Has anyone heard of John 3:16 before? It is a memory verse that I am sure most of the Western world has seen or heard at least one time. But what is not often matched with John 3:16 is the following verse in 17. We read in 16 that God loves the world so much that he sent his Son. That is then matched with the declaration that Jesus came into the world not so that the world would be condemned, but rather that it would be saved. That is a crucial part of this chapter. Jesus came not to condemn, but to save. The verses that follow 17 give a great road map as to how that salvation works. Those who believe in Jesus are not condemned. I hope that doesn’t sound too simplistic, but really there is no other path as we will be reading a little later on in John 14. This is the consistency that we find in this Gospel. Jesus is the way, he is the only way. There are no other paths that lead to heaven except through Jesus Christ. There is only one God and that God is the one who is fully revealed in Jesus Christ. Any other worshiping community that lifts up the name of God but is not in the name of Jesus Christ as Lord and God, is only following false idols and false gods.
There is an incredible tension in our culture today to make sure that you take a stand on either inclusivity or exclusivity. John 3:16 is incredibly inclusive. God loved the world, the whole world and the purpose of Jesus is so that the entire world can be saved. But there is no denying an exclusive aspect to our Christian faith. The salvation of humanity revolves around Jesus. Even John the Baptist recognizes this as he states in a quote that we use often at First Presbyterian before our Sunday morning worship: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” The signs that we talked about in the previous chapter all point to Jesus as Lord, Messiah, and God.
Getting back to the beginning of the chapter we do find ourselves with Nicodemus who asks the question: What does being born again mean? I do not hesitate to use that term born again even with the negative baggage that comes with it. I know that from the Greek it could mean literally born from above, but the question that Nicodemus follows up with: “Can one enter a second time into a mother’s womb?”, makes one think that Jesus must have said born again. Nicodemus takes him literally and is completely confused. Being born again is a result of our desire and our will being put on hold and Jesus coming in and taking full control of our lives. Nicodemus knew that Jesus was someone special. No one else could do what he was doing. That is the same realization that we have. Only Jesus is able to answer the prayers that we have seen him answer.