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JESUS CHRIST: WHY DID HE COME!
AND FOR WHAT DID HE NOT COME ? - John 3:17
Greatness is not a mere matter of constraints. Indeed, the freer the situation, the more ample the opportunities, the less the insertions of program, the greater the meaning. When God came into this world in person, the author to the pages of His book, into the format of His characters, there was absolutely no constraint. Grandeur of thought, magnificence of feeling, love fresher than the purity of the morning dawn, vaster than the most massive movements of oceanic storms, came with a mission of peace.
He came to publish peace (Isaiah 52:7); but man has preferred war. There at once we begin to discern the spectacle of grandeur, of greatness, beside the tableau of littleness.
He did come willingly (Psalm 40), and in addition, He WAS sent (I John 4:9). The purpose we there read is "that we might live through Him". I John 4:14 declares that "the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world". John 3:16 declares the underlying motivation in this giving of His Son to come into this spectacularly sinful world: He loved it. Nay, He SO loved it that He gave even His only begotten Son. That is a treasury of love. Some 'love' for a fuller life, for more pleasure, for gratification, for closer fellowship, for a greater plenitude in being together, than each separate.
God loves for the good of His people, the deliverance of the denizens of sin, the pardon of the people by grace, the thrust of mercy to redeem: because He IS love, there being nothing contrary to it, though there is much that is contrary to the results of sin, and to the deceits by which many seek to export it by deceit, to others, as if they used an AIDS patient deliberately in a brothel, to infect; or even in an ostensibly pure marriage!
Great as is this grandeur in the glory of God, we move today from John 3:16 to 3:17. This is a glorious focus in itself, and one in much need of grasping, and that clearly.
Now our task is to consider the verse, 3:17. It being most clear why He sent His only begotten Son into this world, we can the better follow the meaning if we discover why He DID NOT send Him, or in other words, what was the motivation NOT in existence when He sent Him. If the positive is clear, what is the negative; if the grace is obvious, what is the barrier which excludes. If the drawing of love is manifest, to what may it not be compared. If the presence of a holy passion of love is as clear as a mighty river flowing in Spring from the mountains snows, what then is as clearly absent as cactus in a denuded desert ?
Before we come to the biblical answer, let us note why some come to the stage of human history, since this is this world's more customary way.
Some come as martinets, to marshall and demand, their commands their mode, their sovereignty their glory and their squalor. Stalin was such, and Mao. Their fair words in the end do not deter the mind from the facts that their best language, by which they most clearly state their case, is blood. If the human body has 5.6 litres per person, then these two would seem to have spilt some 112,000,000 litres or 24,600,000 gallons. In the end, if without repentance, what a lake of fire they have made for their swimming consciences and just ruin. If all this blood has not been 'shed' directly, but some were simply despatched from vitality to mortality through imposed death of one sort or another, yet to ravage the Lord's creation as a personal tornado is in no slightest way to discount justice. Their blood cries for it.
Some come to the stage not merely as marshalls or martinets but as paranoids, for which the earlier noted, absolute tyrants would seem to qualify abundantly, being so carried away with dreams that neither truth, nor results, nor heart, nor sympathy, nor humility seemed able to enter. Obliterating guilt by decrying morals, they asserted it with murder, made on 'moral' grounds. If morals were a myth, how could they condemn ? IF morals were as real as power, how could they themselves escape condemnation! That was a puzzle they never resolved. Desire never has answer in truth. Such was their confusion.
Some are precisionists, desiring that their exact specifications be followed, and impose these with unflinching passion; and Hitler had with both of the above qualities, perhaps this as well, seeking by exceedingly scheduled methods, to extinguish a significant portion of the human race; as did the Inquisition, where the high profile person was the pope; precisely contrary to Christ (John 18:36). Some again, are rank human ideologists, whose fervour for their ideas is almost aesthetic, as with some of the leaders of the French Revolution, with its Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, where as so often, those deemed NOT the right stuff for brothers, were deleted. Thus, some who once led the movement, found the sharp teeth of Madame guillotine about their throats.
Let us praise the wonder of the loving God of truth and mercy, that for NONE of these reasons did the long-foretold Christ come. So far from instigating the death penalty, He forbade the use of force even to protect Him (John 18:36, Matthew 26:47ff.). So far from coming even to condemn the world (that entire body of humanity which He created, much of which is enthralled more and more with ignoring, disposing of Him, or dispossessing His people of liberty or life), He came NOT to condemn but to save it! (John 3:17, our text).
How could He as God do this! Have not 'lords of the nations' shown a love to have dominion for this or that reason, or simply for the expansive implementation of egotism ? In Christ however, was One far better, with a better wisdom, way and a greater love. The Creator loves to restore His creation, even if they jest at His quest and slander His servants. Love suffers long and is kind.
I THE PROGRAM
Did Christ then declare that the law of God did not matter ? Far from it.
Said He: "Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets; I have not come to destroy but to fulfil." He went on to say that the least particle of the law would be summarily fulfilled. Did He remove the moral truths ? Not at all, even to the paralytic as in John 5, His word after healing was this: "Go and sin no more." Was then indulgence the new rule ? Far from it, as in John 5:14!
MERCY is what He desired, not mere application of law (Matthew 9:12-13). He cited Hosea 6:6 and made clear that mercy is a priority without which man is no more man; for it is at the heart of God as in Micah 7:19ff..
This is not lawlessness, but law in its place under grace; but it remains the rule, as in Romans 3:13.
II THE PURPOSE
The purpose of His coming being mercy, love and salvation, that we might have love, the thing He abhorred in this program was condemnation, mere regular, heartless, ruled exclusion. His task was to include the excluded, to win the lost, to sever the damnation of sin and to take it upon Himself in a selective work, where faith was the way, and its absence was the finale. There the marshy places ruled, and the fresh beauty of mercy could not come (cf. Ezekiel 47:11). .
HENCE in His eye, in His mind, in His spirit was not the desire to jump on the personnel of this sinning and squalid earth, and justly deliver to condemnation all the sinners who alone populate it. Firstly, there would have been no one else left; and secondly, the restoration of the ruined, the remedy for the rejected, the quickening of the dead, the healing of the sick in any or all dimensions, these were the objectives of His task. The cost was to be borne by Himself, even to becoming a ransom (Matthew 20:28); the removal of reality was not in view, but the transference of the accounts, where the new life came, and the gift of the grace of life that is eternal (II Cor. 5:17-21).
He did NOT come to CONDEMN but to SAVE the world. That word is what He said. That mission, it is what He did. The soiling of history was met with the splendour of the Sovereign on mission. Nor did He come to ignore most and find a few. Into the highways and byways, this is the theme: seek, look, search, find: that was the injunction to the servants sent, in the parable, to find those to come to the feast, when the people called did not come (Matthew 22:9). God did not love certain hemispheres in the world, nations, peoples, persons: He so loved the WORLD. Accordingly, just as there is ONE GOD (the Creator), so there is ONE MEDIATOR between God and Man (one Way). In the realm of all-covering categories, we find next, that this God would have ALL to repent and come to a knowledge of the truth.
Theologians can make such asses of themselves when they bray what is not the beauty of truth. They can have a frustrated God who can't get what He wants, and a sovereign God who after all only ever loved a few, and try and foist these mischievous misconceptions onto the Bible, which boots them out with the stubborn assurance of the truth. Having made peace by the blood of the Cross, God would have all, in heaven and in earth, to be reconciled. Again the total categories make mere phantasms of evasion. THIS is His love. On the other hand, when He weeps, it is NOT because He is frustrated, His power inadequate for His purpose.
HE did what He saw fit: He did NOT come to pseudo-save programmatic substitutes for persons. He came that the world might be saved, that everyone who believes ... IF and WHEN some do NOT, love grieves, but its nature is not frustrated. IF some whose God-discerned preference was hell would only by the devastation of love find themselves in heaven. It is not that man knows; sin blinds Him (Ephesians 2); but neither is it that God does not know, for HE has neither sin nor limit; and open to Him and manifest are the hearts of all, even those unknown to their own selves!
It is PREFERENCE, though sin obliterated its operational felicity: it is this which GOD declares to be the fundamental fact. That HE has no problem with this is clear from His citing it as the universal principle of exclusion.
In the end, the dragooning of the devils to heaven would be as unfortunate as the ditching of those who seek the Saviour to hell. It is God who knows, who cites the grounds, who declares man incapable and Himself perfectly capable, and that, all of it, is wrought before creation so much as begins, far beyond actions on this earth (Romans 9), and the doing of this or that; for in the ULTIMATE, God has foreknown and so predestinated (Romans 8:29ff.). The SAME God who wept for Jerusalem, worked in predestination, based on foreknowledge, not of our actions as Romans 9 declares, but of us.
There being no merit of superiority where sin does not exist, there is no difficulty in predestination. Where grace alone is not suffered, then grace is not suffered. What Christ on the other hand has suffered, this is sufficient for all, apt for all, and available for all, as the Bible Presbyterian Church in its genesis so well declared. Making problems by making a god at human level, this is worse than special pleading, it is the negative of it: special receding. When God is seen as He is, wonderful in might, marvellous in understanding, triumphant in power, sensitive in grace, willing for all, working where love finds its way, then the problem becomes the potency, and the 'failure' becomes the feature. The man who forces is a corrupt coward; the one who lets go what does not come, is the gentleman. The honour of God makes of all human kindness and restraint, its very source, origin and meaning!
III THE MAN AND THE METHOD
Thus through Him, it was not programmatic, but personal in emphasis; and any program rested in redemption in Himself, payment in person, priest in application, to act as sacrifice in sentence.
Contrast this with the rulers of this world, whose latest round of trough snouting seems never to find an end, whose objectives seem often, even in democracies, to be voted into power, this first, rather than to find out the need and perform it. Why does not Australia have a sound water system to use all the water of the North, or the energy of the middle ? It appears that it is not least because there are reasons that objectivity of rule knows little of, where companionship of State and Federal Government, realisation of the state of national emergency and forgetfulness of partisan advantage, are distanced.
Why do not the nations co-operate better ? It is partly because not caring to know God, or departing from the living God, they have regimes, philosophies, objectives of power, hegemony or survival, which are not seen in unison but in daring, secrecy, dispute, disparities, deceits and delusions. It is because as in Psalm 2, they cast away the right, the Messiah, and walk in the night where you HAVE to stumble (John 8:12, 11:9-10); and the more power you have, the worse the smash. Currently, the practice of walking in the night is becoming almost incredible in mortality.
Again, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the answer to man, is a wonder, in that although condemnation could be the entire theme, His work is that of mercy; and He, He is not optional but necessary. Is a wheel optional for a car, or air for an aircraft ? Is mercy optional for man ? or grace ? or life eternal on divine conditions ? or its demise in what is called damnation, that condemnation which is irrevocable because endemic, intrinsic and an exposition of what God reads as the preference.
What cants and captiousness would be in the heart of those who were dragooned to heaven: there is no haven in the hated. The conspicuous blessedness of life must involve the opt-out clause. What is beyond man, is far from being beyond God; and God rules, and in ruling loves, and in loving acted, and in acting exposed both sin on the Cross and divine power in the resurrection, that all might see, and moulder or wonder, and desire or despise, and come or go, according as the Father knew. The option to be gained from life, is death. You can call it an option; it is in fact an operation in mortality, morbid and moribund.
Thus in Acts 4:11-12, we find as one would expect of whatever is divinely authentic, that there is no other name under heaven given among men, by which they MUST be saved. God is not an option box, but the Designer, the Commander and the King. Who else has created man ? Did the blind create sight ? the unwise fashion wisdom ? the featureless the configured, the dismal the delight, the nothing the something ? Did atoms invent their order and did substance discern its day, did oblivion make memory and obfuscation in darkness fashion light ? Did the name of nothing make the name of glory ? and did the works of wonder come from the absence of means!
The Creator of man was competent to do it; and it was certainly not man, encapitated before he exists, in some sort of flurry of nonsense, making himself. It is always so hard for what is not there to do anything; and for what is not adequate to produce the results of what is. Nonsense outside the nursery does not make it better for that! Let it go back where it belongs.
As to the Creator, to become subject to Him as Lord is mere factuality; it is the motivation of love in response to His own which contains heart (cf. I John 4:10-11,19). Thus comes Christ's procurement of free salvation (Romans 3:27ff.) and the heart to give spiritual showers of mercy upon the earth. Some soil is so clayey, hard and tough that waters do not lodge. Here is creation not only in power and capacity, wisdom and wonder, but the creation of persons by the only adequate base. It gives with this, the meaning, the rules, the dynamic, the opening for fellowship, for truth, for valid testing and for reality-perception. This is of grace; but it is also most reasonable. It is the only thing that is.
IV THE MEAT AND THE MEANING
Nor is His salvation casual, for it is permanent (John 6:50ff.), and while fidget-faith, mercenary religion, selfish substitutes are as barren as the desert of ocean, yet faith in Him and His atoning work, His restoration in the resurrection even of His own body, in His faithfulness secures water that not only does not fail, but wells up to eternal life (John 4:14, 7:37-38). Put differently, reception of this bread is an act that obviates hunger (John 6:47ff.).
His redemption is not sentimental but salvatory (the dictionaries that do not know this word, will have to add it, or be deficient) : it is not a mere offer, but an accomplishment (John 6:62), a grant of the God who like a tempest, covers all: but like rain, comes into the pastures that are under its sway. None tricks Him; but He finds all who are His own, seeking all and knowing His own people (Ezekiel 33:11, 34, Isaiah 65:1, 49:6).
The marvel is this, that the question, Am I His ? is so easily answered. Coming by faith to Him in repentance of life from sin and acceptance in life of His life and redemption, of Him raised bodily from the dead, this PROVES you are His (Romans 10:9, John 20:27-29, Lke 24:39ff.). If you desire it not, who then frustrates you ? If you desire it, it is there. Does the hungry refuse bread because of some superstition ? Does the seeker after God not eat when it is available, and indeed when Christ CAME NOT to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved ? Are YOU not part of the world!
It comes however at a cost: that of abandoning the alternative (Luke 14:27-33). It does not come as an increment for life's features, like chocolates after dinner, but as a profound peace offering against all odds; and while it does not force, it does not come into a crowded room. When God is God, His is infinite superiority, to Him is limitless devotion: the additive of anything else is like adultery, food pollution, the prescription of death. You have to trust Him, just as you trust some luscious forest to produce bird sounds of excellent innovation and musical flair in due time. Certainly it can be found. You walk in expectation.
With Christ, the excellence is founded and funded already (cf. Christ, the Wisdom of God ... Ch. 8); and it is very wonderful, applicable for millenia, no secret in this sacredness; and yet, to those who know Him, it is like that forest, not available for poking probes, but for delicious delight. Here is life and truth, with mercy in one magnificent bundle; and best of all, He is living and He is God. What more could anyone ask!
Small wonder therefore that James declares this: Friendship with the world is enmity with God (4:4). Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (4:8). There lies the bypass or the pass through the ranges into the reality of eternity.
The life of the body is structured from the design, created into being with words such as those in the DNA and genome. The life of the spirit is desecrated; and a new creation (II Cor. 5:17ff.) is not merely far more significant than the code for our bodies, but brought to bear at infinitely greater cost.
God's power made bodies; God's mercy made peace (Psalm 85:10): therefore live in Him at peace. Act not as another person's slave, or even your own, but for Him as the Prince of peace. To be slave to the programmed is puny; to be servant to the personal God, whose love and whose motivation are like vast mountains in cloud-clad, snow covered mountains, it is an elevation which rises like light, and shimmers in wonder, for He calls us friends who follow Him (John 15), redeemed into acceptance, moulded into form, lived in like clothes that are personal (cf. Jeremiah 13), lacking nothing of care
His blood was that of one, not of 20,000,000 as reportedly might be laid to the charge of the twin dictators who were focussed earlier. What they spoiled in many, others, He wrought in one: Himself! That is one difference between giving and grabbing, between selfish slaughter and self-sacrifice, between commandeering property and granting His own property in Person as a gift; between the ideologies of man and the inundations of God.
Moreover He did not abstract it from victims. HE paid it, His own (Ephesians 1:7).
Again, while your blood travels nearly 12,000 miles in one day, He covered infinity, faster than light, at His coming: for the Maker of Space became the Saviour of the world. Fast as He is in mercy, so must the cry of faith be to Him, for mercy; and marvellous as are His works in the human body, yet greater by far is His work in His own body, which promotes the body of faith, even the church of the living God, operative wherever two or three are gathered in His name, and His word is the criterion of conduct, with faith the channel of dynamic. But it is THROUGH HIM alone, says John 3:17 with 14:6, that life comes, that salvation replaces condemnation. There is no other option.
It is so with life: you take it where it is, or you lack it. THIS lack is infernal, eternal; but this life is eternal. It is His (John 1:1-4).
Life eternal has concern for those who live especially, as the head for the body, for the household of faith; but also, being inhabited by the love of God, for those who are not yet seen in this world as selected, that they be not condemned. So are these exhorted that they escape, and in escaping, find the peace which is no mere feeling, but the substantial condition of spirit which needs no pretence, has no cause to seek to excite power, and has joy of heart because of the truth (John 16:22, I Thessalonians 5).