“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world should be saved by him” (Jn. 3:17). This verse immediately follows Jn. 3:16 and is phrased as a “not – but” idiom which appears so frequently in the New Testament. The idiom contains two truths, one of which is negated to emphasis the other majestic truth of the phrase. In a sense, God did send His Son into the world to judge it. That is the consequence which comes when one rejects Him whom God sent. But the judgment that comes through rejection of Jesus is not what God wants nor the purpose for which His Son was sent.
Jesus was “God sent.” When the Jews charged Jesus with blasphemy because He claimed, “I and the Father are one,” He responded by citing Psalm 82:6 which said, “Ye are gods” — words clearly addressed to His people. Then He asked, “If he called them gods unto whom the word of God came (and the Scriptures cannot be broken) say ye of him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world ‘Thou blasphemest’ because I said, I am the Son of God?” (Jn. 10:34-35). In this passage Jesus said that the Father had “sanctified” Him and “sent Him into the world.” The word “sanctified” means to “set apart” and Jesus was “set apart” by His Father to the work of redemption He would accomplish by coming into the world and offering Himself a sacrifice for all.
This mission was determined by God before He laid the foundation of the world. Revelation 13:8 (KJV) says that Jesus was a Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, but the ASV translates the verse to indicate that names in the book of life were written before the world’s foundation. However, we are assured that Jesus was a Lamb slain before the world’s foundation. In Ephesians 1:4 we are told that we were chosen in Him “before the foundation of the world” which could only be possible if Christ died for us.
Four thousand years is a long time, but that is the approximate length of time from when sin entered the world until the time when God sent His Son into the world to permanently remove the power of sin. Paul wrote, “But when the fulness of time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal. 4:4). God sent for His Son at the appropriate time, known as “the fulness of time.” He was born of a woman (agreeing with God’s promise that the “seed of the woman” would bruise the head of the serpent, Gen. 3:15). He was also born under the law that He might redeem them that were under the law (Jews). But it was not the Jew alone for whom He was sent to redeem. John 3:16 assures us that God “so loved the world” that He gave His Son that whosoever believes in His (Gentile and Jew) will not perish but have everlasting life. All men are created in the image of God; all men have “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). God sent His Son to all men so He could redeem us by His blood.
Study these following three verses and appreciate why God sent His Son into the world: “Herein was the love of God manifested in us that God hath sent his only Begotten Son into the world that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). “Herein is love, not that we loved God, But that He loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). “And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father hath sent the Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14).
From these verses we learn that God sent His Son in the fulness of time to release man from the law. God sent His Son that we might live through Him. God sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. God sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. But God did not send His Son to condemn the world; He sent His Son to save the world. How wonderful!