John 3:16-21 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. 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. 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. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
Many people read John 3:16 separate from its context and they build their doctrine of salvation around it. But they make up their own idea of what it means to “believe” in Jesus. So first of all this word “believe” is a continuous verb, i.e. it is “believing” in Jesus, which is an ongoing belief in daily practice. And then to believe in Jesus means we are persuaded by God (John 6:44), and he persuades us to forsake our lives of living in sin and for self and to follow Jesus in obedience to his commands.
But he doesn’t stop there. He lets us know that to believe in him is to die with him to sin daily and it is to walk with him daily in obedience to his commands. But he doesn’t stop there, either. He also lets us know the consequences of not forsaking our sins and of not following him in obedience to his commands. We will die in our sins. We will not have eternal life with God. And Jesus is going to say he never knew us and we are to depart from him, so please take this to heart.
Luke 9:23-24: “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.’”
Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
So, context is very important here. So don’t stop at John 3:16. Read on. For it says that there are people who will not come into the light (Christ, the truth, the gospel, salvation) because they love their sins more. And this is where many professing Christians are today, at least here in America, loving their sins so much that they will not come into genuine relationship with Jesus Christ, and so they won’t be delivered from their slavery to sin, and so they are not truly saved from their sins, and they don’t have eternal life.
And so what is taught here is what the apostles taught, too. Our faith in Jesus Christ is not something we can make up. It is not a mere acknowledgement of Christ and of what he did for us on that cross. But it is total surrender to him as Lord, and it means we are crucified with Christ in death to sin and we are raised with Christ to walk in newness of life in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. And daily we die to sin and to self, and daily we walk in obedience to his commands.
[Matt 7:21-23; Matt 24:9-14; Lu 9:23-26; Rom 1:18-32; Rom 2:6-8; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-14,24; Rom 12:1-2; Rom 13:11; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10,15,21; 1 Co 1:18; 1 Co 15:1-2; 2 Tim 1:8-9; Heb 9:28; 1 Pet 1:5; Gal 5:16-21; Gal 6:7-8; Eph 2:8-10; Eph 4:17-32; Eph 5:3-6; Col 1:21-23; Col 3:5-17; 1 Pet 2:24; Tit 2:11-14; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6,24-25; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Heb 3:6,14-15; Heb 10:23-31; Heb 12:1-2; Rev 21:8,27; Rev 22:14-15]
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Wordless Book Song
Child Evangelism Fellowship
My heart was dark with sin
until the Savior came in.
His precious blood I know
has washed me white as snow.
And in God’s Word I’m told
I’ll walk the street of gold.
To grow in Christ every day,
I read my Bible and pray.
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