|God willing to give, Jesus willing to die|
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NLT).
Here we read God’s motive for giving that gift of eternal life, of being born again: He “loved the world so much.” The quantitative statement raises the question: How much did God love the world? God’s action answers the question: “He gave his one and only Son.” This is giving, not as in “sharing for a time” but as in allowing the Son of Man to be “lifted up” (John 3:14) like Moses’ serpent on a pole*. This is the kind of ultimate giving Paul described in Romans 5:8, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”
After declaring God’s motive and action, John 3:16 then defines the breadth of the opportunity (“everyone”) and the mode of response (“who believes in him”). The classic English “whosoever” here conveys the thought that anyone and everyone who believes in Jesus becomes a candidate to receive certain benefits (such as “eternal life”) and avoid certain consequences (such as “the judgment”). This conveys the same certainty as the “must” Jesus used when he told Nicodemus “you must be born again” in order to “enter the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3). So “believe in him” become crucial phrase to understand. Believing in Jesus doesn’t mean attraction to his personality or recognition of his existence; believing in Jesus means believing in the significance of his work at the Cross, where he died for our sin. By the way, “will not perish” refers to the fact that without Jesus’ intervention, we have no hope. Perishing is the human condition without Jesus. The Gospel is good news because it tells us there’s one way to avoid perishing – believing in Jesus.
Think about this: At some point in your life you may have memorized this verse, John 3:16. It represents (as most people) one of the clearest summaries of the Gospel in the New Testament. Accepting its meaning and committing to it lead to second birth – born again. By personalizing these words, we allow God to do His birthing work in us. God love you. Jesus loves you. Believe in him.
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
*What is the connection between Jesus on the Cross and “the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness”? I think reading David Pawson’s ‘Is John 3:16 the Gospel?’ is very helpful.