One often hears that God loves all people. Yet that belief is based on a wrong interpretation of one specific verse: ‘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
# Why is it not advisable to say that God loves all people?
It is because it results in questions, like:
- Why is the world then in such a mess?
- Why doesn’t God do something about the mess?
- Why are people then in hell?
Our human race associates God’s love with pleasure, happiness, an easy life and no judgment for wrong doing.
# The context of John 3:16
David Pawson (You Tube, What about John 3:16?) explains that the verses before John 3:16 explain the context. They refer to Numbers 21:4-9 where the Israelites complained and spoke against God and Moses. So God sent poisonous snakes that bit them and many died. They confessed their rebellion and asked Moses to pray to God to take the snakes away. God did not take the snakes away, but told Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole. When anyone was bitten he/she could look at it and be saved from death.
# John 3:16 boils down to the following:
The bronze snake on the pole is a shadow of Jesus hanging on the Cross. All people are born as rebels against God and it will cause us to die spiritually. But God provided Jesus on the Cross as our only hope. If we put our faith in Him, He forgives us and we are saved from the eternal consequences of our disobedience and rebellion.
# The Bible’s emphasis is not on God’s love for all people.
- Pawson says that of the 35,000 verses in the Bible, only 35 speak about God’s love. That is about 0.01%. God says He loves His people, the elect, those who can appreciate His love.
- The Bible’s emphasis is on righteousness (=morally right in God’s opinion) and none of us can make the grade. It is Jesus’ death on the Cross where He suffered, shed His blood and died for our sins, that enables God to completely forgive us and make us righteous in His sight.
# At this point I can almost hear you thinking, that is simple!
If Jesus is like the ‘bronze snake on the pole’ (the Sacrificial Lamb of God) all I need to do is look up at the Cross and ask for forgiveness of sins. Then everything is fine. I am righteous and ready for heaven! Sorry to disappoint you, it isn’t quite that simple. It is here that people run into trouble.
# God’s Kingdom is perfect.
God will never accept anyone with a criminal record (= all the sins we committed against the holy God). Yet no-one was ever born sinless, except Jesus, the Son of God. There is no-one who can claim he or she never offended God. That means all people have a ‘police record’ that has to be cleared. Only Jesus can do it. Each person applies personally to Jesus for forgiveness of his or her offences. Jesus has no problem to do it, but you need to follow a certain procedure.
# David Pawson explains the essential procedure.
- Repentance. It means to acknowledge that you are on the wrong way, the broad way. Jesus’ way is narrow, but leads straight to His eternal Kingdom.
- Believe. It means to believe that Jesus died for your sins and you are forgiven.
- Baptism. It means you are baptised in water as a public declaration that you died with Christ and you come out of the water raised into a new life.
- Receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Counsellor, the Personal Life Coach if you will. He will teach and enable you to change your old ways and prepare to live now as a citizen of God’s Kingdom.
# The emphasis is on how to live as a Kingdom citizen ‘now,’ not ‘then.’
It is not as someone said, ‘My sins are forgiven, my ticket is stamped to heaven, now I can live as I want and when I die I am in Jesus’ arms.’ No, it isn’t like that at all. God is too clever for that. He will only allow those who are willing to serve and love Him, no matter what.
God repeatedly tests our willingness to obey the Holy Spirit. The reason is that the Holy Spirit will be in us eternally. That is why we ‘practice’ now to trust and obey Him. We learn to ask His advice about our lives, jobs, decisions, et cetera. He is God the Holy Spirit who knows all things and can help us. So when a follower of Jesus dies, the Holy Spirit remains with him/her. In the Revelation 21-22 phase, the Holy Spirit still works in us to honour God and Jesus in love and loyalty.