Latter Rain Ministry • January 01, 2021
John 3:16 is no doubt the most commercialized verse in the Bible. It is the first verse that we all learn as children at vacation Bible school. Growing up in the Catholic church, it was the most often recited verse and the most used anecdote for any situation requiring the reassurance of God’s love for the sinner. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, and whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). It is true, and it is the cornerstone of the Christian faith so, I want to be careful to not cause offense.
I have heard and even quoted this verse so many times over the course of my life that it seemed to have lost its meaning, at least to me. It was the sinner’s feel-good verse or the cure-all for any condemnation one may feel resulting from any transgression. The constant repetition eroded all the meaning and even the importance of the text. I do not mean that the text in this verse lost all meaning. I am saying that after having heard it and repeated it so many times, it did not mean anything to me as it should.
When my children started learning verses of the Bible, this was one of the first verses I taught them. I did not allow them to sit on this one verse, or let it be the one the called up in every situation. I did not let that verse be the solution to every problem met in our family. In fact, I did not want my children to grow up to adopt the idea that because Jesus died on the cross, all we had to do was believe that and we would have everlasting life (which is true). Yet I know that the people I was around as a child took it to mean they could live however they wished and still have everlasting life.
This verse is true and, again, I want to clarify that only my understanding of this verse was skewed. In my early adult years, I understood this verse to mean that I would have everlasting life, without any effort on my part other than believing that Jesus died so I would not perish. This is what I now understand is known as reading into the meaning of the Bible what I want it to mean so it fits my life (eisegesis) instead of taking out of the scripture what the author intended it to mean (exegesis), then changing my life to line up with the Word of God. Sadly, I only knew what I had always heard from others. Growing up Catholic, I never read the Bible for myself.
When I did begin to read and study The Word for myself, God led me to the verse that cured my issue with John 3:16 and I chuckled when I realized the reference of the verse God showed me. This verse does not ignore our response to the crucifixion, nor does it overlook our responsibility as the body of Christ. Let us all apply this verse to our Christian lives.
16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us;
and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (1 John 3:16).