Passage #5 – John 3:14-16

The Promise Revealed

By Mike Mazzalongo Posted: Sun. May 5th
Mike tackles the fifth passage which not only connects to the previous four passages selected but also summarizes the message of the gospel in three verses.

In a future time where all the dreams of technology have been realized:

  • Driverless transportation.
  • Personalized on-demand delivery of everything from food and clothing to furniture and personal services including entertainment, education, even medical attention brought to your door by contacting the Universal Services link for your sector and placing your request for products or services.
  • Everything you need and everything you want in every imaginable version, available for delivery. For example:
    • Feel like Italian food? – Universal Services will send a team to set the table and prep a delicious Italian menu and mood in your own home.
    • Need a blood test or MRI? – Universal Services will send their mobile lab and X-ray unit to take care of your medical needs anywhere or time that is convenient for you.
    • Vacation in Greece? – Universal Services will book your flight, process your security requirements, send the shuttle to pick you up and deliver you to the plane's entry door. No waiting in line, no checkpoints, no stress about being late – you can even have U.S.'s bag packing service prep your suitcases for automatic check-in at the airport before you leave.

As I mentioned in the first chapter of this book, this society of the future has succeeded in integrating the government, major media and technology companies with universities and the military to create a unified system to gather, manage, store and disseminate information of all kinds.

This gathering and centralizing of information has led to breakthroughs in developing, perfecting and producing all kinds of advances in food production, transportation, engineering and the manufacturing of new and exciting products and services. However, there has been one ominous development, especially for Christians.

The centralization of information and the control of what ideas and books are stored and transferred from the Quantum Memory Storage Units which are responsible for archiving and distributing all digital information created and exchanged in society; this centralized information bank no longer contains or distributes any material concerning the Bible.

This means that since the Bible was judged to be harmful to society because it contained hate literature (e.g. forbidding certain types of sexual activity) and promoted divisiveness (e.g. it taught that non-believers would not go to heaven); the Inclusion Committee categorized the Bible as subversive propaganda and removed it from the list of approved communication. The end result of this action has been the systematic removal of the Bible from all libraries, bookstores, schools and homes. All material, whether hard copies or digital versions of not only the Bible, but books and other types of printed material about the Bible have slowly but surely been gathered and destroyed.

In this future time and place, the Bible and all related works are being purged to the point where even Christians have little to no access to a complete Bible, let alone commentaries or other study aids that are used along with the Scriptures. This scenario produced the question, "How would believers maintain their faith in a world where the Bible was being eliminated from public access?"

One method, I suggested, would be to select certain key passages that would summarize the Bible's core message originally laid out in its 66 individual books. This is the idea behind, "The Bible in Seven Passages."

So far, we have examined the first four of these seven passages which were taken from the Old Testament:

  1. Genesis 1:1 – Prelude to the promise: creation. This passage reveals how the world was created and by whom.
  2. Genesis 3:1-24 – God's promise to fallen man. This passage explains the reason for the fallen nature of man and the creation as well as God's solution to man's condition: the promise of a Savior.
  3. Genesis 11:27-12:7 – The person of promise – historical. This passage introduced Abram (Abraham) the person God chose to form a nation through whom the Savior, who would fulfill God's promise to sinful man, would come.
  4. Isaiah 53:1-12 – The person of promise – spiritual. This passage describes the spiritual nature and mission of the person sent by God to fulfill His promise to the Jews and through them to all the world.

We will now study passage #5 in the series, this time from the New Testament, John 3:14-16, where Jesus clearly reveals the details of the promise.

The Promise Revealed — John 3:14-16

In order to understand the New Testament in its proper context, one has to know the purpose of its parts. For example:

  • The Gospels – These are four eyewitness records of Old Testament prophecies (concerning God's promise) being fulfilled by and through Jesus and His ministry.
  • The Book of Acts – An account of the establishment of the church from various eye witness sources recorded by Luke, a Gentile convert to Christianity.
  • The Epistles – Letters written by various inspired Apostles and disciples containing teaching, instruction, admonitions and encouragement sent to different churches and individuals.
  • RevelationA record of the Apostle John's visions concerning the church and its battle with satanic forces on earth and in the spiritual realm which it wins in the end.
14As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. 16"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
- John 3:14-16

In passage #5, John 3:14-16, we have Jesus, the promised One brought forth by the Jewish nation, summarizing in a single passage the content and completion of God's original promise to Adam and Eve, His covenant with Abraham and his descendants, and the fulfillment of prophecy concerning the mission of the promised One.

All of these things are contained in what some refer to as the "golden verse" of the Bible, John 3:14-16. Jesus explains in John 3:5 that salvation requires water and the Spirit, and in John 3:14-16 He refers to salvation in two other ways:

  1. Born again
  2. Entry to the kingdom of God

Jesus explains thees things to a Jewish teacher called Nicodemus who had come to see and question Him in secret because of his fear of the Jewish leadership. Nicodemus does not understand, thinking that the term "born again" refers to human birth:

Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?"
- John 3:4

Jesus then frames the idea of salvation in a way that Nicodemus, a Jewish Pharisee, could understand.

14As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.
- John 3:14-15

Jesus refers to an incident that occurred while the Jews wandered in the desert.

6The LORD sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7So the people came to Moses and said, "We have sinned, because we have spoken against the LORD and you; intercede with the LORD, that He may remove the serpents from us." And Moses interceded for the people. 8Then the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live." 9And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.
- Numbers 21:6-9

With this incident familiar to Jews, Jesus is teaching Nicodemus the basics of the gospel using an event from Jewish history. The people bitten by fiery snakes die, just like those guilty of sin also die (Nicodemus would understand this). The cure for the snake bite, however, was not the offering of an animal sacrifice but the obedience of faith. If they believed what Moses said (…those who looked at the bronze serpent attached to a standard or pole, would be healed) and obeyed based on that faith, they would be healed.

Jesus establishes the idea from a passage in the Hebrew Scriptures that Nicodemus could relate to, that salvation is obtained or received on the basis of faith. The faith produced the obedience which led to the salvation.

Jesus then goes one step further to explain and declare how this system of faith is related to Himself.

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."
- John 3:16

This passage connects back to the four Old Testament Scriptures we have studied by giving a name, a mission and the motivation for the promise made to Adam and Eve, passed forward by Abraham, carried throughout history by the Jews, spoken of by the prophets and now being fulfilled by Jesus Christ.

Let's break the passage down and unpack all the information it provides in one short verse, John 3:16.

A. God

  • This tells us Who.
  • The promise, in the end, comes from God.
  • We read in Genesis 1:1, God created the heavens and the earth.
  • We read in Genesis 3:1-24, God promises to send someone to defeat Satan.
  • We read in Genesis 11:27-12:7, God spoke and made a promise to Abraham.
  • We read in Isaiah 53:1-7, God spoke through the prophets concerning the Savior.

And now, through Jesus, we see that God the Father is again the One who will complete the plan to save mankind.

B. So loved the world

  • This section goes to motivation. Why did God do this?
  • Agape love was and is His motivation.
  • Even though mankind has fallen away into sin, God remains the same – God is love! (I John 4:8).
  • Love is His great motivation.

Everyone has sin and will be condemned for it. God's love for us is what motivates His plan to save sinners from their sins. The word "so" in regards to love explains that the love required to achieve this end was such that only God could possess and express it and was beyond man's capabilities to do so.

C. That He gave His only begotten Son

  • This explains the extent of God's love.
  • The depth of His love is measured by the value of what He gave in order to secure our salvation.
    • He gave His one of a kind (what only-begotten means) Son.
    • Jesus, the second person in the Godhead, became a man to carry out the Father's plan.
  • The Father gave Jesus up to the indignities of human suffering and death as well as the pain of separation from Himself in order to remove the guilt and condemnation man was due to suffer.
  • No living being could pay such a price in the expression of love.

D. That whoever believes in Him shall not perish

  • The secret of the promise is revealed here.
  • Since Adam and Eve, we knew that it was sin that led to destruction and death.
  • Here, Jesus reveals that it is faith in the promised One sent by God that will save mankind from death and destruction.
  • Abraham and the Jewish nation as well as the prophets knew that the promised One was coming and bringing salvation.
  • Jesus, however, finally revealed the who (Himself) and the how (faith) of that salvation.

E. … but have eternal life.

  • Jesus not only reveals the who and the how but the what of salvation: resurrection and eternal life experienced by every believer.
  • Peter says that no one knew the details of God's promise, not even the angels (I Peter 1:13).
  • Jesus clearly reveals the sum of all the prophecies and symbolism of Jewish temple worship in one succinct passage that reveals the entire plan of God to save sinful man.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. - John 3:16

Next time, we will look at passage #6 which sets forth Satan's second biggest lie.

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Bill Schlarb, Bruce Veinot
for the Ottawa West Church of Christ