Monday, June 9, 2014

John 3:16

This Sunday's gospel includes this famous verse. Probably the most memorized verse in all scripture. 
16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 
The first point to make is that this is often used as a proof text for Sola Fide or Faith Alone. That is it talks about whosoever BELIEVES. That means faith. Or does it? Dave Armstrong is good for responding to these classic proof texts:
The word for "believe" is pistuo (Strong's #4100). It includes in its meaning obedience, not mere mental assent. Thus it is contrasted with disobedience (apitheo) in Jn 3:36, as if it were a synonym for obedience (cf. 1 Peter 2:7, using the same two Greek words). Thus, this would apply to classic evangelistic verses such as Jn 3:16, Rom 1:16, 4:24, 9:33, and 10:9. 
The English language does not really have a word that conveys this idea of belief and along with a reordering or your life around that belief. I sometimes use the word "embrace" to mean that but that brings to mind a physical picture not really present in pistuo. I wonder if it is more common today for people to sign on to a creed and not really change they way they live all that much. I suspect that when John wrote his gospel there was not much question of whether you would live what you believe. Being Christian was illegal so you didn't join just for appearances. 

This is not a complete misuse of the text. There is a definite emphasis on God as Savior rather than God as judge. Whether you are judged guilty or not is not what matters. What matters is whether you believe, in the broader sense that implies obedience, yet it is believing that matter. Salvation is not avoiding the wrath of God but having that wrath removed (Jn 3:36). This is said to a pharisee named Nicodemus. It blew his mind. 

The other thing that is in view here is baptism. Again, Jesus is not saying Salvation has nothing to do with baptism as some would suggest. Baptism is mentioned just a few verses later in Jn 3:22. More importantly, Jesus begins this thought with the idea of being "born again" or being "born of water and the spirit." They are all tied together. 

This brings us to what is supposed to be the main topic, the trinity. Sunday is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. They are all here. God the Father sent His only begotten son. The church understands that to be eternally begotten. There was no moment of begetting before which Jesus did not exist. 

The Holy Spirit is mentioned earlier and later in the chapter. Not sure why the gospel is only 3 verses this week. Still the Holy Spirit is compared to the wind. We become born of the spirit and we are able to live in the spirit. It is the love of God animating us on a whole new level. We had forgotten how to live that that way. 

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