John 3:16 (Misinterpreted Scriptures)

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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.

Misinterpretation: I have heard several UPC preachers say that this Scripture does not say that people will be saved if they believe on Christ, it only says that they should be saved. Many of them then go on to say that a person who truly believes will be baptized in Jesus’ Name and speak in tongues, at which point they will actually be saved. I am ashamed to admit that I once taught this view.

Facts: The context of the Scripture makes it clear that Jesus is saying that those who believe on Him will be saved. To understand this point, let’s look at the verses immediately preceding John 3:16:

Joh 3:14-15 KJV
(14) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
(15) That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

In this passage Jesus is explaining to Nicodemus how a man will be "born again." Nicodemus had asked Jesus, "How can these things be?" Jesus responds by comparing Himself with the bronze serpent that Moses created. The story of the bronze serpent is not very well known, so you may want to take a moment to read it. It is found in Numbers 21:1-9.

The summary of the story is that God sent fiery serpents into the camp of Israel, and many were bitten and were dying. God commands Moses to create a serpent and to lift it up on a pole. Moses does this by creating a serpent from bronze. When the serpent was lifted up, everyone who looked at the serpent was healed.

Returning to John, Jesus compares Himself to this serpent. He tells Nicodemus that He will be lifted up as well (referring to His death on the Cross) and that whoever believes on Him will have eternal life. So, once the Scripture is read in context, it becomes clear that Jesus is saying that those who believe on Him will be saved.

Interestingly enough, all of this is relating to being born again of the Spirit. The method that Jesus outlines is for a person to believe on Him. This is the antithesis of the UPC view that says a person must pray and pray and pray and humble themselves until they are "filled with the Holy Ghost" and speak in tongues.

8 thoughts on “John 3:16 (Misinterpreted Scriptures)

  1. Glenn Frazier

    They that believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. All of this boils down to one thing, a Personal; Choice of whether or not to follow Jesus And also we cannot for one minute think or believe that all we have to do is to believe to be saved. Because the Devil also Believe in Jesus and he is Damned for all eternity

    1. Josh (Site Admin) Post author

      Brenda,

      I’m going to sidestep the question about the word “Trinity” because that’s a topic I’ve never dealt with directly on this site. I might do it in the future, but the Oneness vs. Trinity debate had no bearing on me leaving the UPC so it doesn’t fit with the current design of the site.

      To answer your question in a general sense, though, technically any word that you use will not be in the Bible unless you happen to speak koine Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic. Even if you did speak those languages you would still use words and phrases that were not directly in the Bible. Why? Because the concepts often are. For example, the words “Jesus is God” are not in the Bible, but the concept behind those words is. Therefore I can stand behind a pulpit and preach a sermon about the deity of Christ without feeling any guilt or shame.

      The same goes for the Trinity and the rapture. The majority of Christians firmly believe that the concept of the Trinity is found in the Bible. A smaller but still significant percentage believe that the concept of the rapture is there as well. Whether or not those are valid concepts is a discussion for another time and place. The point, though, is that a word does not have to be explicitly found in Scripture for it to be used.

      In Christ,
      Josh S.

  2. Josh (Site Admin) Post author

    Celeste, here’s one simple question for you: Do you want to follow God? If the answer is “Yes” then please don’t worry. God will not let you be led astray.

    Period.

    Scripture is full of examples of Jesus going out of His way to reach people. He went into Samaria to reach a woman who had been married 5 times and was currently living with a man who was not her husband. He met with a Pharisee named Nicodemus at night and had possibly the most famous conversation of history. He went to the “ghettos,” if you will, and ministered to the sick, the demon possessed, the prostitutes, the Gentiles, and more.

    This is the same Christ that is now ministering to YOU! Is it really possible for Satan to override His power? Is it possible for Satan to step into the work that Christ wants to do in your life, and to turn it into evil?

    I think not.

    He’s proved that He is stronger than the flesh, and He’s proved that He’s stronger than Satan.

    Jesus summed it up clearly when He said:

    “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30 NIV)

    If you want to be saved, Celeste, then you will. Why? Because no one can snatch you from God’s hand. If you want to be lost then you’re going to have to run kicking and screaming from God =). He’ll travel into the night to find the one sheep that’s lost. He’ll search the house looking for the 10 coins that were lost. He’ll travel to the worst places that we can imagine–even to a bloody Cross and to hell itself–just so YOU can be saved.

    Satan has not power over you. Not when you’re a child of God. And not when you’re TRYING to be a child of God! So please, don’t be afraid =)

    ~ Josh S.

  3. Celeste M.

    I recently left my oneness church for several reasons, but something that I never heard while I was in the “truth” was this scripture 1 Timothy 2:5 KJ version “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” Now I am throw for a loop on what I thought I had a grasp on. It seems everything that I found they had good reason for eventhough it wasn’t point blank in the scriptures is now just a good reason and I am not knowing is this my flesh taking over leads from the devil or am I finally come onto the path Jesus really is calling me for. anyhow Help help help please.

  4. Josh (Site Admin) Post author

    Truth is Freedom wrote: “Josh, can you please explain to me the John 10:30? Are they one physically? Or one in doing the works? Or are they in unity? answer me please.”

    @ Truth is Freedom:

    First, let me say that I really enjoyed your post. You brought out some excellent points!

    In answer to your question, I need to offer a disclaimer! I do not consider myself an expert on Trinitarian theology. I think there are a lot of people on the ‘Net who could give you a better answer than me, but I’ll do my best :)

    The word “one” in John 10:30 (“I and my Father are one” NASB) is the Greek word εἷς, and it means “the first cardinal numeral” (W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville: T. Nelson, 1996), 2:446.)).

    Of course, the one word can have many nuances of meaning, depending on the context. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary goes on to define 5 different ways the word can be used, along with sub-meanings and corresponding Scripture references.

    However, with John 10:30 I do not think it is necessary to delve into the Greek language to understand the meaning. I feel that the context of John 10:30 makes the meaning quite clear!

    In John 10:24 some Jews demand to know if Jesus is the Christ [Messiah]. He answers them:

    Joh 10:25-29 NASB
    Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

    And then He concludes His speech with this phrase:

    “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30 NASB).

    The very next Scripture says that the Jews immediately picks up stones to stone Jesus with. Jesus asks them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” The Jews respond, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” (John 10:31-33 NASB).

    So I think the context surrounding John 10:30 makes the meaning perfectly clear. Jesus claimed to be one with the Father. In other words, He claimed to be God. The Jews understood His meaning because they immediately prepared to stone Him, based on the fact that He “[made Himself] out to be God.” There issue was not with His works, but with His claim to deity.

    Now, I do not know whether Jesus was claiming to be one in unity or essence with the Father, or claiming to be the Father in physical form. To be honest, it really doesn’t matter to me. (Although I do certainly believe that Jesus was fully God in human form.) I do not think that understanding *how* Jesus was God is a pre-requisite to entering Heaven! No one will get a theology test at the Pearly Gates asking us if we understand the Trinity or Oneness. I understand the need for theologians to debate these things, but I do not deal with it much on this site because I think the important thing is to understand that Jesus was and is God. Anything beyond that is outside the scope of this site :). I frankly don’t know how Jesus “emptied Himself” (Phil. 2:5-8)…what matters is that He did :)

    In Christ,
    Josh S.

  5. TRUTH is FREEDOM

    Is the Acts 2:38 the only reading passage regarding salvation? I’m afraid not. Salvation by grace can be read in the book of Ephesians, try to read it and see for yourself. Acts 2:38 says that if you believed in Jesus Christ and repented your sins then you should be baptized in the authority of Jesus Christ, which we go back to Matthew 28:18-19, wherein he said that all authority/power has been given to HIM in heaven and in earth, go therefore and baptize them in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and back to Acts 2:38, wherein Peter said, ye shall receive the GIFT of THE HOLY GHOST. It doesn’t mean, you SHALL receive the holy ghost, but the GIFT that you must receive which is ETERNAL LIFE, and that is the gift of the HOLY GHOST. Acts 2:38 did not say that you must speak in tongues in order for you to receive the HOLY GHOST as what had happened on Acts 2:4. Remember, the languages they used are intelligible languages because some people knew the languages they are speaking, read Acts 2:4-13. The church will start in Jerusalem, and they did it. That was the promise that they will be the witnesses in all parts of the world, not we or the Azusa Street. History will not repeat any more. The devil wants to deceive many of us. All must come to know JESUS CHRIST by FAITH..

    Josh, can you please explain to me the John 10:30? Are they one physically? Or one in doing the works? Or are they in unity? answer me please.

  6. Jade

    If u truly believe on the lord, u will follow ALL of his word and not just the scriptures u want to! Therefore u will follow Acts 2:38!

    p.s. I’m sensing some true conviction! U have taken ur time to try and prove UPCs wrong! Y try so hard if ur not convincing ur heart???

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