John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
This popular and well-known verse is one of many in Scripture that tell of the universal love of God for mankind, and the consequent accessibility of eternal life to anyone. Interestingly, most world religions and even some loosely Christian variants take a different approach to eternal life, where the adherent must do something to earn favor of God, with the hope of being judged worthy of a blissful eternity.
What the Bible states about God’s expectation of us is different: elegant, simple, achievable by anyone, and leaving the end result without doubt. The various human versions are clunky, fraught with error, and leaves one wondering and hoping as to the outcome.
John 3:16 makes a number of points in just a few simple phrases that dispose of the notion that humans could earn God’s favor.
- “For God so loved” states that God loved without qualification or condition. He loved, simply stated as straightforward fact. The objects of His love were not judged as objects worthy of His affection one way or another.
- “The world” indicates the universality of God’s love. Every one of us is includes in the scope of God’s love. By any practical definition then, God’s love extends limitlessly, even to those who are unlovely. I contend that next to the extraordinary majesty and greatness of God, there is nothing lovely about any of us.
- While “the world” speaks of the wideness of God’s love, the following phrase “that he gave his only begotten Son” speaks of the depth. God’s love for the world was so deep, that He was willing to give His only Son to it and for it. In the context of John chapter 3, and indeed the gospel of John itself, we know that this Son was Jesus Christ.
- “That whosoever” points out that all have opportunity to believe in Jesus Christ if they so choose; the gift is not limited in scope to an elite few.
- “Believeth in him” tells us the simple yet committed act of faith that is required. The word “believe” is distinctly different from “comprehend”. Many understand who Jesus was and what He did on this earth; comparatively few place trust in Him.
- “Should not perish” implies that one who does not believe in Jesus Christ will perish, but that belief in Him has the opposite effect.
- Finally, “but have everlasting life” describes the polar opposite of perishing. Eternal life. Not only that, the eternal life is a gift from God Himself. A noble gift indeed – a kingly gift extended to any who choose to accept it.