March 01, 2023

The Most Distorted Verse in the Bible

R.C. Sproul
The Most Distorted Verse in the Bible

John 3:16 is one of the most famous verses in the Bible. It’s also one of the most distorted passages in Scripture. Today, R.C. Sproul explains what this verse actually teaches about the depths of God’s love in salvation.


For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son and whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

This surely is the most famous verse in the New Testament. It's the one that people color their hair all different kinds of shades and hold up and signs at sporting events, John 3:16. It's probably the most distorted verse in all of the New Testament as well because people who love the universality of this verse hate the particularity of this verse. And let me show that to you. It begins by saying something about the love of God and the object of God's affection. God so loved what? The world. And let me finish this for you. According to contemporary understandings of John 3:16, God so loved the world that He gave Christ and saves everybody in the world.

People draw from this text, a doctrine of universal salvation that God loves the world so much, He saves everybody, but obviously that's not what the text says. And those who are particularist and Armenian say that God loved the world enough to provide a way of salvation for everybody in it. Let's get rid of this election business and predestination doctrine. John 3 doesn't say that either.

What John 3 says is that God's love is so deep and so profound. He loved the world enough to send His only begotten son. Now, let me tell you what this doesn't mean. He did not love the world enough to send five saviors: Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius. That if God were really loving, he would provide avatars galore that He would provide a smorgasbord of salvation, where everybody can believe their own religion and that's okay because God loves the whole world enough that He's not so narrow-minded, not so exclusive that He requires faith in Christ. Because doesn't the Bible say that God loves the world? Yes, the Bible said he loves the world. And He loves the world how much? Enough to send His monogenes. Enough to send his one and only son.

I warn people that if the end of their life, if they stand before God, they better not say, "God, why were you not loving enough to provide 15 saviors?" Consider this scenario. Suppose that there actually is a God in heaven. And suppose this God in heaven created the whole world and everybody in it. And suppose among the birds and the fish and the animals, He gave the most exalted position in all of creation to this one, to whom He gives us image called human beings. And He says to them, "You will be Holy, even as I am Holy." And suppose 15 minutes after He makes them, they revolt against him. After He says, if you do this, you will die. And they do that. And He said, "Well, I'll tell you what. I'm going to provide a way to escape that judgment."

And He speaks to Abraham out of paganism, brings him to himself, says, "I'm going to make you the father of a great nation." Suppose He does that. And then He blesses all of the descendants of Abraham and then expands to a whole nation and said, "Through this nation, I'm going to bless the whole world." But this nation repeatedly turns against God. And so God sends prophets to these people and tells them to come back to him, to come back to him as an unfaithful spouse returns to their partner and they kill the prophets.

And then finally, this God says, "I'll tell you what. I love you so much that even though you are stiff neck people, I'm going to send my eternal only begotten son into this planet and I am going to subject him to you." And He sends his son and the people rise up against His son and crucify him. And yet God loves them enough in all of this, that while they're in the act of killing them, God takes the sins of his people and transfers them to His own son. And said, "Look, if you'll put your trust in him, if you'll confess your sins and you believe in him, if you turn your gaze upon Jesus and you do that, here's what. No death, no punishment. I'm going to give you eternal life with no pain, no tears, no evil, no darkness."

And suppose He did that. Would you have the guts to come up God and say, "God, you haven't done enough for this world. I hate you." Are you one of those that gets angry when you hear there's only one way to God. The question is why should there be one? Not why's there only one. It's why is there one at all? Well, God loves the world enough to send the only one. But think about the depths of the love that God has displayed by giving us Christ, whose name is not worthy to be mentioned in the same breath with that of Mohammed or Buddha or Confucius or anybody else as God has one son who from all eternity, beheld the glory of the father came from the bosom of the father to be lifted up on a cross that anyone who puts their trust in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.