By Irvin Himmel.
John 3:16 “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.”
This wonderful verse of Scripture teaches several valuable lessons:
1. God lives.
2. God loves.
3. God loves the whole world.
4. God demonstrated his love in the gift of his only begotten Son.
5. Through the Son, God gives eternal life.
6. The blessing of everlasting life is limited to “whoever believes.”
What is implied in “believing” in the Son? Some religious people think of “belief” as including no more than assent of the mind; mental acceptance of the fact that Jesus is the Christ, God’s Son. They then argue that this is all that is necessary to salvation because John 3:16 mentions no other condition for everlasting life. They deny the essentiality of baptism because John 3:16 says nothing about baptism.
Let us take a little time to examine this line of reasoning.
Is repentance necessary to eternal life? In Acts 17:30 Paul taught that God “commanded all men everywhere to repent.” Jesus said, “Except you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Peter told sinners, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out. . .” (Acts 3:19) But there is not a word about “repenting” in John 3:16 —unless we include it in the “believing” in that passage. Does the “belief” that brings everlasting life include or exclude repentance?
Is confessing essential? Paul wrote, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” How these statements in Rom. 10:9-10 are to be reconciled with John 3:16 since the latter makes no mention of “confessing with the mouth?” Can one have everlasting life by believing in the heart but without confessing with the mouth?
Is trusting essential? The wise man said, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5). I believe that Castro is head of the Cuban government, but I do not trust him. Does God give eternal life to men who believe that Jesus is the Christ but do not place their confidence in him? Paul wrote, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” (2 Tim. 1:12). But there is nothing about “trusting” in John 3:16 —unless we include it in the “believing” that brings eternal life.
Is loving the Lord a requirement of salvation? Jesus said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” (John 14:21). The apostle Paul wrote, “If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. O Lord, come!” (1 Cor. 16:22). But John 3:16 says nothing about our “loving” Jesus —unless we include love with “believing.”
Is baptism unnecessary for remission of sins? The Jews on Pentecost were told by Peter, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38). Ananias told Saul to “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptised, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16). Again, the Bible says in 1 Peter 3:21, “There is also an antitype which now saves us —baptism... through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Just as soon as we call attention to such passages as these, someone says, “But what about John 3:16? It says nothing about baptism.” And it says nothing about repenting, confessing Christ, trusting, or loving Christ! If all these things are nonessential because they are not specified in John 3:16, why do other scriptures list them as essentials? Are we not obligated to understand John 3:16 in the light of the Bible as a whole?
If these other things are included in the “believing” required in John 3:16, why not include baptism also? If the “belief” that results in eternal life is more than mental assent —if it includes repentance, confession, love, trust, and submission to the Lord, does it not include baptism —an act of faith by which we show our submission?
Study John 3:16 in comparison with John 3:36. The latter verse reads as follows in the English Standard Version (ESV):”Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” The “belief” that brings life is contrasted with “Does not obey.” If “does not believe” (New King James Version) equals “Does not obey” (ESV), then the “belief” that results in eternal life must equal obedience. Other passages show that baptism is necessary to obedience (Acts 10:48; Mark 16:15-16), therefore John 3:16 does not exclude baptism! Now take time to read Heb 5:8-9 and James 2:24.
The first part of John 3:16 says, God “gave” His Son. That “giving” includes the following: (1) the Word’s being made flesh; (2) the virgin birth; (3) Christ living among sinful men and being tempted in all points as are we; (4) the crucifixion; (5) the glorious resurrection; (6) the truth revealed through Jesus; and, (7) the blood that atones.
Son in John 3:16 —things not enumerated in the verse but freely discussed elsewhere there should be no problem in our understanding that many things are included in our “believing” in John 3:16 that are not spelled out in the verse but are fully set forth elsewhere in the Bible. The well —known John 3:16 is a comprehensive, sweeping statement. That one verse does not explain the details either of God’s giving of his Son or our believing to have life. The verse should not be viewed as if it alone tells all we need to know about God’s gift and our faith.