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John 3:16-17[ref]NIV New International Version Translations[/ref]
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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.


The gospel of John is dated somewhere between AD 65 and 85. The text itself states only that the Gospel was written by an anonymous follower of Jesus referred to as the Beloved Disciple, traditionally identified with John the Apostle, believed to have lived at the end of his life at Ephesus. The dating is important since John is agreed to be the last of the canonical Gospels to have been written down and thus marks the end-date of their composition. Most of the Gospel’s message centers around the last days of Christ’s life. For the Christian, it represents a summary of what is important about their faith.

Biblical Truths[ref]From Albert Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament; pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia during the middle of the nineteenth century.[/ref]

Verse 16. For God so loved. This does not mean that God approved the conduct of men, but that he had benevolent feelings toward them, or was earnestly desirous of their happiness. God hates wickedness, but he still desires the happiness of those who are sinful. He hates the sin, but loves the sinner.

The world. All mankind. It does not mean any particular part of the world, but man as man–the race that had rebelled and that deserved to die. See John 6:33; 17:21. His love for the world, or for all mankind, in giving his Son, was shown by these circumstances:

  1. The entire world was in ruin, and exposed to the wrath of God.
  2. All men were in a hopeless condition.
  3. God gave his Son. Man had no claim on him; it was a gift–an undeserved gift.
  4. He gave him up to extreme sufferings, even the bitter pains of death on the cross.
  5. It was for the entire world. He tasted “death for every man,” Hebrews 2:9. He “died for all,” 2 Corinthians 5:15. “He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world,” 1 John 2:2.

That he gave. It was a free and unmerited gift. Man had no claim; and when there was no eye to pity or arm to save, it pleased God to give his Son into the hands of men to die in their stead, Galatians 1:4; Romans 8:32; Luke 22:19. It was the mere movement of love; the expression of eternal compassion, and of a desire that sinners should not perish forever.

His only-begotten Son. This is the highest expression of love of which we can conceive. A parent who should give up his only son to die for others who are guilty–if this could or might be done–would show higher love than could be manifested in any other way. So it shows the depth of the love of God, that he was willing to give his only Son into the hands of sinful men that he might be slain, and thus redeem them from eternal sorrow.

Verse 17. To condemn the world. Not to judge, or pronounce sentence on mankind. God might justly have sent him for this. Man deserved condemnation, and it would have been right to have pronounced it; but God was willing that there should be an offer of pardon, and the sentence of condemnation was delayed. But, although Jesus did not come then to condemn mankind, yet the time is coming when he will return to judge the living and the dead, Acts 17:31; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Matthew 25:31-46.

Items for Discussion

  • Read John 9:39: This verse says Christ came for judgment. John 3:17, however, tells us that Christ came because of God’s love. Are these in conflict?
  • What happens when someone is confronted (their soul) with Christ?
  • What happens to the person who sees Christ’s love for what it really is (God’s Definition)?
  • What does Christ’s love mean to those who reject Him? (What do they love?)
  • What is harder to accept, forgiveness or judgment? Explain!
  • Can salvation exist without Christ?
  • If someone never knew about Jesus, how would you teach them who he was?

Discussion Challenge

  • Where is Jesus in our Church?