In John 3:16 we have one of the most well-known verses in all the Scriptures: “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” (KJV), but if you had to describe the extravagance of this love, how would you do it? Adam Clarke, in his commentary on the Bible, says of this verse, “Such a love as that which induced God to give His only begotten son to die for the world could not be described: Jesus Christ does not attempt it. He has put an eternity of meaning in the particle ‘so’, and left a subject for everlasting contemplation, wonder, and praise, to angels and to men.”
French poet and statesman Victor Hugo once said, “The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved – loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.” However, I do not believe it stops there. Not only do we want to be loved but, generally speaking, it is a part of human nature to want to know how much we are loved. As individuals, it is important to our sense of self. Even as you read this, perhaps you are smiling at the remembrance of the last time someone you love spoke from the heart and told you how much you meant to them. Do you remember how it made you feel? After all, as many people can attest, to be loved and not told how much often leaves a nagging and uncomfortable feeling.
But even as we contemplate the love of God, when we think of how much He loved us, and continue to love us, we need to look no further than the cross. There on display is the magnificent yet bloody proof. Of the three crosses on Calvary that day, the one in the middle forever stood alone in its significance and what it represented; the greatest manifestation of love the world has ever seen and would ever see. In trying to put it all into words, hymn writer Frederick M. Lehman wrote, “The love of God is greater far / Than tongue or pen can ever tell / It goes beyond the highest star / And reaches to the lowest hell” (1917). It is no wonder the apostle himself, though evidently filled with God and walking in the fullness of His light, does not attempt to describe it; but calls on the world and the Church to look upon it, to contemplate it, and wonder at it when he states, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” (1 John 3:2).
I love the final stanza of Lehman’s “The Love of God” as it rises to a rousing conclusion: “Could we with ink the ocean fill / And were the skies of parchment made / Were every stalk on earth a quill / And every man a scribe by trade / To write the love of God above / Would drain the ocean dry / Nor could the scroll contain the whole / Though stretched from sky to sky.” And then the chorus, “Oh, love of God, how rich and pure! / How measureless and strong! / It shall forevermore endure / The saints’ and angels’ song.”
That God loves the world is certain because there is no greater love than that which He displayed (John 15:13). However, have YOU personally experienced the true measure of His extravagant love for you? Have you?