Click here to listen to the audio of this 13-minute message. Or watch the YouTube video below, or read the summary text thereafter.
John 3:16 may be the most recognisable and widely-known verse in the Christian Bible:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (KJV)
Let’s break this verse down into its parts:
- For God – It all starts with God, like in Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning, God…”
- so loved – This is the first use of ‘love’ in John’s Gospel, and it becomes a central word in his writing. This points to the extent of God’s love – God loved so much – extravagant, risky, inclusive, radical, transformative, saturating!
- the world (kosmos) – God’s love is radically inclusive. God loves the whole world. In Greek, the kosmos. There is no-one and no-thing that is beyond the extravagant love of God.
- that he gave – Out of this infinite love, God gives. He gives his Son. But this is not a giving, like one might give someone a cracker – the cracker is passive and is merely given. Here, God gives his Son, who is active – the Son participates in the giving, chooses to be given, gives himself.
- his one and only Son, – God the Father gives God the Son, enabled by God the Spirit. The Son is God’s one and only, God’s beloved, God’s own heart. This is the profound self-giving of God’s self to the world.
- that whoever – Jesus has already said God loves “the world”, which is radically inclusive of the entire collective of creation. Now Jesus brings this inclusivity down to the individual – whoever or whosoever. The Son gives himself to every individual– to you Martha, to you Stephen, to you Bongani, to you…
- believes in him – The Greek for ‘believe’ can equally be translated ‘trust’. Believe too easily becomes ‘cognitive assent’, too easily becomes affirming a list of propositional statements about the Son. But Jesus wants more than just this – he wants us to trust him, to put our trust in him, to entrust ourselves to him. The ‘in’ in Greek is actually ‘into’, so we can confidently say, “whoever entrusts themselves into him”.
- should not perish – Although we will all die, sooner or later, we shall not all perish or be destroyed. We have little choice about dying, but we do have a choice about perishing.
- but have everlasting life. – And that choice is Life, with a capital L. The everlastingness of Life is not just about it continuing for a long time (eternal), but also to the quality of the Life, which can be enjoyed at this very moment. Jesus offers us Life: Life everlasting, Life abundant, Life to the fullest, Life eternal, Life in relationship with God.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Featured background image of the Andromeda Galaxy, M31, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWxBTHVhc3I