In a previous post, I wrote a little on understanding John 3:16. In today’s post, I’d like to walk through a few applications of understanding this verse rightly. There are negative applications for both the non-Calvinist and the Hyper-Calvinist. There are also positive applications for those who desire to be consistently Calvinistic, or biblical.
First, understanding John 3:16 correctly will never lead one into Arminianism or another non-Calvinist soteriology. The purpose of John 3:16 is not to teach universal atonement or libertarian free will. To make it say those things is a gross mishandling of the text. Additionally, proper exegesis of the text also leads people away from the error of Hyper-Calvinism. God will save sinners through the publishing of His good news to the nations and has a genuine desire that they would repent and believe the gospel.
The most important applications of John 3:16, however, are not what they lead one away from, but what they lead one to. What a proper understanding of John 3:16 leads one to is a passionate desire to see the lost converted. Since God loves the world, so should believers. Christians must take God’s love for the world to the world, beginning with their neighbors and on to the nations with a sincere desire to see sinners believe on Christ. One of the greatest ways we can love the world is by sharing the gospel with sinners.
Secondly, this enhances one’s understanding of the gospel instead of limiting it. Understanding John 3:16 rightly does not reduce the gospel to “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Rather, it enriches one’s understanding of the gospel in that shows it to be an outflow of God’s love. The concepts of sin, substitution, the cross, eternal life, and eternal damnation are all found within John 3:16 and the surrounding context. One cannot properly preach John 3:16 without including all the fundamental elements of the gospel including the call to sinners to repent of their sins and believe on Christ. And yet, the Calvinist does not have to shy away from telling a sinner that God loves them. What I mean is, if a lost person asks you if God loves him or her, you don’t have to say something like “Well, if you’re elect.” Instead, you can say something along the lines that God loves them enough to send His only begotten Son and is willing to forgive any sinner who comes to Christ in faith.
A final application to note is the encouragement a right understanding of John 3:16 brings to the believer. First of all, it is overwhelmingly encouraging for the Christian to rest in God’s love for him or her in the supreme and inestimable gift of the only begotten Son of God. Furthermore, when a believer is discouraged about his efforts in a local church, or his efforts on the mission field, or even his efforts with his own children, he can rest assured knowing that if he is proclaiming the well-meant offer of the gospel to sinners, he truly is doing God’s will, for God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.