“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
— John 3:16, New King James Version
This verse is probably one of the most well-known verses in all the Bible. It’s used so often (in Western culture, anyways,) that it is considered cliche; yet, through the ages, it’s Truth has profoundly stayed the same. In one little sentence, the whole Gospel is preached. But what does this verse truly mean? It is my prayer, that by Jesus’ help, digging into this well-known verse would shed light on who Jesus truly is, why He came here, and why it matters.
In most English translations you’ll find of this verse, the first phrase of it all is, “For God so loved the world…”. This takes us all the way back to the beginning, when God first created “the world.” In Genesis 1, we find God– who was never created, and is outside all creation– making the earth in six literal days (Genesis 1:1-25). On the sixth day, though, God creates mankind, in His own image: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26-27). Mankind, this creation of God, is incredibly important to Him: because, unlike the rest of creation, mankind is made in His direct image; meaning that mankind was created with an eternal soul, the ability to make decisions, and the ability to have fellowship with God, his Creator. Although the greek “kosmos,” the word used here for “world,” is used in many different ways throughout Scripture, the main way it is used in John 3:16 refers to mankind.
The Poet and Psalmist, David, once said, “What is man that You remember him, the son of man that You look after him” (Psalm 8:4, CSB)? He didn’t just ask this for any reason; it’s pondering is true. The Creator of Heaven and Earth– of the entire Universe, which alone is ultimately unknowable in all its vastness and complexity– is not only aware of us; He LOVES each and every one of us. But He didn’t just “Love” us in the generic, watered down way we know it as. No; “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son” (Holman Christian Standard Bible).
All throughout the centuries, men and women have inquired about God. And, all throughout the centuries, God has communicated with mankind, documented in its entirety in the Bible. But, to understand the reason for why Jesus came to Earth– or, as John 3:16 says it, was “given”– we must again go back to the beginning.
As Genesis 2-3 describes, mankind was placed into the perfect garden God had created (Genesis 2:15). Within this perfect garden, though, God put two trees: the Tree of Life, and the Tree of Good and Evil (Genesis 2:8-9). Putting both Adam and Eve within this garden, God blessed them, and commanded them, and said, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).
In Genesis 3, everything changed when this Truth was questioned. satan, in the form of a snake, tempted Eve, saying, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1). “And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, “You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die”’” (Genesis 3:2-3). Yet, tempted by “the serpent,” in a moment of disobedience and unbelief in what God had said, Eve took and ate of the fruit– with Adam soon following after (Genesis 3:6).
In one bite, everything changed. Having made their own decision to stray from God’s Loving command, Adam and Eve’s “eyes were opened”: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings” (Genesis 3:7). In their disobedience, Adam, Eve, and all of their descendants lost all fellowship with God. Sin entered the world. Mankind, just as God had promised, was now overcome by death (Genesis 3:9-19, 24).
“The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Having sinned, humanity lives in a fallen state, completely unable to know a Sinless, Holy, Just God (Exodus 19). But God, in His foreknowledge, Great Love, and Mercy, covered Adam and Eve’s nakedness with the fur of an animal: pointing to a sacrifice that would forgive and toss away all of mankind’s sin (Genesis 3:21).
Throughout the Old Testament, God chose a particular group of people through which to save the world, the Israelites (Numbers 24:17). From the very beginning, as God’s people, God laid down the laws for by which the Israelites should come to Him; this always included a perfect animal, such as a lamb or bull, covering their sin by being slaughtered, and offered on an altar to God (Leviticus 16). These people slaughtered many, many sacrifices: because, though they tried, they were never able to lead sinless lives. “All people have fallen short of the glory of God”; and while these animal sacrifices covered the people’s sin, it never truly removed it (Genesis 3:21; Romans 3:23). Something more had to be done. The Son had to be given.
Jesus came to Earth somewhere between 4-6 B.C., despite modern calendars claiming He was born around 1 B.C. Although He was born, He was not created; being God the Son, equal in nature and status with God (Philippians 2:8-9), Jesus was God Himself– fully God, and fully man (John 10:30). Why is this significant? Because God Himself determined to be the Ultimate Sacrifice that would forgive all the people’s sin, and remove all that separated men from Himself.
Living a sinless life, Jesus was crucified, put to death, for mankind; and although He could have aborted the whole mission to save Himself from such a fate, He laid His life down willingly (John 10:18). But He did not stay that way. On the third day, Jesus rose from the grave, proving that sin and death had no power over Him! After this, He was seen by His disciples, and later ascended “at the right hand of the Father,” where He now prays for us to the Father (Acts 2:33; Romans 8:34).
As Romans 4:25 declares, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” On the cross, He yelled out, “Tetelestai,” meaning, “It is finished”– forever doing ALL that was needed for believers to be reconciled with the Father. This is the essence of the Good News: “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” As Ephesians 2 states, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
This complete and eternal salvation, founded in Jesus, His death, and His resurrection is a gift. Freely given, and freely received. Do you want to receive the Ultimate Gift?
Romans 10:9-10 says “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
If you would like to accept Jesus Christ into your heart and life, as your Personal Lord and Savior, you can say a simple prayer like this one:
I have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed (Romans 3:10). I do not deserve to be with you forever in heaven; I deserve the payment for my sin, but Jesus, I believe that You are God, that You died on the Cross for all of my sin, and that You rose again on the third day, and ascended to the Father, so that I could have eternal Life in You (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Jesus, I ask that You would come into my heart and life. Thank You, Jesus, for becoming my Savior, and for using my life for Your Glory (Ephesians 2:8-10). Amen.”
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and truly believe and trust in what Jesus did, you have received this gift of Salvation, and it will never be taken away from you! Jesus once said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28, ESV). It is by Grace, through Faith in what Jesus Christ did for you, that you are able to have a personal relationship based on Love with God. In this new, Love relationship, you have been brought close to Jesus, and are now a new creation in Him (Ephesians 2:13). “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here” (2 Corinthians 5:17)!
Jesus once said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). In this new-found Life in and with Christ, I encourage you to tell everyone you know about Him! After all, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news” (Isaiah 52:7)!
If you have recently accepted Jesus Christ into your heart and life as your Lord and Savior, please contact us! We would love to pray for you, celebrate with you, and provide you resources to help deepen your relationship with Christ!