“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.” John 3:16.
I believe this may be the most well-known verse in the Bible. Ps. 23 is the most well-known psalm but John 3:16 is probably the verse which even those who have very little knowledge of scripture, can quote a little of or have heard of. Outside of the church, it’s a verse usually seen on billboards on railway station platforms. Look out for it the next time you’re boarding a train.
There is so much within it it’s difficult to see the wood from the trees! This is Christianity in a nutshell yet there is so much meaning within this one verse. If one were to take up a new interest or hobby that one knew very little about beforehand, one would need to learn new terms, words and concepts within and surrounding it. One would probably need an explanation so let us do the same with this verse.
What do you think of when you read or hear the word “God”? Do you think of something small or worldly like “OMG” or the name of a restaurant chain “TGI Friday’s”? (if you didn’t know what the TGI stands for it’s “Thank God it’s……implying we’ve finally got to the weekend and the end of our working week). Do you think of words like creator, holy, all-powerful, perfect? Do you think of something so huge it’s overwhelming? I for one have real difficulty understanding the size and mass of the universe, light years, supernovas and the like. It just blows my mind.
This huge, all powerful, perfect being loved and continues to love the world – us, you, me. He loved it so much that he gave his Son. He didn’t lend his Son to the world, he gave him to us freely and unconditionally. Lending implies wanting something back. Banks lend money, yet gain more through interest paid back on the loan. If we lend a neighbour a tool, we expect it to be returned to us in the same condition as we lent to them and by a reasonable period of time. God didn’t loan us his Son, he gave us his Son, all the way to the cross so that we should not die.
Death is inevitable as we only have a finite time on the earth, yet this verse states quite clearly that death is far from being the fatalistic, negative concept it could be if we only believe in God and here is the rub. There is a theological concept called “universalism” which asserts that everyone goes to heaven regardless of having faith in God or none. This verse states quite clearly that that theology is wrong. “Everyone who believes in him……” may not die but have eternal life. Note the commitment that is required in order to spend one’s eternal rest in God. To understand this better, read the verse substituting your name for “the world” and “everyone”. It blew my mind when I did that. God gave his Son to the world but God gave his Son to us personally. All we have to do is place our faith and trust in him because what awaits us if we do, is something far greater than anything we could imagine.
Living God, we know that your ways are not our ways, or your thoughts our thoughts. WE know that you are sovereign over heaven and earth, ruler over space and time – above, beyond, before and after all. Yet you have made yourself known to us in Christ, revealing your love, demonstrating your mercy granting your blessing and sharing your life. In him, we glimpse something of your majesty and experience the wonder of your grace. From him we receive peace and fulfilment that passes all understanding. Open our eyes, minds and hearts to who and what you are. Amen.
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