16“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.
16¶ For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Martin Luther famously said of John 3:16, “it is the Bible in miniature.” In this sermon on John 3:16 titled “God So Loved…,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones adds, “John 3:16 is a synopsis of theology.” Dr. Lloyd-Jones combats a number of ways this verse has been misused by both Christians and non-Christians. The latter often cite it to argue for universalism, while the former uncritically repeat the verse without ever considering the truth. While these errors are folly according to Dr. Lloyd-Jones, he takes aim especially at Christians who use this verse in order to pit the “plain” gospel message against theology and doctrine. As Dr. Lloyd-Jones argues in this sermon, one cannot do justice to this verse by neglecting doctrine because the entire verse is packed with theology. Moreover, Dr. Lloyd-Jones expounds the great doctrine of the love of God from this particular verse. He corrects misconceptions of God the Father’s attitude toward the world. In addition, he argues, one cannot understand the greatness of the love of God as shown in salvation until they know the utter sinfulness of fallen humanity and the great glory of God giving His only begotten Son.
- The sermon begins by acknowledging John 3:16 as the most well-known verse in the Bible but notes that it is also frequently misused and misunderstood.
- The first misuse of John 3:16 that is addressed is using it as an incantation by repeating it without truly understanding or reflecting on its meaning.
- The second misuse addressed is interpreting it to mean that God's love is so great that everyone will be saved regardless of belief or actions. But the verse clearly states that only those who believe in Jesus will have eternal life.
- The third misuse addressed is pitting John 3:16 against theology and doctrine. But the verse is packed with doctrine including revelation, the Trinity, the person of Christ, sin, wrath of God, grace of God, atonement, and justification by faith.
- The sermon then transitions to addressing the true meaning of John 3:16 by looking at God's love in the context of the doctrines contained within the verse. The first doctrine addressed is revelation - Jesus is revealing truth to Nicodemus that he did not know before.
- The second doctrine addressed is the Trinity - the verse refers to God the Father, the Son, and implicitly the Holy Spirit.
- The third doctrine addressed is the person of Christ - the verse refers to Jesus as the only begotten Son, affirming his deity, eternal sonship, and unique relationship with the Father.
- The fourth doctrine addressed is sin and the fall - implied by the use of the word "world" which refers to humanity in a state of sin and under the influence of evil.
- The fifth doctrine addressed is the wrath of God and punishment of sin - implied by the word "perish." God punishes sin.
- The sixth doctrine addressed is the grace of God - God gave his only Son to provide salvation.
- The seventh doctrine addressed is the atonement - implied by the word "gave." God gave his Son to die on the cross to atone for sin.
- The eighth doctrine addressed is justification by faith - "whosoever believes in him" shall have eternal life, not by works but by faith.
- The sermon then focuses on expounding on God's love as expressed in John 3:16, noting that God's love is infinite and eternal, far beyond human understanding. To begin to understand it, we must understand what the verse means by "the world" and "his only begotten Son."
- "The world" refers not to the physical world but to humanity in a state of sin, under the influence of Satan. The verse shows that God loves even humanity in this wretched, sinful state.
- "His only begotten Son" refers to Jesus as the uncreated, co-eternal Son of God. God sending his Son into the sinful world shows the depth of his love.
- The word "gave" refers to God giving his Son over to death on the cross. God did not spare his Son but poured out his wrath on him to provide salvation for us. This demonstrates the depth of God's love.
- In conclusion, we cannot fully understand God's love apart from understanding what John 3:16 means - that God gave his Son to die in our place to save us from the punishment we deserve. We must believe in Jesus to have eternal life.
The Book of John
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was a Welsh evangelical minister who preached and taught in the Reformed tradition. His principal ministry was at Westminster Chapel, in central London, from 1939-1968, where he delivered multi-year expositions on books of the bible such as Romans, Ephesians and the Gospel of John. In addition to the MLJ Trust’s collection of 1,600 of these sermons in audio format, most of these great sermon series are available in book form (including a 14 volume collection of the Romans sermons), as are other series such as "Spiritual Depression", "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount" and "Great Biblical Doctrines". He is considered by many evangelical leaders today to be an authority on biblical truth and the sufficiency of Scripture.