What does John 3:16 mean?
ESV: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
NIV: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
NASB: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.
CSB: For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
NLT: For this is how 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.
KJV: 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.
NKJV: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Verse Commentary:
This is the core of Christianity: that God loved the world enough to come as Jesus, and to die for us, so that anyone who trusts in Him will be saved from sin. This is certainly the most well-known verse in the Bible. It is probably the best-known and most-memorized part of any holy text in human history. The verse is a one-sentence summary of the gospel, and the subject line of the entire Bible. John 3:16 also reflects another important aspect of the gospel: the essential idea is extremely clear, but there are layers of meaning and knowledge inside of it.

The opening phrase is traditionally translated as "God so loved the world that…" and is typically understood to mean, "God loved the world so much that…" There is nothing incorrect about that idea, but the actual phrase means "God loved the world in this way," with emphasis on what God did, more than why. Jesus is an expression of God's indescribable love for "the world," meaning all of mankind (1 John 4:9–10).

The phrase translated as "One and Only Son," or "only begotten Son" uses the Greek word monogenes. This is a very precise word, and one which John uses in other places in this gospel (John 1:14; John 1:18; John 3:18). While the English term "begotten" often makes people think of biology, monogenes does not imply it. The word literally means something of the exact same "stuff." In other words, the Son is of exactly the same nature as God the Father. This makes John 3:16 an important part of proving the biblical concept of the Trinity.

The life offered to those who believe in Christ is "eternal," from a Greek word meaning "never ending." The alternative to life in Christ is destruction: to "perish." Verse 16 and 17 explain that the purpose of sending Jesus was our salvation, but verse 18 reminds us that those who don't believe are condemned. There is no question that, according to the Bible, people can be saved only through faith in Jesus.
Verse Context:
John 3:16–21 begins with the most easily recognized portion of any holy book on Earth: John 3:16. This is a one-sentence summary of the entire gospel. Still, the verses which follow are just as critical for understanding the Christian message. Christ wasn’t sent to judge the world, but to bring salvation. This is an expression of God’s incredible love. However, those who do not believe in Jesus Christ are condemned in the eyes of God. Human preference for sin causes many to choose darkness over the Light.
Chapter Summary:
John chapter 3 is one of the most important in the entire gospel. Many crucial ideas are explained in this passage, including the role of Jesus as Savior. After the loud, public commotion at the temple, John transitions to a quiet, nighttime discussion. These verses make it clear that Christ—and Christ alone—is the means of salvation for the entire world. This text also states that those who reject Jesus are rejecting God.
Chapter Context:
The gospel of John is meant to prove that Jesus is God. Chapter 3 contains some of the most direct, most important concepts in Christianity. The ideas of spiritual rebirth, and the need to believe in Christ, are reinforced by the rest of the information in this gospel. John continues to use contrast, moving from the loud and public temple cleansing to the quiet of this conversation. After Jesus injects humility into a powerful leader, chapter 4 will transition again, as Jesus gives dignity to an outcast stranger.
Book Summary:
The gospel of John was written by the disciple John, decades later than the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The author assumes that a reader is already familiar with the content of these other works. So, John presents a different perspective, with a greater emphasis on meaning. John uses seven miracles—which he calls “signs”—in order to prove that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Some of the most well-known verses in all of the Bible are found here. None is more famous than the one-sentence summary of the gospel found in John 3:16.
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