The Death of Christ as an Act of God’s Love
Sermon series
The Death of Christ, no. 8
Biblical Text
John 3.16, within the greater context of Jn 3.1-21
To impress upon the non-Christian God’s iniative and the preciousness of salvation.
To motivate the Christian to participate in God’s work to bring all to believe in Christ.
Sermon type
Contextual, taking Jn 3.1-21 into account


  1. Jn 3.16 is possibly the most popular Bible verse ever: “For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
  2. It is popular because it captures so well the essence of the gospel.
  3. It serves as one of a number of summaries of the Good News that can be found in the NT.
    1. Another popular one is found in the first verses 1 Cor 15, which mention the death, burial, ressurrection, and appearances of Christ.
    2. The beginning of Romans is another find summary, Rom 1.1-5. Each summary includes details pertinent to the book. None should be seen as definitive in terms of what is left out.
  4. So let us ask: What does this verse, within its context, tell us about the Good News of God?

1. The divine action

  1. Someone said that love is not love if it is not expressed. God expressed his love toward mankind. This verse uses two verbs for God.
  2. God loved.
    1. God demonstrated his love in the death of Christ.
      1. Psa 31.21.
      2. This demonstration continues in the present, Rom 5.8.
    2. God loved in “this way.” Some versions translate the phrase: “so loved,” or “loved so much.” The word can emphasize both degree and manner.
      1. John likes to use words with a double sense. Here, he may mean both degree (so much) and manner (in this way).
  3. God gave.
    1. The verb “give” is frequently found in the Bible with God as its subject. God likes to give. He is generous.
    2. Jas 1.5 is an exemplary verse in this regard: “But if anyone is deficient in wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without reprimand, and it will be given to him.”

2. The divine gift

  1. God gave his unique Son.
    1. There has been much discussion about the meaning of “only begotten.” Suffice it for our purpose to say that Jesus is God’s Son in a special way that no one else can be. (For more on this see the NET Bible note.)
      1. Jesus never included himself when he taught his disciples to say “Our Father” Mt 6.9.
      2. Jesus said, “my Father and your Father” Jn 20.17. God is Father to both, but in distinct ways.
  2. The giving of his Son includes his incarnation and his crucifixion, vv. 13-15.
    1. Jesus uses the comparison of Moses lifting up the serpent so the people of Israel could be cured from the snake bites.
    2. The lifting up of Jesus refers principally to his crucifixion.
    3. For faith to be effective people must believe that Christ was crucified as the sacrifice for our sins.
  3. God sacrificed his Son, giving up one thing to get another: many children, Hb 2.10.
    1. Are we willing to give up something far inferior (pleasure, power, knowledge, relationship, willfulness) in order to gain something far superior (eternal life)?

3. The divine opportunity

  1. God wants everyone to be saved, 1 Tim 2.3-6; 2 Pet 3.9.
  2. Everyone can be saved. Salvation however must be received. Here, the reception of this salvation is called faith. (In other places, it wears different “names;” for example, in Lk 24.47: repentance.)
  3. Faith is not believing without action, just as God’s love is not love without action.
    1. Saving faith includes the new birth, vv. 3, 5.
    2. Saving faith includes practicing the truth, v. 21.
    3. Verse 36 also shows an interesting contrast: on the one hand we have faith for eternal life; on the other, we see rejection of the Son, or as a good number of Bible versions translate it: disobedience! (ASV, AMP, ERV, ESV, ICB, ISV, LEB, TLB, Mounce, NASB, NLT, NRSV, Voice, WEB, among others).
  4. Some people take Jn 3.16 out of its context and try to make it say that faith only is needed for salvation. Such people are desperate to prove something that is not in the Bible, so they resort to doing violence to the biblical text.

4. The divine life

  1. The eternal God works in Christ to produce a salvation with eternal effect — eternal life.
    1. John defines eternal life in Jn 17.3.
    2. Eternal life is not only quantity (going on forever) but also quality (life with God). John says we can have it now.
  2. God wants us to receive this life through obedient faith in Christ.
  3. God wants his people to dedicate themselves to his work to offer eternal life to others.
    1. Every task in God’s family should be devoted to this.
    2. Works that do not contribute to eternal life should be rejected.

So what?

  1. If you don’t yet have the faith that leads to the new birth and to the practice of the truth, believe in Jesus, decide to change your life, and be immersed in water so that your sins may be forgiven.
  2. If you’re a follower of Christ, be a giver like God, to help others to believe in Christ. We do this be speaking the truth of God’s good news about the death of Christ.