What Does John 3:16 Teach?

The following is part of the book I am writing, from a section on the gospel which is a necessary element of a biblical church. th

There are truths in God’s Word that rub our flesh the wrong way; predestination is one of them. I refer the reader to Appendix 5 for a biblical defense of this doctrine. We must embrace the truth of Scripture, even if it goes against what we’ve learned from me. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12) God’s Word is sharp and, as wielded by the Holy Spirit, cuts like a scalpel, bringing healing to our broken souls. False teaching is seen as less threatening, like a butter knife. And it works the same way – tearing the flesh as it pierces, bringing destruction rather than healing. Good counsel presents the truth of Scripture; this is biblical love – even though our beloved traditions may have to be abandoned.

Many who disbelieve predestination run to John 3:16, as if this verse disproves it. Let us briefly examine this verse to see what its message truly is. Here’s the verse, from the King James: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. That settles it for many, who do not stop to see if the words may have had a different meaning when written 500 years ago than they do today; including Baptist preachers who ought to know better. But contrary to a popular hermeneutic which declares, “when the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense”, the plain sense of Scripture often contradicts the true meaning of Scripture and our common sense often makes no heavenly sense. The genre of the text we are reading will indicate how we are to read it – poetry and apocalyptic books cannot be taken literally, and even historical narratives are full of word pictures that must be interpreted rightly to get God’s view of His Scriptures. The Jews of the first century had common sense and they took certain prophecies in the plain sense. This caused them to look for a king like David – a man of war – and miss the true meaning of their own Scripture.

In regards to John 3:16, let’s examine a couple of key words upon which the meaning of this verse hang. In English, the word “so” can be either an adverb or an adjective. We see it in verse 14: And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up (KJV). Here, the word “so” is an adverb, meaning “in like manner” or “in the same way” – describing the nature of something. Many people think the word “so” is an adjective in verse 16 – describing the degree of the thing that follows: God loves the world SO much. The problem with this view is that the Greek word translated as “so” in English (houtos – Strong’s #3779) is rarely used as an adjective. Strong’s Greek and Hebrew dictionary defines it only as an adverb. Houtos shows up more than 200 places in the Greek New Testament. In only four occurrences it is definitely an adjective: Galatians 1:6; 3:3; Hebrews 12:21 (houto); and Revelation 16:18. In more than 97% of the uses the word houtos is an adverb. (http://www.brenthobbs.com/index_files/john_3_16.php accessed 25 May 2015) Now looking back John’s gospel, let’s read a little more for context:

John 3:14-16 (KJV) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Is there a compelling argument that John’s use of houtos changes from the common adverb in verse 14 to the extremely rare adjective in verse16? If its use in verse 16 is as an adjective, the Bible tells us God loved the world to a great degree that He sent Christ to die for the same world He said we are not to love (1 John 2:15). Since Jesus said Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35) we must interpret Scripture with Scripture and lean not on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5), even if the plain sense makes common sense to us. Our common sense is our understanding, not God’s. I don’t have space here to examine “the world” and how it’s used; but since not everybody at all times in every nation, tribe, and tongue has been forgiven, it’s reasonable and in keeping with Christ’s high priestly prayer in John 17 that Jesus did not come to save the whole world in the comprehensive sense some assert. As noted in Ephesians 5:25, Jesus gave His life for the church, not everybody in the world. And since “the world” often means a region (Luke 2:1; John 12:19), or the system which lies under Satan’s rule (John 15:19; 17:13; 1 Corinthians 2:12), we have no reason to assume this term means everyone everywhere as regards salvation, as the Lamb of God died for the redeemed, not the damned.

The argument is not whether or not the death of Christ is sufficient to save everyone – His death is more than sufficient for the entire human race. The question is, did Christ die for all men – is the atonement universal? One English Bible translates this phrase, “in tasting death He should stand for us all” – those for whom Christ stands are the redeemed. The word, man, is not in the Greek text, meaning the original phrase would be “should taste death for the whole” – the whole body, the church for whom Christ gave Himself (Ephesians 5:25); Jesus died for every son God brings to glory. God the Father chooses only some to be saved – election is not universal. God the Spirit regenerates only some to bring them to new life, He only seals those who are born again – the Spirit’s work in saving and sealing is not universal. For Christ’s death to be universal, it would mean that some of His blood, some of His trials and suffering under the wrath of God the Father, was for those who are spending eternity under God’s wrath. Any blood or work done by Christ on their account would be wasted! And if the death of Christ was universal, it would put Him at odds with the Father and the Spirit, because their work in salvation is particular, not universal.

Let’s read the passage from John 3 in the Holman Christian Standard Bible:

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life. “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

This is more in line with the common use of the Greek and keeps consistency within the passage and with the whole teaching of the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus.

What Price Revival?

Fathers, the best gift you could receive today would be the overwhelming desire to seek repentance from the thrice-holy Almighty, the One whom we have long forsaken for the pleasures of the world. Paul reminds us that we are to set our affections on things that are heavenly, not on the things of this world. We need revival in America and in England, but at what price will it come?

Why Did Jesus Come?

I’m sure just about everyone who has grown up in church can give pat answers as to why Jesus left the splendors of Heaven to enter a world where He would be scorned and persecuted but have you ever taken time to examine exactly why Jesus did that? The obvious answer is taken from the familiar John 3:16 (He loved us) but it is more in-depth than that.

To Give Abundant life

John 10:10 tells us, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Abundant life. Think about it. If you look up the definition, this means life that is “more than adequate, over-sufficient, richly supplied.” Way too many professing Christians are just trying to get through their days. They are barely living instead of living in the abundance that is available to them.

In John 5, Jesus told the people, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” This happens way too often even today. So many are seeking for answers, a reason to live but they want to keep their life instead of surrendering to the only One who can really give life.

Someone came up with the phrase, “Wise men still seek Him,” and I will add that men and women who are really wise will find Him. He has promised that, “when you seek Me, you will find Me if you search for Me with all your heart.” Oh that people would realize how desperate they really are and not stop seeking until they find Him.

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To Bring Light

Another reason Jesus came is to bring light to a dark world (John 12:46). God still desires to do that through His people. In Matthew 5:14, Jesus told His disciples, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” If the Holy Spirit is dwelling in you, your light should be shining bright. He can enable you to shine in the midst of darkness, to rejoice in the midst of trials, to smile when you would usually be crying. We sometimes forget that we have a part to play in this “game of life” but, unlike most games, it’s our choice if we are going to win or lose this one. With Jesus, we will be a victorious winner.

That the World Might Be Saved

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17).

It may seem odd that I didn’t start with this but I believe that, if we who are saved will live an abundant life and be the light God desires us to be, we will see more people come to know Him as well.

If you do a study, you will find more reasons why Jesus came to earth. He was our example. He came to serve, to minister, to do the will of the Father, etc. And He came to be the supreme sacrifice for our sins so that none should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). This must begin with you and me, however. God can save anyone in any way He chooses but I believe many people are not being saved because they are not seeing true Christianity lived out in our lives. We don’t study Matthew 5 and take it seriously. Instead, we live, talk, and act like the world, wanting to fit in yet using Christ’s name when it profits us something.

Brothers and Sisters, don’t grieve the Lord. He did not have to come to earth but He did so out of love for a lost, dying, and hopeless world. As you celebrate this Christmas, examine your heart. Are you living the abundant life that Jesus came to give you? As you go to work each day or interact with people around you, are you being a light, or are you trying to fit in so people don’t tease you for being different? This is not just a time to celebrate the birth of a baby but a time to realize what His coming did for us and how we can best serve Him. After all, he is the only person who was born over 2000 years ago yet is still alive.

Hashtag Evangelism

Christendom has compartmentalized the proclamation of the gospel way too much. To the many, there are different “types” of evangelism. And by types they may use categories like Lifestyle Evangelism, Friendship Evangelism, Old Folks Evangelism, Street Evangelism, and so on and so on and so on! The purpose of this article will not allow me to elaborate on how unbiblical these compartmentalizations are. And perhaps I will address that in another article. But, I want to address a phenomenal evangelistic opportunity that most internet users miss, and perhaps think is too corny or humorous to even consider. And it starts with a little symbol known as the hashtag (#).

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Apocity: The Greatest Omission

In my book Apocity: The Greatest Omission I coin a word (apocity – pronounced uh-pa-city) to describe the sin of not evangelizing. This book not only coins a word, but it reveals the pandemic apparent within western Christianity. Moreover, this book not only diagnosis this sin (thoroughly), but it also provides a gospel centered remedy.

Sneak preview can be found here: http://www.watersourceministries.com/apocity/sneak-preview/

Interview on Janet Mefferd Show can be found here (skip to minute 20): http://www.janetmefferdpremium.com/2014/03/17/janet-mefferd-radio-show-20140317-hr-2/

But selling books is not why I am writing. Since I don’t get a dime off of sales, money is not in the forefront of my concern.

As I have always said, it seems that the western, local churches have failed at the one command that Jesus imparted to us right before He ascended into heaven at the right hand of the Father. When Jesus gave us what is now known as the “great commission,” Jesus explicitly stated that we are to make disciples, and one of the components of doing so is “teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you…” (Matt. 28:20). The other component is “going” or “in your going” (as if that makes a difference). For some reason, however, we have not been consistent in teaching the last thing that Christ taught. What irony that the very commission Christ gave embodies the necessity for making disciples in the world, and yet we will teach others to obey everything else Christ taught, meanwhile dancing around this particular mandate to be regular, consistent, and purposeful witnesses for Christ!

What do we see in the news in America right now? Ebola, ISIS threat, homosexual agenda, feminism, Hollywood attacks on Christianity, false teachers getting the spotlight, pastors getting subpoenaed, violence, sexual immorality, and the list goes on! And what are the majority of local churches doing? Playing their apocitic fiddles while Rome burns! The current state of affairs in America right now is ripe for gospel preaching and we are sleeping (Prov. 10:5). Nevertheless, the LORD has His true laborers. Those that are not faithful workers in His field are going to be found out as frauds in the end (Matt. 25:29).

In giving the sin of not evangelizing a name, it is my hope that many will consider the linguistic power of being able to put a name to this detrimental and once nameless sin. Not only that, to provide a talking point concerning the evangelistic efforts (or lack thereof) in our own lives. In this post, and in future posts to come, I pray that we all can demolish all the sorry excuses we make that keep us from being regular, consistent, and purposeful in fulfilling the command of Christ to make disciples. If you are, or if you know anyone, that is negligent in going out into the world to make disciples (an apocite) toward family, friends, co-workers, AND strangers, I pray this post (and the book) will revive and reveal the greatest omission in our evangelical churches today.

If you wish to purchase a copy of “Apocity”, go here: http://www.tractplanet.com/Book–Apocity-The-Greatest-Omission_p_274.html