Reintroducing John 3:16

February 13, 2019 at 5:02 pm | Posted in John, Salvation | 4 Comments
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For many years the Bible verse that has been generally considered the most popular, or at least most well-known, is John 3:16. The danger for some of us when studying a very familiar verse is that we become inoculated through over-exposure and make the mistake of thinking we know everything we need to know about it already. Let me encourage you not to make that mistake with John 3:16. Sit down (with your spouse if you are married) and go through it word by word, slowly, considering the import of each word, and looking at the verses before and after it to better illuminate the context.

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.

John 3:16

I didn’t really need to print it here, did I? Most faithful Christians probably have it memorized. But let’s examine it closely. The first word, “for,” refers back to:

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.

John 3:14-15

Lest Verse 15 lead anyone to think that God the Father needed to be changed in His dispositional impassibility by God the Son from not loving us to loving us, the Holy Spirit had John make it clear that the Father’s love was the motivating cause of the plan of salvation.

“For God SO…” If you’ve been attending a Baptist or evangelical church for very long, you’ve probably seen the pantomime of a preacher stretching his arms wide to demonstrate a child’s expression of what it means to love someone SOOOOO much, but John 3:16 does not leave the question of “how much is so much?” open-ended. The word “that” is used to introduce the concept of: “THIS is how much the Father loved us.”

He loved us so much that He “GAVE.” This word, too, is worth closer inspection. God “gave” His Son in at least two respects: (1) In the Incarnation, the Father sent the Son from His Heavenly home to live in a world of sin, the effects of sin, and sinful rebels, and to experience, in His humanity, all the difficulties, pain, rejection, scorn, betrayal, sorrow, and human shortcomings and temptations known to mankind (but in response to which, He, unlike us, never sinned); (2) During His arrest and the events leading up to His death, the Father “gave” the Son into the hands of sinful men to be tortured and crucified, and to experience death as the substitutionary sacrifice for us.

This Son who came to live and die for His people was the Father’s “only begotten Son,” the Monogenes, His special and unique Son. He was the eternal Son of God, not “begotten” in the sense of having been born as touching His divinity, nor in the sense of His having been created (for He was not), but in an echo of the Old Testament type that we see in the episode of Abraham and Isaac.

And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

Genesis 22:1-13 (emphasis added)

Isaac was not, strictly speaking, Abraham’s “only” son, yet He was the son of promise – the special and unique son promised to Abraham by God. Yet he was designated as a sacrifice to be offered to God, not because Isaac’s loss was something to be lightly borne by Abraham, but rather because he was so precious to Abraham. In John 3:16 we see the ultimate fulfillment of what had been played out and interrupted in Genesis 22, and we learn that God loved us wicked rebellious sinners SO much that He gave His absolute best, His most cherished, His most valuable, His eternally perfect Son for us.

Would you give up your life to save the life of a loved one? Perhaps you would. But would you give up the life of one of your beloved children to save the life of another loved one? I doubt it. What about to save a stranger? Even less likely. Now, what about sacrificing the life of your only, beloved child to save the life of your worst enemy? Unthinkable. The love of the Father for us is too great for us to fathom. It is in a whole different realm of love from anything we can comprehend.

“God so loved THE WORLD… that WHOSOEVER…”

Does this mean that Jesus’s death on the Cross – the gift of the Father – secures the salvation of every single person? A consistent universalist would answer “yes.” He would say that Hitler and Osama Bin Laden, along with everyone else who has ever lived, will one day be in Heaven holding your hands and singing “Kumbaya.” However, this is incorrect, because the “whosoever” in John 3:16 is inextricably linked to the next word: “believeth,” and likewise to “in Him,” meaning Jesus, the Savior. The “world” that is so loved by God includes both Jews and gentiles, which would have been a radically different concept for the vast majority of those who heard Jesus’s teaching for the first time. The “world” in John 3:16 also means that all people are in fact “loved” by God in a general way, but not that God loves the world’s fallen, sin-controlled “system” that the words “the world” often describe in the Epistles. Not everyone in “the world” experiences the same benefits of God’s love that those who believe on Jesus Christ unto eternal salvation experience. The bronze serpent referenced in John 3:14 was lovingly lifted up by Moses for all to see, but only those to whom God granted faith looked and lived.

As you read this you might be wondering, “Am I a John 3:16 ‘whosoever’ or not? How can I tell?” You can settle this by looking to Jesus in faith right now, believing His Gospel. LOOK and SEE. If you will not look, see, and believe, you cannot be a John 3:16 “whosoever.” And there is only one other default position. If you will not be a John 3:16 “whosoever,” you must be a Revelation 20:15 “whosoever.”

And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:15

“Perish” is what it’s called in John 3:16, but do not imagine it as some peaceful extinguishment. It is not a blinking-out into oblivion. It is eternal death and destruction, never-ending, conscious, excruciating pain, darkness, and torment, as opposed to present tense eternal “have everlasting life.” Everlasting life is the opposite of perishing: light instead of darkness, joy instead of pain, peace instead of torment. I beg you to trust Jesus this very moment.

The Difference between Saved and Lost

August 22, 2018 at 12:10 pm | Posted in Salvation | 4 Comments
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The distinction between saved and lost, spiritually speaking, is the sharpest, most significant distinction in the world. The difference between “saved” people (those who have been truly born again by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, John 3; Ephesians 2:8-9) and those who have not been saved is more important than the differences between people of different political beliefs, different nationalities, different skin colors, different genders, and different ages. A person who is saved is truly a child of God. His or her name has been written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 21:27), and he or she will one day go to Heaven to be with Jesus forever, because his or her sins have been forgiven. A person who is lost is an enemy of God, whose sins are unforgiven. This person, unless his or her condition changes before death or before Jesus comes back, must be punished by the just and living God, and he or she will go to a place of separation from God that the Bible calls hell, and ultimately to a place called the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15), which is a horrible place of eternal conscious torment. There is nothing of greater consequence for human beings than believing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and trusting Him unto salvation.

What Does it Mean to be “Saved?”

July 19, 2018 at 11:24 am | Posted in Salvation | 6 Comments
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I have noticed that many people have incorrect ideas and general confusion about the term “saved.” To be “saved” in the Biblical sense means to be saved from God’s wrath. God’s wrath is what we deserve because of our sins against Him. To be “saved” is to be “rescued,” or “delivered” from a punishment against which we are helpless. We are saved by God’s grace, meaning that it is a free gift that we do not deserve. We are saved through faith, meaning that it happens when we believe the Truth about Jesus Christ and His Gospel and place all our trust in Him alone. We can add nothing whatsoever to this salvation. It comes to us through Christ, according to His Word, and for God’s glory. For several years I have been asking people if they are “saved” and these are the most common responses:

1. “Yes, I go to church.” But going to church does not mean that you are saved.

2. “Yes, I have been baptized.” But being baptized does not mean that you are saved. Being baptized is something we are commanded to do AFTER we are saved. Baptism is an illustration of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. It does not wash away anyone’s sins.

3. “Yes, I have been saved many times.” But this is impossible. Salvation is a one-time-only event for each person who experiences it. Upon salvation you receive eternal life, and “eternal” life, by definition, cannot be lost or taken away.

4. “Yes, I pray to God every day.” Being saved may occur during a prayer, but the act of praying itself is not the same as being saved.

The Testator as Intercessor

January 20, 2016 at 12:57 pm | Posted in Eternity, Hebrews | 6 Comments
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Christ is God. He is greater than: the prophets, the angels, Moses, Joshua, Aaron, Levi, Abraham, and Melchizedek.

Why was it that the priesthood of Levi was not forever, but the priesthood of Christ after the order of Melchizedek is? Because the Law made nothing perfect (Hebrews 7:19), but the bringing in of a better hope did. The Levitical priests received authority from the Law.

For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.

Hebrews 7:28

There was no provision for a priesthood from the tribe of Judah.

For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.

Hebrews 7:14

That’s why the Law was not permanent; it was given to accomplish a purpose: to bring sinners to Christ. Its priests weren’t perfect, but the Priest of the New Testament IS perfect. He was commissioned by God’s personal oath.

And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.

Hebrews 7:20-22

A testament is a document, or a system, or a set of principles, which takes effect upon the death of the testator (the will-maker). But Christ as Testator, empowered by the oath of God (Who cannot lie), died to make His Testament go into effect, and then proceeded to arise and live forever to probate the will as Intercessor before God – making intercession for Christians – His legatees (heirs) – those who inherit His promises and His salvation FOREVER.

Wherefore he is able also to save them to the UTTERMOST that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

Hebrews 7:25 (emphasis added)

As the old preachers like to say, Jesus saves from the “guttermost” to the uttermost.

Objections To the Doctrine of Everlasting Security Answered (Objection 3)

January 19, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Posted in Eternity | 1 Comment
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Objection: I know that I can lose my salvation because Lucifer once was in Heaven, and was cast out. There were also MANY angels created by God that chose to follow Lucifer to the fiery pit.

Answer To Objection: Lucifer being thrown out of Heaven has nothing to do with losing your salvation. Lucifer was never saved, so he could not “lose” his salvation.

Objection: Adam and Eve fell from God’s grace and favor and lost their eternity in the Garden.

Answer To Objection: When Adam and Eve were created in the garden they had not yet been “saved.” It was only after they sinned that they needed to be saved. God put them out of the Garden, but that is not “losing their salvation.”

Objection: If a Christian decides to walk away from God and live in sin he will surely die in his sin.

Answer To Objection: Do you mean die physically, or go to hell? Do you know any Christians who do not sin at least once every day? Is that “living in sin?” Do you know any Christians who have achieved sinless perfection? How many sins does a Christian have to commit before he or she “loses his salvation?” Why is most of the New Testament after Acts written to Christians telling them how to get the victory over sin, instead of telling them to get re-saved since they must have lost their salvation? Every Christian sins. We should not, but we do. God chastens His children for sinning. He does not kick them out of His family, or go back on His Word and take away His eternal salvation.

Get Over Yourself, because You Can’t Get Over on God

December 30, 2009 at 10:29 am | Posted in Eternity | 9 Comments
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Pride is a dangerous thing. If I were to begin to proclaim that I had done enough good things for God, so that He owed me a place in Heaven, I should be quickly rebuked and shown the error of my ways. My home in Heaven is made secure by God’s grace through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, and I have no justification for bragging about it (Ephesians 2:8-9).

My own merits, whatever they may or may not have been, were completely tainted and stained by my sinful nature prior to salvation (Isaiah 64:6). So I will not be going to Heaven on my own merits, but on the merits of the One Who was perfect in my place, and who bore the weight of, and suffered the force of, God’s wrath in my stead: Jesus Christ the Righteous (I John 2:1-3).

Therefore, it must be understood and proclaimed that our own self-worth, our own self-righteousness, and our own “good” works are completely insufficient to earn God’s eternal approval. This is true even of our own belief and faith. Even the strongest Christian is often weak in his/her belief and unsteady in his/her faith. Are you not grateful beyond measure that when our own belief falters, or falls beneath God’s standards, His unchanging faith, and not our own, secures our salvation?

If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.

II Timothy 2:13

Give Him Your Heart

November 9, 2009 at 10:14 am | Posted in Salvation | 6 Comments
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Proverbs 23:26 says, “My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.” This is the plea of an earthly parent to his child, but God may be saying the same thing to you today. Have you given the Lord your heart? If so, do you know when, where, and can you describe it in detail?

Maybe you never have. Maybe everybody you know thinks you’re a Christian, but you know you’re not, and God knows you’re not. Your sin has separated you from God. Jesus Christ took your sin on Himself, and He took the punishment for it in your place on the Cross. He was sinless and perfect, yet He was tortured and crucified for every sin you and I ever committed.

The good news is that God accepted Him as the perfect and only possible sacrifice for sin, and showed His acceptance by resurrecting Him from the dead. He lives today, and you have only two choices: You must believe on Him, rejecting your own self-righteousness, or you must reject Him.

All in the Past

October 20, 2009 at 7:50 am | Posted in Eternity | 16 Comments
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Satan, the adversary of every Christian, will one day be bound and utterly defeated. At that point he will no longer have the ability to harass and torment the children of God. Today, however, he is tirelessly at work doing all he can to rob God of glory, and to destroy the creatures that God loves. Dr. Frank M. Kepner, the Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Long Beach, California, from 1956-1979, once wrote: “Yes, when we have been brought close to Christ by some high spiritual experience or by some noble decision, we may always expect great temptation to follow. For Satan never surrenders a life to God without a desperate struggle.”

Of course, the faithful Christian who studies his Bible is not ignorant of Satan’s devices, weapons, schemes, or persistence. When he is tripped by Satan, and stumbles into sin, he need not fret or wallow in defeat. In fact, Christians have access to a great promise concerning God’s compassion on His children even when they have shamefully stumbled.

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

Ephesians 4:32

When you have been “born again” – that is, born into the family of God – your past sins are forgiven, your current sins are forgiven, and even your future sins are forgiven. The “tense” of your sins is not the important thing. The tense of God’s forgiveness is. The sins of believers were dealt with on the Cross of Christ and they “hath” been (past tense) forgiven.

A believer who is dealt a blow by Satan, and who gives in to sin, grieves the Holy Spirit of God.

And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Ephesians 4:30

This would have been the perfect place for God to tell us that our sins can cause the Spirit to be grieved to the point that He leaves us, and that we lose our eternal salvation. But He does not. Instead, He reminds us that, though we may grieve the Holy Spirit, He still seals Christians unto the day of redemption. Satan is strong. Some men are strong. But no one can break the seal of God.

You Need To Know This

May 27, 2009 at 8:50 am | Posted in Salvation | 5 Comments
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Jesus Christ was crucified and died for the sins of the world. He was buried, and He rose again from the dead on the third day. He lives now and forever more, and He offers salvation from sin, and salvation from eternal judgment in hell, as a free gift to anyone who will repent and receive Him by faith as Savior, according to the Scriptures. This is what the Bible calls the “Gospel” message.

Right Where You’re Supposed to Be

April 24, 2009 at 10:16 am | Posted in Ecclesiastes, Eternity | 10 Comments
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Have you ever wondered why you were born in the place where you were born? Have you ever thought about what it would have been like to live in a different time in history? These are questions that we will never be able to fully answer on this side of eternity. However, you can rest assured that, according to Scripture, God, before He created you, ordained in His perfect will that you would be born exactly where and when He chose.

The divine appointment which we call our birthday was chosen for our own good, and for God’s Own glory. In the heart of every person, at every place and time, since the beginning of creation, God has placed the idea of eternity, and revelation of Himself.

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

Ecclesiastes 3:11

For this reason, every single one of us is without excuse if we have failed to acknowledge and worship God (Romans 1:19-20). We have all failed to do this at one time or another, but the realization that we are part of God’s eternal, unseen plan should cause us to rejoice, and should motivate us to serve Him with joy.

I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.

Ecclesiastes 3:12

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