For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16-17)
Here it is. The red letter passage that everyone sees everywhere.
So I want to try something different in studying it. I’m going to tie it in with what we know about God from the first part of Bible history.
Let me give you a synopsis of what happened. God made the earth, and mankind, and pronounced that it was good. As the years went on, his heart was grieved because man was so wicked. So the Lord destroyed the world in a flood. Yet, God wasn’t giving up on man. He found a reason for hope in Noah. God preserved this righteous man, along with his family.
Then came Abraham. Once again, God found a righteous man who could be the focus of his love and purpose. God promised that Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as stars, and that all nations would be blessed through them. He also promised to give them a land of their own.
But how would this take place? The crazy thing is that it would be a very long time until God gave Abraham’s descendants this land. God told Abraham, “After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction.” (Gen 15:16) Abraham would father Isaac, and Isaac would father Jacob. Jacob would father 12 sons, including Joseph. All of Jacob’s progeny would go to Egypt, and end up in bondage for 400 years.
Then, Moses would lead them out of Egypt, back to the land God promised them. In the process, Egypt would experience consequences for how they had treated the Israelites. All of their first born sons would die. Their army would be wiped out as they tried to cross the Red Sea.
Even after all of that, the Hebrews who came out of Egypt would not receive the Promise Land until they were ready to believe that God was with them and they could conquer the inhabitants of the land. It was actually their children, led by Joshua, who battled and drove the tribes out of Canaan and made that their home. They carried out the destruction of the Amorites that God promised in Genesis 15.
So here are some themes in these stories that we can also see in John 3:16 and 17. First, that God loves the people he created. It breaks his heart when the world is wicked. He wants to find a way to save people. In Genesis he saves them by preserving Noah and his family. In Exodus he saves them by bringing them out of Egypt. In John 3, he saves them by giving them Jesus.
Second, that God wants to bless all people. In Genesis, he promises to bless all people through Abraham. In John 3, he promises to bless all people with heaven. (If they believe in Jesus.)
Third, that God looks for righteous people. In Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses and Joshua, God found individuals who would do his will. In John 3, God seeks individuals who will do his will by believing in his son.
Fourth, that there is judgement for those who are not righteous. God destroyed the wicked in a flood. He wiped out many of the Egyptians through the plagues and the crossing of the Red Sea. He helped the Hebrews defeat and drive out the inhabitants of the Promise Land. In John 3, he declared that all who do not believe in his son will be condemned.
In conclusion, John 3:16 is thought of as the ultimate warm, fuzzy passage. But it’s so much more. It’s the culmination of who God has been throughout the ages. From the beginning, he showed how he loved the world. Although it broke his heart, there were also times that he brought about judgement on the world.
When God sent his son, it was the same song, with different verse. And what a powerful verse!
What’s really cool to realize is that we are a part of that verse. We are a part of God’s plan to bless all nations. It wasn’t just that the Jews of the time could believe in Jesus and have eternal life. John 3:16 says, “everyone who believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
How will everyone know about Jesus, so they can receive their blessing? Through us. That’s our purpose.
How can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? Romans 10:14b NLT
John 3:16 has probably impacted more people than any other Bible verse. But the initial reaction to it is just the tip of the iceberg. With the understanding of all that has gone before, and all that will come to be, comes the realization that this is completely and utterly epic.
Let this thrill our hearts! We’re the fruition of what God set in motion through the ages. We’re the blessing bringers! We reflect God’s love and goodness.
And then let us find one way that we will live differently today because of it.