Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
24 January 2021
Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.
“The Love of God … is the Greatest Treasure … so great … as no life can express, nor tongue… name what this inflaming, all-conquering Love of God is. It is brighter than the sun; … sweeter than any thing that is called sweet; it is stronger than all strength; it is more nutrimental than food; more cheering to the heart than wine, and more pleasant than all the joy and pleasantness of this world”
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.John 3:16
The Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, originates in the love of God for a lost world; lost in the sense of fallen, sinful, disobedient, rebellious, a world far away from Him, spiritually, ethically, morally, from the God who loves it. Such love is so powerful, so high, so wide, so deep; the whole length, breadth, height and depth of it, led to God, giving of His one and only Beloved Son, for such a world:
But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Romans 5:8
And God did this so that we wouldn’t be lost but brought into a loving relationship with Him and with each other:
This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.1 John 4:9
God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s sins against them.2 Cor. 5:19
There can be only one response to such love and that is that we love God and one another:
This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.1 John 4:10-11
This is how we know we are living in God:
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.1 John 4:16
Love starts with God, for “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16), His very essence. God initiates all the good, loving and beautiful things of life, even life itself,
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…Genesis 1:1
and the covenant with Abram to bless all people with His immense love,
‘I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’Genesis 12:2-3
Whenever a good and loving work is about to begin, He, the Lord, is the initiator of it,
The cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.Exodus 3:9-10
Even when, in love, strong words of rebuke have to be spoken to a nation, in the hope of that people repenting, God is ultimately behind it all,
The word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’Jeremiah 1:4-5
Jesus said a similar thing to His disciples whom He had appointed to take this message of the love of God for a lost world to the ends of the earth, He not only initiates such but sustains it,
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.John 15:16
Generally, any of the verses that speak of the love of God refer to the love of the Father but we cannot split the Trinity up as if to say that the Father loved, the Son died and the Spirit applied.
God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself …2 Cor. 5:19
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.Gal. 2:20
… the fruit of the Spirit is love.Gal. 5:22
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.Rom. 5:5
“In this passage [John 3:1-21] there is a progression from revelation about the Spirit (John 3:5-8), to revelation about the Son (John 3:13-15), to revelation about the Father (John 3:16-21). The narrator guides us into the very heart of the Triune God.”
And that heart is a heart of love!
“So loved the world”
This truth, ‘God so loved the world’ was unheard of before Jesus Christ came to reveal this love of God. The Jews believed that God loved Israel …
“but no passage appears to be cited in which any Jewish writer maintains that God loved the world”
“The relation of the Holy One to ’His world’ is, as far as we know, never expressed by the term ‘love’”
Such love flows from the heart of the One who is love (1 John 4:8, 16) and embraces all people. Such love is boundless, infinite, and is not confined to any particular group of people but to the whole world:
“The love of God is limitless; it embraces all humankind”
F F Bruce
John uses the word “world” 78 times in his Gospel (cf. Matthew x8; Mark x3; and Luke x3) and 24 times in his three epistles 1, 2, and 3 John (cf. 1 Peter x3) bringing out how important the world is to God who so loves it. Generally, references in John to the world are negative referring to a world that lives in darkness, a sinful world in rebellion to God, God’s enemies who hate Him e.g. John 1:10; 7:7; 14:17, 22, 27, 30; 15:18-19; 16:8, 20, 33; 17:6, 9, 14, 25.
“When we read about Jesus’ appearance in the world, God’s love for the world (John 3:16), or Jesus’ salvation of the world (John 4:42), such passages are not ringing endorsements of the world, but testimonies to the character of God and His love.”
D A Carson
For as we have mentioned in the introduction:
But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Romans 5:8
“But” brings out the contrast between people (Romans 5:7) who wouldn’t even die for a righteous person, one who kept the OT law, but might possibly (it’s not certain!) die for a good person (one they know to be good and with whom they have a personal relationship). “But” God’s love is such that Christ died for those who hated Him!
“Such love, springs from eternity;
Such love, streaming through history,
Such love, fountain of life to me,
O Jesus, such love”
“that He gave His one and only Son”
“His love is not a vague, sentimental feeling, but a love that costs. God gave what was most dear to Him”
“No sacrifice was too great to bring its unmeasured intensity home to men and women; the best that God had to give, He gave – His only Son, His well-beloved”
F. F. Bruce
“The magnitude of the love is matched by the magnitude of the gift … God loved all there was and gave all He had”
“This is the heart of the Gospel. Not ‘God is love’ – a precious truth, but affirming no divine act for our redemption. God so loved that He gave”
I think of the video we saw in Bethel a few years ago of a railway worker faced with an agonising choice, either to allow the fast approaching train, full of passengers, to crash, or sacrifice his son who would be crushed in the operation of adjusting the train line. He sacrificed his son and in doing so saved all the people.
We cannot begin to know the cost to Father, Son and Holy Spirit of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross for the sin of the world but we can pray as in the hymn above: “Oh, make me understand it, Help me to take it in; What it meant to Thee, The Holy One, to bear away my sin.”
“that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life”
It doesn’t say “whoever believes Him”, meaning to just believes what He says, rather it says, “whoever believes in Him” bringing in trust and confidence:
“Faith, for John, is an activity which takes men and women right out of themselves and makes them one with Christ”
… that each of us totally and completely put our trust in Christ as our own personal Lord and Saviour. Such will be born again of the Spirit of God unto eternal life:
Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this He meant the Spirit.John 7:37-39
The fact is that:
“humanity is broken beyond all repair … God’s work in the world is not a question of fixing the part, but rebuilding the whole. It is described comprehensively as nothing short of another birth.”
It takes time before a person comes to that place of truly believing in Jesus cf. the disciples (“You believe at last!” – John 16:31), especially ‘Thomas the doubter’ (“My Lord and my God” – John 20:28). Throughout this time Jesus loved these disciples, was patient with them (‘love is patient’), cared for them. His love was unconditional, whether they believed or not (cf. Judas Iscariot). cf. The work of CAP who love people of all backgrounds and help them get out of financial debt and yes many eventually come to faith in Christ because of the love, care, help and witness of these people. The challenge for the Church today is to love people unconditionally as Christ loved us (Rom. 5:8; Ephesians 5:1-2).
Questions for discussion and sharing answers
Please join the Zoom meeting at 11:00am on Sunday 24 January, or at 7:00pm on Wednesday 27 January, and share your answers.
(1) God takes the initiative
Give some thought as to how God took the initiative with you, to bring you to that place of believing in His Son. Share your thoughts to encourage the group about how God worked in You directly by His Spirit and indirectly through His people.
(2) God is love
When and how did you become aware that God wasn’t a cold distant God but a loving God and that He loved you personally.
(3) The magnitude of God’s love
In the light of God’s sacrificial love revealed in giving His Son to die for us, is there more we can do to reach out to our communities with the love of Christ? What can we do to show this love to people? God so loved the world – Should we also?
(4) God’s loving acts
Share about some act of love that really touched you / made an impact on you / was significant in you becoming a Christian.
Quote for Week
“God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them”
C. S. Lewis
Verse of Week
We love because He first loved us1 John 4:19
Heavenly Father, we pray that out of Your glorious riches You may strengthen us with power through Your Spirit in our inner beings, so that Christ may dwell more fully in our hearts through faith.
And we pray that we, who are already rooted and grounded in love, by Your grace, may have power, together with all Your people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Lord God Almighty, You are able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to Your power that is at work within us. To You be all glory in the church, and in Christ Jesus, throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.