John 3:16is an inexhaustible Bible text! The Bible teaches, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” All highways of divine truth meet at this cross road. One theologian has declared that this verse is shallow enough for a little child to wade in and never be afraid of drowning, yet it is deep enough for the greatest scholar to swim in and never touch the bottom. William Barclay wrote, “All great men have had their favorite texts, but this one has been called ‘Everybody’s text.’ Herein for every simple heart is the very essence of the gospel.” St. Augustine wrote, “God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love.”
The context of John 3:16 is a conversation between Jesus and a religious leader named Nicodemus. Nicodemus was an expert (scholar) of the Scriptures. He had come by the cover of night to ask Jesus how a person can be saved and have eternal life in heaven. In his response, Jesus used an Old Testament illustration to put the spotlight of salvation on his soon coming death on the cross.
In John 3:12-15 Jesus refers to an event that took place as recorded in Numbers 21:5-9 while the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness outside of the Promised Land. As judgment for the Israelites’ disobedience, God had sent venomous snakes to infest their camp. Moses interceded on their behalf. God instructed Moses to make a bronze replica of a snake and raise it above the camp on a pole. Those who were bitten by the snakes would be healed if they looked in faith at it, thereby acknowledging their guilt and expressing faith in God’s forgiveness and healing power. What an incredible picture of the people’s forgiveness of sin and salvation as a result of God’s grace. The stricken Israelites were cured by obediently looking apart from any works of righteousness on their own. Jesus was saying to Nicodemus, in the same way, whoever looks in faith alone to the crucified Christ will be cured from sin’s deadly bite and will have eternal life. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now I’m found. Was blind, but now I see!
The entire text of John 3:16 revolves around ten word: God, loved, world, gave, Son, whosoever, believes, perish, have and life. God’s creative work was summed up in ten words (Genesis 1:1). God’s legislative work was summed up in Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). In John 3:16 we see God’s redemptive work summed up in these ten words.
Someone may ask, “Why the cross?” At the cross God is saying, “I love you this much.”
God is the Greatest Giver! From John 3:16 we learn that God takes the initiative in our salvation. God loved us to point of sending His Son to die for us. This has been God’s determined position of love toward us all along. This is reality: God loves us and Jesus died for us! There is nothing you can do to make God love you more and there is nothing you can do to cause God to love you less. The love of God embraces all the world.
Love is never passive. Love is a verb. God’s love is just that way. “God demonstrated His love for us by this, that while we were sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The fact is God gave His Son by sending him into the world (birth) and on the cross (death). The cross of Christ shows our depravity as well as the gravity of God’s love. It’s not that “God loved enough to give” but that “God loved so much that He gave.” We do not have to try and wring God’s love from His hand, He has graciously lavished His love upon us in the person and work of His Son, Jesus. God’s love accepts you just as you, but His love won’t leave you there.
Eternal life is the Greatest Guarantee! God calls on us to place our faith and trust in Jesus and Jesus alone for eternal salvation. According to God, whoever believes in Jesus as Savior and Lord is granted God’s forgiveness of sins and the assurance of eternal life in heaven. Faith is knowing enough to act. So, what does a person have to know in order to be able to act in saving faith? First, a person must admit he is a sinner (Rom 3:23). This does not mean you are a bad person, but that left to yourself you have disobeyed God and broken His law. Second, a person must understand that their sin separates them from a holy God (Rom 6:23). Third, a person must confess their sins asking for God’s forgiveness through Jesus’ death on the cross (Rom 10:9-10). Faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed. A great faith in faith does little, but mustard seed sized faith in Jesus Christ does much.
Remember the Israelites back in the Old Testament who had been bitten by the poisonous snakes? Each sufferer had to look for himself. A person could have been lying within one yard but had his back turned toward the pole and he would have died. It is not enough to know of the salvation only. It is not enough even to believe this salvation is a reality. Each person has to look and believe for himself.
Jesus draws a clear distinction between what happens to the one who looks in saving faith and the one who does not. One will perish while the other will have eternal life. These are stark alternatives. The difference in the two eternal destinies is Jesus. The cross of Christ divides all of humanity into two groups … those who have repented of their sins and placed their faith in Jesus alone and those who have not done so. On the cross, Jesus put to death what was going to put me to death so that I can live forever in heaven enjoying life as God has it!
What a person believes about Jesus Christ will determine one's eternal destiny. Everyone will spend eternity somewhere. According to the Bible the somewhere is either in heaven with God or in hell separated from God. You will go in eternity where your relationship with Jesus takes you.