Sermon for May 27th, 2018, Trinity Sunday


The Lessons: Psalm 29; Isaiah 6:1-8; John 3:1-17

The Text: John 3:14-17

The Topic: The love of God has been shown in giving His Only Son for the world, so that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.


Leo Tolstoy, known for his classic work War and Peace, also wrote A Confession, which tells the story of his search for meaning and purpose in life.

Tolstoy rejected Christianity as a child and went to a university seeking pleasure. In Moscow and St. Petersburg he drank heavily, lived promiscuously, and gambled frequently. His ambition was to become wealthy and famous, but nothing satisfied him.

In 1862, he married a wonderful woman, and they had thirteen children. He had everything, yet he was so unhappy that he was on the verge of suicide. “Is there any meaning in my life which will not be annihilated by the inevitability of death, which awaits me?” he said.

Tolstoy searched for the answer in every field of science and philosophy. As he looked around, he saw that people were not facing up to the basic questions of life, such as: Where did I come from? Where am I going? Who am I? What is life all about?

Eventually he found that the peasant people of Russia answered these questions through their Christian faith, and he, too, came to realize that only in Jesus Christ do we find the true meaning of life.

— Nicky Gumbel,
Questions of Life (Kingsway, 1993) [1]


The Lord Jesus Christ had answered Nicodemus’ question about how a person is born again by explaining that unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (v. 5), and by emphasizing that what is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit (v. 6). Being born again is being born from above, or born spiritually, that is, one’s spirit receives new birth from the Holy Spirit. The Sacrament of Holy Baptism in the life of the believer signifies this event, although the experience of it may come later in a Christian’s life, as he submits to the repentance signified by the effusion with water in Baptism, and believes in the Lord Jesus Christ. Rebirth given by the Holy Spirit gives rise to the Holy Spirit’s presence in a person’s life, and His directing that person in the way of Christ to do the Father’s will. When this happens, the Christian’s life becomes like the Spirit who directs it – like the unpredictable wind whose sound we hear, but we do not know whence it comes and whither it goes (John 3:8).


Since Nicodemus still does not understand these truths, the Lord Jesus reminds him of the bronze serpent that Moses erected on a pole in the wilderness, so that Israelites bitten by poisonous snakes might look upon the bronze snake and be healed (Numbers 21:8). Similarly, the Son of Man, the Lord Jesus Christ himself must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him (John 3:15). This is the remedy and medicine for the poisonous snakebite of sin. The lifting up of Jesus is His crucifixion, which in St. John’s Gospel account, is also his glorification. John Calvin interpreted the lifting up of the Son of Man here as also the proclamation of the Gospel throughout the world, including the written record of the Gospel, so that everyone may look upon the Son, turn to Him, and believe in Him, so receiving the eternal life found in Him.

Then comes that well-known verse, John 3:16, which tells us that the cross was not Jesus’ idea, and that He was not a mere man offering his life for the life of the world, but that it was God, who loved the world so much, that He gave His only-begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. Just as the sinful Israelites could not provide their own anti-venom for their deadly snakebites, nor can any human being on earth provide the remedy for sin, the antidote for its poison, although many might think they can. The salvation of the world was not based on any ordinary human merit, but proceeded from the infinite love of God in giving His only Son to die on a cross to redeem the world from sin and reconcile it to Himself. The mission of the Son in this world was not to judge it, Jesus says, but to save it (John 3:17). The way to being born again ought now to be clear through Jesus’ teaching: it is to repent of sin, to be washed by the waters of Baptism, and to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and for eternal life.


In the new birth of the believer, we see the operation of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Father is the Originator, who in his inestimable love for mankind gave Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son for the life of the world. The Son is the Redeemer of the world, to whom we look and in whom we believe for eternal life, and the Holy Spirit brings us to new birth as God’s children adopted by grace, directs our lives.


The message of the Gospel and of eternal salvation is a powerful one. It is important that we take the time to know and understand this message before proclaiming it to those whom we encounter.

Firstly, have you taken the time to consolidate your knowledge of the Gospel message?

Secondly, how will you relay this message to the world, so that others may come to believe and have eternal life?

[1] p. 248, Craig Brian Larson & Phyllis Ten Elshof (General Editors): 1001 Illustrations that Connect. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, Christianity Today International, 2008.

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