16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
This may be the most famous passage in the Bible. Yet it seems that very few people realize that Jesus spoke these words. How amazing is it that Jesus declares the greatness of God’s love for the world through his coming into the world. There is a huge amount of comfort to be found in these words and it is deeply powerful that God loves us that much that he sent his son to die for us.
But there is another side to these words of Jesus that are not some comforting. It comes at the end of the passage, whoever does NOT believe in him is condemned. We are drawn to the first line, God so loved the world. But we ignore the last line that God also condemns. We don’t want a God who has a standard of justice. We want a God who only loves and makes our lives wonderful. We want a God who only forgives. We don’t want a God who forgives only if we put our trust in him. But the God of the Bible who is living and merciful is also the God of the Bible who is just and holy.
Years ago Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon that has become infamous. The title was Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. In that sermon Edwards wanted people to understand that the loving God of the Bible is also justly angered over sinfulness and rebellion and that we should not ignore that aspect of God. Many people today look on that sermon and anything like it, with disdain. God would never send people to hell. God is love. Yes but he is also holy, holy, holy and we should never forget that.
We can take comfort in a God who loved the world enough to send his son to die for us. But we should never presume upon that God or think that sin is not serious and must be dealt with. God wants us to also be holy as he is holy.