You often see John 3:16 signs at sporting events or even written on athletes. I dare say there is not an English-speaking person on this planet that has not seen John 3:16 on a sign somewhere. There have been many articles, sermons and even books written on John 3:16, but do people really grasp its life-giving message?
For context, the 3rd Chapter of John starts with a discussion between Jesus and a religious leader named Nicodemus. He had come to Jesus because he knew there was something special about him and wanted to learn more. However, the other religious leaders simply wanted Jesus dead, so Nicodemus visited secretly at night.
Their exchange lays out God’s plan for the new birth. Jesus explains that men must be Born Again. This was an odd concept for Nicodemus to understand as he was thinking from a purely physical standpoint. Remember, not until the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost were people truly empowered spiritually. That is why they so struggled with spiritual concepts taught by Jesus and why he was so often misunderstood.
This one verse, just 25 words in most translations, is the entire plan of redemption. Don’t dismiss this passage as just a Christian slogan. Study the verse carefully. If you spend some quality time reading and meditating on this verse, your life will never be the same again.
For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world… (John 3:16 AMP)
God is love. Love creates and highly prizes His creation. The Earth was created for man. Together, God and man were going to spread a paradise of love all over the Earth. Even before sin ended their fellowship, God had a plan to reconnect with his lost family.
God is often referred to as a Heavenly Father. This is the best way with a sense dominated mind to comprehend the why of John 3:16. What father would not do everything in his power, even if that meant paying the penalty himself, to save his children? That is exactly what your Heavenly Father did for you. He loves you so much that Jesus paid the price and experienced spiritual death (separation from God) that you might be reborn spiritually back into fellowship with your Heavenly Father. Remember, spirits do not die. But when they are separated from God, they are cut off from Life and Light.
In 1 John, John would write that God IS love (1 John 4:8). There are many types of love, but what John is talking about is Agape, or the God kind of love. This is love without any selfishness. This is love that puts the needs of others even before your own. Paul describes it best in his letter to the Corinthians: Love is patient, kind, it is not rude or proud, always protects and trusts, rejoices in truth, it keeps no record of wrongs and it absolutely never fails (1 Corinthians 13:1-13). With that in mind, when you read that God loves you, realize that this is far beyond your mental capacity to grasp. You need spiritual wisdom to begin to comprehend the magnitude of Love Himself. That is why Paul prays the following for believers: “And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is (Ephesians 3:18).
that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, … (John 3:16 AMP)
Jesus is the Son of God. And John (John 1) tells us that he is also the Word. God placed His Word into Mary’s Womb and it produced a child that was spiritually alive like Adam before the fall. Jesus is also referred to as the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45). Adam and Eve before the fall were alive spiritually and connected to God. When they sinned, that relationship ended and they, and everyone born thereafter, were spiritually dead. Jesus would reverse this process and would die spiritually at Calvary and be spiritually reborn – the first of many brethren.
Note that after the Gospels, the language changes from “only begotten” to firstborn of many and first-begotten of the dead. By faith in Jesus, you are reborn into God’s family and He becomes your Heavenly Father. You die to Satan’s lordship, and are recreated spiritually as a child of God and joint heir of all God’s promises. (Romans 8:1-17, Galatians 3:15-29, Colossians 1:18, 1 John 5:1-11, Revelation 1:1-8)
so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him … (John 3:16 AMP)
Whoever is an interesting word. It is defined as any person who believes. That means the invitation is open to anyone, regardless of age, sex, race, culture, religion, or background. Christianity is not a religion. It is a relationship through Jesus with your Creator. God wants you back in His family, and John 3:16 is the way to get reconnected with your Heavenly Father, the ONLY way.
Believe is an action word. To believe means quite simply to accept as truth. And guess what, Jesus IS Truth. In John 14, Jesus makes a bold claim, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” So if you want access to life and truth, there is only one path – accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord of your life.
You can also define believing as faith, which is a complete trust or confidence. According to the Bible, your faith is what pleases God. Without faith, it is impossible to please God because without it, you cannot be Born Again and join His family (Hebrews 11:6). Faith comes from hearing God’s Word. If you are not sure what you believe, you need to spend more time with the Word so that you will absolutely and confidently know that Jesus is the Way and Truth. (John 20:30-31, Romans 10:17, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11)
shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. (John 3:16 AMP)
Religion sometimes preaches a little too much about the punishment that awaits those that reject Jesus. There will be a very unpleasant eternity for those that do not accept the free gift of Salvation. They will remain spiritually dead, cut off from the life of God, and will join the rebellious angels in the place of eternal punishment. As important as that is, I believe more time needs to be invested sharing the positive side of Eternal Life. If you know the upside of Everlasting Life, including freedom from Satan’s dominion, why would you not receive it?
For those that accept Jesus, their eternal destination is sealed with Jesus. But there is so much more to Everlasting Life than just your future home. You are spiritually reborn into God’s family. All God’s promises belong to you – life, joy, healing, prosperity, wisdom (light), protection and on and on. You can boldly enter God’s throne room and fellowship with your Creator. God’s love nature fills your heart, as well as a peace that is beyond all human understanding. There is no longer any condemnation. The Holy Spirit dwells inside you to guide and comfort you. Every sin in your past is removed and forgotten. You are a brand new person that did not exist until you believed Jesus was the Son of God and confessed him as your Savior and Lord. You have only one law to keep – the law of love. You have an advocate and mediator, Jesus, so even if you step out of love and break fellowship with God, you can repent and be reconnected. (John 3, Romans 5 through 8, Galatians 5, Hebrews 4:14-16, 1 John 2)
The second you believe and confess Jesus, legally, everything belongs to you. A child may watch the legal proceedings leading to their adoption and might not understand all that has just taken place. But that child begins to understand and enjoy all that belongs to them by the daily interaction and fellowship with their new family. In the same way, you spend time with God through His Word and fellowship with the Holy Spirit and receive abundantly all that you need, grow as a child of God, and become more like Jesus every day. There is both the legal side of redemption and the vital day-to-day. There is both Jesus as your Savior, and Jesus as the Lord over your daily life. (John 15, Ephesians 4:17-32, 5:1-21, Philippians 2:1-13, Colossians 1, 2 Peter 3:18)
If you want to learn more about Eternal Life and God’s Redemption Plan, read all of Paul’s writings in the New Testament, paying close attention to Romans, Ephesians and Hebrews.
Personalize John 3:16 and affirm this awesome truth daily.
God loves me so much that He gave me His Son Jesus. And because I know and believe in Jesus, I have Eternal Life!
Click on the links above to read John 3:16 in 17 different versions. To read the entire 3rd chapter of John in five popular translations – AMP, KJV, HCSB, NIV, The Message click here:
Additional John 3:16 Resources
The Gospel In a Nutshell – Six lessons based on John 3:16
The Life Saver – Brief children’s sermon with links to activity pages
Forgiven and Forgotten – A Boris Kitty children’s story about God’s way of forgiving folks
The Greatest Gift of All – Another brief children’s sermon with links to activity pages
John 3:16 Coloring Page – A good tool for Valentine’s Day or John 3:16 Day
Heaven’s Art Gallery – A powerful short story about the transforming power of Jesus in your life.
God Loves You. God Loves Me – A children’s song about God’s love
Jesus Heals A Bent Over Woman – A blog post on Luke 13 with a tangent on redemption and Eternal Life
Eternal Life – A good article on Eternal Life and why it is much more than you think
John 3:1-17 – Additional resources
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