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The Weekly Word: For God so loved the world

By Jack Mackay, Associate Pastor of Youth, Bethany Alliance Church

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

– John 3:16 (ESV)

John 3:16 is a verse quoted more than almost any other throughout the world today.

This is a verse we hear all the time from people telling us God is all about love. He loves the world, he wants to give us eternal life and bless us. Yet we often skip over the context of the passage to understand the full gravity of what he is saying.

When you are considering Scripture it is vital to look at the context. What is going on, who is talking, what are they talking about, and why did this need to be spoken about?

The Weekly Word: For God so loved the world
Pastor Jack Mackay

This direct conversation is happening between Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and a Jewish leader (a Pharisee) named Nicodemus. But to understand why they are talking we need to go back further.

This conversation happens just after the recording of Jesus’ first public miracle of the wedding at Cana in Chapter 2 by John, who wrote this book. In that Miracle at Cana Jesus shows his great desire to care for people within the Jewish Law by providing for them what they need.

Then he goes to the Passover in John 2:13, naturally following the Jewish law in Jerusalem. There he found the mistreatment of people who are following after the Jewish Law within the temple — the very place where it should not be happening by the people who should know better.

Jesus got mad. He flipped tables and created a whip to drive people out of His Father’s house for doing what they were not supposed to.

In that encounter, the Jewish leaders asked him for some wondrous sign to prove he has a right to do these things and he replied with his famous phrase, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up,” a direct confrontation to the Jewish leadership in public.

He is saying all the work you have put in for 40 years to create a perfect temple to talk with God and be in a right state with him, and you have missed the point of making it about the wrong things.

Because of this public confrontation we see in John 2:23, many believed in his signs and wanted to follow him, but not for the right reasons. They were properly religious people doing the proper thing, but we find that they and the Jewish leadership by Jesus’ own words did not truly know God.

This direct confrontation with Jewish leadership started in public and now finds itself in private with Nicodemus, specifically mentioned as “a ruler of the Jews” in 3:1.

He said, “We know you have come from God for no one can do the things you are doing.”

Jesus pushes back, not believing him, because he knows the man’s heart, and said, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus misses the point again. He says that is not physically possible.

A back and forth ensues, but Jesus says, “If you are not born again, of spirit and flesh, you cannot know me.”

So what does that mean? At that point, it was so unclear to the Jewish leadership what he meant, because they were so out of touch of what a relationship with God looks like. They believed it was so much more about doing things for God instead of being close to God.

It is about believing in him and letting that guide you, not just doing things for God and seeing what that might get you. Starting to see a trend here?

So their conversation continues to the point where Jesus says in verse 10 that if you do not understand earthly things I cannot teach you heavenly things. I have to give you what you really need here.

Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness to save his people, so must the Son of man, Jesus, be lifted up as a sacrifice and whoever believes in him will be saved. Those that do not, like Nicodemus, would have died from the snake’s effects, a drawback to deceivers in Genesis.

After all of this, we see Jesus’ great desire to care for the people of God living life as they were meant to. He wants people who are believing in him and letting that guide every part of their life.

After all that he says the fabled words “For God so loved the world, that he gave his ONLY son, that whoever BELIEVES in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

God LOVES the world, so much that he doesn’t want it to continue to live life in the wrong way. So he sent his ONLY son Jesus, the ONLY way for God to reveal to them the ONLY way to live. So that whoever BELIEVES in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Yes God loves this world, and he loves it so much that he wants to see it live life properly, the way he designed it.

Let me ask you this, do you believe in the Son of God Jesus Christ? Does that belief guide your life forward in all that you do? God loves you, and he wants you to be in a relationship with him. It is never too late. His arms are waiting for you.