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Tag: John 3:16

John 3:16: The Simplest Verse in the Bible, Right?

john 3 16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Christians tout John 3:16 as the simplest verse in the Bible. They revel in the simplicity of its message. It is often the first Bible verse children are taught to memorize.

Is John 3:16 really the simplest verse in the Bible?  What if we looked at John 3:16 through the lens of the plethora of theological beliefs within the Christian church?

We would first have to settle who wrote the gospel of John in general, and John 3:16 in particular. We know chapter and verse numbers were added fifteen centuries after the writing of John. There’s a lot of debate about who wrote John, when it was written, and whether it should even be considered a gospel or a part of the canon of Christian scripture.

Once we settle the textual legitimacy issue, we would then have to decide who is actually doing the speaking in John 3:16. The author of John? Jesus? Did the author actually hear Jesus speak these words? Is John 3:16 a verbatim quote of what Jesus said?

Now to the verse.

For God

Right away we are forced to decide which God the Bible is talking about. Christianity is hardly unified on the God question. Witness a Baptist and an Apostolic fight over whether the Trinity is taught in the Bible. Is God one? Is God three in one?

So Loved the World

It would seem that this part of the verse is pretty straight forward. God loves the world. World means God loves everyone. However, as millions of Calvinists will quickly tell you, all doesn’t necessarily mean all, and world doesn’t necessarily mean world. First, you have to take the verse and push it through the Calvinist sieve and then you can interpret John 3:16 correctly. World doesn’t mean everyone. It means out of every kindred, tribe, and tongue, God has people he loves and people he intends to save. In other words, God doesn’t savingly love everyone. It is right there in the verse, can’t YOU see it?

At about this point Calvinists launch into a discussion about the difference between God’s love for everyone (common grace) and the love he has for those he has chosen from before the foundation of the world. Of course, Arminians have a far different view of the scope of God’s love and grace. Let the never-ending debate begin.

That He Gave His only Begotten Son

We will assume that son means Jesus. This raises an issue right away, an issue about which many Christians have fumed over the years. Was Jesus always the son of God? One side adamantly says yes. The other side says he became the son and there was a time when he wasn’t the son.

Then we have to deal with the only son issue. Did God have more sons or daughters? As Mormonism becomes a mainstream Christian religion, what about their belief that Lucifer (the devil, Satan) is Jesus’ brother?

The next issue we have to deal is “how” Jesus was begotten. Did Jesus have a sperm-donating father?  If the Holy Spirit “begat” Jesus, how did that happen? Did God have sex with Mary? Virgin birth? “What a laugher,” many liberal Christians say. Everyone knows virgins can’t be pregnant. Besides, the word “virgin” means young woman. Liberals and Fundamentalists battle back and forth, each group certain their view is correct.

And there’s the whole consent issue. Did Mary consent to the Holy Ghost having sex with her? Did Mary have a choice in the matter?

That Whosoever Believeth in Him

Whosoever. Once again does this refer to everyone? No matter who you are, where you are, if you believe in Jesus you will have everlasting life? What about reprobates? Does “whosoever” apply to them? The Calvinist – – the party of the exclusion — says “whosoever” doesn’t mean everyone. Only the elect will savingly believe in Jesus. Everyone else, even if they wanted to, cannot savingly believe in Jesus. If you are not elect, predestined, chosen by God, you are headed for an eternity in the Lake of Fire. God decided before you were even born that you would burn forever.

What does it mean to believe? What do we have to believe? Here is where the whole issue becomes every sect for itself. Every flavor of Christian ice cream has its own take on what it means to believe and what it is a person must believe to be saved. Even among churches of the same denomination, there are differences about what it means to believe and what one must believe to be saved.

Should not Perish

What does it mean to perish? Death? First or second death? Hell? Lake of Fire? Purgatory? Eternal punishment? Temporary punishment? Annihilation?

But Have Everlasting Life

When it comes to life after death, all Christians believe that they will go to Heaven after they die. No matter what road they take, what theology they have, every sect/church believes everlasting life is the prize for those who believe.  Though . . . I do remember a debate among preachers about the difference between eternal life and everlasting life. It goes something like . . .

Here’s my point.  Even the simplest verse in the Bible can be interpreted different ways. Each interpreter believes his interpretation to be the correct one. The truth is, there is no such thing as Biblical truth. All we have are sects/churches/pastors/individuals, each saying their interpretation is the truth. Armed with study Bibles, concordances, and dictionaries, many Christians believe they are ready to emphatically tell anyone who will listen exactly what the Bible teaches.

Imagine a person who has never heard about any of the religions of the world. He has lived his life in isolation. One day he comes upon an inscription on a cave wall that says:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

What conclusions would he come to? Would he naturally come to the conclusions I mentioned above? Not likely. Perhaps he would start a religion. What is the likelihood that it would resemble any of the Christian sects? Once again, not likely.

This is why I don’t involve myself in long debates or discussions about the Bible. Such discussions become like ten students looking at a Monet, each giving their own interpretation. Then the teacher says,NO! NO! NO!, all of you are wrong. The picture is saying ________________.

After all, the Bible does say, Let every man be persuaded in his own mind . . .

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Tim Tebow and the Miracle of John 3:16


Tim Tebow was a guest on Harry Connick Jr.’s talk show this week, and recounted a really crazy experience involving the Bible verse John 3:16.

Fans of Tebow may remember when he wrote “John 3:16” on his face (in his eyeblack) during the national championship game when he played college football at Florida.


Three years later to the day, Tebow was playing quarterback for the Denver Broncos in a playoff game.

After the game—which they won in miraculous, last-second fashion—he was informed that he had thrown for exactly 316 yards, his yards per rush were 3.16, his yards per completion were 31.6, the TV ratings for the game were 31.6 and the Broncos’ time of possession was 31.6.

After that game, John 3:16 became Twitter’s No. 1 trending topic. Tebow said he doesn’t think it’s a coincidence. He says he thinks it’s evidence of a “big God.”

Relevant Magazine, Tim Tebow Told an Incredible Story About a Crazy ‘Coincidence’ Involving John 3:16, December 8, 2016

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Bruce Gerencser