John: For God So Loved the World

Read: John 3:16-21

John presses pause after recounting the story of Nicodemus. In one concise and elegant statement, John captures the essence of Jesus Christ’s primary mission on earth. I’m sure there are stats somewhere, but this has to be one of the most well-known verses in the Bible; probably among any book. The verse introduces a short discourse that needs to be read together in light of the Nicodemus discussion.

May I suggest we overlook the fact that Nicodemus was one of the religious elite and likely very wealthy in earthly terms and simply look at him as one who is seeking to understand. From this perspective, most of us can pull up a chair and listen to John’s response.

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. John 3:16

These powerful words have reshaped hearts for generations. My mind is filled with wonder as I drink in the words of Jesus and how John shapes the memory for us all. The NIV Application Commentary writer has amazing words to say about this passage. Take a moment and let this sink in:

“Christianity is not something that you follow as much as it is a power that transforms. It is possible to get one’s theology right but to get one’s relationship with God all wrong. There is a pathology to theological education— a spiritual disease that can distance us from God. Nicodemus was a theologian. I am a theologian. Mature Christians are theologians. We must always be on the alert to see if we are linked to the spiritually unpredictable Holy Spirit of God.1

When the Holy Spirit is involved, you just might be completely changed. It’s a risk that will likely change the course of your life.

John provided a story to set the stage, something we could relate to. As mentioned in the previous post, I’m sure the discussion went well into the night. Jesus explains that the choice at hand is one between light and dark. Nicodemus came during the night to hear from The Light. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

His purpose is clear:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:17

And the choice is either/or, no in between:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. John 3:18

These strong words leave little doubt as to where we stand in the end. We all enter life on earth through birth and leave through death. But for those who have seen the light and recognize eternity awaits, we have a choice to make before the Judge of all.

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. John 3:19-21

I truly believe Nicodemus entered the conversation as someone who was somewhat skeptical, perhaps cynical. He was one who was highly intelligent and didn’t want to hear fanciful language or illustrations. He probably didn’t think he was in the dark, after all, he was well educated in the ways of Yahweh. He came to receive hard evidence and a clear explanation. What he received was more valuable than he could ever have imagined.

What about you? Will you remain skeptical and cynical? What more do you need to step out in faith and accept the One who came that all would have the opportunity for everlasting life?


1Wilkins, Michael J.; Garland, David E.; Bock, Darrell L.; Burge, Gary M.; Fernando, Ajith. NIVAC Bundle 6: Gospels, Acts (The NIV Application Commentary) (Kindle Locations 61893-61894). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

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