By: Dr. Michael Stovall
John 3:16 is an inexhaustible Bible text, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” The context of John 3:16 is a conversation between Jesus and a religious leader named Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a scholar of the Scriptures. He had come by the cover of night to ask Jesus how a person can be saved and have eternal life in heaven. In his response, Jesus used an Old Testament illustration to communicate the gospel. In John 3:12-15 Jesus refers to an event recorded in Numbers 21:5-9 while the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness outside of the Promised Land. As judgment for the Israelites’ disobedience, God had sent venomous snakes to infest their camp. Moses interceded on their behalf. God instructed Moses to make a bronze replica of a snake and raise it above the camp on a pole. Those who were bitten by the snakes would be healed if they looked at it in faith, thereby acknowledging their guilt and expressing faith in God’s forgiveness and healing power. What an incredible picture of the people’s forgiveness of sin and salvation as a result of God’s grace. The stricken Israelites were cured by obediently looking apart from any works of righteousness on their own. Jesus was saying to Nicodemus, in the same way, whoever looks in faith alone to the crucified Christ will be cured from sin’s deadly bite and will have eternal life. God takes the initiative in our salvation. God loved us to point of sending His Son to die for us. This is reality: God loves us and Jesus died for us! There is nothing you can do to make God love you more and there is nothing you can do to cause God to love you less. The love of God embraces all the world. Love is a verb. “God demonstrated His love for us by this, that while we were sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The fact is God gave His Son by sending him into the world (birth) and on the cross (death). The cross of Christ shows the depth of our sinfulness and the gravity of God’s love. It’s not that “God loved enough to give” but that “God loved so much that He gave.” We do not have to try and wring God’s love from His hand, He has graciously lavished His love upon us in the person and work of His Son, Jesus. God calls us to place our faith and trust in Jesus, and Jesus alone, for eternal salvation. According to God, whoever believes in Jesus as Savior and Lord is saved – forgiven of his sins. Faith is knowing enough to act. So, what does a person have to know in order to be able to act in saving faith? First, a person must admit he is a sinner (Rom 3:23). This does not mean you are a bad person, but that left to yourself you have disobeyed God and broken His law. Second, a person must understand that their sin separates them from a holy God (Rom 6:23). Third, a person must confess their sins, asking for God’s forgiveness through Jesus’ death on the cross (Rom 10:9-10). Faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed. A great faith in faith does little, but mustard seed sized faith in Jesus Christ does much. Jesus draws a clear distinction between what happens to the one who looks in saving faith and the one who does not. One will perish while the other will have eternal life. These are stark alternatives. The difference in the two eternal destinies is Jesus. On the cross, Jesus put to death what was going to put me to death, so that I can live forever in heaven with God.