One of the most humbling verses in all of Scripture is John 3:16. It is arguably the most memorized and quoted verse in the Bible. Yet, many repeat it without pondering its implications. A.W. Tozer said, “Attempting to deal with John 3:16 undertakes an almost insurmountable task, requiring a great deal of sympathy and a generous love for God and men” (Tozer, And He Dwelt Among Us, pg. 108). Nevertheless, John 3:16 is packed with powerful truths and deserves careful consideration, not just half-hearted recitation. So, let’s take a closer look at this verse.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NASB).
First, “For God so loved the world” is one of the most profound historical statements. This truth alone should remove all our ethnocentric ideas. Jesus is speaking with Nicodemus in this passage. Nicodemus was a “ruler of the Jews” (John 3:1) and, up until this point, believed that the Jews were the center of God’s world. The Jews thought that it was all about them and that God loved them more than everyone else. Jesus is telling Nicodemus and us that God loves everyone, regardless of race, culture, gender, or anything else that causes one person to think they are better than another. The knowledge that God loves the world is where we must drop racism and any other “ism” that keeps the church from loving like God.
Second, how much does God love the world? He loves the world so much that “He gave His only begotten Son.” God did not just give a gift; He gave the greatest gift. It was a gift so significant that we are still talking about it two millennia later. The NIV translates this as “His one and only Son.” This translation reveals the magnitude of God’s sacrifice. He gave His Son for the world because of His love for all. The idea that He would give His Son is reason enough for some people to reject God. As sad as that is, it does reveal how incredible His sacrifice is. He gave it all for you and me because He loves us.
Finally, all that it takes to receive God’s gift is belief. The greatest sin throughout John’s gospel is unbelief. Failure to believe in Christ will have grave consequences. However, faith in Christ brings salvation, new birth, and eternal life. Eternal life is what gets the most attention in this verse. We tend to look forward to heaven and to achieve eternal life. However, eternal life is not about a place. Eternal life is also not something that we are looking forward to later. Eternal life is what we receive when we believe in Christ. It is the present! The eternal, abundant life (John 10:10) begins when we accept Christ. Before you get too excited, let me tell you that eternal, abundant life has nothing to do with wealth or health. It has everything to do with living the Christ-like life. That life has everything to do with serving God and others because we love the world as He does.
Let’s love like God and give like God!
Pastor Josh May