"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." John 3:16-17 (KJV)
One of the best known verses in the Bible is John 3:16. Children learn to quote it before they can read. It's often used when talking to non-believers to show them how much God loves the world. Do we really understand the full implication of that?
God sent His son, Jesus into the world to save us humans, all mankind and womankind; not animals, and not trees. Jesus came to save people. He did that by dying on the cross to save us from our sins. This is important and we'll look at it in more detail later. The biggest question from the non-believer is "Why would an all powerful, all knowing being such as God, love the world so much that he would allow His son to die to save it?" When you look at it with only those facts, that question makes perfect sense. Why would God care so much about humans to be willing to pay such a high cost to save us? The answer to that is within the Old Testament. Unfortunately a lot of Christians today think we don't really need the Old Testament -- after all, we are New Testament Christians, at least that's what we call ourselves if asked about it. Maybe we should change that description of ourselves to "Bible Christians". Without the Old Testament we would not be able to fully understand the New Testament, or much of what Christ said.
Back to our question, "Why would an all powerful being (God) care enough about humans to send His Son to earth in the form of a human to die a horrible death on the cross just to save us?" The answer is found in Genesis 1 and 2. God created Adam and Eve and from them came all humans. If you create something it's only natural to want to preserve it? You want to keep it safe. If this is natural for us it's even more so for God, because we were created in God's image. "So God created man in his own image." (Genesis 1:27) We are the likeness of God, and we are to have dominance over all animals (Genesis 1:28). Genesis 1:28 doesn't say we are to have dominance over other humans, or that animals are equal with people. It says mankind is to have dominance over the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, and every thing that creeps on the earth. In fact, humans were to have power over all the earth.
Humans were important to God. Not only did they have dominance over the whole earth, but God communicated directly with Adam (see Genesis 2 and 3). God brought the animals to Adam and allowed Adam to name them. A special mate was created out of Adam's rib by God because Adam had no mate. God responded to Adam's needs to make him not only in God's image, but to create a place for Adam where he would be happy and with a person who would make him happy. God continued to communicate directly with Adam and Eve walking and talking with them in the evenings as well as other times.
Just like a loving father, God did not turn His back on Adam and Eve even when they sinned. Sin entered God's perfect world with the bite of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and with that sin death entered the world. Until that time no human had died, but sin changed all that. Sin ruined not only mankind, but the whole world, so God put into practice a plan to save all humans who would follow Him.
The first part of the plan was put into place, and practice, at Mount Sinai, when God gave the Law to Moses to give to the Israelites. This Law includes the well known 10 Commandments, but that was only a small part of the Law (see the book of Leviticus for a more detailed account of the Law). The Law contained rules for cooking food, sanitary methods, worship of God, tithing, treatment of fellow Israelites, etc. Every aspect of a person's life was covered by the Law. If a person wanted to be redeemed from sin, all he had to do was keep the Law perfectly. Of course we know this was and is impossible. The problem with the Law was that no human could live a life without sin. The Law was never meant to be the redeemer of mankind. It wanted to redeem us, but it couldn't because all people have sinned (Romans 3:23, 5:12). Yes, all, and even if you only committed one sin in your whole life, you can never do enough good to make up for that one sin.
Instead the Law was meant to be a teacher for humans. It was to teach us that we can not redeem ourselves from our sin, and that we need a redeemer (Galatians 3:24). If the Law couldn't redeem us, how are we to be saved from our sins? Amazingly the Law provided for the act of redemption, and provided a wonderful example of redemption in another Old Testament book -- the book of Ruth. Here we see a Moabitess named Ruth and her Hebrew mother-in-law Naomi living in Bethlehem. There are no men with these women. Naomi and Ruth's husbands have died leaving them with nothing but a plot of land that belonged to Naomi's husband Elimelech. Naomi needs to sell the land in order to have food for her and Ruth to live. The Law provided for a near kinsman (go'el) to be able to buy the land and save Naomi and Ruth from poverty. If a go'el bought the land, he also had an obligation to take Ruth as his wife and raise a son to the name of her dead husband so his name would not be cut off from Israel. This son would also inherit the land that had originally belonged to his father (and grandfather Elimelech). Even though Naomi (and Ruth) sold the land, it still remained in the family of Elimelech for the future.
There were laws that governed who could be the redeemer. He had to be a near relative. In the story of Ruth, Boaz was a brother of Elimelech, so he qualified. The redeemer had to be able to pay the cost. In Ruth's case the cost was the price of the land. Boaz was a wealthy man, so paying for the land was no problem at all. The redeemer also had to be willing. In Naomi and Ruth's case there was a nearer relative than Boaz, but he was not willing to redeem the land and women, so only Boaz had all the qualifications.
What does this have to do with us? We aren't looking for a husband to raise up a child. We aren't selling land to pay for food. What does this redeemer stuff have to do with us today? We are just as much in need of redemption as Naomi and Ruth were, but in a different way. What we need redemption from is sin. The laws for a redeemer are the same. We need someone who is a near relative. Jesus is our brother. We are all children of God, so Jesus qualifies as a near relative. Here is the real kicker though -- we need someone who can pay the price of our redemption from sin. How is that possible? Only someone who has kept the Law perfectly can be a sacrifice for our sins. Jesus qualifies again. He has kept the Law perfectly. No sin is found in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21, I Peter 2:21, I John 3:5). The only qualification remaining is for the redeemer to be willing. We see Jesus praying in the garden before He was taken prisoner by the soldiers, and He ends His prayer with "not my will but thine be done" (see Luke 22:42). Yes, Jesus was willing to be our redeemer.
Jesus fit all the qualifications to redeem us from our sins. He is a near relative, he has the price being pure and sinless, and he is willing to be the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. That bill for our redemption was paid in full on the cross as Jesus was sacrificed for our sins. He died a horrible death that we might live in eternity with God our father, and our creator. Because God created us, He loves us, and He has never turned His back on us.
(c) Dr. Carolyn Donner ... used by permission of author.
(Check back for more inspirational messages in the future.)