We Must Answer Well, part 5: The Gospel Beyond John 3:16
(To read in order, click: Answer Well)
In order to answer well, we are looking at the lives and writings of 5 people: John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter, Paul, and the writer of Hebrews.
Jesus’ Testimony: Eternal Life
Jesus says in John 3:10-15
“Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. 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.
Okay, Jesus. You’re going way too fast for me here, but that last part I get. Moses lifted the up on a pole so that all who were bit could look at the serpent and live. People heard there was a way to be saved, and all they had to do was trust what You’d said, look toward the dead serpent on the pole, and they’d live.
The difference now is You’ll be dead on a cross, and all who trust in what You have said about Your death will not just live, but live eternally. The serpent is defeated in Your death. Got it.
And this next part sounds so familiar, but…
Jesus’ Testimony: Judgment? No Judgment?
“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. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
What’s that? God didn’t send Jesus to judge the world, but to save it?
I thought Jesus was bringing the fire of judgment now. Was John wrong?
Verse 18 sounds like a time/space dimensional thing: “He who does not believe has been judged already”?
Does that mean God passed judgment on a person before he had the chance to believe, so now that person is just stuck because God judged him first? ‘You will live life, but won’t believe. It’ll be off to the flames with you.’
No, no, no. It means God’s judgment is set and universal. There’s no special case of exemption. God’s offer is exclusively Jesus only.
Choose Jesus, choose life. Reject Jesus, reject life.
Sounds too narrow?
Then let’s emphasize the point that Nicodemus is expecting the Christ to come and be the political Savior of Israel, NOT the eternal Savior of the world.
But Jesus says God sent Him to save the world (not just the Jews) — to save whoever believes in Him, forever.
An invitation doesn’t get any broader than “whoever”.
The way of “Jesus-only” is narrow, yes. But you can’t find a more open, wider chance to put one’s name on the guest list to eternal life.
John’s Last Words On Jesus
After this conversation, the Gospel of John returns to the act of baptism where we find a discussion about purification, and several statements from John the Baptist about Jesus.
Please take the time to read:
… John had not yet been thrown into prison.
Therefore there arose a discussion on the part of John’s disciples with a Jew about purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, He is baptizing and all are coming to Him.”
John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease.
“He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. What He has seen and heard, of that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true. For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
John the Baptist is finishing his role, diminishing as Jesus increases.
In this last recorded testimony from John, he says:
- Jesus is from heaven,
- those who receive His testimony declare that God is true,
- Jesus speaks the words of God (and either the Father gives the Spirit without measure, or Jesus does),
- that the Father loves the Son and all things are in the Son’s hands,
- and that to believe in the Son brings eternal life, but to disobey Him leaves the wrath of God upon a person.
In case we’ve missed it, John the Baptist describes God as The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit!
Why is that important?
- God the Father graciously sends John to prepare hearts for Jesus (repentance and water baptism).
- Jesus comes to be the Lamb of God and to baptize with the Holy Spirit.
- The Holy Spirit is given freely and without measure.
The whole Trinity is involved! The gospel is NOT JUST “Come to Jesus and be saved.”
- Wrath against sin is coming,
- so repent,
- be baptized and forgiven,
- believe on the One whom God has sent,
- receive eternal life,
- obey the Son,
- and receive the Holy Spirit given freely without measure.
Yes, some would argue there’s more to the gospel than that—but there is not less!
Think of it like a prank Christmas present. You tear off the wrapping paper and the bow, open the lid and find there is another wrapped box inside. It’s so gorgeous and beautiful, you imagine that it is itself the intended present. That’s all there is. But no. Open that package and you find yet another. And so on.
It’s not that God was only gracious enough to warn us so we could change our behavior. Along with the warning, He offers to forgive us based upon our faith in Him and His onetime payment for all our sins. Inside of that, He offers us eternal life. Inside of that, He offers us His own Spirit.
The boxes may get smaller in this example, but the value of the gifts does not.
How many boxes will we open?
…next time: Jesus and Sex
(To read in order, click: Answer Well)