the highest regard for his only-begotten Son, our salvation must be very precious to him, because he was willing to pay for it with the Son’s death.

That whosoever believeth in him may not perish. What a praise of faith, that it delivers us from eternal destruction! Christ means clearly that even though we are born for death, by faith in him we are offered a sure deliverance from it; therefore, we ought not to fear the death which still awaits us. And now he adds a universal call, inviting all men without exception to share in life, and leaving unbelievers without an excuse. The word world, in the previous phrase, has the same significance. Even though there is nothing in the world worthy of God’s favor, he shows himself gracious toward the whole world, and he invites all men without exception to faith in Christ, which is nothing less than entering into Life.

On the other hand, let us remember that while life is promised in Christ to all who believe, only a small part of the people are believers. Christ is indeed presented to all, but God opens the eyes of the elect alone, and enables them by faith to seek after him. The wonderful effect of faith is also seen in our receiving Christ from the Father, who has in Christ truly freed us from the punishment of eternal death, and made us heirs of eternal life; for by the sacrifice of his death, Christ has expiated our sins; and now nothing keeps God from acknowledging us as his sons. Since therefore faith embraces Christ, together with the efficacy of his death and the fruit of his resurrection, it is no wonder that by faith likewise we obtain the very Life of Christ.

It is not yet quite clear as to why and how faith gives us life. Is it because Christ himself regenerates us by his Spirit, so that the righteousness of God may live and flourish in us; or is it because, purged by his blood, by God’s free forgiveness, we are accounted righteous before him? Of course these two go together. Still, when it comes to the certainty of salvation, we must hold to it that we live because God loves us, and that freely; this he shows by not imputing our sins to us. Sacrifice is here mentioned because by it sin, curse, and death have been abolished. As I have already explained, the two clauses put together in this verse mean that, having lost life, we recover it in Christ. In this wretched state of mankind, ransom comes before salvation.

As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. John 15:9.

There is much more in this verse than is commonly believed. Those who think that he is here speaking of the eternal and secret love of the Father, philosophize beside the point. It was rather Christ’s purpose, in effect, to deposit in our laps a sure pledge of God’s love toward us. The abstruse question of how God in eternity loved himself in the Son has nothing to do with this verse. The love in question here has to do with us, because it is as the Head of the church that Christ testifies to God’s love for him. Any man who tries to find out how God loved Christ, apart from his office as Mediator, gets caught in a labyrinth, without path or exit. Let us therefore fix our eyes on Christ, because it is in him that we see the pledge of God’s love clearly exhibited. For, God poured his love upon him, so that it might flow from him to the members of his body. This is also the significance of the title, the beloved Son, in whom the will of the Father is satisfied; and we must consider the purpose of this love, which is that God in Christ may be well pleased with us. Therefore, we must not look at God’s love from afar off or in a mirror. Christ was loved by the Father not in and for himself alone, but that he might with himself unite us with the Father.

Continue ye in my love. Some explain these words to mean that Christ enjoined his disciples to love one another. Others explain it better when they say that they refer to the love with which Christ loves us. He in fact bids us live always in the joy of the love with which he once and for all loved us, warning us not to deprive ourselves of it. For many reject the grace offered them, and many throw away what they have in their hands. So then, once we are beneficiaries of the grace of Christ, let us see to it that we do not fall away from it through our own fault.

It is foolish to infer from the above words that, without the help of our constancy, God’s grace avails nothing. I do not concede that the Spirit asks no more from us than what is within our ability. Rather, he shows us where we must turn when we lack the strength to obey him. When we hear Christ, in this verse, exhort us to perseverance, we must not rely on our own energy and industry; we must rather pray him who commands us to confirm us in his love.

Here Christ presents us with the cause and as it were the fountain of our salvation, so as to remove all doubt; for our minds cannot come to rest in tranquillity unless they arrive at the free love of God. Since we are not to seek the ground of our salvation anywhere but in Christ, we must try to find out where he came to us from and why he was offered up to be our Savior. This verse distinctly teaches both truths: faith in Christ means life to all men, and Christ had this life because God loved mankind and would not let it perish. This sequence must be carefully noted. When it is a question of the source of our salvation, we must consider the inborn and wicked ambition of our nature, which traps us into the devilish fancy that we deserve to be saved. Therefore we imagine that God is good to us because he judges us worthy of his favor. But Scripture praises everywhere his pure and unmixed mercy, which does away with all merit.

By this text, Christ means to do nothing else than establish the love of God as the ground of our salvation. When we try to go beyond this, the Spirit himself slams the door in our face; he teaches us by Paul’s mouth that God’s love is founded in his own will and purpose (Eph. 1:5). And it is obvious that Christ spoke as he did so as to turn men’s attention from themselves to the mercy of God alone. God does not declare that he was led to deliver us because he found us worthy of such a blessing. On the contrary, he attributes the glory of our deliverance solely to his love. This appears more clearly from the added statement: the Son was given to men that they may not perish. Therefore, unless Christ rescues the lost, all are doomed to eternal ruin. Paul expresses the same thing in terms of temporal sequence: We were loved while we were enemies because of sin (Rom. 5:10). For surely, where sin reigns, there is only the wrath of God which carries death with it. It follows that mercy alone reconciles us to God and, in so doing, restores us to life.

The above may seem to conflict with many testimonies of Scriptures that Christ is the ground of God’s love for us, since apart from him they present God as hating us. We must remember what was said before: the secret love with which our Heavenly Father embraces us, being his eternal purpose for us, takes precedence over all other reasons for our deliverance. But it is true that the grace which God wanted to show us, and by which we are moved to the hope of salvation, appeared with the reconciling work of Christ. Since sins are of necessity odious to God, how can we maintain that God loves us freely, unless an offering has been made for these same sins which are offensive to him? Hence, before we receive any knowledge of God’s Fatherly good will for us, the blood of Christ must intercede for us and restore us to God’s favor. Besides, as we were formerly told that God so loved us as to give up his Son to die for us, so it is immediately added that in a strict sense faith should look to Christ alone.

He gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish. Faith looks to Christ rightly when it sees in him the heart of God overflowing with love. Faith rests upon the death of Christ as upon a firm and solid support, and finds in it the only surety of salvation. Only-begotten is emphatic, commending to us God’s love in all its fervor. And because it is hard for men to be persuaded of God’s love, he removes all doubt by saying, We are so dear to God that for our salvation he did not spare his only-begotten Son. Since, therefore, God has testified to his love for us so sufficiently and abundantly, anyone who is not content and still doubts offers no small insult to Christ, as though he were someone who was killed by accident. Rather, we ought to reconsider that since God had the highest regard for his only-begotten Son, our salvation must be very precious to him, because he was willing to pay for it with the Son’s death.

That whosoever believeth in him may not perish. What a praise of faith, that it delivers us from eternal destruction! Christ means clearly that even though we are born for death, by faith in him we are offered a sure deliverance from it; therefore, we ought not to fear the death which still awaits us. And now he adds a universal call, inviting all men without exception to share in life, and leaving unbelievers without an excuse. The word world, in the previous phrase, has the same significance. Even though there is nothing in the world worthy of God’s favor, he shows himself gracious toward the whole world, and he invites all men without exception to faith in Christ, which is nothing less than entering into Life.

On the other hand, let us remember that while life is promised in Christ to all who believe, only a small part of the people are believers. Christ is indeed presented to all, but God opens the eyes of the elect alone, and enables them by faith to seek after him. The wonderful effect of faith is also seen in our receiving Christ from the Father, who has in Christ truly freed us from the punishment of eternal death, and made us heirs of eternal life; for by the sacrifice of his death, Christ has expiated our sins; and now nothing keeps God from acknowledging us as his sons. Since therefore faith embraces Christ, together with the efficacy of his death and the fruit of his resurrection, it is no wonder that by faith likewise we obtain the very Life of Christ.

It is not yet quite clear as to why and how faith gives us life. Is it because Christ himself regenerates us by his Spirit, so that the righteousness of God may live and flourish in us; or is it because, purged by his blood, by God’s free forgiveness, we are accounted righteous before him? Of course these two go together. Still, when it comes to the certainty of salvation, we must hold to it that we live because God loves us, and that freely; this he shows by not imputing our sins to us. Sacrifice is here mentioned because by it sin, curse, and death have been abolished. As I have already explained, the two clauses put together in this verse mean that, having lost life, we recover it in Christ. In this wretched state of mankind, ransom comes before salvation.

As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. John 15:9.

There is much more in this verse than is commonly believed. Those who think that he is here speaking of the eternal and secret love of the Father, philosophize beside the point. It was rather Christ’s purpose, in effect, to deposit in our laps a sure pledge of God’s love toward us. The abstruse question of how God in eternity loved himself in the Son has nothing to do with this verse. The love in question here has to do with us, because it is as the Head of the church that Christ testifies to God’s love for him. Any man who tries to find out how God loved Christ, apart from his office as Mediator, gets caught in a labyrinth, without path or exit. Let us therefore fix our eyes on Christ, because it is in him that we see the pledge of God’s love clearly exhibited. For, God poured his love upon him, so that it might flow from him to the members of his body. This is also the significance of the title, the beloved Son, in whom the will of the Father is satisfied; and we must consider the purpose of this love, which is that God in Christ may be well pleased with us. Therefore, we must not look at God’s love from afar off or in a mirror. Christ was loved by the Father not in and for himself alone, but that he might with himself unite us with the Father.

Continue ye in my love. Some explain these words to mean that Christ enjoined his disciples to love one another. Others explain it better when they say that they refer to the love with which Christ loves us. He in fact bids us live always in the joy of the love with which he once and for all loved us, warning us not to deprive ourselves of it. For many reject the grace offered them, and many throw away what they have in their hands. So then, once we are beneficiaries of the grace of Christ, let us see to it that we do not fall away from it through our own fault.

It is foolish to infer from the above words that, without the help of our constancy, God’s grace avails nothing. I do not concede that the Spirit asks no more from us than what is within our ability. Rather, he shows us where we must turn when we lack the strength to obey him. When we hear Christ, in this verse, exhort us to perseverance, we must not rely on our own energy and industry; we must rather pray him who commands us to confirm us in his love.

Here Christ presents us with the cause and as it were the fountain of our salvation, so as to remove all doubt; for our minds cannot come to rest in tranquillity unless they arrive at the free love of God. Since we are not to seek the ground of our salvation anywhere but in Christ, we must try to find out where he came to us from and why he was offered up to be our Savior. This verse distinctly teaches both truths: faith in Christ means life to all men, and Christ had this life because God loved mankind and would not let it perish. This sequence must be carefully noted. When it is a question of the source of our salvation, we must consider the inborn and wicked ambition of our nature, which traps us into the devilish fancy that we deserve to be saved. Therefore we imagine that God is good to us because he judges us worthy of his favor. But Scripture praises everywhere his pure and unmixed mercy, which does away with all merit.

By this text, Christ means to do nothing else than establish the love of God as the ground of our salvation. When we try to go beyond this, the Spirit himself slams the door in our face; he teaches us by Paul’s mouth that God’s love is founded in his own will and purpose (Eph. 1:5). And it is obvious that Christ spoke as he did so as to turn men’s attention from themselves to the mercy of God alone. God does not declare that he was led to deliver us because he found us worthy of such a blessing. On the contrary, he attributes the glory of our deliverance solely to his love. This appears more clearly from the added statement: the Son was given to men that they may not perish. Therefore, unless Christ rescues the lost, all are doomed to eternal ruin. Paul expresses the same thing in terms of temporal sequence: We were loved while we were enemies because of sin (Rom. 5:10). For surely, where sin reigns, there is only the wrath of God which carries death with it. It follows that mercy alone reconciles us to God and, in so doing, restores us to life.

The above may seem to conflict with many testimonies of Scriptures that Christ is the ground of God’s love for us, since apart from him they present God as hating us. We must remember what was said before: the secret love with which our Heavenly Father embraces us, being his eternal purpose for us, takes precedence over all other reasons for our deliverance. But it is true that the grace which God wanted to show us, and by which we are moved to the hope of salvation, appeared with the reconciling work of Christ. Since sins are of necessity odious to God, how can we maintain that God loves us freely, unless an offering has been made for these same sins which are offensive to him? Hence, before we receive any knowledge of God’s Fatherly good will for us, the blood of Christ must intercede for us and restore us to God’s favor. Besides, as we were formerly told that God so loved us as to give up his Son to die for us, so it is immediately added that in a strict sense faith should look to Christ alone.

He gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish. Faith looks to Christ rightly when it sees in him the heart of God overflowing with love. Faith rests upon the death of Christ as upon a firm and solid support, and finds in it the only surety of salvation. Only-begotten is emphatic, commending to us God’s love in all its fervor. And because it is hard for men to be persuaded of God’s love, he removes all doubt by saying, We are so dear to God that for our salvation he did not spare his only-begotten Son. Since, therefore, God has testified to his love for us so sufficiently and abundantly, anyone who is not content and still doubts offers no small insult to Christ, as though he were someone who was killed by accident. Rather, we ought to reconsider that since God had the highest regard for his only-begotten Son, our salvation must be very precious to him, because he was willing to pay for it with the Son’s death.

That whosoever believeth in him may not perish. What a praise of faith, that it delivers us from eternal destruction! Christ means clearly that even though we are born for death, by faith in him we are offered a sure deliverance from it; therefore, we ought not to fear the death which still awaits us. And now he adds a universal call, inviting all men without exception to share in life, and leaving unbelievers without an excuse. The word world, in the previous phrase, has the same significance. Even though there is nothing in the world worthy of God’s favor, he shows himself gracious toward the whole world, and he invites all men without exception to faith in Christ, which is nothing less than entering into Life.

On the other hand, let us remember that while life is promised in Christ to all who believe, only a small part of the people are believers. Christ is indeed presented to all, but God opens the eyes of the elect alone, and enables them by faith to seek after him. The wonderful effect of faith is also seen in our receiving Christ from the Father, who has in Christ truly freed us from the punishment of eternal death, and made us heirs of eternal life; for by the sacrifice of his death, Christ has expiated our sins; and now nothing keeps God from acknowledging us as his sons. Since therefore faith embraces Christ, together with the efficacy of his death and the fruit of his resurrection, it is no wonder that by faith likewise we obtain the very Life of Christ.

It is not yet quite clear as to why and how faith gives us life. Is it because Christ himself regenerates us by his Spirit, so that the righteousness of God may live and flourish in us; or is it because, purged by his blood, by God’s free forgiveness, we are accounted righteous before him? Of course these two go together. Still, when it comes to the certainty of salvation, we must hold to it that we live because God loves us, and that freely; this he shows by not imputing our sins to us. Sacrifice is here mentioned because by it sin, curse, and death have been abolished. As I have already explained, the two clauses put together in this verse mean that, having lost life, we recover it in Christ. In this wretched state of mankind, ransom comes before salvation.

As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. John 15:9.

There is much more in this verse than is commonly believed. Those who think that he is here speaking of the eternal and secret love of the Father, philosophize beside the point. It was rather Christ’s purpose, in effect, to deposit in our laps a sure pledge of God’s love toward us. The abstruse question of how God in eternity loved himself in the Son has nothing to do with this verse. The love in question here has to do with us, because it is as the Head of the church that Christ testifies to God’s love for him. Any man who tries to find out how God loved Christ, apart from his office as Mediator, gets caught in a labyrinth, without path or exit. Let us therefore fix our eyes on Christ, because it is in him that we see the pledge of God’s love clearly exhibited. For, God poured his love upon him, so that it might flow from him to the members of his body. This is also the significance of the title, the beloved Son, in whom the will of the Father is satisfied; and we must consider the purpose of this love, which is that God in Christ may be well pleased with us. Therefore, we must not look at God’s love from afar off or in a mirror. Christ was loved by the Father not in and for himself alone, but that he might with himself unite us with the Father.

Continue ye in my love. Some explain these words to mean that Christ enjoined his disciples to love one another. Others explain it better when they say that they refer to the love with which Christ loves us. He in fact bids us live always in the joy of the love with which he once and for all loved us, warning us not to deprive ourselves of it. For many reject the grace offered them, and many throw away what they have in their hands. So then, once we are beneficiaries of the grace of Christ, let us see to it that we do not fall away from it through our own fault.

It is foolish to infer from the above words that, without the help of our constancy, God’s grace avails nothing. I do not concede that the Spirit asks no more from us than what is within our ability. Rather, he shows us where we must turn when we lack the strength to obey him. When we hear Christ, in this verse, exhort us to perseverance, we must not rely on our own energy and industry; we must rather pray him who commands us to confirm us in his love.

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