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For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16 NRSV

To read the entire passage John 3:1-21

Those who know very little about the Bible will likely know this verse. You’ve likely seen it displayed on billboards, t-shirts, and coffee mugs. This is because it states our knowledge of God so concisely, twenty-five simple yet divinely profound words. God loved all of his creation and sent Jesus to save those who believed in him from their sin and give them eternal life.

Yet, if asked, most folks would not know the context surrounding the verse. The verse is part of a conversation between the Pharisee Nicodemus and Jesus. To provide context, in Chapter 2, Jesus performs his first sign, changing the water into wine, and displays his righteous wrath in scourging the temple of the money changers defiling the temple. His actions must have created quite a stir because the next recorded event is Nicodemus’ coming in the night to seek his teaching. (We hear more about Nicodemus two times later; he defends Jesus before the council (John 7:50) and helps bury him after the crucifixion (John 19:39-42)).

In this semi-private conversation–there were other witnesses to record the account–Jesus reveals the essential truths to Nicodemus about his earthly mission: He has come to die so we may have eternal life. Remember, this is only Chapter 3; the author of John wastes no time on the early Jesus, which is left to the other gospels. Instead, John jumps headfirst into the “big picture” theological message of Jesus, from the opening words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) The objective of John is to establish the divinity of Jesus.

In this brief conversation, several central themes emerge, shedding light on God, Jesus, the Spirit, and discipleship. 

  • First is God’s Love and salvation. In John 3:16, the author emphasizes God’s immense love for humanity, demonstrated through the sacrificial gift of Jesus and its availability to all who believe. 

  • Secondly is the spiritual rebirth and transformation—the new birth—moving those who accept from darkness to light. 

  • Thirdly is Jesus’ role as the “Son of Man,” whose divine authority and mission are to bring salvation and eternal life to humanity. 

  • Lastly is the invitation to believers in John 3:18, “Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

From this semi-private conversation, intended for a broader audience, we have much of what we need to know about Christ. God loves us. Jesus, the Son sent by the Father, came for us. Through Jesus, we are saved. Through the Holy Spirit, we are transformed.

Lord Jesus, thank you for coming into the world to save us from our sins. Thank you for revealing the truth to us through your words and signs. Help us understand and believe that we must be born again by water and the Spirit to enter your kingdom. Help us to receive your gift of eternal life by faith in your name. Forgive us for loving the darkness more than the light and trying to hide our deeds from you. Help us live by the truth and come into the reality of your light so we may glorify you and do your will. We praise and thank you for your incredible love and grace. Amen.


Pastor Tim

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