John 3:16 is one of the Bible’s best-known verses for good reason

By: Derek Green

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Firstly, it describes God’s gift to the world: “God…gave his only Son”. Among the mass of humanity that has walked the earth, Jesus Christ is utterly unique: He is one Person with two natures. On the one hand, He is fully human. In His human nature He was born to a human mother, He lived, and He died. On the other hand, He is fully God. In His divine nature He is eternal and uncreated, the same in substance and equal in power and glory to God Himself. At the appointed time, God the Son, the second person of the Trinity, joined Himself to our humanity and graciously entered into the world as an infant in a manger.

Secondly, it describes God’s motivation in giving his Son: love for the world. Up until then, ever since the events at the Tower of Babel where God dispersed the people by confusing their language, He had been manifesting His presence and revealing His word to one particular people group: Abraham and his descendants, the nation of Israel. But in the giving of his Son, God began manifesting His presence and revealing His word not to Israel only, but to “the world”. God’s motivation in the giving of his Son was “love” for the world, and to fulfil his plan to save a people for himself, not just from one nation alone, but “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

Thirdly, it describes God’s purpose in giving his Son: “that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” This means that every person to walk the earth faces one of two destinies: “perishing”, or “eternal life”. This also means that “perishing” is the destiny we face by default, and the only way to escape that destiny, and enter into “eternal life” instead, is through faith in God’s Son. Why is that? The Bible explains. God created humanity in His own image, to love, worship, serve, and delight in God as our Father, Creator, King, and Treasure, to love one another as fellow image-bearers, and to reflect the goodness of God’s perfect character in everything we do. But humanity has rebelled against God, and in our sin, we have rejected the purpose of our existence. In our sinful condition we are haters of God, lovers of self, and lovers of sin. “The wages of sin is death”, and God, being a just judge, must judge and condemn the evil of sin. Hell is a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Luke 13:28), eternal fire and utter darkness (Jude 7, 13), and endless torment (Rev 20:10). This is the meaning of “perishing” in John 3:16. It is what we deserve for our rebellion, and it is the destiny of all who die in their sin. In hell, God will pour out His wrath on lost sinners forever.

However, by the gift of his Son, God has provided a way of escape. As the God-man, Jesus lived the kind of perfectly sinless life that God demands from you, but which you have failed to live. He has what you need: the record of a perfectly righteous life before God. And as the God-man, Jesus paid for the sins of His people on the cross, bearing their sins “in His own body” (1 Pet 2:24) and suffering and dying under God’s holy judgment in their place. He offered to God what you desperately need: a perfect sacrifice and payment for sin.

Jesus Christ has what we need. But how are those things applied to us? How can we benefit from what He did? John 3:16 tells us how. We must “believe in him.” We don’t deserve God’s mercy, and we cannot earn God’s mercy. Salvation is a free gift, to be received through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

“Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’”  Mark 1:15

Repent of your sins! Agree with God concerning your guilt, confess your sins to God, and turn away from all sin! Believe in the Gospel! The Gospel is the wonderful news that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” (1 Tim 1:15) Believe it! Turn to Christ! Cry out to God for mercy, and trust in Jesus, who “delivers us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thess. 1:10)

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”  Acts 16:31

Through faith, we are united to Christ, and everything He did for sinners becomes ours. God forgives us of our sins based on Christ’s sacrifice, and counts His righteousness as our own. God can therefore forgive us, dismiss His case against us, and declare us to be righteous in His sight without violation of his justice or righteousness. Fear of God’s judgment is removed. Instead, through Christ, we have perfect peace with God!

In salvation, God restores us to the purpose of our creation. While far from perfect, true believers love, worship, serve, and delight in God as their Father, Creator, King, and Treasure and in Christ as their Lord and Savior, and love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

All who die without Christ will bear God’s wrath forever in hell, but true believers will ultimately live in a perfected creation in sinless, painless, joyous, eternal fellowship with God and one another.

In the original language, the word “gospel” means “good news”, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ truly is the best news every to fall on human ears. Our prayer is that God would be pleased to use the content of this website to bring glory to his Name through the salvation of sinners and the edification of Christ’s church.

Soli Deo Gloria.