This section continues Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, a member of the Pharisees. Jesus has just stated the necessity and mystery of the new birth; the sovereign move of the Holy Spirit to bring dead sinners to life. So necessary is the Spirit’s work of new birth (regeneration), that sinners would never repent and believe apart from it. The gracious work of bringing sinners to new life was purchased by Christ upon the cross who was lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness (vv. 14-15).
Here in the third chapter of John we have some of the most precious truths in all the Scriptures. Verse 16 is perhaps the most memorized verse in the Bible and has been used to brings countless men and women to faith in Jesus. Luther referred to John 3:16 as “the Bible in miniature.” Who better than the eternal Son to tell us about the love of the Father? And so great is the Father’s love for sinners that he “gave his only Son,” so that by believing, even the most hopeless of sinners would be saved.
Certainly, as testified to throughout the Bible, God has a special, particular love for his own, just as parents have for their own children. However, the love that Jesus points to here is the compassionate love that God has for the whole sinful race of man. As J.C. Ryle notes, “All whom He has created He regards with pity and compassion. Their sins he cannot love; – but he loves their souls…Christ is God’s gracious gift to the whole world.”
How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That he should give his only Son
To make a wretch his treasure