John 3:16: a Few Reflections

Although it may not be as well known today, for many years believers and unbelievers alike could recite, verbatim, the KJV rendering of John 3:16:

For God so loved the world,
that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish,
but have everlasting life.

There is so much life-changing truth packed into this verse that, according to some stories, evangelist Dwight L. Moody’s life and ministry were changed by sitting under the preaching of a man who preached from John 3:16 throughout daily meetings over an entire week!

The verse shows up toward the end of Jesus’ words to Nicodemus, the Jewish ruler who came to him by night.  Jesus had told him of the need to be born again, born from above, by the Spirit of God.  Jesus told him that the Son of man must be lifted up, even as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, pointing forward to the crucifixion, with both events sharing the need for personal faith in those looking at the exalted symbol of God’s judgment on their sin.  In John 3:16, Jesus explains the love of God as the motivation for sending the Son, for the purposes of rescuing believers from perishing and granting them everlasting life.

Two key ideas in this passage are the reasons God gave, and the reasons we should believe in His Son (this concern for personal faith is the whole motivation of John’s Gospel, see 20:30-31).

Why God Gave

God gave, because He so loved the world.  God created the world, and the people in the world.  It was His idea, not some random freak accident.  His love is seen to be all the more magnificent when we see that He gave His Son to a world that did not welcome Him (1:10-11).

God gave, because the world was in danger.  People would perish because they were in rebellion against God, their Creator.  Men wanted to be their own law, rather than submitting to God.  This rebellion deserves eternal death and separation from God’s love, yet the danger of perishing motivated God’s gift of His Son.

God gave, because the world couldn’t save itself.  Mankind was in such a predicament that no human scheme could be devised to escape God’s wrath.

God gave, because His Son could and would save.  Jesus was able and willing.  The Son of God becoming flesh, living a perfect life, dying on the cross, and rising from the dead was the perfect choice and only way for mankind to be rescued.

Why We Should Believe

God gave.  We should believe.  We should fully trust Christ and entrust our eternal destiny to Him and His finished work.

We should believe, so that we will not perish.  If God had not sent His Son, we would have perished.  If we do not believe in the Son, we will perish.  We don’t have to perish, but we must believe to avoid perishing.  Those who do not believe are already stand condemned (3:17), but God sent His Son so that we wouldn’t have to perish (3:18), so let’s make sure we believe!

We should believe, because we can’t save ourselves.  We can’t reform our habits, manners, or speech sufficiently to impress God.  Even if we could, that still wouldn’t erase yesterday’s rebellion.  We are incapable of spiritual good apart from God.

We should believe, because Christ can and will save.  This salvation extends to “whosoever” believes.  Regardless of our past, Christ can and will save, if we believe in Him.

We should believe, in order to experience God’s love.  God has showered untold kindness on us already.  But this is temporary if we do not believe.  If we do not believe, this life is as good as it gets.  If we do believe, this life is the worst thing we will experience, as eternity will be full of life and joy.  This love of God spares us from perishing and gives us everlasting life, a life that cannot end, a life that is wrapped up in the Giver of life, in the One Who is life and is the life (1:4; 14:6).

What Is Our Response?

If you do not know Christ, I pray that you will see the greatness of God’s love and your need for the gift of His Son, and that you will have faith in Jesus.

For those of us who know Christ, may this verse increase our gratitude and love toward God and impassion us to share this glorious message with others.

Have you memorized John 3:16?  An easy way to do so is to sing it to the tune of “Silent Night”:

John 3:16; John 3:16
For God so loved the world,
that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish,
but have everlasting life.


This post was originally published at Gazing at Glory.

Books available on Kindle and in paperback: 

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About dougsmith1977

Disciple of the Lord Jesus, husband, dad, student, teacher, preacher, media producer, blogger, writer. Author of Keeping the Faith in a Christian College. I tweet @dougsmith1977 .
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