Can you believe this guy? He’s messing with John 3:16. Who does he think he is?
No doubt, if you went to Sunday school then you probably memorized this verse at one point or another. And it’s a great verse. I think it speaks volumes in only a few words – the summation of the entire gospel message.
Here’s how it reads in most translations:
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. (NIV 2011)
And here’s how some translations have rendered it:
God loved the world so very, very much that he gave his only Son. Because he did that, everyone who believes in him will not lose his life, but will live for ever. (Worldwide English Translation)
It’s an English idiom to use the word “so” as a qualifier. I love you soooo much. That soup is sooo gross. This blog post is sooo boring.
When we say “so” we mean “a lot” or “very.” This causes us to read this verse as saying, “God loved the world a whole lot. And because he so very much loved the world, he sent His Son to die for us.”
There is no denying the God loves the world. The thing is – His love is so whole, so complete, that it does not need qualifiers. And indeed, John does not try to do so. (In writing this post, I have come to realize how much I actually use the word “so.”)
In Greek, the word “so” would more accurately mean “thus” or “in this way.” John is trying to reveal the way in which God loved the world. God loves perfectly and completely, and this is how He has shown us that love.
For this is how God loved the world: he gave his one and only Son that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (Mounce Reverse-Interlinear New Testament)
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. (Holman Christian Standard)
John is trying to show, not necessarily the degree to which God loved us, but the way in which He loved us, the extent to which He was willing to go for that love.
Here’s another bombshell: We’re not 100% sure that Jesus said this. The Greek shows no clear break or continuation of quotation. What follows from 16-21 could very well be the words of Jesus, or they could be the words of John added as commentary on the discussion that just took place.
Some versions will have these words in red, others in black. Does it make them any less true? Not at all.
Always remember: God loves you – perfectly, completely, and unconditionally. He has proven His love for you by sending is only child into this world and gave him as a sacrifice for your sin. If you believe in the Son, Jesus, then you will not have to suffer the fate of the unbelieving, evil world around you. Instead, you will have the promise of life everlasting, life to the ages, eternal life.