A Little Love for John 3:17, Please

Posted on January 18, 2023


By David Ettinger

Overlooked Verse
John 3:16 is probably the most famous Bible verse in the world. There is good reason for this as its message is crucial. However, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is encompassed by 2 equally crucial verses that should not be overlooked.

Unfortunately, these 2 verses are overlooked, but deserve to be studied. In this blog, I’d like to do a brief examination of the “post John 3:16” verse, John 3:17. What it says about our Lord is every bit as important as what is said about Him in John 3:16.

A Matter of Condemnation
The ESV version of John 3:17 reads: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

The main message here is that Jesus came to Earth to save the lost. Why did He come to save the lost? Because, as the next verse tells us, “whoever does not believe [in Jesus] is condemned already” (v. 18). And verse 36 affirms this: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

Notice the word “remain.” The world is already in a condemned state, doomed to the wrath of God. John 3:17 makes clear that Jesus came into the world to save unbelieving individuals from their state of condemnation.

The Nature of God
John 3:17 speaks volumes about one particular aspect of God’s nature: God does not delight in the death of the wicked; rather, He desires that all individuals be saved. We read:

  • “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23).
  • “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live” (Ezekiel 18:32).
  • “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
  • “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

John 3:17 is a striking visual of the above truth spoken of in those verses. God’s purpose in sending Jesus into the world was salvation, not damnation.

We learn from the above verses – as well as John 3:17 – that God is not a harsh, cruel ruler rubbing His hands together in glee at the prospect of pouring out His anger on humanity. Rather, as 2 Peter 3:9 tells us, He is patient with the unsaved, giving them time to repent of their sins, wanting to rescue them from their condemned condition, and “cross over from death to life” (John 5:24).

Furthermore as per John 3:17, Jesus could well have come into the world to condemn it. He could have come to Earth to say, “Enough. The cup of humanity’s iniquity is filled to overflowing, and I am here to punish it and pronounce judgment upon it.”

Though Jesus will do this at His return at the end of the age, He did not do so at His first advent. In fact, far from condemning, Jesus came to suffer, bleed, and die on a Roman cross that the world would be saved through Him!

A Worthy Verse
So yes, John 3:16 is the Bible’s most popular verse, but John 3:17 is equally as worthy and deserves to be taught and studied just as much – if not equally memorized.

John 3:17 makes clear that Jesus came not as the condemner to eternal damnation of unbelievers, but as the Savior and giver of eternal life to those who would believe in Him.

So, believer, how about a little love for John 3:17, please?