Devotional Thought for Today – 11/30/21

Top 180 John Owen Quotes (2021 Update) - Quotefancy


For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. – John 3:16

CONTEXT: Most folks only concern themselves (as we will today with the first 21 verses of Chapter 3, however the second half is equally rich with theological gems. Matthew Henry breaks it down as follows: In this chapter we have, I. Christ’s discourse with Nicodemus, a Pharisee, concerning the great mysteries of the gospel, in which he here privately instructs him (v. 1-21). II. John Baptist’s discourse with his disciples concerning Christ, upon occasion of his coming into the neighbourhood where John was (v. 22-36), in which he fairly and faithfully resigns all his honour and interest to him.

I have rarely written or spoken about John 3:16 as a stand alone verse, mainly because I feel it has been so abused in modern evangelical and so-called “christian” circles. Themes like God loves you and that is all you need abound and truly that is unbiblical.

I must confess however that in reading Owens quote this morning, I could not think of a more appropriate verse of scripture. Of course I will not ever let scripture stand alone, as we must take in the Whole Counsel of God. The other scripture that I was drawn to this morning was 2 Corinthians 9:15, Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. There are two major schools of thought concerning whom Paul was referring to here. God the Father and His overriding goodness, or Christ who for certain is the “unspeakable {indescribable} gift of God.” In either case we have before us a verse that confirms God’s LOVE for His chosen people.

Alexander McLaren in his commentary writes:

I. The gift comes from unspeakable love.

God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. The love is the cause of the gift: the gift is the expression of the love. John’s Gospel says that the Son which is in the bosom of the Father has declared Him. Paul here uses a related word for unspeakable which might be rendered ‘that which cannot be fully declared.’ The declaration of the Father partly consists in this, that He is declared to be undeclarable, the proclamation of His name consists partly in this that it is proclaimed to be a name that cannot be proclaimed. Language fails when it is applied to the expression of human emotion; no tongue can ever fully serve the heart. Whether there be any thoughts too great for words or no, there are emotions too great. Language is ever ‘weaker than our grief’ and not seldom weaker than our love. It is but the surface water that can be run off through the narrow channel of speech: the central deep remains. If it be so with human affection, how much more must it be so with God’s love? With lowly condescension He uses all sweet images drawn from earthly relationships, to help us in understanding His. Every dear name is pressed into the service — father, mother, husband, wife, brother, friend, and after all are exhausted, the love which clothed itself in them all in turn, and used them all to give some faint hint of its own perfection, remains unspoken. We know human love, its limitations, its changes, its extravagances, its shortcomings, and cannot but feel how unworthy it is to mirror for us that perfection in God which we venture to name by a name so soiled. The analogies between what we call love in man and love in God must be supplemented by the differences between them, if we are ever to approach a worthy conception of the unspeakable love that underlies the unspeakable gift.

Likewise Spurgeon in his sermon on this verse Praise for the Gift of Gifts says:

I. We begin with the thought that SALVATION IS ALTOGETHER THE GIFT OF GOD. Paul said, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” Over and over and over again, have we to proclaim that salvation is wholly of grace: not of works nor of wages, but it is the gift of God’s great bounty to undeserving men. Often as we have preached this truth, we shall have to keep on doing so as long as there are men in the world who are self-righteous, and as long as there are minds in the world so slow to grasp the meaning of the word “grace”, that is, “free favour”, and as long as there are memories that find it difficult to retain the idea of salvation being God’s free gift.

Let us say simply and plainly, that salvation must come to us as a gift from God, for salvation comes to us by the Lord Jesus, and what else could Jesus be? The essence of salvation is the gift of God’s Only-begotten Son to die for us, that we might live through him. I think you will agree with me that it is inconceivable that men should ever have merited that God should give his Only-begotten Son to the,. To give Christ to us, in any sense, must have been an act of divine charity; but to give him up to die on yonder cruel and bloody tree, to yield him up as a sacrifice for sin, must be a free favour, passing the limits of thought. It is not supposable that any man could deserve such love. It is plain that if man’s sins needed a sacrifice, he did not deserve that a sacrifice should be found for him. The fact that his need proves his demerit and his guiltiness. He deserves to die; he may be rescued by Another dying for him; but he certainly cannot claim that the eternal God should take from his bosom his Only-begotten and Well-beloved Son, and put him to death. The more you look that thought in the face, the more you will reject the idea that, by any possible sorrow, or by any possible labour, or by any possible promise, a man could put himself into the position of deserving to have Christ to die for him. If Christ is to come to save sinners, it must be as a gift, a free gift of God. The argument, to my mind, is conclusive.

In his work, Unspeakable Love, Thomas Manton builds on these themes. He says: FIRST, THE RISE AND BEGINNING OF ALL IS GOD’S INCONCEIVABLE LOVE:“God so loved the world.” Where observe, 1. The object: the world; 2. The act: loved; 3. The degree: so loved…Observe from the words that the beginning and first cause of our salvation is the mere love of God. The outward occasion was our misery; the inward moving cause was God’s love.

One thing to note, is that Christ speaks of God’s Love as preeminent, not God’s wrath. Even though we are all sinners and deserving of God’s wrath it is out of Love not the appeasement of that wrath that Calvary was brought forth.

God’s Unspeakable Love – John 3:16

Thomas Manton (1620-1677)

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