In a nutshell, this is how God has solved the sin and death problem:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
This is telling us that people will “perish,” or be fully destroyed, because of their sin unless they believe in God’s Son and what God gave Him to us for. But if they do believe, living forever is still a possibility. There are only two options here: destruction or living forever. Not a hard choice, is it?
Let’s unpick this a bit and see what’s involved. First of all, who is God’s Son?
The Bible calls Him “the Word.” This may seem a strange name for the Son of God, but there is a reason for it.
No one has seen God at any time. The only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him [made Him known]. (John 1:18)
Like words portray thoughts, so God the Son is uniquely qualified to portray His Father to us. Part of His mission is to do that because we often misunderstand what God the Father is like. That stops us from trusting Him, so we keep our distance from Him.
We are told two astounding facts about the Word:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made through Him, and without Him, nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4)
We read earlier that God is the Creator and Life Giver, but now we’re seeing He works through His Son.
The Word Himself said,
“I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
Not only is the Word the direct source of our life, but in cooperation with His Father, He created and maintains everything there is.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn [head] over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist [hold together]. (Colossians 1:15-17)
It makes sense that a God who is love does not work in isolation, but in co-operation with another being like Himself.
Though He is unimaginably powerful, the Son of God took an incredible step: He became a human being. The Creator became a created being, yet He was still God. God the Son came down to us as a human being—fully human and fully God at the same time. The Bible calls this a mystery, and it is something we cannot really understand.
And the Word was made flesh and dwelt [lived] among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
By becoming human, the Word, God the Son, showed us the character of God the Father up close. His life was a continual illustration of God’s love in action on our level. It was the Father’s way of getting nearer to us and making it easier for us to understand Him.
But He did more than that. In His own words,
…the Son of Man [sometimes the Word called Himself that] did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)
He came to serve us (imagine that!) and also to pay a ransom for us with His own life. What is a ransom? It’s the price it takes to free a captive person. Why was His life required as a ransom? Because, as we have read, “the wages of sin is death.” We are death’s captives, as it were. He, God the Son, died the death that’s coming to us because of sin, so we wouldn’t have to. That’s a huge ransom!
Let’s spell this out. Our self-centeredness is going to cause our destruction. Because God is just and fair as well as kind, there is only one way for Him to stop that from happening. Someone who has kept the law of love as a human being has to step in and be destroyed in our place. The Word did that for each individual person, including you and me. Isn’t that breathtaking! And God the Father allowed His Son go through that for us, painful as it was for both of them. He “gave His only-begotten Son so that (we) should not perish….” There is more selfless love in what They did than we will ever understand, because there was an infinite amount of suffering involved for both of them. The more we look at Their sacrifice, the bigger it appears.
In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God sent His only-begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him. (1John 4:9)
…when we were still without strength, in due time Christ [meaning “the Anointed One”] died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous [good] man will one die: yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)
The Word can offer His death in our place as a gift to us because He never sinned Himself. He lived a human life full of God’s kind of love and never had one moment of self-centeredness. Amazing! That means He didn’t have to perish because of His own sins, but could take ours on Himself.
For He [God the Father] has made Him who knew no sin [His Son] to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God [unselfishly loving] in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)