Believing to the Point of Salvation

Weekly Devotional 1-9-23
John 3:16 Believing to the Point of Salvation
John 3:16 is probably one of the easiest verses in scripture to memorize
and one of the most used verses in evangelism, but it may also be one of
the most misunderstood. Consider: “For God so loved the world that He
gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not
perish but have everlasting life.” A great verse for sure but taking it out
of context has caused many to believe that they are saved from eternal
damnation because they believe in Jesus without committing themselves
to Him. Please take note of the word should. In its contextual usage does
it not say “whosoever believes in Jesus may-not perish? I bring this to
mind because I have a friend who believes that he is saved because of
believing that verse, but his life testifies otherwise. When reading the
entire passage (John 3:1-21) we soon learn that the verse is not passive
but is active, that it calls for action by the hearer.
We read: “1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler
of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi,
we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these
signs that You do unless God is with him.’ 3 Jesus answered and said to
him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see
the kingdom of God.’
4 Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old?
Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ 5 Jesus
answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and
the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of
the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not
marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows
where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it
comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.’
9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, ‘How can these things be?’
10 Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel, and do
not know these things? 11 Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what
We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our
witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how
will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?
13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from
heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted
up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that
whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but
that the world through Him might be saved.
18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not
believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of
the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the
light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light,
because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the
light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21
But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly
seen, that they have been done in God.’”
Certainly, a person is granted spiritual rebirth from above. The passage
expressly says that it is the Holy Spirit who rebirths one to newness of
spiritual life, but is that granting void of the response of the hearer? No,
not according to Jesus. He pointed out that a person must respond
positively by faith to the solicitation of the Holy Spirit by linking that
response to an incident that occurred during the wilderness wanderings of
Israel as they were traveling toward the land that God had promised
Abraham. We read from the Old Testament Book Numbers, chapter 21:1-
9 >
1 The king of Arad, the Canaanite, who dwelt in the South, heard that
Israel was coming on the road to Atharim, then he fought against Israel
and took some of them prisoners. 2 So Israel made a vow to the Lord, and
said, ‘If You will indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly
destroy their cities.’ 3 And the Lord listened to the voice of Israel and
delivered up the Canaanites, and they utterly destroyed them and their
cities. So the name of that place was called Hormah. 4 Then they
journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the
land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the
way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses: ‘Why have
you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no
food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.’
6 So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the
people; and many of the people of Israel died. 7 Therefore the people
came to Moses, and said, ‘We have sinned, for we have spoken against
the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents
from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
8 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole;
and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.’
9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if
a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he
Throughout the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites, God was
constantly teaching them things about Himself and about their own
sinfulness. He brought them into the wilderness, to the same mountain
where He revealed Himself to Moses, so that He could instruct them in
what He required of them. Shortly after the amazing events at Mt. Sinai,
God brought them to the border of the Promised Land, but when the
people heard the reports from the spies, their faith failed. They said that
God could not overcome the giants in the land. As a result of this unbelief,
God sent them into the wilderness to wander until that generation died out
(Numbers 14:28-34).
In Numbers 21, the people again got discouraged, and in their unbelief
they murmured against Moses for bringing them into the wilderness. They
had already forgotten that it was their own sin that caused them to be there,
and they tried to blame Moses for it. As a judgment against the people for
their sin, God sent poisonous serpents into the camp, and people began to
die. This showed the people that they were the ones in sin, and they came
to Moses to confess that sin and ask for God’s mercy. When Moses prayed
for the people, God instructed him to make a bronze serpent and put it on
a pole so the people could be healed (Numbers 21:5-7).
God was teaching the people something about faith. It is illogical to think
that looking at a bronze image could heal anyone from snakebite, but that
is exactly what God told them to do. It took an act of faith in God’s plan
for anyone to be healed, and the serpent on the stick was a reminder of
their sin which brought about their suffering.
In the case of Nicodemus (A ruling religious leader of Israel) it was the
same. He needed to understand that sin had caused him to be spiritually
separated from God (He was spiritually dead toward God). No amount of
religion could save him, only trusting in and committing to God’s
provision could accomplish that.
The point is, the Israelites of the Numbers account and the Jews of the
New Testament era and all other people must move beyond the point of
just believing facts about Jesus to trusting in and committing to Him for
their salvation. But what does that mean? It means that a person
understands that he is a sinner, separated from God, lost, and will reap
what he has sown. Recognizing this, he repents (He turns away from his
sinful lifestyle to God’s provision, Jesus) seeking forgiveness. I believe
that this may be what is meant by the word should in John 3:16. At least
I hope what is written in this offering has caused you to think.
Transforming Power; the Work of God on Behalf of Man

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