Words: Alfred Barnerd Smith (b. Nov. 8, 1916; d. Aug. 9, 2001)
Music: Alfred Barnerd Smith
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Note: This chorus is a departure for the blog, which deals almost exclusively with our traditional hymns and gospel songs. But this short chorus deals with a familiar passage that conveys the central message of the gospel. The Wordwise Hymns link will give you the story of how it came to be written, and the part played in that by Frances Townsend.
Obviously this little song isn’t in the class of John Stainer’s beautiful and reverent God So Loved the World, from his Easter cantata The Crucifixion, let alone being anywhere near the superlative treatment given by Handel in his Messiah, of such related texts as: John 1:29 and Isaiah 53:3-6. But there is something to be said for also putting God’s wonderful truth within reach of even a small child.
John 3:16 describes, in about two dozen simple words, the greatest love story ever told. It is a love supreme above all loves because of the transcendent perfection of God, and the infinite sacrifice He made for us sinners who were so undeserving.
“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
“God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life” (Amplified Bible).
This is a love inseparable from grace, God’s undeserved, unmerited favour. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). That is the essence of the gospel of grace. And John 3:16 gives us:
1. The REASON for the Gospel –“[that] God so loved the world”
2. The RECORD of the Gospel–“that He gave His only begotten Son”
3. The RECEPTION of the Gospel–[for] “whoever believes in Him”
4. The RESULT of the Gospel–“[that the one who believes] should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Or, look at it another way. The verse begins by indicating man’s worth to God, and ends with a proclamation of God’s will for man. In between we learn of man’s weakness, and God’s way to solve the problem. John 3:16 thus contains four key elements.
1. Man’s WORTH to God: we are greatly loved
2. Man’s WEAKNESS: we are perishing, heading for eternal ruin
3. God’s WAY: He gave His Son to take sin’s punishment for us
4. God’s WILL for man: everlasting life, received through faith in Christ.
And one more way to look at the verse. We can see it as being all about God’s gift, salvation through the redeeming death of His Son. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (II Cor. 9:15).
1. The OFFER of the gift–a love gift from God, and just what we needed (Jn. 5:24; 14:6)
2. The OBTAINING of the gift–through personal faith in the Saviour (Jn. 1:12: Acts 16:30-31)
3. The OBJECT of the gift–everlasting life, a life of eternal bliss and blessing in the presence of God, forever (Jn. 14:2-3; 17:1, 24).
It is difficult to conceive of a more important theme than that. It has to do with our eternal destiny. Here is Al Smith’s chorus, with the concluding reference to the return of Christ, added by his friend Frances Townsend.
For God so loved the world
He gave His only Son
To die on Calv’ry’s tree,
From sin to set me free;
Some day He’s coming back,
What glory that will be!
Wonderful His love to me.
1) What is the most wonderful truth expressed or implied by John 3:16?
2) What is the greatest obstacle to someone accepting the gift of God?
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