for by faith - my daily journal

How to misunderstand John 3:16

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Although probably the most well-known verse in the New Testament, this may also be the most misunderstood.

Let me explain.

The actual beginning Greek words are:  “For” – gar; “God” – theos; “in this way” – houtos

The NET Bible, for example, translates John 3:16 thus – “For this is the way God loved the world…”


The point of all this is not to be nit-picky or pseudointellectual, it’s to answer a fundamental question – did God the Father love us because Christ died for us, or did Christ die for us because God the Father loved us?

Think about that for a moment, because John 3:16 answers that question.


God’s love for His redeemed is already assumed in John 3:16. In this sense, the love of God is not the result of Christ’s death, but rather its cause.


Acts 2:23 refers to this when it states “this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God…” and Ephesians 1:4 further develops this in “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him in love…”


The Bible clearly teaches that God chose us in love before the foundation of the world and then predetermined a plan to establish an eternal loving relationship which was then executed by Christ’s sinless life and death on the cross.

Could it be? God’s love was the source of our salvation? Romans 5:8 gives us confidence with this concept “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”


More misunderstandings on John 3:16 are posted here.




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"It wasn't a potential atonement actuated by the sinner, it was an actual atonement initiated by the savior."

John MacArthur

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