John 3:16 is perhaps the most powerful concise summary of the good news of Jesus Christ in the Bible. It is often memorized and often quoted and does represent an excellent starting point for memorizing scripture and understanding God.
16“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
In twenty-five words, this scripture highlights us how much God loves us so that He came down to dwell among us and died for our sins in order to provide a way for us to be saved and have eternal life. However, watch how much more God reveals for us if we expand our focus beyond John 3:16 for several verses beyond.
16“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20“For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21“But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
Out of love, God sent the Son into the world. The world was already judged guilty due to sin… the Son was sent to provide a way that we may be saved. Those who truly believe in Him will no longer be judged. Those who refuse to submit to Him have already been judged.
We must first recognize that “believe” means a lot more than head knowledge. Even Satan and the demons believe Jesus is God. “believe” in this context means to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and submit to Him, asking forgiveness for our sins and repenting from our sinful behavior and attitudes. Upon this context of “believe” all of us are either judged or not judged.
All to often, people want to redefine God to imply that “a God of love would not condemn anyone”. But scripture itself contradicts this line of wrong teaching. In fact, people all get to choose whether they wish to submit to God or remain apart from Him… and God grants them their choice for all eternity. Yes, many people go to Hell because they reject Christ. As uncomfortable as this may make you feel, it should spur you into action to share the gospel with as many as you can. You share the gospel out of love for them… to try to lead them to salvation through Christ.
Those who are evil love the darkness and hate the light. They want to remain in darkness and just keep doing things their way. They do not want the light to shine on them lest they be shown to be wrong and in need of repentance. This is why so many who reject God or claim Him in name only, without really living submitted to Him, try to attack and discourage those who truly change their lives in obedience to Jesus Christ. They do not like the light because it calls on them to change. Those who practice truth come to the light. There is nothing to hide and in fact we rejoice at our best efforts to be a light for others.
I find verses 17-21 add a tremendous amount of context and meaning that many do not recognize. So as you set about studying and memorizing scripture, by all means you may wish to start with John 3:16… but do not stop with John 3:16.
Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.