John 3:16 – The Reason for the New Covenant


NAU 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.

NIV John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, {16 Or his only begotten Son} that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

KJV John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16 is the classic verse describing God’s motivation for initiating the New Covenant. It states that love was His motivating factor – His love for His creation. Check out how a very literal translation of the Greek describes the work of God.

John 3:16 (Hays) For in this way God loved the world, that He gave the unique (one of a kind) Son in order that all the ones believing into Him might not be destroyed but he might have eternal life.

We learn several things from this verse:

1) Love is defined. The Greek word, agape, means a self-sacrificial giving of one’s self. There was no selfishness in the act, it was done at a great cost to benefit the unworthy. Most noteworthy is the One demonstrating love – it is God not man.

2) How God loved His creation is described (“For in this way…”). The way in which God loved was to sacrifice His Innocent Son on behalf of guilty sinners. In this Easter season, I had time to ponder the passion of Christ and its close relationship with the Old Covenant Passover event. When you read Exodus 12, you will notice that the Passover lamb lived in the house for five days with those who would eventually sacrifice it. During those five days, the family would grow attached to it as a pet. This would have made the sacrifice of the ‘pet’ an emotional and traumatic event. Christ is called our Passover Lamb in several New Testament passages (cp John 1:29 for one). It appears that one of the designs by God of the Passover event was to help us identify in a small way with the emotional trauma experienced within the Godhead in the sacrificial giving or separating of the Father from the Son.

3) The uniqueness of the Son is highlighted. The Greek word translated ‘Only begotten’ (the literal meaning of this compound Greek word) is mongenes but it conveys the idea of being unique or one of a kind. It does not express the beginning in time of Sonship but the unique or unoriginated relationship Jesus enjoyed with the Father.

4) The uniqueness of the sacrifice’s benefit. Not everyone in the world will benefit from the sacrifice of the Son…only those believing (placing confidence or trust) in the work of the unique Son! This act of belief is once again an illustration from the Old Testament. In the same way that Israel in the wilderness was saved from the wrath of God after complaining against His care for them by looking at a bronze snake and trusting God, so the ones looking upon the Unique Son and trusting in His work would be saved from the eternal wrath of God reserved for those not trusting (cp Numbers 21:9 with John 3:14).

John 3:16 shows us the reason for the New Covenant with mankind – God loved the creation He made. But that love came at a price – not to us, but to God – He had to sacrifice His unique Son in place of His creation in order to transfer the benefits of that sacrifice to the ones who would believe. How great is our God.


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