What Does John 3:16 Say?
John states the following in his gospel account of Jesus Christ:
“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.
Ok, nothing new here, but what is really going on in this passage? It was brought up to me that by the declaration of “world” that means that anyone may come to Christ, but we must look at this carefully.
“For God so loved the world…”
Ok, God loves the world; that is that He loves all of His creation. Nothing to hard here.
“…that He gave His only begotten Son,”
God loved the world (that is His creation) so much that He offered up His Son as a sacrifice for our transgressions on the cross.
“…that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. ”
And this is where it gets sticky. I’ve had debates with other Christians that declare that this last statement means that ALL of creation that can come to Christ, but when we look at this we will see that this is not what this passage is declaring.
We must establish what this text is saying. It is clearly stating that those who believe in Christ as their savior receive redemption, not that all may come to Christ. The Bible is very clearly that we are unable to come to God (Romans 3:11; 1 John 3:14; Ephesians 2:1). In fact, the very context of John 3:16 provides the answer:
“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
Here Jesus is speaking about our condition as fallen creatures. “Men loved the darkness rather than the light…” He so clearly states. During this, “[our] deeds were evil.” In fact, we love the darkness (sin, spiritual death) so much that we hate the light “for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”
Also, we must look at how many times “world” is used in this gospel (not including his epistles and Revelation, just this context). Keep in mind this is not an exhaustive list as “world” is mentioned 57 times in the NASV.
He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.
“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.
Judas (not Iscariot) *said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?“
“I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours;
But you say to me: “Chris, don’t the following passages speaks of salvation for the world?” (As if you would ask me that question.)
“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
“I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.“
If we take these passages literally, then it means that Jesus was a Universalist, or that all are saved (even those who don’t believe in Christ). By defending that view of these texts you are really saying: “Jesus came into the world so every person past, present, and future may be saved; and they don’t have to believe on Christ for this gift.”
We must be careful to jumps on words like “world” or “all” in making a statement on how God saves men.
So, what does John 3:16 mean?
It means just what it says that all who believe on Christ will be saved, but it does not answer the question: “how do we come to Christ.” And that is the crux question that many Christians attempt to read into this text. I believe that all who do believe on Christ will be saved (obviously, Solo Christus!); but we must not quicken to make a theological stance.
We are dead to the things of God, that is to say that no one can come to God without His grace, and He pulls us out of death into life.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
“If any man doth ascribe of salvation, even the very least, to the free will of man, he knoweth nothing of grace, and he hath not learnt Jesus Christ aright.“
“Thankful” by Caedmon’s Call
‘Cause we’re all stillborn and dead in our transgressions We’re shackled up to the sin we hold so dear So what part can I play in the work of redemption I can’t refuse, I cannot add a thing
I am thankful that I’m incapable
Of doing any good on my own
I’m so thankful that I’m incapable
Of doing any good on my own
‘Cause by grace I have been saved
Through faith that’s not my own
It is a gift of God and not by works
Lest anyone should boast