Years ago a man wearing a rainbow colored afro wig was often seen holding up a sign at sporting events that read: John 3:16. But can someone be saved by reading just this one verse? The answer is no, no verse contains all the information you need to be saved, not even this one.
If you were stranded on a deserted island and a bottle floated ashore with a note inside containing the words of John 3:16, you might ask who this “only begotten Son” was. There are millions who wouldn’t know that this speaks of Christ, including a man in Thailand that Things To Come Mission director Ben Anderson met, who had never even heard of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Next, when we read that God “gave” His Son, most people think it means that He gave Him to die on the cross. But that is not what it says, and that is not what it means. In the Bible, when it talks about sons being given, it is referring to how they are given in birth (Gen. 30:6; 48:9). And that is also what it means when it says God gave His Son (cf. Isa. 9:6). We cannot assume everyone knows Christ died for our sins, for millions have never even heard His name, including that man in Thailand!
True, John 3:16 speaks of “whosoever believeth on Him,” but plenty of people believe He was a real person, even “a teacher come from God” (3:2), but this isn’t enough to save you. You must believe He died for your sins and rose again
Now imagine missionaries arrive on your island to rescue you, and they open the Bible and identify Christ as God’s Son, and compare John 3:16 to verses in Paul’s epistles that explain how He died for our sins and rose again. That’s the only way to get saved from John 3:16, or from any one verse: by comparing Scripture with Scripture. You can do it, of course, but if you do, this may confuse someone you lead to the Lord when you later teach them that John’s gospel is written to the Jews. It is better to lead people to Christ using Paul’s epistles. But if you insist on using John 3:16, every believer should rejoice (cf. Phil. 1:18)!
There should be no doubt that Hebrew saints under the kingdom program had everlasting life, for that is what John 3:16 says. We’ll see more proof of this later in John.
The phrase “only begotten” is used six times in Scripture, five times of Christ, once of Abraham’s son (Heb.11:17). Isaac wasn’t Abraham’s only son, he wasn’t even his firstborn son, but he was the only son God recognized, through whom all the God’s blessings would flow, and so is Christ. That is the meaning of the phrase “only begotten”
Who would think God sent His Son to condemn us (3:17)? Anyone who had read the Old Testament! After hearing about all the sin and rebellion, you’d think God would send His Son to condemn us! And you’d still think that, after He arrived and lived a sinless life, making us all look bad by comparison, seemingly giving God an excuse to condemn us. No wonder John has to say this is not why He was sent!
The word “world” is a key word in John’s gospel, being used 80 times, as opposed to 33 times in Matthew, Mark and Luke combined. This caused our grace pioneers to think that these other gospels were written to the Jews, but John was written to the whole world, including us Gentiles. But God always intended to reach the world through Israel. So don’t be confused by John’s frequent use of the word “world.” And don’t think the world is saved just because He was given, for men can only be saved, as John 3:17 says, “through Him,” i.e., through believing on Him.
Notice John 3:18 doesn’t say that someday when we walk into God’s court room we won’t be condemned then, it says “whosoever believeth on Him is not condemned,” present tense. Christ not only bore our sins, He bore our condem-nation, and this is true of saints in every dispensation
But “he that believeth not is condemned already” (3:18). Of course, this is not what most people believe. Most be-lieve that we are all born good and headed for heaven, and have to do something really bad to blow it and go to hell. In closing, notice again John speaks of believing “in the name” of the Lord (3:18), not in His blood (cf. Rom. 3:25).