John 3:1–21 (HBH): God’s Saving Love

John 3:1–21 (HBH): There can be little doubt that this section in John’s Gospel is the most renowned in all of Scripture, with verse 16 serving as the most familiar single verse in all of the Bible. There is good reason for this, for John 3:16 presents the clearest, simplest statement of the good news Christ came to bring to the world. What is that good news? First, that God loves you. Second, that God’s love was so great that He sent His only Son to tell the world about God’s love. Third, that anyone who will believe in God’s Son will never die but will live forever with God. Belief, of course, means far more than mere intellectual assent. Rather, it means placing one’s life and trust in complete surrender to the one in whom you believe.
The heart of Jesus’ message to Nicodemus is that men and women, in order to come to God in faith, must be “born again” (3:3). This is not optional, according to Jesus, but a necessity. By this Jesus meant being “born of the Spirit” (3:8). The reference to “water and the Spirit” (3:5) has many possible interpretations, such as (1) water referring to purification; (2) synonymous with “born of the Spirit”; (3) baptism, either John’s or Christ’s. The latter of these three interpretations, that baptism is necessary for salvation, is the least desired understanding (Eph 2:8–9). To be considered as well is that the Greek manuscript does not have an article (“the”) with the word “Spirit,” therefore it would be grammatically incorrect to separate Spirit from water. What is to be maintained is that to be “born again” is a gift from God through the Holy Spirit as a result of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. To be born again is to become a member of God’s family through faith in Jesus Christ, initiated by repentance and the desire to lead a new life to the honor and glory of Christ (1 Pet 1:23; 2 Cor 5:17). Jesus’ purpose was never to condemn the world, for that is something we do to ourselves through our own willful choice to reject Christ, but rather Jesus’ purpose was to save the world (3:17–19).

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