Q&R: How do you understand John 3:16?
I was reading the conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus in John 3. The famous John 3:16 came to mind. I find your theology very fascinating. I was just wondering how this particular passage works with your theology?
If we read John 3:16 in the context of both verse 17 and the whole chapter and the whole book, it seems to me that Jesus is talking about perishing and eternal life in this present life, what we are already experiencing:
- 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Verse 17 specifically says that he’s not come to condemn anyone. Rather, he’s come into a perishing world and offering us eternal life, which he later defines as “… this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
In other words, Jesus is calling us from lives marked by alienation, by condemnation, and by perishing into a life of knowing God as Father and his Son Jesus, experienced as communion and presence and life (and that more abundant – John 10:10).
So, in John’s gospel, Jesus is not threatening us with punishment if we don’t believe in him. Instead, he’s come to an already-perishing world with the offer of a relationship that will make us whole. So there is a real and authentic and necessary and urgent invitation because, last I checked, the world really is a big mess, but Jesus invites us out of that into his eternal kind of life.