One verse of the Bible consistently polls as the most loved or most referenced – John 3:16. I remember memorizing it as a little tot in Sunday School. I still revert to that King James rendition without even knowing it. The concise message of that verse rings with the whole Gospel and Christ’s purpose in very few words.
For this study and for completeness, we’re going to consider John 3:16-17 phrase by phrase. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16–17, NASB95)
It is fitting that the two beats of these verses begin with “for God.” Those two words say so much. They assume a belief in God, and when Jesus spoke them to Nicodemus, they meant belief in a particular God – that of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The writer of Hebrews observes, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6, NASB95) The first step of faith is always a belief that God is.
Another revelation in “for God” is the simple yet powerful understand that God acts. And again, in the vein of the God of Abraham, God acts with purpose. That purpose will be explored in future articles. For now, it is only important that we recognize that God is and that God acts for His own purposes.
There are many concepts of God in the world, from formless forces to arrogant human-like demi-gods. Some have held that God is like a watchmaker that started something and is just watching it run. But in John 3:16, we encounter a God who is purposeful, has emotions, and grants the precious gift of choice and free will.
For most cultures of the world, deities are either forces to be controlled or personalities to appease. The God of Abraham is personable yet all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-present. Holy, just, and above, yet also caring, gracious, and overflowing with lovingkindness.
Many declare that all that matters is to believe and that what is believed is of little consequence. But John 3:16 rests on specific beliefs, the first of which is that God exists and is who He says he is – nothing more and nothing less. The second is that God acts within His creation.
As we close this first exploration of John 3:16, consider what you believe about God. Consider more than what you think you should know. Consider also how your life and your choices reflect or do not reflect the belief that God is and God acts.