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Written by David Montgomery   

Of John 3:16

My fourteen year old son Sam dearly loves to annoy me. I think he lies awake at night thinking of new ways to get on my nerves and he succeeds. Last night, he was in an especially impish mood and after enduring him for way too long, I exclaimed, “Get away from me you idiot!” He retreated with a self-satisfied smile on his face in the happy knowledge that he had once again justified his existence. Swine boy.

“You Idiot” Yes, indeed, I said that and I’ll say it again. I wonder what would happen if Child Protective Services caught wind of that. Sam would be placed in foster care and I would certainly pray for the foster parents. I can read the headlines right now: “Preacher is Daddy Dearest At Home!!” and “Pastor Sweet to the Sheep but a Wolf to the Kids!!” But, we know the truth here. I was taken out of context. One would have to hear the whole conversation to really understand what I meant. As Doctor C.Q. Howard once said, “I’m a victim of soycamstances!”

The same is often done with John 3:16. It is taken out of context. We need to remember that the third chapter of John is a conversation between two men, namely Jesus Christ and Nicodemus the Pharisee. We need to get the setting and understand the context before we build a whole doctrinal structure around this one verse.

You see, Nicodemus believed in Jesus but he was afraid to show it openly. He came to talk to Jesus, but he did it at night so no one would see him, especially his Pharisee and Sadducee buddies. If they saw him even conversing with Jesus, he could lose everything: his wealth, his status, his reputation and perhaps even his life. But Jesus knew this fear within Nicodemus, and He began to teach him things that totally threw Nicodemus for a loop. What kind of things were these?

1. If you’re not born again, you can’t enter God’s kingdom.
2. If you’re not born again, you can’t even see God’s kingdom.
3. There is a spiritual birth and a natural birth.
4. Nick, you’re a smart guy, how come you’re not getting this?
5. The Spirit is like the wind and goes wherever it wants.
6. You can’t direct the wind and you can direct the Spirit.
7. Remember that brazen serpent that Moses held up and folks were healed? Well, I’m going to be lifted up and a lot folks are going to be healed as well.
8. The folks that believe this are the folks that I healed.
9. So what’s your problem, Nick?

You see, here’s the thing that Jesus was telling Nicodemus, “Buddy, you can lose everything you hold dear in the life, but if you believe in me, you will know that there is one thing you can never lose, and that one thing is Eternal Life.”

This is what Nicodemus needed to hear more than anything. He needed assurance…he did believe in Jesus but he was afraid of what it might cost him. Our Lord knew this and was giving Nicodemus the assurance he needed. You see, I don’t feel that Jesus was telling Nicodemus to believe and get saved; I think Jesus was telling him to embrace this belief and to know that there is no perishing for him because he has eternal life. In short…have courage Nicodemus, it’s gonna be all right.

The Bible does not teach that belief in Christ is what saves us from hell; but rather, belief tells us that we ARE saved from hell. Paul tells us that the gospel brings eternal life to light. It reveals what is already there, and it enlightens us to believe all the more.

Read the verse below:

2Ti 1:9-10, “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:”

Now, let's read on because the conversation’s not over yet. Read the next two verses

17-18, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Here again is blessed assurance. We often read these texts as negative but I think Jesus meant them to be positive. He is telling Nicodemus, though the world may condemn you, the Lord will not. How can you know this? Because you believe and that is evidence that you are saved. We need to compare these verses to what Paul said in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

No condemnation to those who are IN Christ…well, how got you get to be IN Christ? Ephesians 1:3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:”

So, we are IN Christ because we were chosen IN Christ before the world began. OK, so this is saying that we were IN Christ before we ever believed??? Yes! Belief does not put us IN Christ because we weren’t even alive when God placed us there.

To sum all this up: John 3:16 is a wonderful verse of Scripture and when you understand its context, it becomes wonderfuller. If we could put ourselves in Nicodemus’ sandals, the better the verse becomes. Again I stress that this was a private conversation, and really, we’re just eavesdroppers; but I’m glad we are because sometimes I get like Nicodemus and need that assurance. What comfort this must have given the Pharisee. Perhaps he didn’t get it right then, but the scriptures say that he did later. Read on…

In John 7:50, Nicodemus stood up to the other Pharisees and defended the Lord Jesus Christ against their accusations:

“Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?”


And then in John 19:38-40, at the bitter end, Nicodemus and Joseph bury the body Jesus. This time, there are no secrets. This time, Nicodemus is opening declaring his belief and is willing to suffer the consequences.

“And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.”

I often wondered what these two old brethren said as they performed this good work. Were they sad? Were they hopeful? I wonder what they thought when they heard Jesus had risen from that very tomb. I wonder what Nicodemus thought as he ascended to Heaven and saw the golden streets of Paradise. And finally, I wonder what Jesus told him when he got there. Do you think it might have been, “I told you so!”

Maybe so.

Thank you,
David Montgomery
Tim Tebow likes John 3:16
In and Out Burger is a great place to eat, and they like John 3:16 too
So do these guys
On the GA side of the NC/GA state line. Welcome to Georgia!
He wants a roommate that likes John 3:16
Can't get away from it. How come other verses don't get this much press?
Last Updated ( Friday, 03 April 2009 )
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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.