This verse is THE treasure verse of the Bible. It sums up the entire 1600 pages in one sentence.
God loves the world so much. It’s the noblest and strongest Greek term for love. It is an act of the will—of choice, rather than an emotion, whim, or infatuation. God’s love is his nature, and He actively loves to infinity. It’s a personal love, full of sacrifice for His beloved, and it’s also moral, meaning His love is the most good that good can be. Why does He love? Well, it’s his nature to love, but love can only be a choice to be true love, so it’s also true that He chooses to love because he wants us in His family, to grant to us the blessings of all He is and has, and to buy us back from our separation away from Him, and be reconciled.
Whom does he love in this way? Why, everyone of course—the whole cosmos of humanity, with no partiality. No matter what your race, gender, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, behavior patterns, crimes, goodness, health, or economic situation. God loves you.
What is the measure of God’s love? He gave his one and only Son to die for you. God’s purpose in the world is the salvation of whoever will come to Him, and Jesus is his gift to accomplish that purpose. “Gave” has two senses here: God “gave” by sending Jesus into the world, but he also “gave” His Son on the cross. It’s not just that He loved the world enough to give His Son, but that the effect of His great love was that He gave His Son. Love is sacrifice, and love manifests itself for the well-being of the beloved. God is love, and so he sacrificed. No one had to persuade Him to do it. Love that is real always costs.
What did God do to show His love? Well, it’s not a “what,” but a “who”. When God wanted to reveal Himself in the most thorough way possible, the result was not a message, per se, but a man. God sent His Son into the world to die on the cross. For His love to be love, and for humanity to have a chance to be reconciled to Him, there was only one way, and it was necessary: He gave his one and only unique Son as a sacrifice so that we, if we choose, might become his adopted children.
The purpose of the love, and the purpose the giving of the Son, is so that WHOEVER believes in Him will enjoy life instead of face judgment. One piece at a time.
“Whoever” is the Greek work “all”. Each one. Every individual. It’s inclusive and indefinite. The door is open for anyone to walk through, by each one’s own choice.
“Believes.” To recognize that Jesus is God, that the Father sent him and gave him to die so that we can be saved; to turn to him, reciprocating the love the Father has for us, and choosing to love Him in return. That’s what “believes” means.
The one who turns to God won’t perish. Perish? That’s right. God’s purpose in the world is to reconcile people to himself—whoever will turn to Him. Separation is the inevitable consequence of refusing to be reconciled, but that’s not God’s desire. His love wants you and chooses you, but without a free-will response from you, it’s not love. For those who do not choose to respond to God in love and be reconciled, the only other choice is to choose not to love and not to be reconciled. The result is not just separation, but perishing. Eternal separation from God, who is Life. Spiritual death. It’s an awful reality and a dreadful fate. But each person must make their own choice. As the person who turns away from the sun walks in the darkness of his own shadow, so the person who will not choose to love God chooses to walk in darkness to a different end.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. What God, in His love, offers to each person is the free gift of eternal life. You can be saved from death, from this perishing. You can be free from sin and its consequences. You can know God, be reconciled to Him, have a relationship of love, become a new creation with a new nature, and share in his Life that never ends. Your soul can be satisfied, not with a thing or a practice, but with a personal relationship.
This is not just a philosophy or a belief system. You can see God’s heart in this verse. As a parent, God gave His most precious possession—his only Son—so that He could be reconciled with individuals who had rebelled against Him. It’s one thing to sacrifice for family and friends, but quite another to sacrifice for those who hate you. I would easily give my life for someone in my family, but for me to do this for an enemy is beyond my willpower and something very difficult for me or anyone else to understand. It means that His love for YOU as an individual, and his desire to be reconciled with YOU was so strong that he looked at you with the same eyes anyone would look at their own family with, and made the ultimate sacrifice on your behalf. That kind of love and grace are beyond comprehension. But the evidence bears out that it’s true. Hope beyond all hope, it’s true! You can be reconciled to the love of God by the blood of Jesus if you will turn away from your sins, in love and faith, choose to love Him, and let Him make you into a new creation with a new nature. This is the best news of the whole universe.