For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
John 3:17 – Scripture Of The Day (January 8, 2014)
Praise God that this is true! Two thousand years ago, God out of his great love for us all gave his only begotten Son, as the famous verse preceding this one states. He gave Jesus to be lifted up on that cross just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so that whoever believes in Jesus will be saved and have eternal life just as the Israelites who looked upon that serpent were saved from death by snake bite (John 3:14-16; cf. Num. 21:1-9). Believing in Jesus means to actively obey him (James 2:14-26), for the ones who obey him are the ones whom he will save (Heb. 5:9).
Yes, God sent Christ to the world to save the world rather than condemning it as it deserved…but sadly, the majority of the world will reject that gift (Matt. 7:13-14). As Jesus went on to say, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” (John 3:18-21). Most people will not believe in Jesus…and what is very sad is that many of them will be those who thought they did believe in Jesus but who truly didn’t because they didn’t truly obey him (Matt. 7:21-27; cf. 2 Tim. 4:3-4). Therefore, they won’t be ready when Jesus comes again…and this time he won’t come to save (1 Thess. 5:1-3; 2 Thess. 1:7-9).
Perhaps the most famous verse in the world, this verse is also one of the most misunderstood and misapplied. Interestingly, the first part of the verse is rarely taught wrong. I never hear of religious people who profess Christianity denying God’s great love for all of mankind, or that he sent Jesus his Son to die for us. However, there is distinct disagreement over the second part of the verse which proclaims that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Atheists deny this latter saying because of a lack of faith in God in general, in spite of the overwhelming evidence (Rom. 1:18ff). Religious people who do not profess Christianity deny this verse because they believe Jesus is not their Savior, even though he said he is the only way (John 14:6). Many who profess Christianity at the least argue over the various translations’ wording of the statement (1 Tim. 6:4), and at the most define faith as a simple belief and acknowledgement in the existence of Jesus and that he is the Messiah…even though the same chapter correlates obedience with faith and salvation, along with other scriptures (John 3:36; cf. Matt. 7:21-27; Heb. 5:9; James 2:14-26).
Perhaps there is so much disagreement over the part about faith because, taking into account everything God says about faith, it would require us to obey even to the point of sacrifice…whereas focusing only on God’s love requires nothing of us. May we focus on both! (Rom. 6:1-2; Tit. 2:11-12)