Martin Luther has called John 3:16 “the Bible in miniature.” In other words, this one passage of Scripture sums up the entire theme and story and centrality of the Bible. This is THE most popular verses in all the Bible and sometimes we can be so familiar with it that we repeat almost like a mantra without really understanding the full weight of what it means and how it fits into the Gospel of John. John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
From this very famous passage of Scripture, we see FIVE absolute essentials of what you need to know about salvation. First of all, we see the SOURCE of our salvation. For GOD SO LOVED…. Salvation does not begin with us but flows directly from God’s love for us as sinners. The word “so loved” is emphatic in the Greek. The way it’s worded conveys the intensity of God’s love. The verb used “agapeo” in the Gospel of John implies more than just a feeling of love, but a conscious choice to love in action.
Second, we see the SCOPE of our salvation. For God so loved THE WORLD… When we think of the word “world” don’t think in terms of the “bigness of the world” but the “badness of the world.” The amazing thing is not that God loves a world that is so big, but a world that is so bad. We must never think that God loved us because we were somehow worthy or merited or deserved His love. The text nowhere says that God was somehow moved to save us because He saw something in use that would deserve that love. Why would God stoop so low to show ill-deserving sinners love. We don’t deserve love. We deserve God’s wrath. All of us stand opposed to our Creator in rebellion, treason, and major sin.
Third, we see the SACRIFICE of our salvation. For God so loved the world that He GAVE His only Son… Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” The Father gave Jesus willingly for undeserving sinners, but Jesus also went willingly to the cross for our salvation.
Sometimes we get confused with the word “begotten” and it is probably not the best translation. The word in the original language means “unique” or one of a kind. Jesus is the unique, sinless, powerful Son of God. But He is not only the Son of God, He is God the Son. Jesus is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father. He is the Great I AM.
Fourth, we see the SURETY of our salvation. For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever BELIEVES in him will have ETERNAL LIFE. Why do I use the word surety? It means assurance. That we are certain. It means that we have come to that point where we personally put all of our hope and trust and faith in Christ alone to save us because we are convinced He is the Son of God. We are sure He is the Savior. We are certain He is who He says He is. We translate this verse with “whosever” but in reality, the structure of the sentence in the original language says that it is “all the believing ones”—all those who come to Christ in repentance and faith have the surety of eternal life.
Fifth, we see the SENTENCE of suffering. The word “PERISH” means to suffer eternal conscious torment in hell. It means that there is a dire sentence pronounced on all who do not believe in Jesus and that sentence involves eternal suffering. The beauty of the gospel is that God sent Jesus on a rescue mission to save us out of condemnation as the ONLY WAY we could be saved from guilt.
There is no middle ground in Jesus’ words. You either believe and have eternal life or… You don’t believe and have eternal punishment. You are either saved from your sins or…You stand condemned in your sins. Which side describes you? Do you truly believe in Jesus? God has given the greatest gift of all time in His extravagant love by sending Jesus to die on the cross and rise again so that by believing in Him we can be saved from the judgment of hell and have eternal life in heaven.