The role of the Holy Spirit
Grasping God’s Word Assignment 12-1
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16 (NIV)
A learned intellectual interprets John 3:16
A man with 2 Ph.Ds specialising in NT studies who has not believed and encountered God in the Spirit would have a cognitive understanding of the passage. He might discuss it in this way:
“The passage says that “God” loved the world so much that he gave his “son” for it. According to this passage by John the mechanism for living for eternity is to believe in “the son”, i.e. the man Jesus. I would say that it is true that anyone who has the Christian faith can be deluded into thinking they will live forever and that that is not a bad thing. For most people, having the hope that they will live forever should keep them happy through difficult times. It is noticeable that the Christian gospel has a great effect in poor countries where the consolations of this life are far less and the hope for an eternal life of happiness most required.
Jesus was a man, an extraordinary man, but simply believing in him could not make someone live forever and, obviously, doesn’t since all people die. Though I can see how people who do believe in him must be consoled in difficulty, I cannot see how doing so could possibly make people live forever.
Anyway the idea that God, if he exists in the form described in the NT, would have a son is foolishness and the whole idea expressed in this passage is also foolishness if interpreted in a literal sense. But the message in this passage is one of the best means there is for pacifying and comforting people in trouble with no other hope, as so many are in this world,.”
A mature believer interprets John 3:16
This is how a mature believer (like me) might interpret it:
“When I met God on the back of a bus travelling from Mullingar to Galway on May 7th 1980, one of the first things He did was convict me of the truth of all the Scriptures including this one. I believe that God is and that He is good. I believe He has a Son, Jesus Christ my Lord and Saviour, whom He sent to earth, who came of His own volition and who died a horrible death so that my sins might be taken out of the way and so I can have eternal life.
The life to come is not an extension of the time frame of this present body I am in but a new life in a new eternal body which is maintained by the Spirit of God Himself.
I continue to believe and act accordingly since I have the Spirit of God in me leading me into all truth.
I continually remember Jesus’ death and resurrection and continue to believe and receive eternal life, the deposit of which starts in this life with the Holy Spirit within me. I don’t just have a cognitive understanding of this passage but a fully engaged, continuing life experience with the author of it.”
A 9 year old child interprets John 3:16 having just given her life to Jesus
“Daddy, Jesus died for me!”