In 3:1-10 Jesus conversed with Nicodemus; in 3:11-21 Jesus testified before Nicodemus concerning the work and supremacy of God’s royal Son, i.e. Jesus Himself. In 3:22-30 John the Baptist conversed with his disciples; in 3:31-36 John testified concerning the work and supremacy of the royal Son, i.e. Jesus. There are distinct similarities between these two testimonies: both speak of the love of God, belief and unbelief, eternal life and condemnation.
Although Jesus did mighty miracles, they were intended to testify to the truthfulness of His word. So John testified, For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without limit (3:34). Jesus had a unique relationship with His Father with who He was in close communion. So John testified, He bears witness to what he has seen and heard (3:32a). Jesus spoke the word of God (Mark 2:2). Yet, no one receives His testimony (3:32b) But, whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true (3:33). This seems to be a contradiction, but it is not dissimilar to Jesus’ words earlier where he said everyone is in darkness, but some come into the light (3:19,21). The only way it is possible to come into the light, and to receive his testimony, is through the word of Christ: but to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but born of God (1:12).
Throughout John Jesus testifies concerning himself, for example through His I AM sayings. When we receive and believe, we set our seal to this, that God is true (3:33b). However truth is not a valued commodity these days. We are living in an age of fake news, of lies and distorted mirrors, because the underlying philosophy of our age denies there is any such thing as absolute truth. The resulting confusion and chaos is what we see in society today. however, when we come to the God of truth, then order and peace come into our lives.
The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hands (3:35). We believe this. But many would question how God can have a Son. If God has a Son, He isn’t One, but Two, or Three. Muslims cannot for this reason entertain the thought that God has a Son.
In our passage we have the Father, the Son and the Spirit. 1+1+1=3. How can we say we worship One God, when it seems we worship Three? Even the Old Testament says, the LORD our God is one LORD (Deuteronomy 6:4). However, interestingly, the word for one is the same word used in Genesis 2:24, the two shall become one flesh. This is the way we understand the Oneness of God. There is plurality in the mystical union of marriage, the two become one. Likewise there is a Oneness between the Father and the Son and Spirit (though not sexual). There is plurality in the Oneness of God, which we call the Holy Trinity.
This is how we know God is love, a point John stresses in his gospel. God is love because God loves the Son, not because he loves us, although he does. Within the relations of perfect communion within the Godhead, the Father loves the Son (3:35). Jesus confirmed this in his high priestly prayer, for you have loved me form the foundation of the world (John 17:24). We don’t know much about the foundation of the world! However we know this: God was love, because within the Godhead, the Father loved the Son. There were perfect relations of love and Oneness.
So the Baptist concludes, whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see live, but the wrath of of remains on him (3:36). When Jesus died on the cross he took the wrath and punishment we deserved, in order we may go free and receive eternal life. The wrath of God is both temporal and eternal (Romans 1:18; Luke 10:13-16). Does not obey refers to a strong wilful resistance, not a mistake or a Christian who falls.
NB I wrote up this sermon almost a year late! My notes were difficult to follow and I included material from our trip to Israel, omitted here, which on reflection I’m not sure worked very well!