Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Is John 3:16 The Whole Gospel?


Below is an article I wrote a number of years ago now, and I have also included immediately below,
an actual word for word rendering of John 3:16 from the original language, and I do so as many people misread the passage and/or read things into the passage that simply are not there.
Please Note
No translation is completely literal, nor should that be a desirable goal. A completely word-for-word literal translation would be unreadable.
There are two dangers to avoid in translation. First, a translation should not be so literal that it is not good English. The meaning of the original needs to be as faithfully rendered into good English as possible. Second, a translation should not be so loose that it becomes merely an interpretation or allows sectarian interests to overwhelm the resultant text. All translation is interpretation; it cannot be otherwise. But the issue is how much interpretation and how idiosyncratic an interpretation is.

Part of the problem is this: the more literal a translation is, the less readable it generally is; the more readable it is, the less faithful it is to the original meaning (at least in many cases)

The greatest error committed against this passage, is the idea of human free will having it's own ability to choose Jesus and accept him as their personal Savior, based upon the idea that "whosoever" means that anyone has the moral ability to come to Jesus.

In actual fact, the word "whosoever" is not even in this passage at all, as that is a translation into some English Bibles from the simple Greek term "Pas/
πας" which means "all".

So here is an accurate literal rendering of John 3:16 for you to consider.

ουτως γαρ ηγαπησεν ο θεος τον κοσμον ωστε τον υιον αυτου τον μονογενη εδωκεν ινα πας ο πιστευων εις αυτον μη αποληται αλλ εχη ζωην αιωνιον

Joh 3:16 for God did so love the world (Jews and Greeks/Gentiles), that His unique Son--He gave, so that all the believing ones, shall never be destroyed, but possess life eternal.

And now, back to my break....


Is John 3:16 The Whole Gospel?

By Tartanarmy. (2003)


Many Christians say that one of the clearest passages of the Gospel, which is perhaps the most well known verse in the whole Bible is found in the Gospel of John.

It is found in a conversation between Jesus and a Jewish religious teacher named Nicodemus. A deep conversation under the cover of night. The well known passage is none other than John 3:16.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life"

It is particularly used as a proclamation for the Universal love of God towards every individual person who has ever lived. It is the great statement that conveys the assertion that Jesus Christ died for the sins of the whole world.

It is the great text to declare to the entire world, that God loves everyone without distinction and that everyone should know that God loves him or her. It is the motivating force to preach and teach the Gospel to this world in need of God.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the foundation of this Scripture passage. The Gospel being the great love that God has for everyone, and the proof of that love being that He sent His Son into the world to die on the cross for everyones sins.

As this is the central message of Christianity and is the Gospel. We are to go forward and plead with the world to accept this love of God offered for them.

They are told to believe in this Gospel truth and accept Jesus into their hearts and lives, with the promise of living forever in Heaven and the promise of a new and better life here upon the earth.

Now all of this is the normative message of Christianity as it is generally taught and proclaimed today.


What would your reaction be if someone said to you that in actual fact, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not actually in John 3:16, but clearly in John 3:14

"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,

What would your reaction be if someone said that God does not love every single person in the world equally?

What if someone suggested that Jesus Christ did not die on the cross for every person?

What if someone boldly claimed that the motivating principal of the Gospel is not to get people to accept Jesus into their hearts?

What if it was stated that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was not primarily the reward of Heaven or getting a better way to live?
What about the common idea that we are all God's children being a false and misleading statement?

Many today would balk at such suggestions and denounce such twisted assertions with zeal and fervour.

How could the above comments have any merit? Is this some kind of cultic twist on God's character and nature?

The above comments are not only profoundly true, but are taught in every page of The Bible itself.
Many could be shocked at such a statement.

That should not surprise us if we are aquatinted at all with God's precious Word in regards to all of these claims.

The Gospel according to John 3:14

John 3:14 "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up"


To understand this passage we now turn to the Old Testament for an overview of these words spoken. I will argue that John 3:16 is actually a proclamation of the sufficiency of Christ and a promise of eternal security for believers, but the actual Gospel or good news of that proclamation is related in John 3:14.

Please read Numbers Ch 21 for the Narrative.

The Gospel according to John 3:14
Numbers 21:5-9

And the people spoke against God and against Moses: "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread."

Here we have the Ancient people of God. People made in the image of God.
They have been witnesses to the Power of God and the reality of God.
They are like so many people today. We see a world of such grand design and a creation that speaks of God's power and glory.

We are a people who are also made in the image of God. We can reason, and create and show signs of special abilities that no other living thing can display. We are made in the image of God. We have a likeness to the very creator of the Universe that is reflected in our design and in our abilities. We are spiritual beings.

There is something wrong with us though, just as there was with the people in this story.


Having a knowledge of God and his power, and character, they are however, prone to doubt, fear, selfishness, greed, envy, slander, murder, immorality, lies, drunkenness and a whole host of other sins.

The image of God is there, but it is very much a shattered and broken reflection only. A mere shadow of what it should be and indeed once was in Adam.

These people here complain about God's provision, and thereby display their utter faithless hearts. No sooner has a good thought about God been turned into doubting His goodness and mercy.

How true is that even today in our great technological age filled with religion, knowledge and umpteen Bible versions and study guides?
So here we have the complaining unbelieving people doubting God's goodness and provision.

A people complaining about what God has indeed given them. The supply that sustained them is not valued at all. We do not even deserve that provision but Judgement instead.

We do not thank and praise God. In fact we despise His goodness.


So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.

Here is the state of Humanity in this passage. It is a sad state indeed.

As representatives of sinful Adam, we see a glimpse here of Gods judgement upon unbelief,which is sin.

Even though this story is actual history, it clearly relates to judgement from God against sin and the result of that very judgement. Death.


This condition is the result of sin. It is in fact the reason that we do die.


1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned

When we die it is because of our sin.

The Doctor may write on the death certificate Heart attack, cancer, or any other condition, but that is only the means by which death comes.

We die according to God, because of sin.
Doctors should actually write, that the cause of Death is Sin.

Our fiery serpents, is our own sin nature that we are born with, inherited from Adam. A curse from God, as a result of original sin in Adam.

That nature is the poison that kills us all.

A man does not become a sinner when he sins. He sins because he is born a sinner.

Ephesians 2:3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
Ephesians 4:18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart;

We continue with Moses.

Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, "We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD that He take away the serpents from us." So Moses prayed for the people.

We need to become aware of our problem and be convicted of our state before a holy God.

Sin is not a problem that we can cure by ourselves.

We are like those people in this story. The poison of sin is flowing through our hearts and minds. We are sick and are dying and need a cure. It is a serious problem that needs more than a Band-Aid or any human effort or religion to fix.


As Moses prayed for His people, we need a Moses to pray for us.

Thank God that we have an even greater than Moses, who prays for His people who are sick and dying of a serious poisonous condition due to their own sin.

John 17:6-10.
"I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.
"Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You.
"For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.
"I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.
"And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them.

This is known as the great high Priestly prayer of The Lord Jesus. Praying to His Father for His elect people whom he gave His life for. A great multitude from every tribe, nation and tongue.

Revelation 5:9 And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

Then the LORD said to Moses,
"Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live"

Now here is the good news of the Gospel!

Listen to what God told Moses to do.

The very thing that was killing them was to be the remedy for their sin.

The fiery serpent was to be strung up on a pole and the People bitten only had to look at it and they would live.

This would seem like foolishness to the people.

Imagine what some may have been thinking! A pole lifted up with a serpent on it!

That is the answer to our most serious problem. If we look to the serpent up there on that polewe shall live!

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is foolishness to this world. We have a dying world and yet,


1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent."
20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

Jesus Christ crucified is the Gospel.
It is the answer and the cure. Nothing else.


The Apostle Paul wrote,

1 Corinthians 2:2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

The pole is His Cross, and the serpent is our sin being dealt with in Jesus Christ, suffering in the place of the sinner.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

It is all about Substitution.
Christ died effectively for the sins of His people.
We must do what God said to Moses. Look at the serpent on the pole lifted up.

If a sinner wants to be saved from death and judgement, he must look to Christ alone.

Not to good works or religion or any number of man made ideas.

Tit 3:5 not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,

Those people who looked at the serpent on a pole lived!

If they did not look they died.

The Gospel is so simple. Look and live.


2 Corinthians 11:3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

Isaiah 45:22 "Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.

Matthew 17:8 When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

John 12:32 "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself"

Back to the story.

So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

The strange remedy is effectual.

When a man is dying he can only receive life. He must look to the means of deliverance.
He can do nothing here for himself.
He is both helpless and hopeless and needs help.
He cannot contribute to that help, otherwise he could help himself.
He is not asked to get up and come to the Pole, or make a commitment to the serpent.
No! He is lying on the ground bleeding and dying in God's sight.


He cannot, for he is incapable of even trying. His faith here is exactly that, "His Faith". He needs another's faithfulness, not his own worthless efforts. He needs mercy.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,

Can he allow the serpents to come into his heart and cure him? No!

He must only look at the cure itself. He is utterly incapable of doing anything else.

That serpent on the pole was absolutely 100% effectual in its design and purpose.

"when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived"

Could all of the people be cured? Yes. Were they all cured? No. The text above tells us that only those who would look would live.

People today are denying that they have been bitten, so do not look.

They are dying with the poison freely flowing through them and choose to deny their condition.

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.

image image

Romans 10:3 For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.

Others who have looked and been healed tell the dying to do the same.

We urge and warn them.

It falls on deaf ears. We are amazed, as we see the death taking its toll on them, yet they will not look.

They are dead already it seems, but they are still moving!

They are hardened and refuse to listen, preferring their own dying condition.

How foolish!

Like a dog with a bone who refuses to pick up the juicy steak because he may lose his dry bone.

In fact they would rather have any other cure than the one provided!

image image

Luke 19:14 'We will not have this man to reign over us"

John 19:15 But they cried out, "Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!" Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar!"

image image

So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

John 3:14 "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up"

That is the Gospel.

God the Father put His precious Son upon that cross as a ransom, a sacrifice, a propitiation, mercy seat, atonement for His dying people.

To satisfy his Justice in punishing sin and to bring a people to Christ to redeem.

That sacrifice is completely efficient and satisfies The Father perfectly.

Isa 53:10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand.

Matthew 17:5 "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!"

We know that God was well pleased with His Son and that He satisfied God's Justice and in so doing reconciled sinners to Himself. His sacrifice was acceptable to His Father on our behalf.

There are three very important truths to know about the Death of Jesus Christ upon the cross.

1/ It was a voluntary act.


John 10:18 "No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father"

2/ It was a vicarious act.

Matthew 20:28 "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
Romans 5:6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

3/ It was a victorious act. The Resurrection.


1 Corinthians 15:4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scrip tures,
Hebrews 10:12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God,

Romans 1:4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.

Isaiah 53:5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.


Isaiah 53:8 For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
Isaiah 53:11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.

It brings life to dead sinners. It accomplishes exactly what it was purposed by God to do.
The poisonous sting of the serpents, our sin, has been destroyed and forgiven in Christ and remembered no more.

1 Corinthians 15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.

1 Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

Now when we come to understand the Gospel of God's grace we shall know the Gospel. There is no other Gospel.

Look and live.


John 17:3 "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

Now I can proclaim God's intention in the Gospel by saying,

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life"

Are you one of the "whoever believes in John 3:16" or have you got your own cure?

Christ did not die for your cure.
He died as the cure for the "whoever" and them alone.

To believe otherwise is to be lost and believing a lie and another Gospel.

Galatians 1:8,9, which says, "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed"

He is the only Saviour for this world.

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Acts 4:12 "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved

Whilst the above Scripture declares God's love for His people, the elect of God, there is a serious warning to those who will not believe. For they shall perish.

John 10:26 "But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.

John 10:27 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.


Romans 10:13 For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."

Lord Bless
Tartanarmy 2003.


PuritanReformed said...

Wow, that's a lot of graphics. =)

PuritanReformed said...

Good message btw

Mark Farnon (Tartanarmy) said...

Thanks...That was the article that first got me labelled as a Hyper Calvinist by the way from Tb....