Learning John 3:16

No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
~ John 6:44, John 3:16

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. ~ Isaiah 53:6

And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.
~ Numbers 21:8

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. We love him, because he first loved us.
~ Romans 5:8,2 Corinthians 5:19, 1 John 4:19

The Son of Man Must Be Lifted Up, by RC Sproul.

Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
~ John 3:9-21

With the start of this section we see a reference by Christ to Moses lifting up the serpent. We look into the Old Testament source quote found in Numbers 21:4-9 that related an incident where the Israelites complained about being fed with manna and the ensuing result. We look back at the relationship this has to Nicodemus, and discuss John 3:16 correcting common distortions of the verse.

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
– John 3:14–15

Because Jesus has seen heavenly things and has come to speak of them to us, we have good warrant to believe Him. Not only that, but we must believe Him, for He brings us the very message of heaven itself (John 3:9–13). Today’s passage expands on this point, giving us the central element of this heavenly message that makes the difference between eternal life and eternal death.

Our Lord refers to the story of Israel’s judgment in the wilderness as recorded in Numbers 21:4–9 to set up His message. In this episode, the Israelites again were complaining to God about their conditions even though He had graciously saved them from slavery in Egypt. To punish them for their grumbling, God sent a plague of fiery serpents. When the people began dying from the venomous snakes, they called out for relief, and the Lord had Moses craft a bronze serpent and hoist it on a pole. The Israelites who had been bitten by the snakes were healed if they looked upon the bronze serpent, but those who would not follow the command to look on the bronze serpent died.

Jesus says that in a similar way, He will be lifted up and that those who look upon Him in faith will live. But how is Jesus lifted up? The Greek verb translated in John 3:14 as “lifted up” appears in John’s gospel also in 8:28; 12:32; and 12:34. In each of these instances, the reference is to Jesus’ being lifted up on the cross, so when Jesus speaks of His being lifted up, He is speaking of His crucifixion, of His atoning death on the cross of Calvary. It is also notable that the same Greek verb can refer to the exaltation of a person, and in John’s gospel, the crucifixion is tied closely to our Saviour’s exaltation. For Jesus to be lifted up is for Him to die for sin, but that death cannot be separated from the resurrection and exaltation that validate God’s acceptance of Jesus’ death as atonement and grant Him the authority to save all who come to Him in faith. Jesus’ message is very simple: He has come to earth to die and be raised, and all who believe on Him will receive eternal life. As Augustine of Hippo comments in a sermon on today’s passage, “Just as they who looked on that serpent perished not by the serpent’s bites, so they who look in faith on Christ’s death are healed from the bites of sins.”

In summary, then, we must be born again to have eternal life. But not only that, we must also believe in Jesus. And we know that all who are born again will not fail to trust in Christ (John 6:44).

No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
~ John 6:44

People are looking for salvation in many different places—in their bank accounts, relationships, careers, families, and so on. There is, however, only one place where salvation can be found, and that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. To search for rest and ultimate fulfilment in anything else is to commit idolatry. Are you trusting in Christ alone today, or are you looking for hope elsewhere?

The simple reality is this: everyone who is truly a Christian is born again. There are no other kinds of Christians. There is no such thing as a non-born-again Christian or an unregenerate Christian. Yes, there are plenty of unregenerate church members and plenty of unregenerate people who profess to be Christians, but a person cannot be in Christ unless he or she is regenerate.

If you have in your heart today any affection for Christ at all, it is because God the Holy Spirit in his sweetness, in his power, in his mercy, and in his grace has been to the cemetery of your soul and has raised you from the dead.

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