A friend had asked about understanding John 3:16 in passing, so I’d thought to say a word about this verse. The verse in English reads:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
How does it read to us? “For God so loved the world…” God loved it “sooooooooo” much. It sounds in English like it speaks of the degree of his love. Sooooo much. And the verse does communicate that when it says, “that he sent his Son.” That’s intense. But the “so” does not communicate this.
The word in Greek is ουτωσ (hootōs) which means “thus, in this way”.
“God loved the world in this way” or “God loved the world thusly”. It is illustrative and not an impassioned degree.
Next, “that whoever believes in him”. How does this read in our understanding? We take it to mean “anyone” with emphasis on unknown numbers of lost people out there to whom this verse is directed. Anyone out there who believes will have life! And while this is true, it is not what the verse literally says, nor is it its emphasis.
Rather, the Greek phrase πασ ο πιστευων (pas hoh pisteuōn), which is usually rendered “whosoever”, actually means “all who believe.”
πασ ο πιστευω
All who believe
Here the emphasis is on ALL, as in certainty. Not one believer will perish.
The verse reads:
“For God loved the world in this way, that he gave his only Son, that all who believe in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
It is a promise to all the “believing ones” concerning the certainty of their salvation, that it will not crumble though their faith be weak or if their good deeds even as believers weren’t “enough”. It is effectually saying, “There is not one believer who will perish. It doesn’t matter how pitiable your faith is, or how wicked you’ve been as a believer, because all who believe will have eternal life. Not some believers, not only the holiest believers who were the most pious and who did the most good deeds or obeyed perfectly enough. All who believe will have eternal life!”
So this verse is a promise of comfort whose primary target audience is all people who believe – believers. Yet, secondarily it is also for the lost whom we urge to partake in the great promise this verse makes to all who believe!