Posts Tagged ‘John 3:16’

The ‘Simple Gospel’? John 3:16 In Depth

September 2, 2013 1 comment

From S. Lewis Johnson’s series in 2 Peter, comes the following (shared, from Dr. J. G. Vos, The Simplicity of the Gospel.) analysis of the “simple” verse John 3:16:

Alas, this favorite verse of millions of Christians fairly bristles with theological questions that have to be answered if the verse is to have a definite meaning for us.

The first clause, ‘For God so loved the world’:  Does it describe the extent of God’s love for mankind, or the intensity of God’s love?  Is the stress on that he loved so many people, or is the stress on the intensity of it that his love is so strong it would even love such a vile thing as the world? Is the idea of universality or that of wickedness?

Does it describe the extent of God’s love for mankind of the intensity of it?

That He Gave His Only Begotten Son: 

Does this mean that God gave his Son to become man to live a perfect life under the law, to suffer and die as a substitute for dinners on the cross, to rise again the third day?

If that is what it means then does not this little word gave involve in it’s meaning here the whole doctrine of the incarnation, the humiliation and exaltation of Christ, the atonement, Christ’s active and passive obedience in the covenant of grace?

Again why was it needful for God in order to put his love for the world in action to give his Son?  Was this because of the lost guilty and sinful condition of the human race?  If that’s the meaning then does not this verse in it’s true meaning really involve the whole doctrines of the creation of mankind, the covenant of works, the fall, original and actual sin, total depravity and total inability?

If God gave his Son in order to save men from sin, must we not know what sin is in order to grasp the real meaning and force of the word gave?

What is meant by referring to the Son as the only begotten?  Does that mean that Christ is the Son of God in a unique sense?  If so does not the phrase, his only begotten Son involve the doctrines of the eternal sonship and deity of Christ? And do these doctrines not in turn involve the doctrine of the Trinity if they are to mean anything?

The phrase ‘believes in Him’:

Does this mean what is called saving faith?  If so, what is the nature of saving faith, and how does it differ from other kinds of faith such as mere historical faith, temporary faith, et cetera?  If this expression ‘believes in Him’ is really to mean anything to us, do we not have to know the biblical doctrine of saving faith?

And what is the force of the words in him in the phrase ‘believes in Him?’  Does this phrase involve making Jesus the object of the believer’s faith?  If so, what is the difference between making Jesus the object of one’s faith and making Jesus one’s example as a man of faith?  In short, what is the difference between having faith in Jesus and having faith in God like Jesus’ faith in God?”

The original commentary continues further through this verse — but the above is just a sample of the depth of the “simple gospel.”  The final conclusion:

The person who rejects theology and says that he wants only the simple gospel of Christ only deceives himself.  What he calls simplicity is not really simplicity, it’s only vagueness, that’s what he wants, vagueness.  The person who wants to take John 3:16 just as it stands without facing any of the theological questions which this verse raises, may think he is insisting on simplicity and is religiously superior to other Christians who want definite and clear cut knowledge, but in reality he is only hiding his head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich, and saying the truth is not important.