Suppose someone asked you to name the most well-known verse in the Bible. If you’re like most people, you would probably say, “John 3:16.” After all, people have taken this verse and displayed it on everything from T-shirts to spray painted banners at various sporting events all throughout the world. It seems that lots of people have seen John 3:16 and many people can even quote it from memory. But how many people ever stop to think about what it really means- or what the following verse says?
If you take a moment to check it out, you might just find that this verse is a whole lot more than just a big banner at some sporting event. Take a look…
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV).
Instead of looking at this verse as a complete unit, let’s make this easier by breaking it down into it’s individual parts:
- For God
In our relationship with God, He is always the initiator. God always starts things off by reaching out to people first. Instead of leaving us to try and figure out how to approach Him, God has taken the first step to establish a relationship with us. In fact, Jesus Himself tells us that “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…” (John 6:44 NIV). God’s reason for doing this is explained next…
- so loved the world
God has a deep and enduring affection for the human race. God loves people and desires the best for them. God communicated this to us when He said through Jeremiah the prophet, “…I know the plans I have for you… plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV). The depth of this love that God has for us is illustrated by the next part of John 3:16…
- that he gave his one and only Son
This love that God has for the world is demonstrated by the tremendously costly gift given by Him- the life of His Son. It’s been said that just about anything can be purchased in this world if the buyer is willing to pay the price. In our case, the cost of God’s desire to have a relationship with us was the life of His own Son. Jesus explained this to His disciples when He said to them (speaking of Himself) “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NIV). Jesus was willing to pay the price.
- that whoever believes in him
For every gift giver there must be a gift receiver, right? Human beings are the receivers of this gift from God but at the very least, we must believe in this one whom God has sent. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “Anyone who wants to come to God must believe that there is a God and that He rewards those who sincerely look for Him.” God’s promise to those who sincerely come to Him and accept Jesus’ sacrifice on their behalf comes next…
- shall not perish but have eternal life.
Here’s the ultimate benefit- believers escape an eternity of separation from God and get to enjoy eternal life with Him. Jesus spoke of this in John 14:2-3 when He said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (NIV). Jesus promises that those who believe in Him will never perish- that was His purpose in coming to this planet.
Jesus goes on to talk a little more about this in the next verse…
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17 NIV).
This is an important verse to remember, especially when we move through those periods when nothing seems to be going well. Perhaps a relationship didn’t work out the way you hoped it would. Maybe you’ve made a mistake and when you tried to fix it, you only made it worse. Perhaps you’ve failed at school or on the job or maybe you think that you’ve let your teammates down. When these things happen (as they do to everyone) it’s sometimes easy to feel like you can’t do anything right.
Sometimes other people condemn you -often in very cruel ways- by telling you that you aren’t good enough or smart enough or attractive enough to make it in this world. Sometimes we even condemn ourselves in much the same way.
Fortunately, God values us a lot more highly than others often do. No matter how others might view us, God’s opinion of us is always more important than the opinions of others or even what we feel about ourselves (you can see 1 John 3:19-20 for a little more on that). You see, God has no desire to condemn us. How do we know that? Easy- For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. The whole purpose of Jesus’ mission was to save us from condemnation.
When someone personally accepts Jesus’ punishment on the cross as the payment for their sins they will never be condemned. In the words of John 5:24, that person has “…passed from death unto life.” Or as it says in Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” (NIV). No matter what’s going on in your life there is nothing that can separate you from the love of God (see Romans 8:38-39 for the full story).
So now you have something to remember the next time you see John 3:16 somewhere- and now you also know the verse that comes after it.