John 3:16 ESV
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
The Whole Message
When we are sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with others, we need to share the whole message, not meaning we have to share the whole history of Jesus’ life, ministry, and death, or that we have to share all the details of his crucifixion, but we need to share the whole purpose for why he died.
The reason we need to do this is that many people today are pulling Scriptures out of their context, and they are sharing partial truths which, if deliberate, are lies. And partial truths don’t usually lead to genuine conversions of faith in Jesus Christ and true hope of eternal life with God.
For example, John 3:16 is a favorite Bible verse that many people use to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others. Is it true in its entirety? It is if it is understood within the context of the whole of the teaching of the gospel of our salvation as Jesus and his NT apostles taught it.
And it is true in its entirety if it is understood within its proper context of the original language and according to the context of John, chapter 3, as a whole. For there is much to be learned about his one verse by doing a little research on it in the Scriptures and via Bible helps (where possible).
For God so Loved
God is love. And God is righteous, holy, just, pure, honest, merciful, gracious, kind, and morally upright. So, when he loves, it will be according to his will and purpose for our lives, and it will be according to his divine character and attributes. He will not do anything against himself.
Are you with me so far? God’s love is righteous, so he will not act in love in any way which goes against his righteousness and holiness.
And who did he love? Not just the “frozen chosen,” but the whole world. He loved all of humankind who he created. He loved us all so much that he gave his Son, God the Son, to die on a cross for our sins. But Jesus Christ didn’t die just to forgive us our sins just so we could go to heaven when we die.
Jesus Christ died on that cross to deliver us out of our slavery (addiction) to sin so that we would now become slaves (servants) of him and of his righteousness (Rom 6:1-23). And he died so that we would no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (2 Co 5:15, 21).
Jesus shed his blood for us on that cross to buy us back for God (to redeem us) so that we would now honor and glorify God with our lives (1 Co 6:19-20). And he died so that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk (in conduct, in practice) not according to the flesh but according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God (Rom 8:1-17).
For, if we walk (in practice, in conduct) according to (in agreement with) our sinful flesh, it doesn’t matter what we profess with our lips or think we believe in our hearts. If this is what we practice, we will not inherit eternal life with God, but we will die in our sins (Rom 8:1-17; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; 1 Co 6:9-10; 2 Co 5:10; Rom 6:16-23).
That Whoever Believes in Him
First of all, not one of us can come to faith in Jesus Christ of our own accord. We can’t come to Jesus in faith unless God the Father first draws us to faith in Jesus. And even the word “faith” means to be persuaded (convinced). So, God the Father has to first persuade us to believe in Jesus (John 6:44).
So, if God is the one persuading us to believe in Jesus, what is he going to be persuading us to do? He is not going to be persuading us to merely acknowledge Jesus, or to merely confess him with our lips, or to repeat some words another human made up in his own mind.
He is going to be persuading us to surrender our lives to him, to die with Christ to sin that we might live to Christ and to his righteousness. For, this is the reason for why Jesus died on that cross (1 Pet 2:24; Rom 6:1-23).
So, please understand this, for your eternity depends on it. If you “believe” in Jesus with a faith that believes you do nothing and that God does it all, you have the wrong faith. For the Scriptures are clear that coming to faith in Jesus Christ means we die to our old lives of sin so that we might now follow our Lord in obedience to his ways (Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Lu 9:23-26).
Also, and this is where it is helpful to look at the Greek. When this says, “that whoever believes in him,” the verb tense is present tense, i.e., it is whoever “believing” in him. So, this faith is not past tense. This faith is ongoing faith which must continue in Christ until the very end (Jn 15:1-11).
Not Perish – Have Eternal Life
Here we must understand what the New Testament, as a whole, teaches on the subject of death and life and what leads to death and what leads to life. What leads to life isn’t just some non-descript or obscure or diluted faith in Jesus Christ which comes from the flesh of humans and not from God.
Jesus said if we want to have life with him everlasting that we have to deny self, daily die to sin, and follow him in obedience. He said we have to forfeit (lose) ourselves for his sake if we want to find life in him. And he said that if we hold on to our old lives, that we will lose them for eternity (Lu 9:23-26).
Paul said something similar to that when he said that the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us who walk (in conduct) not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For, he said, if we walk (in practice) according to the flesh, we will die in our sins (Rom 8:1-17; cf. 1 Jn 1:5-9).
Paul also taught that we must die with Christ to sin, for in doing so we are delivered from our slavery to sin so that we would now be slaves of his righteousness. And he said that we are slaves to the one we obey, and if it is sin, it leads to DEATH, but if it is obedience, it leads to righteousness which then ends in ETERNAL LIFE with God (Rom 6:1-23; cf. Gal 5:16-21).
I know that I am repeating myself, but please understand here that some casual confession of faith in Jesus Christ, which is of the flesh and not of the Spirit of God, because it does not submit to God’s law, does not guarantee anyone eternal life with God (Rom 8:1-17; cf. Jn 6:35-58; Gal 6:7-8).
We have to walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh, and we have to continue in Christ and in his word to the very end to receive eternal life with God (Rom 8:1-17; Rom 6:1-23; Jn 15:1-11; 1 Jn 1:5-9).
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
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