John 3:16-21 – God’s love for this world

3:16-21 are widely believed to be explanatory reflections from John the gospel writer rather than the direct words of Jesus. Some find the statement “For God so loved the world” difficult to accept as John’s work because it represents such a different concept to his normal focus on the love between God, Jesus and the disciples in chapters 13-17 and also because elsewhere John forbids Christians to love the world (see 1 John 2:15-17). However, the fact that God loves his creation, despite its corrupt condition, should not surprise us nor should the fact that we should not delight in its godless values.


Creation was fundamentally an expression of God’s gracious love as was the incarnation where Jesus’ mission to bring salvation was the ultimate outworking of divine love and grace. The emphasis on faith in Jesus – “whoever believes in him” (v. 16) / “whoever believes in him is not condemned” (v. 18) – and new birth by God’s Spirit in the preceding verses reminds us of these truths introduced in the prologue – “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (1:12&13).


Verses 17&18 communicate the truth that Jesus did not come to condemn the world because it already stood condemned. John uses the metaphor of light and darkness as he did in the prologue to help explain the reason why the majority have rejected the revelation of God’s love and grace in Jesus: they relish their corrupt ways and are afraid of their wickedness being “exposed” (v. 20). The contrast is made between the wicked who are wholly responsible for their lives lived in darkness and the righteous who are only able to come into the light because the transformation that has been undertaken in their lives has “been done through God” (v. 21).


Praise God that because of his great love he gave his very best for us – himself coming as a man to live in this broken world and to die for our sake that we might have life in him now and forever more! What more could God possibly have done to show his love for the human race?


Prayer: Take time to reflect on what it means to be a son of the Most High God. Let this turn to prayers of praise.

Song: Saviour of the World