When you think about God’s love what comes to mind? How is God’s love different from our love? What is the source and meaning of God’s love? Join me as I encourage you to take another look at one of the most popular Bible verses about the Gospel: John 3:16
Setting and Conversation
It’s vital to consider scripture in it’s context! First, Jesus is speaking with Nicodemus and explaining God’s means of renewal and salvation. Remember Nicodemus’ identity and consider how he would have viewed God and redemption. Nicodemus is a religious teacher well versed in the Torah. From his perspective, redemption comes from obedience to God’s law as revealed in Torah. Nicodemus also would understand that God chose the Hebrew people, sent Moses to deliver them and teach them God’s ways/law. Redemption is through birth or inheritance into the “Jewish” nation which God promises to redeem. He would have understood the Major and Minor Prophets as well and probably was waiting for the promised Messiah to come. Perhaps this is why he sought Jesus out: to find out if Jesus was the Anointed One.
Knowing about God yet not understanding God
For the 1st Century Hebrew, the name God would never be written out of respect for God’s Holy and Righteous Name. For God to become man in the form of Jesus was beyond belief or the considered realm of possibility. When reading the Gospels, have you ever wondered why that the disciples and religious leaders couldn’t understand that Jesus is God? The religious refused to seriously entertain the notion that a Holy God would come in the form of Jesus. This is the real reason that sent Him to the Romans to be executed: He claimed to be God. This is clearly prophesied in passages such as Isaiah 53.
Jesus’ numerous miracles demonstrated His nature to the disciples, yet they struggled to believe and understand. Do we fully understand Jesus? Why is it that people who have been raised and attended church for life don’t really know Jesus even though many know so much about Him?
Why is this?
It’s not enough to know all about God. Just like those before us, we misunderstand and wrongly interpret God according to our culture, past experiences, and how we were taught about God. My desire is to encourage you with truth so you can better understand the wonderful depth and immense greatness of God’s love and grace for us! For specific verses and insights on this concept:
Jesus engages Nicodemus
Jesus teaches Nicodemus truth. He explains how God’s love sent Him to redeem the world and make eternal life possible for all who would believe. Jesus explains that we must be born again/born of God. Two concepts come to play here: being born again and being born again from above. Jesus clearly teaches that we must be converted and regenerated! Conversion involves believing properly–understanding that we are lost and need a savor. Regeneration comes when Jesus’ grace and redemption transforms us and brings us into saving relationship with God. After being regenerated/transformed, God begins the process of sanctification wherein we become more like Him and less like the fallen world. Key to all of this is the understanding that God reaches out to us with His truths calling us to trust and obey!
The apostle John uses the Greek ēgapēsen here related to agapé. This form of love is a divine form of love. For more on this type of love and what it means see below article.
God’s Love is All About His Nature–we are recipients not the origin of redemption
God’s love is demonstrated in the person, ministry, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God exists in a Perfect Trinity. God is Father, God is Jesus Christ (resurrected human/glorified state) and God is Holy Spirit. Each member of the Holy Trinity is God, yet a distinct personality. This Trinity exists in a state of Perfect Love, Agreement, and Power. God the Son loves God the Father and perfectly obeys His will. Holy Spirit loves God Father and God Jesus. We observe this in the Gospel of John. Consider Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer in John Chapter 17. For more details on this crucial prayer see the following article:
The apostle John reminds us that love creates obedience. If we love God then we obey Him just as Jesus does. My point here is that the redemption is about God not about us!
I’ve misunderstood John 3:16 myself. Yes, this verse teaches that God loves the world and sent His Son to redeem. The word “Houtos” in Greek also indicates extent by meaning “so, thus, in this manner”. This means that the extent of God’s love is demonstrated when He becomes man in form of Jesus and enters His creation to redeem it. God definitely loves us and desires to save all people, but this is due to His love not our worthiness. We get it backwards. God loves us because He came to redeem us, not because we’re worthy to be loved. Our worth is established and measured by His redemption!
Why we need to understand John 3:16 properly
4 Main Reasons
1.God is our Creator and Redeemer-He is the center of our lives and faith journey. Life of Faith is so much greater than our individual personalities and desires! We are Creatures not self-reliant deities here to please ourselves. God is to be worshiped and served. He alone is worthy!
2. God initiates salvation and grace. God calls people to repent. Consider how Jesus calls the disciples. He calls them and they respond in faith. God calls Abraham and Moses, they respond in faith. So shall we trust and obey for there is no other way!
3. Depending on God frees us from trying to save ourselves! This is the trap of all man-made or human focused religions. We are powerless to redeem ourselves by good deeds or intentions. We also must understand that each person is saved only through Christ.
4.Experiencing and understanding God’s love empowers us to fervently and correctly share His Good News with the lost and perishing souls around us. How many people are around us each day who are lost and don’t even know it? Who will show and proclaim the Good News to them?
Trusting in and depending on God’s love provides a firm foundation when the waves of life come crashing down upon us with sorrows, disappointments, and we face the valley of death. God’s Love is a place of refuge and respite when all else is collapsing around us!
I’m including a link to a well written article by Scott Stein that explains John 3:16 in more detail. I’m also sharing some quotes that will highlight the key points of his article for you below:
Key Quotes to Consider
It reveals to us something about God and the nature of his love, namely that it is entirely boundless, selfless and gracious. It’s not because he needed us that God loved us this way; quite the reverse. It’s because we need him. The Father’s motive for sending Jesus was actually his love for the Son and his desire to glorify the Son.“Prepared to Answer” Scott Stein “So Misunderstood John 3:16 May Not Mean What You Think”
Salvation through Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the dead is all about the Father glorifying the Son whom he loves.“Prepared to Answer” Scott Stein “So Misunderstood John 3:16 May Not Mean What You Think”
Other article with explanation of entire chapter and key terms.
May God encourage you on your journey! As you experience and grow in His love, be a person who shares God’s love wonderful love with others! For His glory and honor, I write