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John 3:16-171NIV New International Version Translations
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.

John 16:33b
But take heart! I have overcome the world.


This is an amazing statement! The kosmos world is the world that is opposed to God. How could God love such a world? Luther said, “If I were as our Lord God, and these vile people were as disobedient as they now be, I would knock the world to pieces.” The miracle is that God does not!

In spite of mankind’s failures with handling their creation gift of free will, God sends the Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Luther calls this verse “the gospel in miniature.” God’s motive is love and God’s objective is salvation. However, God provides not just salvation but opportunity to the world. Those who actually receive eternal life are those who believe in His Son.

The wording of this verse is very much like that in the story of Abraham, who was commanded by God, “Now take your son, your only son, whom you love, even Isaac, and go into the land of Moriah. Offer him there for a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will tell you of” (Genesis 22:2). Abraham prepared to obey this command, but was prevented by an angel of God from sacrificing his son. Unlike Abraham’s experience, God, however, does not spare Himself. God’s is giving of his Son who goes to the cross for us.

God’s response is not just a weak indulgence to His creation but a divine self-sacrifice. God could have easily ignored the world’s sins and allow people to live in darkness. We deserved that treatment.  However, that would have reflected apathy, not love. As any earthly parent knows, letting the child run wild is much easier than real hard parenting. The term “loved” translates the Greek verb agapao. The noun form agape is not a love which is merely emotional. It is the love of genuine interest, that of determined dedication. It is the love which acts out of concern for others.

John 3:16 is probably the most loved verse in the Bible, and we hear it frequently. It suffers from being so often repeated apart from its context. John 3:17 gives us part of that context, stating God’s purpose in sending the Son. It is not to condemn (krine) the world, but to save it. Krine can mean either judged or condemned, but in this context, it means condemned. God sends the Son, not to condemn the world, but to save it.

We dare not take the gift of God’s Son lightly. It cost the Father the life of His Son. How can the Father offer mercy to those who reject such a precious gift. If it was necessary for God to send the Son to save the world, it must be that the world really needs saving. The world, therefore, must be very lost. The Son’s work is beneficial only if the world accepts God’s plan for salvation. John puts it this way: “He who believes in him is not judged. He who doesn’t believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God.”

We ought to be encouraged by all of this because Christ has overcome the world before us. None of us knows how to act if brought into temptation. Humanity is weak, we will fail. So let us watch and pray without ceasing, that we may not be left to ourselves and by trusting in Christ, know that we can overcome our worldly nature.

Items for Discussion

  • Do you think our society understands why is deserves to be condemned? Can you list a few reasons?
  • God is a “gold star” parent. Why do you think it is so hard to relate to God being a parent, having a Son?
  • Why does God “Love” His world so much?
  • What makes humanity weak and unable to save itself?
  • Is it possible to save humanity without God? Why or why not?
  • This text suggests that mankind can save itself by making a “choice.” What would you say to those who might take the position that God does not matter, we are all predestined to our fate?

Discussion Challenge

  • How should we summarize the “Good News” for our friends, family and world?
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