Jesus and eternal life – studying John 3:16-21

The result of belief 

In John 3:16, Jesus says: 

God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

One of the things that this verse teaches is that belief in the son is necessary. Our society really struggles with that idea. 

I know that 75% of Americans identify as Christians but when you talk to people about their beliefs, far too many people seem to think that Jesus is this really good guy and that most of us are pretty good too and we’re going to get the benefit of heaven because we’re good and he’s good and wants to bless us. 

That’s not the gospel. 

The gospel is that Jesus is good. You’re not. He died in your place. Believe in him as your Lord. 

Eternal life is reserved for the one who believes in Jesus.

John refers to eternal life more than any other writer in the New Testament. We saw it referenced in our passage last week when Jesus was talking about his crucifixion. 

John 3:14-15:

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 

It is through his death and resurrection that we have eternal life. 

Couple more noteworthy examples of Jesus talking of eternal life. John 5:24: 

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 

We are spared eternal death when we turn to Jesus. 

In John 10, Jesus talks of himself as the good shepherd and talks of eternal life when he says: 

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:27-28)

There he is, among other things, talking about the relationship he invites us into. 

The eternal life which Jesus offers to all who believe in him is both a future promise but a present reality. 

It’s not that those who believe in Jesus are eligible for eternal life or may get eternal life. 

But the person who believes and trusts in Jesus as Lord and savior HAS eternal life. 

And that assurance is there because it is in the work of Christ that the gift of eternal life is given. 

It’s an eternal promise which also bears present-day results in the life of a believer. 

That’s actually how the passage ends in verse 21. 

whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” 

Not sent to condemn

Continuing to speak about the salvation which comes through Jesus. 

Verse 17: 

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 

Verse 17 is not saying that there is no condemnation ever. It’s saying that condemnation was not the purpose for Jesus coming into the world. 

Jesus came into the world to bring salvation. And that salvation comes through his life, death, and resurrection. 

Part of what I love about this passage is how simple it all is. 

Some passages are difficult to understand and are enhanced by a lot of digging into historical context. Some passages are best explained when comparing them to numerous other Biblical passages. 

These verses are simple enough to understand just through honestly reading them for what they say. 

God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

What do you believe in? 

Is it that Jesus is the Son of God and through him and him alone we have eternal life? Or do you believe in something else? Is your faith in Jesus? Or is it in yourself? 

We’ve seen the love of God. We’ve seen the result of believing in Jesus. 

We close this passage with a warning of the consequences of unbelief in Jesus.

The consequences of unbelief

John 3:18:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already

We again are reminded of the catalyst for eternal life. Believing in Jesus. No matter what you do, what you say, how you live, none of that gives you standing before a Holy God. 

It’s believing in Jesus. Whoever does not believe in Jesus is condemned because there is no other way to God. 

Jesus did not come to bring condemnation, but you are already condemned and dead in your sins without him. 

That’s your starting point. 

So we can either turn to Christ and find life or we can reject Jesus and still be dead. 

If we could earn our way to God, then God would not have needed to send his son. 

This passage is not saying “believe what you want.” It’s not saying you’re pretty good.

It’s saying the opposite. John 3:19-20:

19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.

Those two verses sum up the human condition apart from Christ. It confronts us with reality. We are dead apart from Christ. 

We either believe that or we don’t. We either believe Jesus is the way or we don’t. 

What do you believe? Jesus is the light, the truth, the goodness, the salvation which has come into the world. And in a dark world, a world of sin and death, Jesus shines. 

People loved darkness rather than the light. 

This is why the world needs Jesus. Because we love our sin more than we love the righteousness of God. 

A lot of sins make us feel good in the moment. 

Being drunk can feel good at the moment. Looking at things you shouldn’t look at online feels good at the moment. Gossip feels good at the moment. Selfishness and doing whatever you want to do feels good at the moment. 

A lot of sinful behaviors feel good. Don’t look at me like you don’t look at me like you have no idea what I’m talking about. 

That’s why the world loves them. The Bible is the realest book that’s ever been written. 

And in Hebrews 11:25, it talks about the “fleeting pleasures of sin.” 

It’s not calling sin good. But it is saying that sin is often pleasurable. At least for a season. At least for a little while. If sin didn’t feel good, then the world wouldn’t love it so much. It wouldn’t be a problem. Nobody grudgingly sins. Nobody sins like it’s a chore that you have to do. “Ok, I guess I’ll say this really nasty thing about my coworker.” Nobody has to work at being prideful. 

No kid had to be taught to sin. It comes naturally. 

Eve wasn’t tempted with something she thought was bad. It was the promise of knowledge. David didn’t see Bathsheeba and think “oh what an ugly woman.” The world loves sin. 

Some of those things might be different for different people. But make no mistake. We love sin. Again, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that that’s a good thing.It’s a horrible thing. It’s why we are condemned and separated from God. By the grace of God, there is redemption. 

But the world hates the light of the gospel, because the light exposes sin. 

The world is dead in sin. That’s the bad news.

But there is good news. 

Borrowing a quote from Kent Hughes in his commentary on John that I’ve slightly modified. 

God. The greatest being.

So loved. The greatest act. 

The world. The greatest company.

That he gave. The greatest act. 

His only Son. The greatest gift. 

That whoever believes. The greatest offer.

In him. The greatest savior. 

Shall not perish. The greatest promise.

But have. The greatest certainty.

Eternal life. The greatest hope.

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