Our text this morning is John 3:16, probably the most familiar text in all the world. We'll go on through John 3:17-21.
John 3:16 may be the religious community’s favorite Bible verse. This often has been called the Golden Text of the Bible, Every man’s Text, and other equally descriptive names. It is certainly a great text of the Bible. It tells about God's love for us, and what He was willing to do for us to be saved.
We see the reference for John 3:16 displayed prominently by fans at sporting events or players referencing it in some way on their uniforms. Many in the religious world seem to view it as the only important verse in the entire Bible that has any meaning. They say, “All you have to do is believe in order to be saved! And once saved, you can never be lost.”
The common religious view of the word “believeth” is much shallower than what the Bible means by it. Consequently, most people cheapen salvation but expect God to honor their biblically deficient plan of redemption.
The context in which John 3:16 appears explains how a person can correctly apply the love of God to himself. John 3:16 gives you the what, and the rest of the context gives you the how.
The Act of God's Love
- John 3:16
The word “loved” is the Greek word, agapao, the verb form for the most noble kind of love.
“…the noble word so common in the Gospels for the highest form of love…” — A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures of the New Testament
It's a word that is hard to define outside of the gospels. It's the kind of love that God has for his Creation.
The affection of God for mankind does not extend to or approve of man’s wickedness. God directed his love toward mankind despite man’s sinfulness.
He doesn't expect us to go on as we've been living, and expect us to be saved. He expects a change.
- Romans 5:8
God loved us in spite of our sins and sent His Son to die for us.
“God’s love for mankind is pure, spontaneous, and constant. Jesus did not die on the cross to compel God to love people, but because he already loved them, the cross being a result of God's love, not the cause of it.” — J. Burton Coffman
Therefore, a primary reason for mankind responding in love toward God is that God loved us first.
- 1 John 4:19
However, man’s love for God must be manifested by obeying God.
- John 14:15, 21
The ASV adds, will keep my commandments. We manifest our love, we show our love for God, we return our love to God, by doing His will.
"For God so loved the world."
The Greek for “world” here is, kosmos. It's not referring to the physical world, but rather the people of the world.
All mankind is under consideration. Generally, because of our individual sins, humanity is in a ruinous state of spiritual wickedness. Aside from the intervention of God, mankind is unable to save itself and is hopelessly lost.
- Jeremiah 10:23
We can't of our own, save ourselves. We can't save ourselves of our own will, or our own way. We have to keep His commandments.
"...that He gave..."
God “gave,” the Greek word, didomi. He is giving because of His own love. He's giving because of His own accord.
Jesus Christ was God’s free, unmerited gift to mankind.
- Galatians 1:4
He gave His Son for us. We had no claim on Jesus Christ and we did not deserve that supreme sacrifice.
- 2 Corinthians 5:21
He didn't owe us anything. He was made to be sin for us, even though He knew no sin. Jesus died for the sins of all of us.
- Hebrews 2:9
"God so love the word, that He gave His only begotten Son." God’s gift was his “only begotten Son.” The words “only begotten” come from the Greek word, monogenes, which means, “only born, that is, sole:” (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible).
Jesus Christ has the only natural relationship with the Father in heaven. Christians are adopted, sons.
- Galatians 4:5-7
We can become sons of God through Him. We can be adopted into the family of God.
The word “whosoever” demonstrates that God’s gift is intended for every person. God offered the gift of his Son for human salvation to the whole worldwide, to everyone, universally.
- Matthew 28:19
- Mark 16:15
No accountable soul is without conditional blessings afforded through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is offered to all, freely.
"...that whosoever believeth..."
God’s condition by which humanity can receive the gift of God’s Son is faith ⎯ “believeth.” The Greek verb for the word belief is pisteuo.
Many believe that this believeth means a mental acknowledgment. Biblically, faith is equated to mental acknowledgment and corresponding conformity by activity.
- Numbers 20:7-12
What did God tell him to do? He told him to speak to the rock, but Moses gathered the people together and smote the rock. Was he obedient? Notice, they were disobedient and God says that is unbelief.
The close relationship between belief and obedience is apparent in comparing the KJV and ASV in the various following passages.
- Romans 11:30-31
"For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy." — Romans 11:30-31 KJV)
"For as ye in time past were disobedient to God, but now have obtained mercy by their disobedience, even so, have these also now been disobedient, that by the mercy shown to you they also may now obtain mercy. — Romans 11:30-31 ASV
Also in the book of Hebrews, we see this concept.
- Hebrews 3:18-19
"And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them, that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief." — Hebrews 3:18-19 KJV
"And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that were disobedient? And we see that they were not able to enter in because of unbelief." — Hebrews 3:18-19 ASV
The word, unbelief, or disobedience in the (ASV), is the Greek word, apatheio. Patheio, or English pathos means, moved or persuaded. The word Apatheio, is unmoved, unpersuaded, thus disobedient.
Biblically, faith alone is insufficient if there is no corresponding activity.
- James 2:24
We see here that Abraham was justified in obeying God.
The Bible often uses faith or belief, as seen here in John 3:16, to represent the whole response to God’s gift of Jesus Christ.
- Mark 16:16
Notice, there is the mental acknowledgment and the conformity to the obedience of His command.
- Acts 8:12
When they believed they did what he said to do. When they believed those things they were told to do, they were baptized, in response to the message.
The reason for which God gave Jesus as a sacrifice is that no one “should not perish but have everlasting life.”
“Perish” means, “to destroy fully” (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible). Implied here is that we will perish eternally, we will be lost. Yet, God does not want any soul to be lost.
- 2 Peter 3:9
We see the act of God's love... "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." — John 3:16
The Purpose of God's Love
- John 3:17
The purpose of our Lord’s first coming into the world was not to condemn it.
- Luke 19:10
The first coming was not for the purpose to pronounce sentence on mankind” The world was already condemned in the throes of sin before Jesus Christ came into the world.
- Romans 3:23
The word “condemn” is from the Greek word, krino, which means to judge or distinguish with an eye to punish.
The Greek word for “saved” means, ‘to save, heal and make whole.’ It's not to be saved from our spiritual circumstances, but to be saved from the consequences of our sins.
The next time Jesus comes, he will come in judgment upon sinners. The disobedient will be punished.
- 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9
Two groups, those who are disobedient, and those who are unbelieving. For the obedient, our Lord’s second coming will be to retrieve them and take them to heaven.
- John 14:1-3
Here we see the purpose of God's love for mankind. He's going to come in judgment to punish the disobedient, and take the saved to Heaven.
The Rejection of God's Love
- John 3:18
This verse is comparable to Mark 16:16. Notice that Jesus places all of mankind in only two categories: the believer and the unbeliever — the saved and the condemned. There is a double condemnation for unbelievers.
Mankind without Jesus Christ is already hopelessly condemned in sin. Failure to believe on Jesus Christ is the source of additional condemnation.
“…the unbeliever is under the uttermost condemnation, not merely from the fact of all people being lost apart from Christ, but from the additional reason of his having rejected the only means of grace and salvation.” – J. Burton Coffman, Commentary on the Bible
The Response to God's Love
- John 3:19-21
John 3:19, essentially says that there is no excuse for anyone being lost since Jesus Christ has come into the world.
"Here “loved” indicates that the sinner “deliberately loves the darkness and is morally rebellious and makes his own choice! …Unbelief stems from a moral wickedness and not from ignorance!” Paul T. Butler, College Press Commentary
John 3:20 notes that sinful men prefer the darkness of sin and do not like being exposed for what they are by the light of God’s Word.
- Psalms 119:105
Those that reject God's love, reject His word. They don't want someone telling them how to live. They don't want their deeds to be exposed.
“The offender knows he is enmeshed in wrong but refuses to advance into the light of Christ lest his deeds, which he loves, be exposed.” — College Press Commentary
The word evil, found in verses 19 and 20 are different Greek words.
In John 3:20 evil is from a different word = morally worthless.
“In v. 19 the word, ponera, which denotes an active wickedness, and in v. 20 the word is phaula, which denotes worthlessness…” (College Press)
The mission of the apostle Paul was to turn people from the darkness of sin to the light of the Lord. That's why the gospel was preached.
- Acts 26:18
As children of God, we are often called “children of light.”
- 1 Thessalonians 5:5
We're to turn from darkness unto light. But some, refuse to make that change, less they be reproved. The word “reprove” means, "To bring to light or expose’ by conviction.”, (Marvin R. Vincent, Vincent's Word Studies). Men, at least some, love darkness and refuse to come to light.
- John 3:21
The spiritual light that emanates from God through his Word exonerates the deeds of the children of God. Christians are doers of God’s Word, for which God blesses them.
- James 1:25
A mere mental acknowledgment of Jesus Christ without accompanying compliance with the Word of God will not save. Vincent's commentary observes that the passage contrasts “doeth evil” in verse 20 with “doeth truth” in verse 21; faith or lack of faith correspond to activity, namely obedience or disobedience, (Marvin R. Vincent, Vincent's Word Studies).
We need to understand that a Bible-based faith that is demonstrated by compliance with the Bible. Faith that obeys is a faith that saves. Faith without obedience is not Biblical faith. Faith without works is a dead faith. A shallow, denominational substitute for Bible faith, and which is non-compliant with the Word of God, does not save.
Salvation is conditional on conformity to the Word of God, whereby the gift of God’s Son saves. Have you implemented the words of Jesus in your life?
- Mark 16:16
Have you been baptized for the remission of your sins? Have you acknowledged your belief in Christ, and truly repented of your sins, to then be baptized to have your sins washed away? If not, why not today?
If you were once a saved Christian, but have turned away from God, you can return to Him today. Are you walking daily in the light of God’s Word whereby your sins are remitted, 1 John 1:7? We can walk in the light, when we return to Him, His blood continually cleanses us from our sins. You can return to the Lord.
If we can assist you in coming to know, understand, and obey your belief in Jesus Christ, please contact us.
Adapted from Louis Rushmore's, “Preaching the Whole Counsel of God, Vol. 5”