For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
What does it mean? Many times I’ve heard the term perish defined as the notion of someone spending time in hell a consequence of not having believed in Christ.
Well, Christ said that no one can come to Him unless God, his Father, draws that person and he will resurrect that person at the last day.
The belief that the term “perish” simply applies to someone’s afterlife in hell totally dismisses our state before God made us alive in Christ.
Here’s what happened to us:
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” (Ephesians 2:1-3)
Being dead in transgressions and sins, that’s the illustration of someone perishing.
Yet, here’s the good news to us:
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:4-10)
Sometimes I hold my breath as I write these posts as if I’m hoping to be extra careful in making sure that you and I understand Christ, the word of God.
For so long, we have held the word of God to mean many things, and yet the word of God is Jesus.
When John said that God so loved the world so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life, he is pretty much revealing the work of salvation from beginning to end accomplished by God through Jesus with the Holy Spirit as our deposit.
So does salvation starts with us believing? Nope. It starts with the love of God, the death of Christ on our behalf.
So does “our” salvation starts with us believing in Christ? Yes, at the moment God caused us to hear the gospel like we’ve never heard it before. The moment we heard the gospel like the last piece of a million pieces puzzle, that’s the moment God made us alive in Christ.
So, eternal life is not a reward to those who believe as we often think John 3:16 to mean. Instead, eternal life is the power that drives us into believing in Jesus. Eternal life is the Holy Spirit, the life of the Eternal. Having eternal life brings us to knowing God, knowing Christ.
“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)
Why is it that the gospel is preached to many but only a handful hears it?
“Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.” (Romans 9:18)
Yet, here’s the good news:
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
Since God doesn’t want any man to perish, only God will make them alive in Christ by his mercy and the grace that you and I today are alive by.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:17-18)
If anyone is perishing today, not believing in the name of Jesus, only God can make them alive by his mercy the same way He did to you and me which is by his mercy through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:32-36)
Amen. Jesus Christ is the Amen. At one time we were perishing like a dead tree, but God in his kindness and love and mercy made us alive with Christ.