DECODING JOHN 3:16
John 3:16 says, ‘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.’ Let us unpack this verse to see the extent of God’s love for us.
The word world refers to humanity and to the human nature. The New Testament refers to the world as a place that is governed by the devil. 1 John 5:19 says that ‘We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.’ God had created man to be perfect, but man sinned. He rejected God’s Word and received the devil’s word. He rebelled against God. Adam and Eve’s rebellion was not just a one off incident. Through that, they declared allegiance and obedience to the devil. Therefore, the devil’s nature became theirs and it is now part of the entire human race. But the Bible says that God loved this rebellious world. He loves this mankind who lives in defiance of Him.
2) Only begotten Son
God sent a long line of preachers, prophets and teachers to point us to Him. Abraham, Isaac, Moses and multiple other patriarchs were sent for this very purpose all throughout history. Finally, He sent His one and only Son Jesus Christ. This Son who was the Second Person in the Trinity, whom the Bible testified about as the Word which was present in the beginning and which was with God and which was God and by whom all things were created. This God left all the splendor and glory in Heaven and came down as a man to this world. However, the world lived up to its rebellious nature. It rejected Him, defied Him and ultimately killed Him on the Cross like a common criminal. But the Only begotten Son of God meekly offered His life as a sacrifice for the rebellious world.
Romans 4:25 says, ‘who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification’. The word gave shouldn’t be misunderstood as giving out a neat package. It rather meant delivering up Jesus to suffer shame, agony and death. Romans 8:32 also captures this meaning beautifully. It says, ‘He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?’ This verse says that God didn’t spare His Son. Sin deserved punishment and when God delivered Jesus on the Cross to die for us, He didn’t spare Him anything. He poured out all the suffering and punishment on Jesus.
The verses preceding John 3:16, i.e., John 3:14-15 says, 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. God punished the Israelites when they grumbled against Him. Snakes bit them in the desert and many died. Moses pled with God to deliver them and God agreed to. He asked Moses to lift a brazen serpent on a pole so that all who were bitten by the snake could look at the pole and be saved. This was a representation of Jesus’ death on the Cross. All those who believed in Him would have everlasting life. The snake bite shows the wrath of God but the snake on the pole shows the mercy of God. The wrath of God is real. So is the mercy of God. His mercy is a result of His love and goodness.
The Bible is full of stories of people who experienced God’s mercy and love. Rahab hung a scarlet thread signifying the blood of Jesus on her door and she and her family was saved because of it, when her city was captured by the Israelites. Noah and his family alone were saved when God’s wrath destroyed the whole world. The ark was the mercy of God in Noah’s life. All these stories paint a beautiful picture of God’s mercy and love given to this World through His Only begotten Son.