John 3:16 – God Actually Gave His Only Son

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Raymond Brown translates John 3:16, “Yes, God so loved the world so much that He gave the only Son, that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” In his commentary he makes a case for translating “gave” as “actually gave”, pointing out that the emphasis in this verse is on God’s giving. Why do we need emphasis on the giving?

  1. It is hard for some to believe God would become a mortal man. In the Greek literature Salmoneus was a man who decided he wanted to be equal with Zeus and actually began telling people he was Zeus. Zeus punished him for his arrogance. It is natural for mortal man to want to be immortal divinity and unnatural in our thinking for the divine to become a part of mortal humanity.
  2. It clears up the confusion of an unkind God sending his Son to suffer and die. God gave  him…all of him…because of God’s great love for us.
  3. It reminds us that these are real events that really did happen. This is not some great myth or fairy tale. God really did send Jesus to bring life into a dead and lifeless world.
  4. Good intentions don’t cut it. What if God intended to actually give His only Son but never did a good job on the follow through?

Imagine how much different our lives would be if John 3:16 actually read, “For God so loved the world that he held onto His only Son so that men might not have a chance to believe in Him and in so doing lose their chance at having eternal life.” Instead, God actually gave his only Son for us. Like Father, like Son…Jesus himself did not consider his divinity something to be eagerly or greedily held onto…instead he gave himself on the cross for us (Phil 2:6-8).

I am so thankful for God’s generosity and not just His “one time shot” generosity through Christ. I am thankful for the generous mercy He has for each and every one of His children every single day of our lives. The giving just keeps going and going and going. And God expects us to continue on His great tradition of generosity (Col 3:12-14).

What are we actually giving in response and which parts are still just good intentions?

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