There is no doubt among followers of Jesus Christ that John 3:16 is the most prominent and lauded verse in the entire Bible. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. Those words certainly provide the most pithy summary of God’s redemptive purposes and provision.
In reflecting upon these well-loved words at least four remarkable truths stand up and beg to be considered. The first one is that God loves you. This is extraordinary considering humanity’s plight. In the first words of Genesis we see God repeatedly declare that all he created was good—including the crown of his creation, humankind. No wonder he would love that which brings him such great delight; that which he made for his own pleasure and glory! And yet the heights of Genesis 1 and 2 give way to the awful lowlands of Genesis 3, in which we find the crown of his creation rebelling against him. With that rebellion all that was good was scarred and defaced. Creation was no longer “good” in the purest sense.
And yet God still loves us—with all our sin and shame and brokenness. When it says “God so loved the world” we recognize that God loves the kosmos even though it is stained and shamed. That is good news! In the midst of our utter mess, God’s love continues. He loves this broken world.
He loves you!
The second remarkable truth is that God’s Son died for your sin. That love about which we just read manifests itself through the sinless life, ultimate death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. First John 4:10 underscores this rich truth: In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. “Propitiation” is a fancy way of telling us that Jesus was our substitute, standing in our place to take upon himself the punishment for sin that you and I deserve to bear. Romans 5:8 aptly offers: God demonstrated his own love for us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Oh what joy! God’s beloved Son Jesus died to pay for your sin and mine!
The third remarkable truth is that you must believe in this Jesus for salvation. The Apostle Paul, in Ephesians 2:8-9 drives this reality home in a very compelling way, telling us that it is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. When given a gift, say at our birthday or Christmas, we do not then awkwardly reach into our pockets looking for money with which to reimburse the giver. How absurd would that be? Instead, we humbly, joyfully and graciously accept the gift, believing the giver to be sincere and generous. So it is with salvation. With his death Jesus purchased our salvation. He offers it to us generously and without condition. Our response is to trust him—to believe him and what he has done and why. Acts 16:31 helps us here. When asked about how to be saved the Apostle Paul answers clearly, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved. Later Paul affirms this in the Epistle of Romans, writing, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (10:9), and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (10:13). We enjoy God’s gift of salvation not through awkward antics but by faith in the One who made it possible. We believe in God’s Son, Jesus Christ.
The fourth remarkable truth is that by believing in Jesus, eternal life can be yours. John 3:36, just across the written page from John 3:16, tells us that whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. The grammatical thrust of this powerful verse tells us that both eternal life and the wrath of God are ongoing realities without end. Life with God or eternal damnation (wrath, Hell) are the two options we face as we look into the future. Only through belief in Jesus Christ may we enjoy life with God; eternal life. To not believe in Jesus means we will in fact experience the ongoing reality of unending damnation. Which one will you choose?
If in reading this you are convicted that now is the time to call on Jesus for salvation, then let nothing whatsoever stop you from doing so. Perhaps this prayer will be a helpful resource as you personally and sincerely call out to the Savior, Jesus: Father, I am a sinner, and am tired of scrambling to make my life work apart from you. I believe that Jesus Christ is your Son, and that he died on a cross to save me from my sin. I believe he rose from the dead, and that he invites me to enjoy eternal life now and always. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, I ask you to forgive me of my sin and grant me this life. From this point forward I trust Jesus as my Savior and follow him as my Lord. Help me to live according to your good and perfect will. Amen.