The statement was easy to misunderstand, but even the most well-expressed statements can be misunderstood. One example of this is the most well-loved verse in the Bible, John 3:16.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
I was speaking to a man recently who was less than impressed by it. He thought it was not very admirable for God to give His Son. He said, “I have a grandson and there’s no way I would give him. You would have to go through me to get him.”
Here’s how I responded.
God giving His Son isn’t God giving a creature
When God gave His Son, He wasn’t giving something outside of His own being. The Father and the Son are distinct in person but not in essence – there is an essential unity between them. An earthly father can exist without his son, but God the Father can’t exist without His Son. The Lord Jesus said that He was in the Father and the Father in Him (John 14:10). Calvary wasn’t God sacrificing a third-party; it was an act of self-sacrifice on the part of God.
When we say, “I love my son and could never give him for anyone”, we can then mistakenly conclude that God mustn’t have loved His Son very much. We couldn’t be more wrong. Any true love we have is because we are created in the image of the God who is love. Any father’s love for his son is a faint reflection of the love God the Father has for His Son. The love of the Father for the Son is far greater than any human love; the link between them is far stronger than any human relationship.
John 3:16 shouldn’t lead us to think God’s love for His Son is small. It should lead us to think His love for this world is great. Don’t put a question mark over God’s love for His Son; put an exclamation mark over His love for you.
God giving His Son isn’t God giving a child
Notice that the man I was talking to spoke about his grandson rather than his son. He was thinking of the horror of giving a little boy, but that’s not what John 3:16 is talking about. One critic of the gospel spoke about the biblical teaching of the sacrifice of Christ as cosmic child abuse, but there was no child at the cross. When we consider Jesus Christ as regards His humanity, He was a mature adult, and when we think about His deity, He is God’s eternal Son. The title “Son of God” doesn’t mean He is God’s boy or God’s junior. It means He is God’s equal – He shares the nature and attributes of God.
God giving His Son isn’t God giving a conscript
The man I was speaking to told me his son was in the army. I said to him, “You have given your son – you gave him to go into the army even though you knew that might result in his death, yet you were willing to make the sacrifice.”
He said, “Yes, but that was his choice, I just let him make it.”
“Okay,” I said, “Going to the cross was Christ’s choice – the Father let Him make it.” The Bible tells us over and over again that the Lord Jesus “gave Himself” (e.g., Galatians 2:20; 1 Timothy 2:6). He said that no one takes His life from Him, He lays it down Himself (John 10:18). He was not a conscript; He was a volunteer.
Don’t mistake John 3:16. It doesn’t present a hard-hearted God, but a God of immeasurable love who made the ultimate sacrifice for you. This is a God you can safely trust.