4 things to help you understand John 3.16 better:
- John 3.16 is an explanation of John 3.13-15. The most famous verse in the world starts off with the word “for.” It explains why the Father sent the Son into the world. Verses 13-15 explain the purpose for Jesus coming into the world, namely, to be lifted up on the cross. Verse 16 explains the cause of the Son coming into the world, namely, for God so loved the world.
- John 3.16 is an explanation of how God loved the world. Do not forget the word “so.” For God, IN THIS WAY, loved the world: He gave His One and Only Son! We can tell that God loves the world sooooo much because we know the Father loves the Son sooooo much more, and yet He gave Him into the world to be lifted up on the cross.
- The “world” of John 3.16 is the “world” of John 3.19. The Light has come into the world, and yet mankind loves the darkness! It was not that mankind was loveable or worthy to be redeemed. It was a dark and sinful world that God loved in such a way so as to send His One and Only Son.
- John 3.16 needs to be explained by John 3.17. The next verse also starts with the word “for.” John felt the need to explain to people further that the Son was sent into the world to save the world. The picture of the Son of God from the OT was that he was a fierce and dreadful Judge (Psalm 2); yet John said that the Father loved the world in such a way that he sent His Son and whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
The best way to understand verses 16-21 is that it is John’s own reflections on the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. He thought about how everyone needs to be born again, and the only way this new life came about was by the Father sending His Son into the world, and he thought to himself, “For God so loved the world…”