“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 ESV
This is the most significant verse in the N.T. , yet it is taken out of context more often than not. So many people believe that this is “THE” salvation verse, and one need not go any further to understand how to be saved. Many believe that simple belief is all that is needed. But to camp out on this one verses is to discount the rest of John’s Gospel and to ignore other significant passages throughout the rest of the N.T.
When Jesus makes this statement to Nicodemus, Jesus hadn’t been lifted up yet. Jesus is simply letting Nicodemus know that salvation is on its way. It had not come yet. John is sharing this in his Gospel to let the reader know that Jesus taught about salvation's plan during His ministry. One significant thing to think about concerning this verse is that Jesus is teaching a leader of Israel what to look for, to find salvation. Certain things were going to have to take place for salvation to be made available, and they had not happened at this point in Jesus ministry.
We must bear in mind that the Gospels are the history of Jesus ministry written down by His disciples years after the events recorded in them occurred. The Gospels do not teach us how the first converts to Christianity were made. The first Christian converts were made on the day of Pentecost following Jesus ascension to heaven. Peter was the first to tell new believers what was necessary for the forgiveness of sins as it is recorded in chapter two of the book of Acts.
Nowhere in the N.T. do we see the other Apostles or later disciples teaching anything other than what Peter taught concerning salvation in Acts chapter two. Therefore, we have to conclude that what Peter taught was the standard by which one receives the forgiveness and the Holy Spirit. Another passage to consider, is when Jesus tells Peter He will give him the keys to the kingdom. “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19 ESV Following Jesus resurrection and ascension it was up to the Apostles to teach the disciples of Christ what was necessary for salvation. Those whose hearts and minds were right, accepted the message of the Gospel and responded in obedience. See the beatitudes of Matthew chapter five.
Today we have all that we need to know about salvation in the N.T., we must understand that we need to read it all, not just one verse. God wouldn’t have given us twenty seven books in the N.T. if we didn’t need to hear all that was said in all of them. Let’s take in all that the N.T. has to offer, it is The Word of God and it is the final word on His plan of salvation.
© 2013 Leo J. Woodman