Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
The Tension in John 3
- see Don Carson’s book The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God. (You can listen to Carson on the love of God here.)
Seven Massive Realities in John 3:161. God
“For God so loved the world . . .” The most common meaning for world in John is the created and fallen totality of mankind. John 7:7: “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.” John 14:17: “. . . the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.”
That is the way John is using world here. It is the great mass of fallen humanity that needs salvation. It’s the countless number of perishing people from whom the “whoevers” come in the second part of the verse: “. . . that whoever believes in him should not perish.” The world is the great ocean of perishing sinners from whom the whoever comes.
3. Gave4. Son
Jesus Gives Life—And Dies in Our Place
And at this point, don’t forget what we saw under the word gave—“For God so loved the world that he gave . . .” Meaning gave to die. We don’t perish under the wrath of God because Jesus died in our place under the wrath of God. He was “the Lamb of God”—the sacrifice given in our place—who bears our sin and our punishment (John 1:29, 36).
Is This Your Life?
Which leaves just one question: Do you live in the forgiveness and life and freedom of John 3:16? Are you free from the fear of death? Does the wonder of being loved like this shape your relationships? I’m not asking if you give lip-service to this verse. But do you live it? Is this your life? Is everything you do permeated with this verse?
May God grant you such faith. Believe this promise of John 3:16. Receive the treasure of Christ—and life.