“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).
Here is a vast vision of hope: “For God so loved the world.” The world is vast with good prospects for everyone.
“‘Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests “ (Matthew 22:9-10).
Thus taught our Lord. His vision is not for the deserving (Who can be deserving?). His love extends to the good and bad. The breath of every man woman and child is sacred inasmuch as it contains the promise of renewed life, joy in the eternal presence of God.
Who are the good? And what distinguishes them from the bad? There are neighbors who don’t cause problems. We have work associates who do their jobs well. Society is peopled with souls who aren’t much trouble, yet their lives are on shaky ground. Jesus spoke of the individual who heard the word of the Lord and did not do it. Jesus said he “will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matthew 7:26-27). The bad are often obvious, but without the Lord all have sandy foundations. The gospel is for all. Without Jesus, even the good are finally brought to death in blindness, whether being led astray by demagoguery, or blithely trusting in their own goodness. The Lord knows how to save both good and bad.
The love of God requires no impossible demands. God calls upon us to believe His promise of salvation. Believe in Jesus. What are the prospects? Avoidance of destruction! Everlasting life! This is very inviting. It appeals to our desire for a pleasant outcome. Most people want a better outcome than they can imagine. God has placed the prospects within our reach.
When God gave Jesus, what was given that we should believe? Jesus walked on the earth as a man. He spoke and acted. Power was demonstrated though Him that we might understand He is more than a prophet: “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made ” (John 1:3). His words were and are unassailable: “No man ever spoke like this man ” (John 7:46). With a willing desire to serve God and a little time to investigate, we can believe: “If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (John 7:17). Belief requires listening beyond investigating. It requires listening to learn and follow. His teaching becomes the requirement for our living and the touchstone for our conscience.
What was given that we should believe? “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). The first thing this verse shows is what was not given. Condemnation! James and John, the Sons of Thunder, were willing to destroy a Samaritan village that refused Jesus “but He turned and rebuked them, and said, ‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them'” (Luke 9:55-56). What does this attitude of not condemning have to do with you and me? It means there is time to be saved. There is time to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. It must mean that Jesus’ point of view is laced with compassion as He understands our weakness. Not that He approves of sin, but that He is meek and lowly in heart. He doesn’t sit in the seat of the scornful. Rather, He has the desire and means to save us! He can make us better, wiser and stronger:
“For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us ” (2 Corinthians 4:6-7).
Evidently, Jesus is not condemning because He knows that these earthen vessels of our human bodies can harbor the light of the knowledge of the glory of God and the excellence of power. This potential is for us all, a potential to live and glorify God with humility. It is something very hopeful. Hope fosters faith: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for.” Through faith, the prospect turns into fact — a changed life, one who overcomes the world.
Finally, we must consider the soul who is lingering in the darkness of unbelief. So many of us are and have been persistent in going our own way. Even in the knowledge of the truth, our stubborn will can cause us to turn away. What about it?
“I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world” (John 12:46-47).
He knows our tendency to be slow of heart, but He is forbearing. Even souls for whom there seems no hope, He forbears. Jesus and the Father do nothing in vain. This does not mean that God is a pushover, an indulgent Being who will save us in spite of our unbelief: “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). Unbelief does not insulate us from reality and awareness of the truth. Unbelief is only rejection, and rejection has no power to thwart conviction. Self-delusion just makes it seem that way. Yet the love of God persists while we still have breath and the capacity to repent. He is “not willing that any should perish.”