John 3:16: Beware of a Vague Misunderstanding

This is a non-WLC article. When using resources from outside authors, we only publish the content that is 100% in harmony with the Bible and WLC current biblical beliefs. So such articles can be treated as if coming directly from WLC. We have been greatly blessed by the ministry of many servants of Yahuwah. But we do not advise our members to explore other works by these authors. Such works, we have excluded from publications because they contain errors. Sadly, we have yet to find a ministry that is error-free. If you are shocked by some non-WLC published content [articles/episodes], keep in mind Proverbs 4:18. Our understanding of His truth is evolving, as more light is shed on our pathway. We cherish truth more than life, and seek it wherever it may be found.

“Yahuwah loved the world in this way: that He gave His uniquely begotten Son, so that every person who believes in him should not perish but have the life of the Age to Come.” —John 3:16, One God the Father translation (OGF)

woman praying

In modern times John 3:16 is probably the most frequently quoted verse (out of context) from the whole Bible, as it adorns American sporting events (on posters) and is used repeatedly as a succinct summary by well-meaning, enthusiastic evangelists. While being a beautiful statement (in itself) concerning Yahuwah’s overwhelming love to give His Son, and the ultimate goal involved, it can be used in a dangerously misleading way! The context of the Gospels forbids us from making this verse an instantaneous, easy formula for receiving salvation.

In order to fully grasp the intended meaning of this very familiar verse, the context of Yahushua’s conversation with Nicodemus about being “born from above” (or born again) must be carefully compared to the wider context of Yahushua’s ministry to herald the Gospel of the coming Kingdom of Yahuwah. The understanding of this new birth concept (in John chapter 3) must not be divorced from the all-important truth communicated by the parable of the sower (in Mark 4:13-20). There is no “believing in Yahushua” if you don’t believe in his Gospel of the Kingdom.

“And he said to them, ‘Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand any of the parables? The sower sows the word’” (Mark 4:13-14).

According to Luke 8:10-11 “the word” means “the word of Yahuwah” which is synonymous with “the secrets of the kingdom of Yahuwah.” In Matthew 13:19 one can easily see that “the word” of Mark 4:14 is parallel to “the word of the Kingdom.” In all three of these versions of the parable of the sower, it is abundantly clear that the only valid response to the message of the Gospel of the coming Kingdom is the last of the four possible soil types. In other words, instead of misunderstanding “the word” and having it quickly snatched away by the evil one; or actually receiving it with short-lived joy (but falling away due to tribulation/persecution on account of the word), or receiving it in a way that “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful”; one can choose to be in the fourth category! One must receive the word of the Kingdom and understand it with a good, honest heart — and “hang in there,” persevering in actively doing what the message requires to the end of one’s life, continually bearing fruit!

young man praying

In the following quote from a footnote (p. 245 of the One God, the Father, One Man Messiah Translation) some relevant connections are pointed out regarding John, chapter 3:

“Born from above, that is, with Yahuwah as the author of this regeneration dependent on our belief in the truth [of the Gospel of the Kingdom] and repentance. Rebirth is thus the non-negotiable basis for becoming a Christian. In the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, spiritual rebirth is described as the new life springing from the seed of the Gospel (Luke 8:11). Thus, with Nicodemus Yahushua uses the biological metaphor, and with the public who heard the parable of the sower, the agricultural metaphor. These are beautifully combined in 1 Pet. 1:22-25 where being born again is based on the seed which is the Gospel [of the Kingdom]. Thus the NT contains a single united theology for becoming a believer. It starts with belief in Yahushua’s Gospel of the Kingdom (Mark 1:1-2, 14-15).”

As readers are careful to consider the real context of Yahushua’s figurative language in John, chapter 3, along with “seed” metaphors in the synoptic Gospels, and the whole New Testament theme of being “born again,” they can be aware that even the very immediate context of John 3:16 confirms the critical need for a genuinely proactive response: the determined effort of continuous repentant obedience, just like in the parable of the sower.

bronze snake“And just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, in the same way, the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that all who believe in him may gain the life of the Age to Come. Yahuwah loved the world in this way: that He gave His uniquely begotten Son so that every person who believes in him should not perish but have the life of the Age to Come. For Yahuwah did not send His Son into the world for the purpose of condemning the world, but so that the world might be rescued through him. The person who believes in him is not condemned. But the one who does not believe has been condemned already because he has not believed in the revelation and whole agenda of Yahuwah’s uniquely begotten Son. This is the reason for condemnation: the light has come into the world, and human beings loved darkness rather than light because their activities were wicked. Every person who does wicked things hates the light and will not come to the light so that his works will not be exposed. But the one who performs truth comes to the light, so that his works may be demonstrated as performed under Yahuwah’s direction” (John 3:14-21, OGF).

By simply keeping John 3:16 within its immediate context, one would not be guilty of misleading others into thinking that “believing in Yahushua” refers to a mere nebulous, feel-good experience of the momentary mental acceptance that Yahuwah sent Yahushua. True faith in Yahushua involves decisively coming to the light in one’s activities. Coming to the light involves persistent choices to change and stop reverting to the previous actions of darkness. Baptism as an action of repentant commitment is a compatible, vital part of this obedient picture, as well as being a relevant part of the immediate context of these Scriptures (in John 3:22-30 and 4:1-3). To be on board in a growing, fruitful way will require that believers be overcomers when facing constant challenges (Acts 14:22).

Another Scriptural context with similar vocabulary, in terms of contrasting walking in the light with the ruts of life in darkness, is 1 John 1:5-2:2. After initially repenting by believing in the Gospel of the Kingdom (Mark 4:11-12), not vaguely repenting of anything we think is wrong, and truly coming to the light (while turning away from the activities of darkness), believers might still trip up and be seduced by sins that get them off track. Nevertheless, we are wonderfully invited to not give up on our commitment — when we have mistakenly veered away from the light. Instead of being “in denial” and lying to ourselves (and others) by pretending to still be on track, we can humbly confess our sins while confidently realizing that our trustworthy Yahuwah (through the blood sacrifice of Yahushua) forgives us our sins and washes us clean from all that is not right within us. Yahuwah is being totally fair when He forgives us and washes us in this way, due to the extensive effect of Yahushua’s perfect sin offering!

Despite our trying circumstances and our human weaknesses, our reliable Elohim and His faithful Son have our backs, as we refuse to quit persevering in the biblical, loving lifestyle — according to the Gospel of Yahuwah’s coming Kingdom.

WLC special note re the CLEAR meaning of some words and phrases in the above narrative.

[a] “sin = darkness = all that is not right within us”

1 John 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

“Sin” is any transgression or breaking of the law = all the commandments = Torah which is the body of rules and regulations required for observation by all citizens in Yahuwah’s Kingdom.

[b] “the biblical, loving lifestyle” = keeping the commandments.

Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that Yahuwah, he is G-d, the faithful G-d, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;

John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.

John 14:23 Yahushua answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

1 John 5: 2-4 2 By this we know that we love the children of Yahuwah, when we love Yahuwah, and keep his commandments 3 For this is the love of Yahuwah, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. 4 For whatsoever is born of Yahuwah overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

people praying

This is a non-WLC article written by Kenneth LaPrade.

We have taken out from the original article all pagan names and titles of the Father and Son, and have replaced them with the original given names. Furthermore, we have restored in the Scriptures quoted the names of the Father and Son, as they were originally written by the inspired authors of the Bible. -WLC Team