Calvary Road Baptist Church


John 3.16


Throughout my ministry here at Calvary Road Baptist Church I have stood before you several times each week to declare to you those things which we certainly know to be true, to be as much as my limitations make possible an apostle of certainty. Such is not the case today. I am not suggesting to you that there is any backup from those things you have come to expect from me regarding my personal convictions and my confidences related to God’s Word, God’s will, God’s promises, God’s Son, God’s Spirit, or anything such as that. My faith does not waver this morning. I am not passing through a crisis of conscience or convictions as I stand before you. I am suggesting to you that my message from God’s Word this morning will uncharacteristically be a message with far more questions than answers.

Our starting point is the veracity of God’s Word, the truthfulness and absolute reliability of the Bible. From the dependable Scriptures we deal mostly in declarations, in certitudes, in assertions, in pronouncements, in predictions, and in promises. Especially in this most famous and familiar verse to be found in all the Bible, John 3.16, our fears are allayed, our concerns are calmed, and God’s steadiness, reliability, and faithfulness are implied if not expressly stated: 

“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.” 

How does God’s love for the world not comfort and assure us of His desires and intentions toward us? How does simple faith in Christ as the remedy for certain doom by promising everlasting life not fill even the unbeliever with reason for optimism? How can the only begotten Son of God not be the reasonable and recognizable Object of saving faith? Finally, even though John 3.16 includes a dire warning about the fate of the persistent unbeliever, how comforting ought this verse be to those who recognize that our sovereign God does not have to issue a warning and that it is a reflection of His love and mercy that He has provided a warning and an avenue of escape to all mankind?

Those kinds of things being true, I find myself facing a question arising from our text for which I can give no definite answer. The question is obvious. What did God give when He gave His Son? Not to whom did God give when He gave His Son. That much is obvious. No one suffering the torments of the damned in Hell would dare lay claim that God gave to him the Son of God. No, it is so clear as to be beyond question that God gave His Son to those who benefited from His Son by their salvation from sin. The question that is not so obvious is what did God give when He gave His Son?

The simple faith of a child immediately knows the answer to that question. What did God give when He gave His Son? He gave His Son! Of course. Obviously. Undeniably. But when the youngster asks where baby sister comes from and his mother says, “From mommy’s tummy,” her answer is absolutely truthful, while at the same time being age appropriate. With the passing of time and after gaining maturity, however, the answer to that question changes, becomes somewhat more intricate and detailed, and at some point needs to become biological.

To be sure, God gave His Son when He gave His Son. And the giving of His Son included the incarnation that led to the virgin birth, but certainly climaxed with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the shedding of His blood that was followed by His resurrection from the dead. Great and stupendous miracles that these are, they still do not directly speak to the answers to my question of what God gave when He gave His Son. Therefore, I present to you a sermon that is mostly questions.

I ask you five questions. These are not questions designed to rob you of the certainties of the faith once delivered to the saints, but to add to those many certainties questions for reflection, for meditation, for private worship, and for prayer to God for illumination: 


That is to say, can we not insist that when God gave His only begotten Son, it cost Him a great deal? Why must it be that God’s gift of His Son, which leads to the gift of God which is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord, is a gift of great cost? I would suggest two reasons for considering that God gave cost:

First, remember with me what King David said so long ago, as he stood atop Mount Moriah in what had once been the Jebusite capital city he had taken and ruled from for some thirty years, and that he had renamed and which would come to be known for these next 3,000 years as Jerusalem: David had sinned. God then sent pestilence, and there died some seventy thousand men.[1] David repented when he saw the angel of the LORD near the threshing floor atop Mount Moriah and God stopped the plague. The prophet Gad then directed David to purchase the threshing floor from the Jebusite named Araunah. At the approach of the great warrior-king Araunah, also referred to as Ornan, offered to give his property to David, understandably.[2] He also offered animals to sacrifice and implements of wood for David to burn. However, David refused the gifts saying, 

“Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing.”[3] 

What do we learn from King David’s refusal of the gifts? We learn a principle. We learn that unless you give that which cost you-you have given nothing at all. The Hollywood actors that make their public service announcements, for which they claim huge tax write-offs? They give nothing at all. The professional athletes who do their community work they describe as “giving back?” They are giving nothing because they actually profit from their so-called charity work. To really give it has to cost you really. David recognized that principle, and since his repentance was genuine, he was determined to make sure his gift to God cost him. That is why it is heartbreaking to learn at the end of the year, and the annual giving records to our Church are tallied that there are some whose devotion to God is a devotion without cost because they give nothing to God. Such “devotion” is no real devotion at all, is it? These same people wonder why their children as adults think God is unimportant.

Second, be mindful of our life lessons taught by the Lord Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry leading up to His sacrifice on the cross of Calvary. First, reflect with me for just a moment on the cost of Christian discipleship. Selecting only three verses from the considerable number of passages we might have resorted to, notice the repetition found in Luke 14.26, 27, and 33: 

26  If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

27  And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 

33  So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. 

In verse 26 it is Christ before father, mother, wife, children, and brethren to be His disciple. In verse 27 it requires bearing your cross and then following Him to be His disciple. In verse 33 it is only forsaking all for Christ that is the price to be paid to be His disciple. Next, consider our Lord’s declaration to His disciples that He would make them fishers of men. Herbert Lockyer writes about our Lord’s requirements of His men: 

“The response of the quartette of fishermen to the call of Christ was immediate, for they left their nets, ships and relatives to accompany Christ. Now they were to ply the gospel net in the sea of the world, and land souls on the shores of salvation. We can imagine how Peter, ‘The Big Fisherman’ who became the spokesman of the apostolic band, entered into the significance of the Master’s parabolic use of fishers and fish. Fish on the Galilean Sea were caught alive but quickly died when taken from their natural element. Now, these whom Jesus called were to catch men who were dead – dead in trespasses and sins – and once in the gospel net they would begin to live spiritually.

Expert fishermen lay down three rules for successful fishing, which must be observed by all who fish for the souls of men:

The first rule is - Keep yourself out of sight.

The second rule is - Keep yourself further out of sight.

The third rule is - Keep yourself still further out of sight.

Soulwinners must learn that they cannot make much of Christ and of themselves at the same time. If a fisherman casts his shadow over the water where the fish are, he cannot expect to catch them. In like manner, the shadow of self is disastrous to the art of winning souls. When Dr. J. H. Jowett was about to speak at a large gathering, an earnest brother prayed, ‘We thank Thee, O Lord, for Thy dear servant, and for the work he is doing. We thank Thee for sending him to speak to us. Now, Lord, blot him out, blot him out.’”[4] 

Is it not clear from the Savior’s dealings with His men, both by what He said to them and what He required of them, that for them to give of themselves to Him, the cost must not only be very great but must be all?

Turning, then, to God, what can be said about God’s gift of His Son? What did it cost God to give His Son? I am not sure how to answer that question, except to say that since the giver is God and since the gift is Jesus Christ, the cost of giving must have been great, indeed. How could it not be great? After all, God is greater than sinful David. And if David observed the principle of giving nothing to God that did not dearly cost him, how much more might it be said of God? As well, God is greater than Christ’s disciples. And if the Savior demanded of His disciples that they embody the principle of giving nothing to their Master that did not dearly cost them, how much more must it be said of God’s approach to giving? And if the gift of His Son was a gift given at great cost, does that mean the gift of His Son resulted in loss to God? But do you really lose when you give? Tightwads and thieves think so. Those who steal from God are of that opinion, certainly. That’s why they do not give to support the ministry of the Church they benefit from. In God’s economy, do you not actually gain when you give? And is there not actually increase when there is a material loss by giving? I know that God’s gift of His Son was a gift of great price. However, I am sure I still do not completely understand God’s economy, which is why faith is so crucial. 


When the Lord Jesus Christ left heaven to be born of a virgin, He was in some real way not with the Father the way He had been with the Father from eternity past. Consider, therefore, what the Savior said to the apostles in John chapter 14, where He refers to the Holy Spirit as Another Comforter and also as the Comforter in verses 16 and 26. Then, in John 14.18 He said, 

“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” 

This statement suggests that His presence with them comforted them and that His ministry to them was one of comfort. Along with His description of the Holy Spirit as Another Comforter, the strong implication is that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is a comforter.

What can be said, then, about comfort and the Savior’s departure from heaven to live as a man among men? When God gave the Lord Jesus Christ did He also give up some measure of comfort while the Lord Jesus Christ lived among men? Was the Father deprived of Christ’s consolation by His Son’s departure from heaven for a time? Was the Lord Jesus Christ a comforter only of men and not also a comforter of His heavenly Father? I do not know. The Greek word translated comforter refers to one who comes alongside, one who mediates, one who intercedes, one who helps.[5] Did the incarnation of Jesus Christ result in the Father losing the comfort of His eternally begotten Son? Or did the Lord Jesus Christ become a comforter by His incarnation? In the end, did God lose comfort when the Son left heaven’s glory? I do not know. Again, God’s economy is beyond my comprehension, but it is glorious to ponder. 


We know that the Triune Godhead expressed love to each of the Divine Persons throughout eternity past. When God the Father gave His only begotten Son did He then experience any loss of communion with His Son? Was there any subsiding of mutual sharing such as He had enjoyed with His eternally begotten Son throughout eternity?

It seems that when God gave His Son, He did in some way give communion because there came a time when our Lord Jesus hung on the cross when He cried out in fulfillment of prophecy, 

“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”[6] 

in fulfillment of Psalm 22.1, written a thousand years before.

One commentator writes on this: 

“Jesus sensed a separation from the Father He had never known, for in becoming sin the Father had to turn judicially from His Son (Rom. 3:25-26).”[7] 

This comment is what most conservative commentators suggest as the proper understanding of Christ’s cry from the cross.

Another commentator also adds what most conservative commentators express: 

“Jesus does not lose faith but expresses the depths of his unimaginable pain at being abandoned by his Father. He must drink the cup of suffering that the Father has given him, leading to the unfathomable agony of being abandoned by the Father (27:46; cf. 2 Cor. 5:21). He must die in order to pour out his blood as a ransom so as to save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21; 20:28; 26:28). Yet his abandonment is only temporary, and his vindication will come soon.”[8] 

It is certain there was a loss of communion between the Father and the Son. It spanned that time on the cross when the Lord Jesus Christ as our sin-bearer was separated from His Father until God was satisfied by the offering of Christ’s blood to remit our sins.[9] However, there is still a question. Was there a diminishing of communion that the Father gave up when His Son was dispatched to this earth at the incarnation? I suspect, but don’t know for sure. How much more valuable would the gift of Christ then become. 


Though I am not sure of my answer to this question, I think the answer is likely yes. I answer in this way because of Revelation 13.8, where the Lord Jesus Christ is described as, 

“The Lamb slain from the foundation of the earth.” 

This statement does not mean that Christ’s crucifixion took place at the time of creation, but that it was God’s purpose and intent from the creation of all things for His Son to be slain a sacrifice for sins. That said, how much difference is there between the intent to give and the actual giving?

Consider God’s directive to Abraham to offer his son Isaac, in Genesis 22.2-3: 

2  And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

3  And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. 

Imagine, if you would, the three days of travel it took Abraham with Isaac to reach Mount Moriah; days of anticipation, days of heartache, and days of anguish and agony. Now imagine what it must have been like for God, from the foundation of the world to the culmination of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross when He gave up the ghost. Oh, the agony of such love’s loss.

Could it not be said that for thousands of years, as God unfolded His divine plan to send His Son, that He was for those centuries constantly giving as He purposed to give, as He worked toward His giving, and as He sent His Son in anticipation of His cruel death on the cross? For that question, I have an answer, and the answer is yes. 


What I mean by this question has to do with reality and not an abstraction. So often we live our lives in hypothetical mode, in the abstract rather than the real. I think that it one of the reasons why the millennial generation is rapidly gaining a reputation for being incapable of dealing with harsh realities and unforeseen disappointments.

I remember watching a YouTube video of a young woman protesting in front of a police officer with an elongated balloon that she tapped on the police officer’s face as he stood shoulder to shoulder with other officers. After tapping the policeman on the face with the balloon, a number of times the officer reached up with his gloved hand and pushed the balloon away. The young woman’s reaction was epic. She became hysterical and collapsed in an emotional heap on the ground in front of the policeman. I suspect she had never heard the word “No” while growing up, had never been spanked by her parents, and had never been denied anything she wanted.

The world we live in is quite divorced from harsh realities, not only because of our standard of living but also because of the personal isolation from pain and disappointment produced by technology and the tendency of parents who experienced personal hardship and disappointment to shield their children from such experienced. The upshot of all this is that we project onto others our own sometimes negligible contact with reality, especially when the other is God.

It is so easy for someone to say, “I feel your pain.” It is so easy when confronted by another’s profound loss to say, “I understand.” The reality, of course, is that most of the time those comments are unrelated to reality, since others do not feel your pain and do not understand. Thus, too, it is so very difficult for us to comprehend (and we shall never truly comprehend) what God gave when He gave His Son. Perhaps we will never in this lifetime understand much more than what God gave when He gave His Son was real, was substantial, and was beyond our capacity to really and truly grasp. 

God gave each of us a mind to think, and He wants us to do precisely that. Think about what we know to be true. We know God is. We know the Bible is true. We know Jesus Christ rose from the dead. We know Jesus Christ makes a real difference in the lives of those who know and trust Him. And we know God’s will for our lives is to grow in grace and the knowledge of God and to seek the salvation of others. These are some of the things we know for certain.

However, there are other things that are clouded in mystery because our God is infinite and His ways are past finding out. The Bible teaches us everything God wants us to know, but the Word of God also suggests things that are beyond our comprehension. Among these things are the questions I have asked but do not fully know the answers to, answers that perhaps God will provide to His children in heaven.

May I leave you with a few thoughts? Faith is required when every question you have is not answered. Faith is required before you have a full understanding of some things and partial understanding of other things. And though you may flatter yourself by convincing yourself that you don’t make important spiritual decisions until after you have gathered information and come to an understanding of the issues, that isn’t the way it really works.

You began using light switches long before you began to understand how they worked if you have ever come to understand how they work. You began to use the potty and to brush your teeth long before you began to understand the benefits to you and others of personal hygiene. You began to benefit from arithmetic long before you grasped the principles of mathematics. I could go on, but you get my drift. You live much more of your life by faith than you might want to admit to yourself.

What did God give when He gave His Son? The child’s answer is spot on. When God gave His Son, He gave His Son. But in the giving of His Son to become a man, to become a sacrifice for sins, to take away the sins of the world, God gave more than what is obvious. However, whether you choose to think about and meditate upon what God gave when He gave His Son, the fact remains that if you persist in your unbelief, you will perish, while those who believe in Him will have everlasting life.


[1] 2 Samuel 24.15

[2] Referred to as Ornan in 1 Chronicles 21 and 2 Chronicles 3.1

[3] 2 Samuel 24.24

[4] Herbert Lockyer, All the Parables of the Bible, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1963), page 145.

[5] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 766.

[6] Matthew 27.46

[7] John F. Walvoord & Roy B. Zuck, General Editors, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 1983), page 89.

[8] David L. Turner, Matthew - ECNT, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2008), page 669.

[9] Propitiation is accomplished when the high priest applies the shed blood of the atoning sacrifice to the mercy seat, John 20.17.

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