Short Meditations in John 3: 15. The Gospel
Jn 3:16 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.
Thus we arrive at what is almost certainly one of the best known and most quoted verses in the Bible. My own feeling is that this and subsequent verses are commentary by John rather than ongoing speech by Jesus. There is an objectivity about them, I believe, which separates them from what has gone before. Other commentators disagree, but I will approach it as John’s summary. Verse 19 onwards especially has the feeling of the early parts of chapter 1 which is John. Whoever speaks it, it nevertheless is The defining statement of the role and purpose of Jesus Christ.
The starting point is the love of God, “For God so loved the world.” Right back before the foundation of the world as the Godhead looked into the future of the world they would create, they saw all that would happen on the part of mankind, but their love still made them go ahead with what looked like a doomed plan. Love was not put off; love looked and saw that there was a way, a costly way, that mankind could be won back but it meant the Son going to the earth and living a human life and then giving up that life – or rather have it taken away from him by mankind – to take the punishment that only the divine being could take to cover every human being and satisfy justice.
Thus we find, “he gave his one and only Son.” Note the emphasis that there is only one true Son of God (the rest of us are adopted). There are no others and therefore anyone else subsequently claiming to be the Son is a pretender. Moreover as far as the Father is concerned, He is giving up to this awful fate His one and only beloved Son. Yet love was willing to do this to win us back.
All it needed was for us to believe in this plan, believe in the Son and believe what he had done, “that whoever believes in him.” Belief is essential because without it we will not surrender our lives to him, so they become available for him to save and to change. This is no mere intellectual assent, this has to be heart and mind assent, heart and mind belief, for without it we will be holding back and it is essential that we completely give ourselves to Him so that he may do a complete work in us.
The outcome is twofold, seen as a negative and then a positive. First the negative: “shall not perish.” The effect of the Cross is that we will not die for eternity and we will not suffer eternal punishment. Then the positive: “but have eternal life.” We’ve seen it in Jesus’ words previously. This is the end game: life with God for eternity, and it begins right now. This is the wonder of this. Hallelujah!