The Two John 3:16s

Did you know that there are two John 3:16s in the Bible? And what is interesting is they both tells us about the love of God and the sacrifice of God.

Of course the most famous John 3:16 is in the Gospel of John which says, “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.”

In this verse we see the love the Father has for the world he created. And we are told that this was not just a casual love but a love that led to a very personal sacrifice. He so loved the world that gave his only son. That is what true love does –it gives.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 defines love this way: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Biblical love is defined not by how we feel toward someone but by what we do toward someone. And more specifically, how we give of ourselves toward someone. When I am patient and kind I am loving in a manner in which I change my actions for the benefit of someone else. And so when God so loved the world, he did not just grieve that our sin separated us from him. His love did not just produce an emotional reaction as he watched from the distance. But his love caused him to give of himself. Specifically, it caused him to give up his only son who would lay down his life on a cross for our sake.

When God loved he displayed a love that required both sympathy and sacrifice. John 3:16 is a wonderful glimpse into the compassionate heart of the Father.

But there is also another John 3:16.

The second one is found in 1 John 3:16. And in this verse we get a glimpse into the heart of the Son.

1 John 3:16 says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

In this verse we see that the Son also loved the world. And that love caused him to give himself fully to us by being our substitute and laying down his own life to pay the penalty for our sins.

In both of these verses we are given the example what biblical love does as demonstrated by God. Love sacrifices. But these verses are not simply for us to know what God did for us but they are given so that we would know how to love. We are called to also sacrifice.

1 John 3:16 does not end with the actions of the Son but a call for us to love others the same way Christ loved us. And while the context of 1 John is relationships with fellow Christians, I do not believe the call to sacrifice is not exclusive to fellow Christians because the emphasis in both 3:16s is a love that sacrifices so that others may have life in Christ.

Paul spoke of this sacrificial love toward everyone when he wrote, “So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen” (2 Timothy 2:10).

He sacrificed himself for the sake of future brothers and sisters in Christ.

John 3:16 and 1 John 3:16 shows us that our compassion toward the world requires both sympathy and sacrifice. It requires that we do not sit on the sidelines and hope that others would surrender their lives to Christ. But the love demonstrated in the two 3:16s says we are to give of ourselves sacrificial for the sake of the Gospel.

It is not enough for us to pray for the salvation of others. (And we are certainly called to do that). But we must love the world in a manner in which we give of ourselves for this world. And so would you ask God that he would give you a love for those around you that would lead to you sacrificially giving of youself?

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