076. “To Perish or Not to Perish? That is the Question.” John 3:16

No, this title is not an Australian translation of  words in William Shakespeare’s play, “Hamlet”! Rather it is a question raised by the  words of Jesus in perhaps the most well-known verse in the Bible, John 3:16. This verse has been described as The Gospel in a nut-shell”.  Others have called it, “The gospel in miniature” In one short sentence it tells us what love is all about. What’s so powerful about its message? It’s powerful because it’s a short love letter. It’s a short love letter from God to the human race of all ages and through all ages. It tells us about:-

 1)           THE LOVER.  (FOR GOD so loved).   We live in a big world, in a massive universe made by a majestic God. He has the power to say, “That’s enough!” and the whole world would cease to exist. He made it all and He could destroy it all. But God loves the world He has made. He looked at the world in all its sin and rejection of Him and He so loved the people that He decided to do something to help them. He took the initiative in making it possible for sinful people to be forgiven. He had a scheme by which they could become His friends. The Almighty God of this entire universe cares for you and me as individuals. It is simply mind-blowing, but true. For GOD so loved…the world, you and me, that He did something amazing for us.

 2)        THE LOVE.  “So loved”.  He so loved people of all backgrounds, from all races,  colour, religions, ages, that He did something for them. St Paul expressed it in Romans 5:8  But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  God told us in His word, the Bible, that He loves us. He also showed His love in giving us His Son. He SO LOVED.

3).            THE PEOPLE HE LOVED. God so loved THE WORLDThe “world in John’s writings is used to describe all of humankind in its sin and rebellion against Him. Yet we know that God hates, loathes, detests, and abominates the sin of the world which causes such hurt, pain, destruction to fellow humans. God hates sin but loves people. He acted in love. He sent His Son. To come and live as one of us. To live as a human so that He might die as a human. To bear the penalty for the sins of the whole world.  You and I are part of the world for whom God sent His Son to come and die for us. God so loved THE WORLD that He gave His Son to die for you and me.

4)       THE GIFT OF HIS LOVE. That He Gave HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON.   He gave His Son Jesus to die for us. John wrote of Jesus as the Creator of the universe. John 1:1, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. And later in verse 14, he explained that this eternal word, the creator, was in fact Jesus, And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. Jesus left His place in glory in the bliss of the presence of His Father.  He left the worship and adoration of angels that He might humble Himself to come into this sinful world in utter weakness. When later He walked the roads of the Holy Land many people mocked Him, rejected Him and eventually crucified Him. He was the creator but His creatures had no time for Him.

Have you ever thought about the rejection Jesus suffered as He came into the world as the Father’s gift of love? Jn 1:9-11,  9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. He came to His world, His creation, His people, but they rejected Him. The creator, the One who had come to be their Redeemer, their Saviour, was rejected by those He had created.

5)          THE PURPOSE OF HIS LOVE. so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  Jesus came to make salvation available to those who would receive it in His Son Jesus.  Did Jesus and John get it wrong? Surely Jesus didn’t mean that this world and all sorts of nice people in it could perish.  He didn’t get it wrong. He meant that all the world is in fact perishing already. It needed to be saved from that fate. That’s why Jesus came to “rescue the perishing” as one older hymn put it. Sometimes people find the thought repulsive that people could perish, miss out on heaven. They don’t understand the goodness and the grace of God. He doesn’t want anyone to perish.

We may sometimes cry out Why doesn’t God destroy all the evil of the world? For a very simple reason. If He destroyed all the evil in the world, none of us would be left. St Peter wrote of God in 2 Peter 3:9 as he explained why Jesus hadn’t yet come a second time to judge the world.  The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. He wants everyone to turn away from evil and to put their trust in His Son for salvation. As John wrote in the next verse (John 3:17) “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Jesus bore our sins on the cross as He died for you and me to bring us to God. As that wonderful hymn puts it,

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son,
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory.

What amazing love for you and me! Jesus on the cross was rejected by the Father as He bore the sin of the world. Jesus willingly suffered rejection. So that we might find acceptance. Acceptance with the Father. As we put our trust in His Son.

6)          RECEIVING THE GIFT OF HIS LOVE.  so that everyone who BELIEVES IN HIM may not perish but may have eternal life.  We humans have a choice. We can choose not to perish but to have eternal life. How? By believing in Jesus. To believe is not just to believe about but to believe into, to entrust oneself to, to commit oneself to. To act on His invitation to come to Him for refuge. Just imagine a scenario that I hope never happens but knowing human nature, could happen. A man is driving along and he sees a Twister, a tornado coming towards him. Someone stops him and tells him to get out of the car and get into a nearby shelter. But he’s seen tornados before in the distance. They have always missed him. He refuses to get out of the car. The man begs him to get out because the tornado is going to go right through the area where they are. But again he refuses. Minutes later the tornado hits, picks up the man’s car like a matchbox, throws it around in the air for several seconds and then it smashes into the ground. The man is killed instantly. He knew the danger. He was faced with the choice to live or to die. But he chose to ignore the warning. He refused to accept the invitation to find refuge. He perished.

God loves us enough to warn us of danger He knows the danger that awaits every one of us. What love to give us the freedom to choose to respond to His love, or to reject Him!  For those who commit themselves to Him there is the promise of being saved from perishing and the promise of having a brand new life, eternal life, God’s own life in us. As John wrote earlier in his gospel, many rejected Jesus as their Messiah and as their Saviour.  BUT some made a different choice. A wise choice. A choice with wonderful eternal consequences.  John 1:12  But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13  who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 

We can be born into God’s family. We can have eternal life in Christ. And in having Him, God tells us we have all we need in Him. Rom 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  I believe the “all things” includes the healing and blessing we need to be able to live for Him for the rest of our lives.  Why not take hold of the blessings you need by receiving them in Him as you receive Him into your life?

Blog No.076.  Jim Holbeck. Posted on Monday 04 June 2012

About Jim Holbeck

Once an Industrial Chemist working for the Queensland Government but later an Anglican minister in Brisbane, Armidale and Sydney. Last position for eighteen years before retirement was as the Leader of the Healing Ministry at St Andrew's Cathedral Sydney.
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One Response to 076. “To Perish or Not to Perish? That is the Question.” John 3:16

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