Joh 3:16 For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son: that whosoever believeth in him may not perish, but may have life everlasting.
For God so loved, &c. This is said by way of anticipation, lest Nicodemus should object, “If thou art the Son of God, how will God suffer Thee to be suspended and exalted upon the cross?”
Christ meets this by implying that God will permit it in order to show forth His burning love to men, which was typified by the serpent of brass, which is called in Hebrew saraph, which means fiery, and setting on fire. So S. Chrysostom and Theophylact.
Observe that every word of Christ in this sentence has a great and special emphasis, in order to magnify to the utmost the love of God. For (i.) He says, So, with such vehemence, such excess of love. 2. Not a king, or an angel, loved, but God. 3. Loved, i e., first and as it were gratuitously; without merit, yea, even without desire on our part. 4. The world, His enemy, and under the sentence of damnation. 5. Gave not another man, not an angel, not another world, but His Son; and that not an adopted Son, but His own Son; and again not one Son of many, but His only Son, His Only Begotten Son. 6. He did not sell, or lend, but gave freely; and not to a kingdom and triumphs, but to death and the Cross. 7. Christ did not do it for Himself, to gain any advantage for Himself, but that He, the Creator, might give life to us His creatures by His own death, that by His humility He might exalt us, that by His emptying Himself He might heap upon us eternal glory, and an infinite weight of wealth and goodness. This is the love of God towards man, which the Apostle celebrates (Tit_3:5).
You may say, it would have been greater love if God the Father had given Himself for us, and taken our flesh, than that He sent His Son. For he gives more who gives himself than he who sends another.
But I reply that this is true of those who are of a different essence, but not of God: for the Father and the Son have the same Divine Essence, and are consubstantial. Wherefore the Father, in giving us His Son, with Him gave us His own Essence, than which nothing greater can exist, or be given. This gift of the Father was therefore the greatest possible, and infinite. So S. Cyril on this passage.
You may further urge, God gave not His own Person, but His Essence only: and that He would have given more if He had given His Person also. I answer by denying the conclusion. 1. Because Person is God is in reality the same as Essence; for it adds nothing to His Essence except relatively, and the idea of distinction from the other Persons: also because the Person of the Son is as worthy a the Person of the Father. For all the three Divine Persons are co-equal in all things, as the Athanasian Creed saith. Besides, the Father in giving the Person of His Son, gave us also His own Person, as well as the Person of the Holy Ghost. Because the Father is in the Son, and both are in the Holy Ghost. And again the Son is in the Father, and the Holy Ghost in the Father and the Son, of which I will speak more fully on chapter xiv. 10.
Moreover S. Thomas (3 part, qu. 3) gives several reasons why God the Father gave not proximately His own Person, but the Person of His Son; or why the Son alone took upon Him our flesh. Among which the primary is, because the Father willed to adopt us and our nature, and to make us His sons, and so heirs. For He made His Son to be our brother, that by Him we might become sons of God, and so heirs, as Christ here intimates.
Joh 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world, to judge the world: but that the world may be saved by him.
For God sent not, &c. He confirms and intensifies the assertion of the infinite love of God to men, as proved by Christ’s being crucified. For God might justly have sent His Son into the world to destroy it for its great wickedness. For this was what His justice demanded, but the infinite love of God overcame justice in that it bestowed the highest blessing upon the world, which deserved the utmost extremity of punishment, in giving it salvation through Him.
Observe: the expression judge the world, as it is in the Vulgate, means to condemn, and destroy it in hell. It is opposed to the word saved. Hence S. Augustine observes that this was the end of Christ’s Incarnation, that all men might be saved, and that He earnestly desired and willed this. Wherefore it is of themselves, through their own fault, and not Christ’s, that many of them will be damned.
Joh 3:18 He that believeth in him is not judged. But he that doth not believe is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
He that believeth . . . is not judged, shall not be condemned, but saved. But he that doth not believe is already judged, i.e., is condemned already. For such an one manifestly condemns himself by his unbelief; for by it he cuts himself off from the very pathway and beginning of salvation, i.e., faith; because he believeth not in the name, &c., Greek, ει̉ς όνομα, which means the same thing as believing on the Son of God Himself. For name is here put by metonymy for the thing named. “He shows,” says S. Cyril, “how dreadful a crime unbelief is, because He is the Only Begotten Son of God. For by how much greater is the excellence of that which is despised, by so much will he who despises be liable to severer punishment. Especially, because such persons make God a liar, because they believe not the witness which God hath testified of His Son” (1 John 5:10).