20 September 2022

God so loved the world!

Bible study by Major Howard Webber

Major Howard Webber urges us to receive God’s gift of salvation in Jesus.

Key text

God loved the world so very much that he gave the most precious gift he had – his only Son, Jesus – as the means by which we could be saved.

Martin Luther once stated: ‘If I were as our Lord God ... and these vile people were as disobedient as they now be, I would knock the world in pieces.’ But God loves us more than we can ever know or understand.

We only begin to ‘see what great love the Father has lavished on us’ (1 John 3:1) when we realise how awful we truly are in the light of God’s holiness and purity. Hymn writer Isaac Watts could hardly believe the enormity of it and wrote: ‘Alas! and did my Saviour bleed,/ And did my sovereign die?/ Did he devote that sacred head/ For such a worm as I?’ (SASB 159).

In his well-known song ‘Amazing Grace’, John Newton also expresses amazement that God would ‘save a wretch like me’ (SASB 453).

Pause and reflect

  • Why do we wonder that God could ever love us?
  • How do we respond when we experience God’s love?
  • Does it overwhelm us?

John 3:16 is probably the best known and most loved verse in the Bible. It sums up the message of the gospel in a nutshell. God is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful) and omnipresent (everywhere), but these attributes do not describe God’s nature, which is love.

A globe

John 3:16

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.

Read the passage

God is love! (See 1 John 4:8 and 16.) He loves the whole human race – not as a mass but as individuals. St Augustine said, ‘God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.’ Isn’t that mind-blowing?

Paul wrote: ‘The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’ (Galatians 2:20). He also wrote: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst’ (1 Timothy 1:15).

God was well within his rights to have sent his Son into the world to condemn us all, but he didn’t. He sent him to save the world, to be our Saviour. Jesus was and is a gift offered.

God respects the free will he gave us when he created us. He doesn’t force his offer of salvation upon us, even though it comes with blessings beyond anything that we could ever imagine (see Ephesians 3:20). God’s gift has to be accepted by the one to whom it is offered.

Without God intervening in the way he did, we were destined to perish without hope, without purpose and without God. Jesus, by stepping into our shoes and accepting responsibility for – and the consequences of – our sin, built a bridge by which we can be connected to God and be at peace with him. We bring condemnation upon ourselves by our unwillingness to accept the gift God freely offers us and cross the bridge that God has put in place.

Our study passage makes it clear that we are condemned by our refusal to change – our refusal to consider or believe that what God offers is far better than anything we have or could have without him. This passage, like the whole of the gospel, cries out the message: ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’ (Acts 16:31).

Pause and reflect

  • What does it mean to believe in Jesus?

Our problem is our reluctance to change or to even see our need to change. While we readily accept that we are not perfect, we are reluctant to see ourselves as the sinners we are before God.

Most people consider themselves good and virtuous, especially in comparison to lots of other people they know. We tend to have a high view of our own righteousness but, compared with the righteousness, holiness and purity of God, ‘all our righteous acts are like filthy rags’ (Isaiah 64:6).

When the light of God shines into a person, it illuminates the truth – often the unpalatable truth – that we are far worse than we ever thought ourselves to be. We either humbly accept the truth, confess our sinfulness and accept the gift God offers us, or we reject God’s diagnosis of our condition and our need of a Saviour. It is in rejecting God’s gift of salvation that we condemn ourselves.

However, those who can humble themselves and accept the truth are amazed to discover just how much God loves and values them.

Have you accepted the gift of God’s only Son, Jesus, as your Saviour? Have you received the assurance of your salvation?

Bible study by

Howard Webber

Major Howard Webber

Retired, Bournemouth

Let's pray

Lord, may we never waste your gift of love to us, or let it become simply familiar, but may we allow it to embrace and envelop us so that we live every day within its power.


Discover more

Born again: 'How can this be?'

Major Linda Govier examines the inconvenient truth of the new birth.

Bible study
12 Sep 2022

The Queen's faith

Salvationist magazine looks back on how Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II testified to being a follower of Jesus.

16 Sep 2022

In pictures: Volunteers mobilise to serve emergency services, military and mourners

The Salvation Army offers support as thousands pay their respects to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

15 Sep 2022

A tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

A message from Territorial Commander Commissioner Anthony Cotterill.

12 Sep 2022