John 3:16 is one of those verses from the Bible that transcends many barriers. The verse has been called the Gospel in miniature. It is one of those verses that little children learn in their Sunday school classes. At an arena or sporting event, you can see the verse on a t-shirt or poster held by a spectator. The verse does the amazing task of describing God’s endless love for his creation/universe/world that he would send his Son to redeem it back from its darkness and death.
The verse is preceded by a ruler of the Jewish council, Nicodemus, coming to Jesus in the darkness of night most likely to avoid being discovered by others. Nicodemus had seen and heard in Jesus a quality of life that set him apart as being from God. Jesus responded that to see the kingdom of God a person needed to be born again which can get really confusing.
Nicodemus was obviously right in that we can’t once again undergo the physical birth process as adults. So what does being born again mean? Does it mean an altar call or confession? Not really, but a confession of faith is the result of this rebirth. So what is born again?
Jesus went on to describe how this world already stands judged and comes up wanting. The reality of this is shown in our love of darkness and our effects to hide what we do because deep down we know it is evil. Simply look at the false information, manipulation of the truth and direct lies being told these days to put our love of darkness on display.
So what are we saying by being born again? It means we stop our allegiance to the darkness and grab hold of the light which exposes the truth. The hold that darkness has over us we can’t break; this is the Holy Spirit’s work. Only the Spirit can make us able to see the truth. Only the Spirit can allow us to see the reign of God and give us a rebirth from this world into God’s kingdom.
Jesus spoke of his being lifted up (crucifixion). It was also his exultation. There the darkness of the world challenged the reign of God. Jesus’ resurrection (exultation) showed that the light and truth of God’s grace and love are what reign and give life. John 3:16 tells us that to believe in Jesus is to have eternal life. Eternal life is more than an endless number of days to live. Eternal life is a quality of life…a way of life…a life in relationship with the resurrected Lord that is now and continues on forever. Believing in Jesus is to trust that in him God was saving the world, so deeply loved, from darkness into light.
So we return to John 3:16 and its message. “For God so loved the world (you) that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The Gospel in one sentence.