Just about everyone knows what John 3:16 says (even if they can’t actually quote it). But how many people know much about the fifteen verses that lead up to it? As a side note, when you hear or see a verse sited, don’t just look up that one verse, read the chapter it is in. Not only will this help you better understand the one verse, it will expand your knowledge and awareness of the rest of the bible.
The beginning of John 3 is fascinating for a couple points. The first (and not my main) point is that a leader of the Pharisees is acknowledging that Jesus must have ‘God with Him’. “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi,we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” (John 3:1-2)
The Pharisees were very much at odds with Jesus (at least publicly). His message flew in the face of their position of power and threatened their cast system. Yet this ‘ruler of the Jews’ says WE know you are a teacher from God. Of course, he didn’t do this in the middle of the day, he came in the dark of night… but he did come.
But the second point of this passage is much greater, that is Jesus’ response. Interestingly enough, there was actually no question by Nicodemus recorded in this text… but Jesus knew the question in his heart. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) Nicodemus knew that Jesus was from God, but the real question in his heart was how can I see the kingdom of God as you obviously have. The only way is to be born again.
Of course since Nicodemus’ heart had not been open to hear the truth, he rebuttals with human scientific questions about a spiritual statement. “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4) Nicodemus did not want a statement of faith, he wanted something concrete… something visible. Without his willingness to accept what Jesus has said, he fell to challenging it with the knowledge of his own mind. Centuries before, Isaiah tried to warn the Israelites not to assume their brain can grasp the ways of God. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
It is this background that sets up the famous verse of John 3:16. Jesus did not come to die only for those who could scientifically explain His existence. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 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. 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.” (John 3:16-18)
That whoever believes. Believe in Jesus and you will be saved. Confess His name as Lord and Savior and you are saved. Then you will receive the Holy Spirit. When you listen to the Holy Spirit, things that were unfathomable to you before, become clear. When you listen to the Holy Spirit, you begin to better grasp His ways.
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