16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
A common objection I have heard about the Christian faith is it seems unfair for God to condemn people to an eternal separation from himself in hell just because they don’t believe in Jesus. Equally, how fair is it that God sends people to hell that have not ever even heard about Jesus? I think both of this objections have merit and can be quite challenging, however, I think these objections reveal that often times we don’t have a clear understanding of the human condition. For the objections above to be valid man has to be in a state of neutrality in his relationship with God. It would be unfair to be separated from God for not knowing Jesus if man was already in good standing or at least not poor standing with him. The reality is man is already condemned to separation from God, yet God, in his mercy has chosen to provide a way to escape this fate. Let’s look at a familiar Bible verse to help us understand this idea.
Undoubtedly, one of the most recognizable scriptures in the Bible is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”. This is the quintessential statement about God’s love for man and the lengths he goes to save us from our eternal condemnation. Many times this verse is quoted alone but you have to read verses 17 and 18 to really get to the crux of the issue. In total, these verses reveal the key problem with humanity. Verse 18 plainly tells us that Jesus coming on the scene of humanity was not an act of condemnation but rather it was an act of salvation. In other words, when Jesus came to earth, humanity was already condemned to perish an eternal separation from God. Jesus doesn’t show up as a judge. He shows up as a sacrifice. He comes not to send us to hell, but to provide a path of reconciliation to the Father. Granted, this is challenging stuff, and for me the idea that from birth I have been in rebellion against the God who initiated my existence is hard to comprehend. I tend to want to cry unfair also, yet when I think about how God didn’t just leave me condemned to perish but sacrificed his only son for my salvation it becomes less and less easy to claim God to be unfair. I start asking questions like “what is so special about me that God would sacrifice his son in my behalf” and “how great a love God must have for me to give up so much so that I can have relationship with him”?
So what’s the application here?
For the Christian, I think that we have to remember that we once were condemned to perish and it was not by any great work or merit on our part that we received salvation from God. It was rather him initiating in the love the sacrifice of his son on our behalf. Personally, I am far too flippant about that sacrifice. I need to challenge myself to be more thankful and grateful for this life I have been given. I need to respect and honor God more and more each day as I commune and fellowship with him. I need to do what Jesus taught and seek first the Kingdom of God. I need to remember that I was already condemned and now I reconciled with God.
For the non-Christian, I think you have consider what the Bible says about the human condition. These 3 verse we have looked at simply show that man is already condemned to perish. These 3 verses also reveal the love of God and his desire to save man from his condemned state. Finally, these 3 verses describe how through Jesus and his sacrifice that man may be reconciled to God. There is no magic formula. He who has ears let him hear. If you hear this message and believe it you will be saved.
Heavenly Father, thank you for this day and this life. Thank you Lord Jesus for your sacrifice and allowing me to be reconciled to the Father. Help us today to be better witnesses and proclaimers of this good news. Please touch people who don’t call on your name with your Spirit and do a work in them to save them from the condemnation that all men face. Thank you for your grace and your salvation. I pray in your name, Jesus. Amen.