Wineskins Archive

January 13, 2014

Why Did My Savior Come to Earth? (Sept – Dec 1994)

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by Edward Fudge
September – December, 1994

An old hymn asked the question and answered it, in words even a child can grasp: “Why did my Savior come to earth, and to the humble go? Why did he choose a lowly birth? Because he loved me so” No wonder John 3:16 is the most beloved verse in the New Testament, with its simple affirmation that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Three chapters later, Jesus tells us more about the divine love, its recipients, and its results:

All that the Father gives me will come to me; and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day….No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: “They will all be taught by God.” Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me….I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life (John 6:37-40; 44-45; 47).

In these words from John chapters three and six, Jesus points us to six glistening facets of the divine love, sparkling like a many-sided diamond before our wondering view.

God’s love is passionate. God so loved that he gave his only begotten Son. “See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us!” John later writes, challenging our parental imagination beyond all limits (1 John 3:1).

God’s love is profuse. As the overwhelming flood of divine love breaks over us, it washes away every pebble of human pride, sufficiency, or merit. Jesus does not save the deserving, but the sinful. He gave himself for the helpless, not the adequate. He died for his enemies, not his associates (Romans 5:6-10). On the cross Jesus removed our sin, made our propitiation, and accomplished our redemption.

Because Jesus fully completed the saving work in his own perfect doing and dying, nothing we ever perform, experience, or accomplish is any part of the work which sets us right with God. That work was finished almost 2,000 years ago—outside of us, but for us—by the eternal God who, for some 12,000 days, came to dwell among us as one of us. All we can ever do regarding the saving work is to believe it or reject it. By God’s grace we can accept it, trust in it, rely on it, and commit ourselves to it—for the rest of our time here and for all eternity.

“Whoever believes” can have life. We might not have any power and we might not have any answers. But the weakest and most unlearned sinner can have salvation and eternal life through trusting the Son of God, as Jesus tells us repeatedly and underscores with his double “Amen” (John 3:16; 6:40, 47). “Surely we must contribute something,” our flesh cries out. But no—this is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:28-29). We can bring nothing to God’s feast. The table is spread already and the banquet is free for all who will come!

God’s love is personal. Indeed, God so loved the world—Jew and Gentile, slave and free, women and men of every tribe and dialect, across every ethnic group and political boundary. Yet this love, so vast and far-reaching, is also intensely personal. God did not love an unidentifiable mass of human beings, but specific, individual men and women with faces and names. “All that the Father gives me shall come to me,” Jesus promises (John 6:37). “This is the Father’s will,” he continues, “that of all that he has given me I lose nothing” (John 6:39; see also John 10:14, 26-28; 17:2, 24). We view the larger, corporate picture and proclaim with Paul, “Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it: (Ephesians 5:25). But we may freely join the same apostle in making that truth our own: “Christ loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

There is no reason for controversy here and every reason for awe, since, in retrospect, we will discover that the “whosoever wills” and the “elect” are really one and the same. God cannot rightly be blamed for the lost, and he alone deserves credit for the saved. Sinners are truly responsible for their “No” to God’s grace, while their “Yes” is itself evidence that divine grace is at work (Psalm 110:3; Romans 9:16; Philippians 2:13).

God’s love is powerful. When he talked about God’s love, Jesus used unequivocal language, and he spoke in unqualified words that leave no room for exceptions. “All that the Father gives me shall come to me,” Jesus boldly declares (John 6:37). And little wonder, for God himself will be their teacher, just as Jeremiah had foretold (John 6:44-45; Jeremiah 31:34). Jesus fearlessly states what no mere man could dare say, making two statements from opposite perspectives. “No one can come to me,” the Lord exclaims, “unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). But, “everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me” (John 6:45).

Here is no room for error, for miscalculation, for loss. Jesus drives a peg from both sides, anchoring our hope firmly in the infallible sovereignty of God himself. How we should praise the Father, who loves us so powerfully and effectively! The Father wills that not one of those whom he gave to Jesus will perish (John 6:39).

God’s love is perpetual. The God who gave his only Son will not forsake us halfway to heaven. His plan has always been that the believer “should not perish,” and God always accomplishes what he sets out to do. On this we have Jesus’ own promise. “This is the will of him who sent me, that of all that he has given me, I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:39). The same God who calls us will confirm us to the end (1 Corinthians 1:8-9). He began a good work in us and he will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6). Because God is faithful, we can be confident. Indeed, God’s faithfulness is the only basis we ever have to be confident of our salvation. The cross shows us God’s deepest heart toward us sinners. And the resurrection shows us God’s final verdict on the saving work Jesus accomplished there. These gospel facts shine like eternal beacons through the darkness of human weakness and doubt. They remind us, every day, that God will never change his mind about what Jesus has accomplished, and that he will never change his love toward those whom Jesus there purchased for himself.

God’s love is perilous. Let us make no mistake here. Jesus came to save, not to condemn (John 3:17). Yet, as someone has observed, the purpose of the sun is not to cast shadows—but it does! The wrath of God is the shadow cast by his love. The person who knowingly and persistently rejects God’s boundless love in Jesus Christ does not simply miss an opportunity or turn down a good deal. That person rejects life itself. We mortals have no life in ourselves (John 6:53). To reject Jesus is to reject God’s life (John 1:3; 1 John 5:11-12).

What love the Father has shown us sinners! Passionate, yet personal. Powerful and perpetual. But also perilous. At such sayings, many of Jesus’ original hearers turned and walked away. May we instead, like Peter, have grace to say, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:66).Wineskins Magazine

Edward Fudge

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