God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16–17)
Whoever believes in Jesus will have eternal life. This means that any person who puts their faith in Jesus — whoever embraces Jesus as their all-satisfying treasure — will be saved. That is why Jesus came.
Sent to Save
As widely-known as John 3:16 is, it’s depth actually far exceeds its popularity. To get a better idea of what is being said here, consider the verse immediately following it.
John 3:17 begins with the word “for,” which gives the reason why John 3:16 is there. It’s important not to miss. Yes, we’ve heard that God loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in the Son won’t perish but have eternal life — but why? Why has God done this? Verse 17 tells us. It is because God is not out to condemn the world, but to save the world through Jesus.
Think big here for a moment. Jesus is leading us to think big. The reason the universe and our planet and human beings exist is not so that God would condemn them. He didn’t create the world to condemn it. He didn’t build it up in order to tear it down. Rather, he created the world and everything for his glory. And the pinnacle of the created world is when God made humans — men and women uniquely created to reflect God’s image and likeness. God made humans, you and me, to be his people — to dwell in his presence and enjoy his glory forever.
Our Only Hope
When sin entered the world and tarnished everything, God could have just condemned it all then. He could have ended it all just like that. We suppose that if he really was out to condemn what he had made, that would have been the time. He owed nothing to Adam and Eve, and nothing to us. He could have just scratched the whole thing. But he didn’t. Beyond that moment of darkness, there would be light. And even then, going all the way back to the Garden, we see God’s purpose to save. He promised to send a Redeemer (Genesis 3:15) — and so the rescue began.
God would certainly make for himself a people. He would have a people who truly reflect his majesty and find their joy in his glory, and he would save them through this promised Redeemer — our one hope and deliverer.
And in the fullness of time, as the apostle Paul tells us, this Redeemer came (Galatians 4:4). God’s very Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, came to live and die for all who would believe in him. He came to save us, to tower over all our shortcomings and failures. Jesus came to overcome, to defeat sin and death and to form a people for God — a people saved to enjoy God forever.
That’s why Jesus came. That’s why the cross stands above it all.