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)
A popular verse, for sure. Many people know it. So why is this verse so well known? What does it tell us? Let’s break it down.
First of all, this was spoken by Jesus himself. The incarnate Word of God. (John 1:1) “Red letter” verses should attract some extra attention having been spoken directly from the mouth of our Lord.
Right off the bat he tells us that God “so loved the world”. There are a couple of different Greek words that are translated into the English word “love” – and in this case, Jesus is talking about the “agape” kind of love. This is the BIG love. The God love. An active, true love. And when Jesus said “the world” – he meant all of us. Everyone that apart from Him were opposed to Him.
Jesus goes on to tell us that because of his great love for all mankind he gave his one and only Son. Jesus is fully God and yet he left his exhaulted place in heaven and became one of us. And not only did he do that, but he was given up to be mocked, beaten and crucified in order that the wages of sin, which is death, could be satisfied in full. (Romans 6:23)
So what does this mean for us? Well, Jesus states it quite clearly. “…whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
This isn’t saying “believe” only in the sense that we acknowledge Jesus was a real person. A lot of people do that. Jesus was saying that we need to put our faith in him knowing that trusting him to accomplish for us what we could never accomplish on our own would have eternal implications. On our own we will never be “good enough” to spend eternity in the presence of God. On our own we all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. (Romans 3:23) And falling short of heaven means landing in hell.
And that’s how he sums it up. It is our complete faith in Jesus, and in him alone (John 14:6) that rescues us from perishing and provides us with the key to eternal life.
So if so many people are familiar with this verse, why do so many people shrug Jesus off? What part are they not getting?