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Alvah Hovey (1820-1903) on John 3:16-17

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16. For God so loved the world, etc. This verse has been called an epitome of the whole gospel, and no single statement of the New Testament is better entitled, to this designation. (1) It goes back of the whole work of redemption, and reveals the motive in which that work had its origin. (2) It describes that motive as love or good-will, not merely to the chosen people, or to the elect from every nation, but to all mankind; for this is the only tenable meaning of the world, as here used. (3) It pronounces the gift of Christ, with the work implied in that gift, a sufficient reason for the salvation of every man who will believe in him. And (4) it presents that salvation to the mind as eternal life, or, in other words, a blessed state of being begun on earth and continued forever. On the other hand, it may be said to imply (a.) that, without the work of Christ, men could not have had eternal life, and (b) that, without faith in him, they cannot now have eternal life, although he has been lifted up on the cross. The adverb so means, with so great a love, and the verb gave has respect to all the humiliation and suffering which he endured for men, and which culminated on Calvary. (See Rom. 8: 32.)

17. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, etc. The word translated condemn, literally signifies to judge; but generally, in this Gospel, with an implication that the decision is unfavorable. Hence it is not improperly rendered condemn. The Jews are said to have expected a Messiah who should judge and punish the Gentile world, and the language here used may be directed against this error. But it can hardly be supposed that this was the principal reason for these words. They have a larger scope. They apply to all men–Jews as well as Gentiles. In so far as men are concerned, the object of the Father in sending the Son was to furnish them the means of salvation. They were already judged and condemned as sinners; but the Father had purposes of mercy, and sent his Son to open a way of escape to those under condemnation. Yet it was a provision which recognized the moral agency of man. The sending of the Son did not, in and of itself, save the world; hut it was necessary, in order that the world might be saved, if it would. These two verses (16 and 17) give the motive and purpose of the incarnation. The result of it is next pointed out.

Alvah Hovey, Commentary on the Gospel of John (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1885), 101-102. [Underlining mine.]


J. Hufsey on John 3:16

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Exhort. 1. Stand still, and admire we the love of God to the world, in sending his Son Jesus Christ, and giving him for us. “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.” 1. What an unparalleled act of love it is to part with a Son, tender hearted parents are best able to judge. To part with one son of many, had there been act of great kindness: Christ was and is the Father’s only Son. To part with an adopted son had been undeserved love, Jesus is mongenes the only begotten Son of the Father. If he had been a son who had no form or comeliness nor beauty in him, that he should be desired, to part with had been less, but he is fairer than the sons of men, the chief of ten thousands. Or if he had been as too many sons are, a grief to his Father like Esau, the matter had not been so great; but Jesus Christ is and was daily his Father’s delight, neither displeased with him, lay in his bosom, yet God sen him. “Having yet one Son his beloved, he sent him,” Prov. 8:30. “Behold how he loved us!” Joh. 8:29, 1:18.

2. But to what end did God send his Son Jesus Christ? Possibly for a preferment a tender Father may part with a dear son; but God sent his Son into an ungrateful world, to unthankful husbandmen, Mark 12:7, “Who received him not” with acknowledgments of gratitude, and respect, nay they hated him to death, and crucified him. Those husbandmen said, “this is the heir, come let us kill him,” &c., Acts 4:2 And this God in his eternal foreknowledge saw and knew certainly would so come to pass, yet he sent him.

3. For whom did God give his Son, for whose sake and benefit? Was it for Angels, Cherubim, Seraphim, those morning stars of an higher orb, and the Son of God, as the Angels are styled, Job 38:7. Nay, it was for mortals who inhabit cottages of clay. But sure it was for innocent men, and good men. Nay, God commends his love to us, “that when we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” Rom. 5:8. Miser, indeed, moves pity, where a man becomes casually miserable, he neither willing it directly, nor in its cause, as Aquinas speaks; but we fell into sin and misery willfully, yet God shows mercy, and sent his Son to receive millions of souls, become obnoxious to condemnation by their own fault or their parents.

2. Exh. What shall we render to the Lord who spared not his own Son from death for us for our redemption? O give to the Lord of the best, the dearest thing tho hast; what is that? thy heart: My son give me thy heart.

1. We had no title to Jesus Christ, yet God sent him, our misery for requiring. God has manifold right, all right to our hearts: he is Lord of the whole man, and we are not our own.

2. We no way merited the sending of Jesus Christ, but contrariwise deserved wrath: God deserves our heart, hand, tongue, all.

3. God sent his Son when he knew he would be ill used by men: if you give God your heart he will purify it, adorn it with grace, fit for glory. Christ returned with wounds, scars to his Father: God will fill your heart with joy, comfort, the graces of his Spirit.

4. If we give not God our hearts, Satan will get possession of them.

J. Hufsey, The Way to Salvation: Or, The Doctrine of Life Eternal Laid down in several Texts of Scripture Opened and Applied (London: Printed for Nathaniel Ranew, and Jonathan Robinson, at the Angel in Jewen Street, 1668), 107-109. [Some reformatting and some spelling modernized.]


Charles Simeon (1759-1836) on John 3:17

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John iii. 17. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

AN expectation generally prevailed among the Jews that their Messiah would interpose on behalf of their nation alone, and bring all other kingdoms into subjection to them. Our Lord took frequent occasions to rectify this mistake, and to show, that he was to be the Savior, not of one people? only, but of the whole world. In this discourse with Nicodemus, he introduces this important subject in such a way as to inform his mind, without shocking his prejudices. Having explained to him the nature and necessity of regeneration, and shown him, by reference to a well known type, the way of salvation, he declares, that the whole world, Gentiles as well as Jews, were to participate the benefits of his coming; and that God, in sending him into the world, had as much respect to the welfare of the benighted heathens as of his chosen and peculiar people. To elucidate the words before us, we shall show,

I. That, supposing God to send his Son into the world, it was far more probable that he should send him to condemn the world than to save it

That God should ever send his Son into the world at all is such a mystery as must for ever fill the whole universe with amazement. But supposing him to make known his determination to do so, the probability certainly was that it should be for our destruction rather than our salvation–

1. Consider what was the state of the world at the time he did send his Son–

[Had he seen the greater part of mankind lamenting their fall, wishing earnestly that some way could be devised for their recovery, and struggling, but with unsuccessful efforts, to get free from sin, we might have supposed that God would exercise mercy towards us, and open a way for our restoration through the sacrifice of his Son. But when the whole mass of mankind were up in arms against him, when not one of the whole human race (except a few whose hearts he himself had touched) desired reconciliation with him; yea, when all were utterly averse from it, and desired nothing so much as to live in sin with impunity, and wished for no better heaven than the unrestrained indulgence of their lusts; for what end could God send his Son, but to execute upon them the vengeance they deserved?]

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Charles Simeon (1759-1836) on John 3:16

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

THE doctrine of our reconciliation with God through the death of his Son, is calculated to impress our minds with a deep sense of the love of Christ in undertaking for us; but, if not cautiously stated, it may give us very erroneous conceptions respecting the Father. If, for instance, we imagine that the Father needed the mediation of his Son to render him propitious, then we must ascribe all the glory of our salvation to the Son, and consider the Father merely as acquiescing in the Son’s wishes, and showing mercy to us for his sake. But the whole plan of our salvation originated with the Father: the very gift of a Savior was the fruit of the Father’s love; and therefore, in contemplating the wonders of Redemption, we must trace them to their proper source, the love of God the Father.

To this view of things we are led by the text; in elucidating which, we shall not form any particular arrangement, but simply take the several expressions contained in it, and use them as so many mirrors to reflect light upon one central point, the love of God the Father in sending his only-begotten Son to die for us.

Consider then, first, the Giver

[If man confer a benefit upon his fellow-creature, we are not surprised; because there is no man so elevated, but he may need the assistance of his inferiors; nor is there any man so depressed, but he may, at some period or other, have it in his power to requite a kindness. But “God” is totally independent of us; “our goodness extends not to him,”1 “it is no profit to him that we are righteous,”2 he would have been equally happy and glorious, though no creature had ever been formed; and he would remain so, if every creature in the universe were annihilated. How wonderful, then, was it, that he should condescend to look on us; yea, that he should take such an interest in our affairs, as to supply, at a most incalculable price, our pressing necessities! Even in this first view of his love we are lost with wonder.]

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Edward D. Griffin (1770-1837) on John 3:14-15

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John iii. 14, 15.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Jesus and his salvation were the substance of all the ancient shadows, the end of all the Mosaic rites, and the burden of every prophet’s song. They were the favorite theme of the Old Testament and the New. They are the subject of the highest songs of the upper world. They bring the purest joy to hearts on earth broken for sin.

There are few types of happier influence to illustrate the Gospel remedy and the manner of its application than the brazen serpent. When the Hebrews provoked God in the wilderness, he sent among them fiery serpents of a most deadly bite; so called either from their color, or from the heat and thirst occasioned by the wound. They were

probably of the species of the “fiery flying serpents” mentioned by Isaiah. It is supposed that they hovered in swarms over the camp and suddenly darted upon their prey; none of the congregation being able while on their march, and few being able in their encampments, to defend themselves against the fell attack. What a scene of distress was here! Hundreds lying dead in the camp; hundreds more writhing in torture and crying in vain for relief; every one trembling for himself; now a child and then a wife and then a brother crying out under the tormenting bite; and swarms of the enemy still hovering over the camp. What could they do? They hasted away to Moses and said with tears, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against thee. Pray unto the Lord that he take away the serpents from us.” And Moses prayed for the people, and the Lord said to him,” Make thee a fiery serpent, [that is, the image of a fiery serpent,] and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass that every one that is bitten, when he looks upon it shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass and put it upon a pole, [so that it could be seen from every part of the camp:] and it came to pass that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass he lived.” Glorious emblem of him who was “lifted up that whosoever, believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

This brazen serpent was preserved with great veneration seven hundred years, until it had become so much the object of idolatrous worship, that Hezekiah broke it in pieces about a century before the Babylonish captivity. Let us trace a little more particularly the resemblance between this type and the anti-type.

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