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). A great many people hold this verse very dear to their heart. And while it is a wonderful passage, it is, more often than not, misunderstood. In the next few weeks let us examine this amazing passage to determine what this marvelous verse is actually teaching. The verse begins with the word for (gar), a conjunction used to explain a previous statement. Therefore, we must look to those verses preceding verse 16. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up (v. 14). This refers to the time God sent fiery serpents among the Israelites to punish them for murmuring in the wilderness after being delivered from Egyptian slavery. After they acknowledged their sin, God delivered them by instructing Moses to place a brazen serpent upon a standard. Any person that looked upon the serpent would live (Num. 21:4-9). This brazen serpent lifted up on the standard typifies Christ upon the cross. But notice that the desired cure for the Israelites was not realized in belief alone, for in addition to their faith in the Lord, they were required to obediently look upon the serpent. This background introduces John 3:16.
John says, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16). The magnanimity of God s love is expressed by the adverb so which indicates a degree of love so intense that the greatest of all sacrifices was made. Notice who it is that God loves the world. This means God loves you whoever you are. Furthermore, God gave His only begotten Son to die for you. Unfortunately some limit God s love and believe that God, consistent with His own sovereignty, has arbitrarily predestined some to go to heaven and some to go to hell, thus making you utterly helpless as to your eternal destiny. This passage says that s not so. This passage stresses the universality of God s love and sacrifice, but it s not the only one. Christ came to the earth that He might taste death for everyone (Heb. 2:9) and to give His life a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28). God s grace appeared bringing salvation to all men (Titus 2:11). In fact, God wishes that none should perish (2 Peter 3:9), but desires all men to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4). John the Baptist identified Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). And the apostle John says Jesus Christ is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world (1 John 2:2). Remember: God loves you!
John 3:16 says, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. God s great love motivated the greatest gift of all. The phrase only begotten comes from a word (monogenes) that denotes that He is unique in kind. God sent forth His Son, born of a woman (Gal. 4:4); in the likeness of men (Phil. 2:7) He came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). While the gift of God s Son is universal in scope in that it was given to the world, there must be a uniting between the will of the giver and the will of the benefactor for the gift to be effective. In other words, while God willingly gave His only begotten Son to all, not all have been willing to receive Him. John says, He was in the world ... and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him (John 1:10, 11). Some teach that God s grace is irresistible, but clearly it is within the power of men to reject God s gift. John says, But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name (John 1:12). To be sure, the gift of God s Son was freely given, i.e., not deserved, for while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). And so we say, Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift! (2 Cor. 9:15).
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). In our study of this passage we have seen the universality of God s love and grace as He sent His Son that He might taste death for everyone (Heb. 2:9). Truly salvation is offered to all, for whoever believes in Him can have everlasting life. Even so, this passage clearly shows salvation to be conditional. It matters not who you are; to be saved from your sins you must believe in Him. If you do not believe in Jesus Christ as the only begotten Son of God you simply cannot go to heaven. As Peter expressed it, Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). Jesus Christ is Lord and our only hope of salvation (1 Tim. 1:1), not Moses, or Mohammed, or Buddha or any other man that has ever lived. I know it s not politically correct to teach this, but the name given to these articles is Bible Basics and there is no truth taught in the Bible more basic or fundamental than this! Jesus Christ, God s only begotten Son, was given to die for your sins, was buried and raised from the dead that you might have the hope of eternal life (1 Peter 1:3-4). Do you believe it?
John 3:16 teaches that the universality of sin is overcome by the universality of God s grace, for Christ died for the sins of the world. Nevertheless, salvation is conditional for only those that believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). But does this passage teach that belief or faith alone will save us? As pointed out in the first article on John 3:16, the context of this verse refers to the children of Israel being punished for murmuring in the wilderness (cf. Num. 21:4-9). When bitten by the fiery serpents they were told to look upon the brazen serpent lifted up on the standard by Moses. But notice that the desired cure for the Israelites was not realized in belief alone, for in addition to their faith in the Lord, they were required to obediently look upon the serpent. Clearly the brazen serpent lifted up on the standard typifies Christ (John 3:14) as salvation from spiritual death is offered through belief in Him and His sacrificial death. But just as faith alone would not save the Israelites from death, neither will belief in Christ by itself save us. As James puts it, The demons also believe and tremble! (James 2:19), and concludes, You see then that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only (v. 22). And so, Christ became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him (Heb. 5:9).
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). Many take this passage to teach that salvation is by faith alone. But notice that faith only or faith alone is not in this passage. What this passage teaches is that for one to have eternal life he must believe in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God. It teaches that belief or faith is essential to salvation. But that is not all that is essential, for Jesus said, He who believes and is baptized will be saved (Mark 16:16). Unfortunately, many simply do not believe baptism is essential to salvation. But the context of John 3:16 says otherwise. In the first part of the chapter Jesus tells Nicodemus, Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5). This spiritual rebirth occurs when one is baptized in the name of Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Nicodemus responded to Jesus teaching in the same fashion as many today asking, How can’these things be? (v. 9). I suspect some Israelites argued, How can looking at a brass serpent stuck up on a pole cure poisonous snakebites? Those who believed the Lord obeyed and were saved from death those who didn t died. Have you been baptized into Christ?