“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Dr. Burk Parsons writes, “We see it everywhere. From bumper stickers to billboards, from T-shirts to tattoos, from old faded church signs to spray-painted signs along country roads—John 3:16 is everywhere. As such, some Christians have become complacent about the simple truth of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Some think it’s just for children, some think it’s too elementary, and some perhaps think it’s doctrinally beneath them to spend time studying such a simple verse in depth. But in John 3:16 we find both the beautiful simplicity of the gospel and the glorious depths of the gospel. John 3:16 is not just for children to memorize in Sunday school; it is for the greatest biblical scholars and theologians to examine, and it is for every Christian to contemplate daily as we rest in the sovereign, gracious, and sacrificial love of God.”
Following my conversion to Christ is October of 1974, I soon thereafter followed the Lord in Believer’s Baptism. The evening of my baptism, October 31 of ’74 to be exact, I quoted John 3:16 as my verse of assurance of God’s love for me and my security in Jesus Christ. It was one of the first verses of Scripture I memorized. I have since come to understand that John 3:16 is one of the foundation verses of Scripture regarding the sovereign grace of God.
However, I have also discovered that many believers in the church use John 3:16 as a push back to Reformed Theology in general and the sovereign grace of God unto salvation of sinners in particular. They deny that sinners are radically depraved, in need of God’s unconditional grace, of His particular electing pardon, His effectual calling by the Holy Spirit and the eternally security He gives to believers in Christ.
Whenever I have been asked about the sovereignty of God in saving sinners, John 3:16 is often used, like a trump card in Euchre, by those to whom I am speaking who refute God’s sovereign grace and uplift the free will of fallen man. Yet, if we truly unpack John 3:16 as a single verse, along with view it within its immediate preceding context, we get a much different perspective but accurate interpretation.
Dr. Parson concludes, “As I fought against Reformed theology more than twenty years ago with all the free will I could muster, I firmly believed that John 3:16 was directly opposed to Reformed Theology. But I finally came to see that John 3:16 is at the very foundation of Reformed Theology. In John 3:16, we find every tenet of Reformed soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) in its most basic form. For those who want to understand Reformed theology, they can begin by striving to understand John 3:16. And for those who have studied the depths of Reformed theology, may we never become so sophisticated that we cannot boldly proclaim John 3:16.”
More to follow!
Soli deo Gloria!