The Other John 3v16
Perhaps, in these lands of gospel light and liberty, no verse of Scripture is better known than John 3:16. Its precious message came from the lips of the Lord Jesus Himself, and told out the very heart of God towards men, towards men universally, of every clime, character, creed, and colour—towards all men everywhere.
We may call it “The World’s John 3:16.” But there is another John 3:16. This is not in John’s Gospel but in his first Epistle. And this we may designate The Christian’s John 3:16. It speaks to those who have believed the truth of the gospel and have everlasting life. These stand now in a position of favour and blessing and relationship, and are called to act consistently with it.
This John 3:16 is:
“HEREBY PERCEIVE WE THE LOVE . . . BECAUSE HE LAID DOWN HIS LIFE FOR US, AND WE OUGHT TO LAY DOWN OUR LIVES FOR THE BRETHREN” (1 John 3:16).
“Hereby perceive we the love. . . because He laid down His life for us.” This love had been shown before we knew of it. Its fullness had been expressed. Its riches had been manifested. Now we have perceived it, and the happiness and peace which follow our apprehension of it are enjoyed. We who believe can rejoice in the warmth and blessedness of its beams.
But the Son of God, the mighty Creator and Upholder of all things, became a little lower than the angels in order that, by the grace of God, He might taste death for us, and He “once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God,” and in that death and suffering we read the love story of God written large and plain. “Hereby perceive we the love . . . because He laid down His life for us.” Yes, Calvary alone measures for us the depth of that deathless love. It is there we learn its boundless character, it is there we discover its width and fullness.
And notice, “He laid down His life.” Until “His hour” was come no man’s wicked hand could be placed upon Him. Majestically He pursued His pathway, glorifying God and blessing man. None could turn Him from His path of light and love. But that way of glory and of grace “led only to the cross.” For this He had come into Manhood. In view of it He declared, “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished.” Until that baptism of suffering and judgment was completed, He could not tell out all that was in His heart. He was pent up in spirit, until having wrought atonement He was able to bring His own into the circle of sunshine which He knew so well, the circle of the unclouded favour of and relationship with God as His Father and our Father, His God and our God.
But “His hour” was reached at last, and He who could cause all His foes to go backward and fall to the ground with His word, “I am,” permitted them to rise and to lay their wicked hands on His holy body, and lead Him away to Caiaphas, to Herod, to Pilate and to Calvary; and there, in letters of light, we read His love for us—He lays down His life on our behalf.
“For us” that He might deliver us from the judgment we deserved. “For us,” that He might deliver us from every foe and from every fear. “For us,” that He might lead us in triumph into His own joys before His Father and His God, declaring to us the Father’s Name that the love wherewith He was loved might be in us—enjoyed and answered to by all His own. “For us,” that we might be His companions in the Father’s house and conformed to His image there, so that He might be “the Firstborn among many brethren.” Well may we rejoice in that love and adore His Name, now and eternally.
“Oh, for that love let rocks and hills
Their lasting silence break;
And all harmonious human tongues
The Saviour’s praises speak.”
But the practical outflow called for by this truth is to be noticed. The love is to be answered to by us. “We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (“We ought” is “We owe it,” some one has said). And this for all, or any, of His own. “He laid down His life for us,” and that “us” is a blessedly elastic term which takes in every believer in Him today. It took in first of all those to whom the apostle addressed himself when he wrote the epistle, and it has stretched more and more as the years have run their course, until it embraces us, through grace. Now the “us” and these “brethren” whom we are to be willing to lay down our lives for, are exactly the same in number.
“BUT,” says some one, “So and so, and such and such, are so very crotchety and cantankerous! Am I to be prepared to die for them?” Well, “He laid down His life for us,” for all of us, and “we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren,” for all of them, or for any of them. He has loved them all and we are to love them all. We are instructed by the Holy Spirit to do this: we are “taught of God to love one another.”
Coming into a meeting of our fellow-believers we may say, “I love them all, and they all love me.” The world, the flesh, and the devil, may hinder the outflow of the love, and we have to be on guard against the intrusion of these, but the love is there. We love the Lord Jesus and we love one another, “all saints”; and we should love one another how much? “Even as I have loved you” is the standard He Himself has set us. None of us who read these lines has done that actually, it is clear; but we ought to place ourselves at our Lord’s disposal for the blessing of His own in any way, anywhere; in life and even unto death.
We are bankrupts, all of us. He has loved us even to death. We can never repay our indebtedness. But if we can only pay a cent on the dollar, let us seek to fulfil His desire and do all that lies in our power for any of His loved ones, whether in their various spiritual needs or in their different natural requirements. if they are not in want of temporal assistance they can benefit by our prayers. To some of them we can send leaflets and tracts and books of spiritual ministry suitable for their edification and comfort. And thus every one of the “us” can seek the blessing of every other one of the “us,” and so show our love to Him who laid down His life for us.
In closing, let us go back to the first part of the verse. We may have failed in the expression of love towards these so dear to His heart. And who has not? But we may own this, and bask still in the sunshine of that love which reached its fullness of expression at the cross, and which rests upon us now and for ever. And the more we bask in its light and warmth, the more shall we bless and adore Him, and the more we shall gain strength to go forth and show that love to others.
Help and Food 1927