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)