“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.” John 3:16-17 (NKJV)
One of the great tragedies of our day is that we have lost the wonder of God’s great love for us. It is unfortunate that the phrase “God loves you” has almost become a cliché in our world today, because this truth is a life changing truth.
God’s love for us is not made up of mere words but of actions. God demonstrated His love for us when He gave His only begotten Son to save us from perishing. The word for perishing means just what it sounds like. The Greek word means to be utterly lost and/or destroyed. If someone perishes they are beyond recovery. They cannot be found or helped by any natural means. Spiritually speaking, perish means that one is spiritually dead, moving toward judgment condemned to be eternally separated from God.
Why are we perishing and headed condemned to judgment? The answer is that we have sinned against God and the Bible says that the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). A simple way to understand sin is to understand it as crossing a boundary. The Bible says that we have all sinned (crossed a boundary) and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23).
But what if I don’t feel as though I’ve sinned? What if I feel that I’m basically a good person that doesn’t deserve the wages of sin? Those who feel this way, do so because they don’t understand sin and God’s standard for righteousness. In order to understand God’s standard for righteous, we need to identify what sin is. Or to put it another way, we need to know what the boundaries are that we have crossed. God’s Word tells us what these boundaries are.
“Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” 1 John 3:4 (NIV)
The basic idea of sin is that sin is breaking God’s Law. As it is meant here, God’s Law refers to the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments make up God’s absolute standard of righteousness, God’s boundaries.
We have to understand that before a person could be considered to be righteous by keeping the Law, they must keep it perfectly from birth to death. The Law grades on a pass-fail scale. Either you pass with 100% success or you completely fail. Even one “minor” violation of the Ten Commandments keeps you from being righteous. It’s not the size of the violation that matters. It’s the violation itself. Even one violation makes you guilty of breaking the Law in God’s court and subject to the punishment of the Law.
Probably the greatest violation of God’s commandments comes in regards to the first four commandments that deal with our relationship to God. The very first commandment is…
“You shall have no other gods before Me.” Exodus 20:3 (NKJV)
The Bible tells us in Romans 3:19-20 that the better we know God’s Law, the more we realize we haven’t kept God’s Law. So a cursory examination of this can lead us to think we’ve successfully kept this commandment because we’ve never worshipped Baal, Buddah, Allah or any of the Hindu gods. However, the command to have no other gods before the Lord is far more than not worshipping a pagan god.
To have perfectly obeyed this Law you would have to have had God as the supreme object of your love, devotion and service. You would have to have done this every moment of every day of your life. This couldn’t be in words only. It would have to be in words, attitude and actions. For God to be the supreme object of love, devotion and service means that we have lived every moment of every day doing exactly what God wanted done. We could never have chosen what we wanted over what God commanded and we must have always done exactly what God wanted us to do.
Have you ever put your will over God’s will?
Have you ever known what God wanted you to do but for one reason or another chose to do something else?
If you have ever done this, then you have broken God’s command and are guilty before God. Where does this leave us? Honesty forces us all to say that we have broken God’s Law. Since we have broken God’s Law, then we are guilty of sinning against God and we have earned the wages of these sins which is death. This is why we are perishing. (Click here for a more thorough treatment of the Ten Commandments)
But wait a minute; didn’t Jesus say that God loves us? Yes He did. Then surely if God loves us He will overlook these “minor” infractions and not really punish us for our sins, right? Wrong, because love is only part of who God is. God is also holy, just and righteous. Since God is holy no sin can enter into His presence. Since God is just He must punish every sin. Since God is righteous He cannot make any exceptions to this rule. He cannot judge my sin and excuse yours. He must do it the same across the board. Since we have all crossed God’s boundaries, we are all guilty of sinning against a Holy God. This means we have earned His wrath, which is eternal death.
Thankfully that’s not the end of the story. Since God loves us, He wants better for our lives than this. What God wants is for each and every one of us to have a relationship with Him in this life that extends into all eternity. But our sin has separated us from God. God doesn’t want us to live lives separated from Him. No matter how much He loves us, He can’t just excuse our sin. Our sin must be punished.
This is the reason Jesus came. He was born to die for our sins so that we could be saved from the condemnation we so rightly deserved. He came to be our Savior and to save us from perishing and give us eternal life. The only way He could do this was by dying on the cross in our place. On the cross, Jesus took all the punishment our sins deserved. After fully taking the wrath of God in our place, Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30) and died. Three days later He rose from the dead to prove He was the Son of God that paid the penalty for the sins of the world (Rom 1:4). This is why salvation only comes through Jesus. Only Jesus has done what is necessary to pay the penalty for our sins. He did this because He loves us.
For further study read Romans 5:6-11.
What are the ways humanity is described in this passage?
What does this passage say Jesus did for us?
Why does this passage say Jesus did this?