When I was a boy, I saw a sight I can never forget. I saw a man tied to a cart and dragged through the streets of town. His back was torn and bleeding from many lashes. It was a shameful punishment. For many offenses? No, for one offense. Did any of the townsmen offer to divide the lashes with him? No, he who committed the offense bore the penalty all alone. He was also the last person to bear that penalty, because the law soon changed.
When I was a student at the university, I saw another sight I can never forget. I saw a man delivered to die. His arms were tied up; his face was pale as death-thousands of eager eyes were upon him as he came from the jail. Did any man ask to die in his place? Did any friend come and loose the rope and say, "Put it around my neck; I will die instead"? No, he underwent the sentence of the law. For many offenses? No; for one offense of robbery. He broke the law at one point, and died for it. He also bore the punishment for a changing law. It was the last instance of capital punishment being inflicted for robbery.
Years later, I saw another sight I shall never forget. I saw my own soul torn and bleeding from years of sin. I felt the shame of all of my sins being seen by a Holy God. I saw myself a condemned sinner, standing on the brink of eternal punishment in the lake of fire. For one sin? No, for many, many sins committed against God. Did anyone offer to bear my sentence? Yes, I looked again and saw Jesus Christ offering to be my Substitute. He bore in His own body on the cross all the punishment for my sin (1 Peter 2:24). He died so that I might live. He suffered-the Just for the unjust-that He might bring me to God (1 Peter 3:18). Then I confessed my sins to Christ and trusted my soul to Him for salvation (Romans 10:9). He redeemed me from the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13). I had sinned and was condemned to eternal punishment. He bore the punishment and now I am free.
The never-changing law of God requires a perfect righteousness I could never even hope to attain by myself. Again I looked unto Him and found that "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Romans 10:4). The law required spotless purity, and I was defiled with sin. Again I looked unto "Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood" (Revelation 1:5).
I was a child of disobedience, a child of wrath; "But as many as received Him, to them gave He power [the right] to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name" (John 1:12). I found in Him not only my Substitute, and my Saviour, but the full supply of every need of my life.
I long to tell you of this Saviour, "for there is none other Name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Have you accepted Christ as your Substitute? He alone is able to remove the guilt and condemnation of sin. "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
Believe He died for you and rose again to provide the way for your salvation. Repent of your sins, and put your trust in Jesus Christ as your Substitute, and you will be eternally saved from all the consequences of sin (Acts 13:38,39). Then you can truly say, "Christ is My Substitute."
-Sir James Simpson (inventor of Chloroform)
A heavy splash was followed by many ripples and then the water below the pier was still. David Morse, a missionary, crouched low on the pier, his eyes riveted where a stream of little bubbles rose to the surface from deep under the water. In a moment his old friend Rambhau, an Indian pearl diver, appeared and clambered onto the dock, grinning.
"Look at this one, sahib," said Rambhau, taking a big oyster from between his teeth. "I think it will be good."
Morse took it and pried it open with his pocketknife. "Rambhau! Look!" exclaimed Morse, "Why it's a treasure!"
"Yes, a good one," shrugged the diver.
"Good! It's perfect isn't it? Have you ever seen a better pearl? " cried Morse, turning the pearl over in his hands.
"Oh, yes, there are better pearls, much better. Why, I have one." his voice trailed off. "See here-the imperfections-the black speck here, this tiny dent. It's not even round, but good enough as pearls go."
"Your eye is too sharp for your good, my friend," lamented Morse. "I would never ask for a more perfect pearl!"
"It is just as you say about your God," answered Rambhau. "To themselves people seem without fault, but God sees them as they really are." The two men started down the dusty road to town.
"You're right, Rambhau, but God offers a perfect righteousness to all who will simply believe and accept His free offer of salvation through His beloved Son-"
"No, sahib. As I've told you so many times, it's too easy. That is where your religion breaks down. Perhaps I am too proud, but I must work for my place in heaven. Do you see that man over there? He is a pilgrim, perhaps to Bombay or Calcutta. He walks barefooted over the sharpest stones-and see-every few paces he kneels down and kisses the road. That is good. The first day of the new year I shall begin my pilgrimage. All my life I have planned it. I shall make sure of heaven this time. I am going to Delhi on my knees."
"Rambhau! You're crazy! It's nine hundred miles to Delhi! The skin will break on your knees and you will have blood poisoning or leprosy before you ever get there."
"No, I must go to Delhi. The suffering will be sweet, for it will purchase heaven for me."
"Rambhau, my friend, you can't! How can I let you do this when Jesus Christ, by His death and resurrection, has already done all to purchase heaven for you?"
But the old man could not be moved. "You are my dearest friend on earth, sahib Morse. Through many years you have stood beside me. In sickness and want you have been sometimes my only friend. But even you cannot turn me from this great desire to purchase eternal bliss. I must go to Delhi." It was useless. The old pearl diver could not understand, could not accept the free salvation of Christ.
Later one afternoon Morse answered a knock at his door to find Rambhau there.
"My good friend!" exclaimed Morse. "Come in."
"No," said the pearl diver. "I want you to come with me to my house, sahib. I have something to show you."
The heart of the missionary leaped. Perhaps God was answering his prayers at last. "Of course I'll come."
Inside Rambhau's home, Morse was seated on the chair where many times he had sat explaining to the diver God's way of salvation, Rambhau left the room to return with a small but heavy strongbox. "I have had this strongbox for years," he said. "I keep only one thing in it. Now I will tell you about it. Sahib Morse, I once had a son."
"A son! Rambhau, you never said a word about him!"
"No, sahib, I couldn't."
As the diver spoke, his eyes were wet with tears. "Now I must tell you, for soon I will leave, and who knows whether I shall ever return? My son was a diver, too-the best pearl diver on the coasts of India. He had the swiftest dive, the keenest eye, the strongest arm, the longest breath of any man who sought for pearls. What joy he brought to me! He always dreamed of finding a pearl beyond all others. One day he found it, but in his desire to get it, he stayed under too long. He lost his life soon after. All these years I have kept the pearl, but now, my friend, I am giving it to you."
The old man, shaking with emotion, worked the lock on the strongbox and drew from it a carefully wrapped package. Gently folding back the cloths, he picked up a mammoth pearl and placed it in the hand of the missionary. It was one of the largest pearls ever found off the coast of India, and it glowed with a luster and brilliance Morse had never seen. It would have brought a fabulous sum in any market.
For a moment the missionary was speechless and gazed on the pearl with awe. "Rambhau! what a pearl!"
"That pearl, sahib, is perfect," he replied quietly.
The missionary looked up quickly with a new thought.
"Rambhau this is a wonderful pearl, an amazing pearl. Let me buy it. I will give you ten thousand dollars for it."
"Sahib! What do you mean?"
"Well, I will give you fifteen thousand dollars for it, or if it takes more I will work for it."
"Sahib," said Rambhau, as his whole body stiffened, "this pearl is beyond all price. No man in all the world has enough money to pay what this pearl is worth to me. I could never sell it. You may only have it as a gift."
"No, Rambhau, I cannot accept it that way. Perhaps I am too proud, but that is too easy. I must earn it."
The old pearl diver was stunned. "You don't understand at all, sahib. Don't you see? My only son gave his life to get this pearl, and nothing you would do could ever earn it. Its worth is in the life-blood of my son. Just accept it as a token of the love I have for you."
For a moment the missionary could not speak. Then he gripped the hand of his old friend. "Rambhau," he said in a low voice, "don't you see? That is just what God has been saying to you."
The diver looked long and searchingly at the missionary and slowly he began to understand.
"God is offering salvation to you as a free gift. It is so great and priceless that no man on earth could buy it-millions of dollars are too little. No man can earn it-in a thousand pilgrimages you could not earn it. It cost God the life-blood of His only Son to make the entrance for you into heaven. All you can do is accept it as a token of God's love for you, a sinner.
"Rambhau, of course I will accept the pearl in deep humility, praying God I may be worthy of your love. But won't you accept God's great gift of eternal life, in deep humility knowing it cost Him the death of His only Son to offer it to you?"
Great tears were rolling down the face of the old man. The veil was lifting. He understood at last. "Sahib, I see it now. I could not believe that His salvation was free, but now I understand. Some things are too priceless to be bought or earned. Sahib, I accept His offer of salvation."
"God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
"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." (John 3:16).
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8,9).
John 3:16 is often called "The Gospel Text," for here we have the whole gospel briefly stated. We see the source of salvation-the love of God; the channel through which salvation comes-His only begotten Son; and the way by which we receive it-faith in His Son.
Perhaps you will say, "Oh, I have read that verse a thousand times." Even if you have, have you ever really believed it-that is, by faith made yourself one of the "whosoevers" by trusting in Christ, and thereby received everlasting life?
A Christian friend told me how he was converted through this verse. He took it, read it word by word, believing as he read, applied it to himself, trusted the Son, and received everlasting life. Multitudes of other searching souls have done the same. Have you? If not, may the Lord help you to do so now.
Just let us look at this wonderful verse, a word or two at a time, always remembering that this is God's Word, and God means what He says.
That is the first word. Salvation begins with God. Here is man's first mistake. Man begins with himself. Man asks, "What must I do?" God says, "See what I have done." Friend, turn from yourself to God. Hear what He says, and see what He has done.
Love-salvation springs from the love of God. God loved what? The world, a world of sinners. Wondrous, undeserved love! But remember, we must accept that love, or else it will do us no good.
But I have omitted a word, have I not? It is such a little word, but very big with meaning.
Oh that "So"! It tells of the great, boundless nature of God's love, love which can only be measured by the action that it produced.
Salvation is a gift. "The gift of God is eternal life" (Romans 6:23). Friend, are you trying to buy it? It is "without price" (Isaiah 55:1). God cannot sell it, and you cannot buy it-it is far too valuable. But God offers it freely as a gift. Will you accept it?
What a tremendous sacrifice! What love that offered it! Salvation is through God's Son. "God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life" (1 John 5:11,12). Eternal life is not in us, but in Jesus alone. Therefore take Him as your Saviour, and you will have eternal life!
We have now seen what God has done-"God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." Now, in the rest of the verse, we will see why He did it-"That whosoever believeth [trusts] in Him, should [will] not perish, but have everlasting life."
Perhaps you say, "How may I know that salvation is offered to me?" Well, what does God say? "Whosoever," which extends the offer of salvation to every man, woman, and child on the earth. That includes you, my friend, does it not?
Here it is as important to see what God does not say as what He does say.
God does not say, "Whosoever is moral, respectable, honest, well spoken of, and an office-holder or member of the church will be saved." This is man's first false way of salvation-character. It was the Pharisee's way-"God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men." And so he "trusted in himself." (See Luke 18:9,11.) Was he "justified," cleansed of His sins? No (verse 14). Why not? Because he was only righteous in his own sight, and in the sight of those around him. In God's sight he was a sinner, for "all have sinned." When it comes to man's character, there "is no difference" (Romans 3:22,23). In God's sight, "There is none righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10), and God is the Judge.
God also does not say, "Whosoever does good works will be saved." This is man's second false way of salvation-works. Did it ever strike you-what good works can a sinner do? As is the tree, so is its fruit; as is the man, so are his works. If you are a sinner, your works are sinful and of no merit for salvation. "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6). Thus, you see, a sinner can't do any works that please God. Even more than that, my unsaved friend, in God's sight you are a sinner and therefore "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). Now, what can dead people do? Nothing! It is life you need, and it is life God offers you.
Does God ask you as a sinner to work for salvation? No, His Word declares that salvation is "not of works" (Ephesians 2:9). Galatians 2:16 tells us three times that salvation is not by works, and three times that it is by faith. Read that verse-it leaves no doubt!
Finally, God does not say "Whosoever has a certain feeling is saved." This is man's third false way of salvation-feelings. This is a common mistake with anxious souls. "Oh," says one, "if only I could feel some new feeling within me, I think I would be all right." You think so, but does God say so? Never. He does not ask you to feel, but to believe His Word and trust His Son.
I know what you want. You want to feel "the joy of salvation." But how can you feel the joy of salvation, until you first have salvation? A drowning man can't feel the joy of being saved until first he is saved, and neither can you. Likewise, just as feeling can't save him, neither can it save you. Salvation is a fact, not a feeling, and rests on these three great facts-Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He has risen again (1 Corinthians 15:3,4).
We've noticed that God does not say, Whosoever is, or does, or feels. He does say, "Whosoever believeth." To believe means to trust yourself completely to the one in whom you believe. Who is that?
The Son of God. Not in yourself, or in yourself and Jesus together, but in Jesus-Jesus only. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
Perish you will, if you do not trust in Christ. The soul without Christ is in great danger. Did you ever think of that? Friend, if you are still an unbelieving sinner, you are in a terrible state, and on the way to a terrible doom! "He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36). Escape to Christ, trust in Him, and then you will not perish.
No matter what kind of person you are, and no matter what kinds of things you have done, if you will right now trust in Jesus, believing who He is-the Son of God-and what He has done-died on the cross and risen again for you, you will right now have eternal life. When you believe God's Word, you will have the assurance of your salvation, too, for it says of those who trust in Jesus, "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand" (John 10:28).