John tries to put into words how awe-inspiring, almost unbelievable, the love of God is.
Just two little words, but my what they evoke! I’m pretty sure that the two-word title caused 100% of those who read it to mentally lock on John 3:16—the most well-known verse in the Bible, even among non-believers: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
This powerful verse is commentary by John, and (as with any passage) we are not getting full value unless we examine the context. Jesus is having a conversation with Nicodemus, a member of the ruling Sanhedrin, and from what Jesus calls him in verse 10—“the teacher of Israel”—he was the Chief Rabbi.
Many translations would lead us to think that John’s quote of the words of Jesus runs from verse 10 through verse 21, but I believe that Jesus’s words end at verse 15 (or possibly even verse 12), and the rest is John’s comment. This is a pattern we see in John—he quotes Jesus, then supplies his own inspired understanding of the import.
“God so loved the world.” This is John impressing on us just how much God loves, how far He is prepared to go, how broadly He is prepared to extend His love. John intends that we be absolutely in awe of this.
God so loved the world.
Many students see the letter of 1 John as additional commentary by John on the topics he emphasizes in his gospel. And the awesomeness of the love of God is definitely one of the topics John expands on: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1)
Again, John tries to put into words how awe-inspiring, almost unbelievable, the love of God is. How can it be, that we—failing, weak, mortal creatures that we are—can be considered the sons and daughters of the unfailing, all-powerful, immortal God? What kind of love indeed!
John is not alone in inviting us to marvel at how stupendous the love of God is:
We may—we do!—fail. Badly. But even then, God so loves us that a door remains open for reconciliation, in Christ Jesus. He so loved us that He gave His Son for this very reason.
I pray I will feel today how loved I am, and be in awe. And I pray the same for you.