This verse is well-known among Sunday School children. It is perhaps the most foundational verse in the Bible. The entire Christian faith is established in the simple truth of this one verse. Ask any Christian who has been a Christian for more than six months to quote John 3:16 and nearly every one of them can say it verbatim without even thinking about it. Yet perhaps few really do take the time to think about it. This verse is often casually overlooked rather than esteemed as a profound revelation of who God is. It has become a cliché among God’s people.
The most thought-provoking phrase in John 3:16 is the truth that says, “Because God so valued and dearly treasured the world and all those living in it, He gave.” In many places throughout Scripture, God’s conditions for blessing are clear. Yet when God gave the blessing of His Son, that gift was given with no strings attached. It was simply a demonstration of His deep and passionate desire to have intimate fellowship with those who would come to Him of their own free will. He demanded nothing. He simply made available a Bridge to span the spiritual gap. And God risked everything to do so.
The love that God demonstrated is beyond the human capability to understand. When humans think of love, they think of a physical affection or a brotherly fondness. It is incomprehensible that such a sovereign God could love such a depraved and debauched society. It is equally incomprehensible that such a sovereign God could give such a valuable gift to such a depraved and debauched society knowing that so few would receive it. Yet this is exactly what God did. The love spoken of in John 3:16 is “agapao,” meaning God’s active and purposeful compassion, mercy, grace brought forth in the form of His Son Jesus Christ for a specific purpose.
God made the conscious decision to give though He had received nothing from mankind at the time. No obedience, no allegiance, no intimate fellowship, nothing of any real long-term value had been given. The birth of Jesus Christ was not God repaying mankind for a favor they had done. Likewise, Jesus was not a payment to mankind for something they had earned. God gave out of Himself, through His Son, to ultimately pay the penalty for sins that neither He nor Jesus Christ had committed. All of this because He so dearly loved His most treasured of all of Creation.