John 3:16 Redux Continued

dawn-1868418_640Because God is the main character and the focus of the story of Bible, every Scripture should be interpreted in light of God’s grace and glory. When that focus changes, the interpretation of Scripture will suffer, leading to a weakened or corrupt interpretation and an incomplete and/or ineffective understanding of what God intended for us to know.

In the previous article, I began illustrating this problem by  a redux (a restoring or revisiting) of what may be the best known verse from the Bible – John 3:16. In this article, we will complete our look at the terms used in the verse that point, not to man, but to God.

God is the main character and the focus of the story of Bible.

Eternal Life

John 3:16 ends with the promise of a spectacular gift to those who believe in Jesus as the only begotten Son of the Father – that is, the gift of eternal life.

Most people define eternal life as life that lasts forever.

In our evangelistic efforts, we promote the idea that if a person will just believe in Jesus, God will give them a new life that will never end. There are two problems with such a statement.

The first is man sees this life as his life to live as he pleases.

The second problem is that this understanding of the gift of eternal life only tells half of the story.

When we study this subject deeper, however, we learn that eternal life is much more than what we typically think.

Eternal Life – No Beginning, No End

The life of a human has a definite beginning. Even though most of us confess that life actually begins at conception, we tend to trace the beginning of our lives back to the date of our physical birth.

We tend to do the same thing with our spiritual lives, tracing the beginning of our “eternal life” back to the moment when we were “born again.”

This is a wrong perspective.

By definition, the word eternal refers to an existence which not only has no ending, but which also had no beginning. That which is eternal has always been and will always be.

Psalm 90:2 tells us that God is “from everlasting to everlasting” – a way of declaring within the limits of human language that God has no beginning and no ending. He is eternal.

The day that we were born did not mark the beginning of the life of the Universe. When we are physically born, the life that we were granted at conception allows us to enter into the life of the Universe or, in our case, the world. In this sense, our physical birth is our entrance into life.

The day that we are born again does not mark the beginning of the kingdom of God or of eternal life. The life that we were granted by conversion allows us to enter into the kingdom of God by which we gain eternal life. In this sense, when we are born again, we actually enter into a life that has no beginning and no end.

The life we gain at conversion is the life of Christ who comes to dwell in our hearts.

Romans 6:23 says “the free gift of God is eternal life,” but the verse does not stop there. We are given the gift of eternal life “in (through) Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The life we gain at conversion is the life of Christ who comes to dwell in our hearts.

1 Tim. 6:16 tells us that only God has immortality. God is the only being in all of heaven and earth who cannot experience death – who can never perish.

Why is that important?

Because when John 3:16 promises the gift of eternal life, it does not mean that God gives to each of us our own personal lives that will never end.

Instead, it means that God actually gives His life to those who believe – He gives to the believer a life that has no beginning and no ending and that can never be defeated or destroyed or experience death.

There is supernatural power in that life because it is God’s life. That is why we cannot gain it by good works, and we cannot lose it by bad behavior.

The gift comes as we believe in the only begotten Son of God.

Eternal Life – Knowledge of God

Yet there is more to this idea of eternal life than just its duration.

In John 17, Jesus the Son prayed to God the Father on behalf of His disciples and on behalf of those who would become part of the kingdom as a result of their discipleship efforts. That includes you and I, members of the modern church.

John 17:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

In verse 3, Jesus said, “…this is eternal life…”

  • That they might live forever and ever?
  • That they might have all their sins forgiven?
  • That they might be able to experience all the joys of heaven?

Is that what Jesus said?

Of course not.

Jesus said to the Father, “…this is eternal life, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

Eternal life is God’s revelation of himself in Christ so that we might know HIm, the only true God.

God’s gift of eternal life is not simply about duration – or how long our lives will last.

Eternal life is more about quality than it is about quantity or duration.

In His prayer, Jesus defines eternal life as God’s revelation of himself in Christ so that we might know Him, the only true God.

The Apostle John expands on this thought in…

1 John 5:20 …we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true (that is, God, the Father); and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

Therefore, the gift of eternal life does not refer so much to something we receive, but to some One who is revealed to us and in us by the presence of Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

This is the ultimate gift of salvation – the ability to know God, the Father, and to love Him forever.


Based on everything we have learned so far about the verse, allow me to paraphrase John 3:16 based on the meanings of the words used.

Here is how God – holy, righteous, and perfect in every way – manifested or demonstrated His attribute of love to those who by nature are sentenced to eternal condemnation (Psalm 143:2; John 3:18).

God the Father made the ultimate sacrifice by giving Himself in the unique person of the Son – the image of God himself (Heb. 1:3) – by taking on flesh, by manifesting Himself in human form. That act of giving includes the entire incarnation – the birth, ministry, death and resurrection, and ascension of Jesus (1 Tim. 3.16).  

He did this so that all condemned persons of the world in whom the gift of faith was enabled (Eph. 2.8; Rom. 10:17) would no longer be condemned to suffer the consequences of God’s own wrath or His judgment of sin, but would instead experience the indwelling life of the Son – the kind of life that is eternal – that had no beginning and has no end (1 John 5.20; 1 Tim. 6.15-16).

You see, the focus of John 3:16 is not man, not the world, and not whosoever, except as the object of God’s grace.

Instead, the focus of John 3:16 is the grace and love and majesty and mercy of Almighty God.

The focus of John 3:16 is the grace and the love and the majesty and the mercy of Almighty God.

Because we are so centered on ourselves (as Adam and Eve were in the Garden), we have made the most important words in this verse “world” and “whosoever.” Why? Because those words are about us, and we (humankind) love being the center of attention.

Here is a verse that expresses the character and the sovereignty and the love of God as well as any other verse in Scripture, but we have missed the focus of the verse because of our weak and insufficient knowledge of theology – the study of God.

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