John 3:16 book

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John 3:16 book

Post by mattrose » Fri Nov 02, 2012 7:40 pm

I'm in the process of writing a short little book all about John 3:16. My goal is to limit it to about 10 very short chapters and about 60 total pages (in a small-sized book). I'm nearing completion of the rough draft, which has been quite easy to write since the whole thing is based on the series I just taught on this famous passage.

My goal is to make the book readable in 2 ways. First, I want it to be the kind of book you could easily read in 1 sitting. Second, I want it to be the kind of book you could use as a daily devotional. I'm specifically designing it so each 'thought' is 1 page long, but it flows from thought to thought.

I wanted to post different sections of the rough draft as I complete them in order to get some feedback. You will find these sections below. Thanks for any who read and/or provide helpful critique :)

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Re: John 3:16 book

Post by mattrose » Fri Nov 02, 2012 7:41 pm


From ballgames to bumpers to Bibles, the reference ‘John 3:16’ seems to pop up all over the place. It is likely the most well known verse in the world, but does the world really know what it’s all about?

And what about believers? Could it be that we have been able to quote these words for so long that we have not taken the time to re-examine them for some years? At least one Christian author believes that it is “one of the most mistranslated, misunderstood, and misapplied verses in the Bible.” Could that be true?

Join us as we take a fresh look at this powerful passage. We’ll take the advice of popular Christian author Max Lucado when he suggests of John 3:16, “If you know nothing about the Bible, start here. If you know everything about the Bible, return here.”

This book studies John 3:16 by focusing on keywords. My hope is that by books’ end readers will have a better understanding of the nature of God and man, who Jesus is and what he came to do, and what will and will not happen to those who put their faith in Him.

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Re: John 3:16 book

Post by mattrose » Fri Nov 02, 2012 7:42 pm


On Monday, January 12th of 2012, “John 3:16” was the most popular Google search in the world. One by one, people punched their ticket to find out the message of this famous reference.

Why were so many people eager to read this particular passage on this particular Monday morning? Why was an almost 2,000 year old religious text suddenly the trendiest topic on the world wide web? The answer… Tim Tebow.

Just a day earlier, on Sunday, the quarterback of the Denver Broncos had helped his team upset the Pittsburgh Steelers in a wild-card playoff matchup. The game had gone into sudden-death overtime. On the first play from scrimmage, Tebow hit his wide receiver Demaryius Thomas in stride resulting in an 80 yard touchdown and the quickest ending to an overtime game in NFL history.

While the confetti was still settling, people began to notice that Tebow’s passing tally for the game had come to 316 yards. Having only completed 10 passes, his yards per completion was 31.6. Interestingly enough, it was later revealed that TV ratings for the game had peaked at 31.6% of U.S. households.

None of these numbers would have been noteworthy, however, had it not been for Tim Tebow. Exactly 3 years prior to the win over the Steelers, Tebow had led his college team, the Florida Gators to a national championship game victory while sporting the reference “John 3:16” (his favorite verse) on the grease marks under his eyes. Tebow is a Christian, and quite vocal about his faith.

And so on January 9th of 2012, in the aftemath of Tim Tebow’s 316 game, John 3:16 took center stage. The vast majority of those internet searches would have yielded a translation of John 3:16 from either the King James Version or the New International Version.

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 so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

It is impossible, of course, to know how people reacted to the results of their search. Some probably gave themselves a mental slap for not remembering the words they had learned at church as a child. Others may have turned defensive as soon as they realized they were reading something from the Bible. Most, though, likely took only about 10 seconds to read the verse and then went on with the rest of their day.

This book is written for those who desire to give this verse more than 10 seconds of their time. Maybe you were among the millions of searchers and would like to know more about the meaning of this famous Christian text. Or maybe you are a Christian who has been so familiar with the verse for so long that you have not actually thought about its message for a long time. If you fit either of these categories, this book is for you.

In these pages, we will attempt to understand the powerful message of John 3:16. It’s a message that has stood the test of time. John 3:16 was written in the 1st century. It was around long before Tim Tebow was born and it will be around long after he is gone from this earth.

Notice, though, that I didn’t say he would be gone completely. The truth contained in John 3:16 is so important because it shows us how to live forever. Tim Tebow claims to be a born-again believer, and assuming he is genuine, he will live forever because of the God spoken of in this great verse. John 3:16 is a matter of life and death, not just for Tim Tebow, but for you and me as well.

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Re: John 3:16 book

Post by Bud » Sat Nov 03, 2012 12:57 pm

Hi Matt,

I'm very interested to read your book on John 3:16. May God bless your efforts.

I like what I've read so far and think your doing good.

Just one thing to point out.
Shouldn't this:


On Monday, January 12th of 2012,"

Read: January 9th, the 12th was a Thursday.

God bless you and yours,
Last edited by Bud on Sat Nov 03, 2012 1:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Malachi 3:16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard [it,] and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name. (NASB) :)

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Re: John 3:16 book

Post by mattrose » Sat Nov 03, 2012 1:14 pm

yes, thanks for that catch :)

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Re: John 3:16 book

Post by mattrose » Sat Nov 24, 2012 7:38 pm

The Key Word Approach

As I write this little book, my little girl is learning to communicate better with words every day. When she first started talking, I couldn’t understand any of her words. As the months went on, she got better at speaking (and I got better at listening!). One by one, her words became clearer. Now, I understand most of them and we can communicate pretty well with each other. True communication increases as more and more of the words spoken are truly understood.

I have divided the body of this book into 7 chapters. In each chapter we will examine a keyword from John 3:16. It is my belief that if we understand the keywords of this great verse, God will have communicated with us some great truths… truths that are a matter of life and death. If we take the time to listen to each keyword of John 3:16, the overall message it is declaring will become more and more clear.

Please join me as we journey through John 3:16. It will take more than 10 seconds, but I have purposefully organized this book into manageable chunks so that the reader can process it in pieces and let the words sinks in. But whether you read it a little bit at a time, or all at once, it is my hope that this passage will truly serve as a passageway for you to a greater relationship with God.

Chapter 1 God

We’ve all seen it. Driving down a main thoroughfare, we see an individual or a group of individuals standing with religious signs. Sometimes the signs are peaceful (“God is love”) and other times… not so much (“God hates such and such a group”). The message can provoke agreement or anger. The signs can be ridiculed or ignored.

Imagine, for a moment, seeing a sign that simply shared the word GOD. Interestingly enough, even this one word would elicit a host of responses. There are a vast number of thoughts that people have about God these days.

In this chapter, I want to focus on four of the most popular appraisals of God in our culture. After that, we will examine what the word God means in John 3:16.

The Magic Myth

I used to spend a fair amount of time debating worldviews and theology on Internet message boards. There were a number of debates about the very existence of God. We live in a culture that, proudly, has a hard time believing in something (or Someone) that cannot be seen. Belief in God, to many, is equivalent to believing in the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus.

For such people, seeing a sign that simply said GOD might bring about a rolling of the eyes, a mocking statement, or perhaps a bit of pity for the naïve people wasting their time on the side of the road advocating a God who isn’t there. The question such people are answering is whether or not God is real. The answer they are giving is that God is not. For them, God is an unreasonable myth, a magical fairy-tale… either too good to be true, or actually not good at all.

But, truth be told, there are actually some professing Christians who accept this magical concept of God as a non-mythical reality. They think of God primarily as a source of miracles that can meet their material needs. As we will see, both the materialist (who doesn’t believe in God) and the magician (who thinks God is like their own personal genie in a bottle) are thinking of God in ways dramatically different than the author of John 3:16.

The Old Man Upstairs

While it is quite popular for Christians in the United States to suggest that the Founding Fathers of our country were all akin to today’s Evangelicals, the reality is not quite so simple. Many of the nation’s early leaders were deists.

Deists believe in God, but they don’t consider God to be active in the world. God wound the clock to get history started, but since then God is a mere observer. A deist wouldn’t have a problem with a sign saying God is love, as long as love was kept fairly vague and uneventful. The word God by itself, in such a worldview, might not provoke much passion at all.

The question for this group is whether or not God is active. Their answer is no. To them, God is like a retired Grandfather. In the distant past he did a bunch of stuff and you’re quite thankful for his part (after all, you wouldn’t be around if not for him!), but now he just watches and waits to see how things will turn out.

Of course, some Christians who would not consider themselves deists also fall into this category. They believe that God has been active in history from time to time. He was active in creation and certainly in and through Jesus Christ. But, for them, Jesus was God’s last word and he hasn’t spoken, or done much of anything, since. This also isn’t the God of John 3:16.

The Force that is With You

I was never much of a Star Wars fan (if you are, please don’t hold this against me… continue reading), but I understand the basic worldview behind it. In the Star Wars Universe, there is not so much a personal being known as God as there is an impersonal force in the very fabric of existence.

There are a lot of people with a Star Wars theology today. They wouldn’t want to say anything specific about God, lest they offend others who don’t share those specifics. They would rather speak of God as a vague force for good. He’s not transcendent over the material realm, he’s wholly within it. He is an it. Our role is to become in tune with this force.

The force philosophy is growing more and more popular in the Western Hemisphere. Adherents are asking the question of whether or not God is personal. They are answering with a no. The concept of a personal God sounds like it has too much potential to create a dictatorship. They prefer a God who can always be accessed, but is never bossy.

Christians are sometimes adherents to this concept of God as well. Some place the emphasis of their faith on their feelings and experiences. They don’t allow God’s word, church tradition, or human reason to get in the way of what they feel God is doing in their lives. Such feelings may lead them in many directions, but not necessarily toward the God of John 3:16.

The Angry Judge

One of the most famous sermons of all times was preached by a man named Jonathan Edwards. His sermon was titled, “Sinners in the hands of an angry God.” The sermon has had a large impact on theology ever since.

Few people, of course, would actually claim this (an angry judge) as their primary metaphor, but if our actual attitudes and practices have much to say, this idea of God is quite popular.

People have a sense of guilt over past actions. This guilt, coupled with the angry judge metaphor, leaves people in constant suspense. When will their verdict come down?

The question here is whether God is for us or against us. The answer, here, is that God is against us. He’s an angry judge just waiting for the opportunity to find you guilty.

Even serious Christians sometimes struggle with this concept. Some Christians imagine God the Father as an angry judge about to render a guilty verdict (and quite pleased to do so), but then the Son of God (Jesus) steps in and declares that he has taken the punishment upon himself instead. This view pits the Father against the Son, as if the former is against us and the latter is for us. But this idea, too, has nothing to do with John 3:16.

The God of John 3:16

The aforementioned ideas picture God as fake, old, vague, or mad. To put it negatively, they think of God as not real, not omnipotent, not personal, and not loving. Those pictures are not what we see in John 3:16. Let’s work backwards.

First, God is not an angry judge in John 3:16 and by no means is the Father pitted against the Son. The God of John 3:16 sacrificially loved the world. It was the Father who sent the Son so that the world may be saved. God is loving.

Second, God is not a mere force. Rather than being impersonal, He is source of relationship. In John 3:16, God has a Son. God can’t help but be personal because God had relationship even more people existed. God is a personal/relational being.

Third, God is not an old man upstairs. Our verse comes after a conversation between a Jewish rabbi and a Jewish pharisee. Do we really think they weren’t talking about the active God of the Old Testament? God is active.

Fourth, as Jews, they were talking about a God who really exists. The God of John 3:16 is the God who is responsible for creation and sovereign over it. We can’t reason God out of existence, nor can we manipulate Him. He is really God.

1 word briefly discussed, 6 more to go.

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Re: John 3:16 book

Post by mattrose » Mon Dec 03, 2012 2:46 pm

Chapter 2 LOVED

Love is a popular and powerful word. It is popular to the point of overuse. We love God. We love our families. We love our pets. We love sports and/or shopping. We love ice cream. It is powerful in the sense that when we use the word most seriously, it has the capacity to change the course of our lives. When it is put into practice, it can change the world.

Back to our Transit Road sign scenario. If we saw someone holding a sign that simply said love, it would provoke a vast array of responses. Some would think of romantic love. Others, family love. Others would think of the love of God.

In this chapter I want to consider what the word love does and does not mean in John 3:16. I’ll begin with the kind of love it is not and conclude with the kind of love it is.

I’m not a Greek expert, but even most non-experts are familiar with the fact that in the Greek language there were a number of words that we might translate into English with our word love. These are complicated words and I offer only general definitions in what follows.


One Greek word that we might translate as love is Eros. I understand eros to refer mostly to bodily attraction. This can be positive or negative. Eros love is positive when the mind is in charge and the body can be told no when appropriate. Eros is negative when the body is in charge and leads a person into sinful behavior.

In other words, eros love is a very natural thing, which is to say that God designed it and it has become corrupted. It is most often linked to our sexuality. It is wholly appropriate to yield to eros love in the context of God ordained marriage. It is inappropriate to yield to eros love outside of that context.

But one thing is clear about eros love. It implies some level of attractiveness in its object. It involves a bodily attraction to another body. There is something in that other that is attractive to the person experiencing eros love.

If eros is the Greek word behind ‘loved’ in John 3:16… this would mean that God has some sort of bodily attraction to us. This strikes me as false on two fronts. First, I’m not sure that God has ‘bodily attraction’ to anything. Second, I’m quite sure that we aren’t all that attractive to a holy God. God’s love is not based on our attractiveness. It is, then, not surprising that the Greek word in John 3:16 is not eros.


A second Greek word, sometimes translated as love in our Bibles, is Philia. From my studies, it seems that philia could be defined as mindful loyalty. If eros is primarily about the body, Philia is primarily about the mind. In philia love, there is something that binds two people together… some sort of common bond.

One example of philia love would be the love experienced by family members. Brothers and sisters do not always get along, but, ideally, there is a bond that keeps them in each other’s corner. Isn’t it interesting how a brother that constantly picks on his sister will step up to defend her when someone else tries to pick on her? That’s philia love.

Another example would be the love between close friends. I went to a small college where everyone pretty much knew everyone else, but over the years I have completely lost touch with many of my classmates. Others I stay in touch with, but only because of facebook. But there are some I connected with more deeply and we make it a point to stay in touch.

If philia is the Greek word behind ‘loved’ in John 3:16… this would mean that God and us have some common bond, that God and the world have a lot in common. But this is not what John 3:16 has in mind. A different word lies behind ‘loved.’


Another word often translated into english as love is agape. It has often been defined simply as unconditional love. To contrast it with our previous two words, then, we would say that agape love is not conditioned upon the attractiveness of the object, nor is it conditioned upon some common bond between the two parties. It is love without conditions.

Nevertheless, I think there is an even better definition for agape love. I would define it as active care. It is not bodily attraction (eros), nor is it mindful loyalty (phileo). Agape is active care, like the Good Samaritan offered to the man half-dead.

When you have agape love for someone, you’re really willing to make personal sacrifices for their benefit. This willingness, as we have said, need not have anything to do with who they are or what they have done. The Good Samaritan didn’t know anything about the man on the side of the road. He simply made the appropriate self-sacrifice to actively care for the man.

There is another interesting note about agape love It is the only love that God commands. We can’t be forced to find someone attractive or to have something in common with them. We either do or we don’t. But God can and does command us to actively care for people, because that is a decision of the will.

JOHN 3:16’s LOVE

As you may have guessed by now, agape love is the type of love referred to in John 3:16. In our verse, it is the verb form. God didn’t just have agape love for us, God did agape love for us. He actively cared for us.

If we read eros love into this passage, we end up thinking that God loved us SOOOOOO much. It ultimately speaks highly of us. We must have been pretty attractive to illicit this sort of attraction from God. If we think that’s how God loved us, we then assume that’s how we should love God back. In this scenario, our relationship with God becomes an emotional rollercoaster. In reality, it’s not “God SOOOOO loved,” it is God loved like so, in this manner. This is how God loved… He gave.

If we read phileo love into this passage, we end up thinking of God as some sort of universal Father and that we are all his children (no matter how we live). Our theology becomes ‘the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.’ But in doing so, we deceive ourselves. As John 3 makes clear, we must be ‘born-again’ to join this family.

That God loved, in John 3:16, has nothing to do with how attractive we are or how much we have in common with God. It has to do with God’s active care for us. He did something… that’s why it is ‘loved’ in the past tense.

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Re: John 3:16 book

Post by darinhouston » Tue Dec 04, 2012 10:51 am

Matt, I love your writing! Thanks for sharing

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Re: John 3:16 book

Post by mattrose » Thu Dec 06, 2012 3:29 pm

Thanks for the encouragement Darin :)

The following chapter is the one I am struggling with most. There's so much I want to say, here, but I do not want to get too detailed in a book of this sort. I could spend a chapter on the word WORLD and another chapter on the world GAVE (when I taught this series I did give both words a whole session), but I connect them so much that I don't think it's necessary... but the result of combining them is that I have to be too brief for my liking. So, like I said, I'm struggling with the best way to write this chapter (another issue is whether to include the 'answers' with the problem rather than at the end (as I have it below). In other words, this chapter is a complicated mess from my point of view.

But here's what I got...


Chapter 3 WORLD

The word ‘world’ in John 3:16 refers to the corrupted realm of humanity. That the ‘world’ has a problem is nearly universally recognized. Disagreements arise over blame. If you’re a Republican you might blame Democrats. If you’re lower class you might blame the upper class. If you’re an atheist you might blame the religious. If you’re a Red Sox fan you might blame the Yankees. But if you’re a Christian, what will your answer be?

What is the problem with the world? The Christian answer is not as simple as some make it out to be. I don’t think there is any one word answer to the question. In this chapter, I want to describe the problem from 5 different vantage points, as well as the 1 solution: Jesus Christ.

In psychology, a therapist will attempt to get at the root of a problem. Did something happen during childhood that led to your phobia? I’d like to go back to the root of our problems (Genesis 3). I’d also like to use an acrostic… because I’m a pastor and that’s just something a lot of us like to do.

The Problem with the…

W- War… we exist in enemy territory
O- Outlaws… we’ve broken the law
R- Relations… we’re thoroughly divided
L- Leaders… we lack quality examples
D- Disconnect… we’re broken from the source

Problem #1 War

What is our problem? Well, we’re at war. In fact, we exist in enemy territory… and the enemy is a murderous liar. It’d be surprising if the world WASN’T messed up!

At the root of our problem is the serpent of Genesis 3 which represented Satan. Satan lied to Eve. The first couple was snake-bitten, so to speak. We offered Satan the chance to be the authority for humanity. And the Bible confirms that he took the job.

Satan is described in the New Testament as the king of the world (Luke 4:5-6), the prince of the world (John 12:31), the God of the world (2 Corinthians 4:4), the ruler of the world (Ephesians 2:2) and as one in controller of the whole world (1 John 5:19). Is it any wonder that humanity is so corrupt given the identity of its master?

An answer to the problem of the world, in this respect, would have to include the defeat of the devil and the death and slavery that he brings.

When John 3:16 says that God loved the world, it is saying that the God of the Old Testament… the real, powerful, personal, loving God… actively did something to rescue human beings from a terrible enemy. John 3:16 describes a rescue mission into enemy territory.

Problem #2 Outlaws

What is our problem? Well, we’re outlaws. The world is full of people who have broken God’s law.

At the root of our problem is disobedience. Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command. They knew the law and they broke it anyway. They were sinners. And so are we.

A big part of our problem, then, is us. G.K. Chesterton was once asked what the problem with the world was and he responded with a mere 2 words… “I am.” He was right in a very real sense. We are our own worst problem.

This problem is one of both quantity (we’re all included- Romans 3:10, 23) and quality (we’re all totally depraved- Genesis 6:5). It is a frustrating reality for us, described by Paul in Romans 7:14-24.

And so… since we are outlaws… there is a price on our heads. Justice is demanded. A debt must be paid. If there is to be a solution to the world’s problem… to my problem… it will have to include some payment of that debt, some satisfaction of justice, some restoration of righteousness.

John 3:16 is about God loving rebels. It is about God loving us while we were yet sinners. It is about God paying a price, satisfying justice, cancelling a debt.

Problem #3 Relations

What is our problem? Well… we can’t get along. The world is thoroughly divided. We’re not just on the wrong side of a spiritual war, we’re at war with each other.

Once again, the root of our problem can be traced to Genesis 3. What did Adam and Eve do after they sinned? They covered up. In doing so, they began to hide from one another. No longer were they open and transparent in their relationship. The beauty of their relationship was now broken. Things only got worse from there on out.

In John 3, notice when Nicodemus came to Jesus. It was in the cover of night. He wasn’t able to be honest with his Pharisee friends that he was interested in Jesus’ teachings. A Jew like Nicodemus thought of life in terms of separation from others. He was glad to not be a Gentile, or a Slave, or a woman. But even among the Pharisees there were divisions.

Adam’s family is in shambles. We’re divided east vs. west, liberal vs. conservative, rich vs. poor, Christian vs. Islam, theist vs. atheist, etc.

If there’s going to be a solution to this problem, it will have to be some true means of true reconciliation (not fake tolerance). There will have to be some true uniting principle… the start of a new family that all are welcome to join. The relational intent of the first creation is broken. There must be a new creation.

Problem #4 Leaders

What is our problem? Well… we don’t have good leadership. The world is lacking quality leaders and examples.

The story of The Fall is a story of passing the buck. Adam blamed Eve (and hinted that God was at fault). Eve blamed the serpent. They were made in God’s image to rule, but they refused to take responsibility for their failure.

Part of our problem is that we are sheep without good shepherds. We lack role models. Politicians, pastors, movie stars, athletes, parents, judges… they let us down. Even our best leaders tend to deal only with symptoms and not the ultimate issues.

If there’s a solution to the problems that we face, it will have to include a genuine leader. It will have to include a leader with no skeletons in his closet. It will have to include a leader who takes responsibility and deals with the root of the problem.

A lack of example and leadership may not be our primary problem, but it is certainly a part of the broader concern.

Problem #5 Disconnect

What is our problem? Well… we are disconnected from the source of all good things. The world is broken off from the heavenly territory, from the source of righteousness and forgiveness, from love, reconciliation, leadership, etc.

The Fall in Genesis 3 resulted in Adam & Eve hiding from God and their subsequent expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Just prior to John 3:16, Jesus remarked that a major problem is that no one (but Him!) comes from heaven (so how could they know how to get back in touch?).

My daughter learned to work the DVD player at a very early age. We had to discipline her for touching it when she wasn’t supposed to. But, I have to admit, sometimes when I didn’t feel like investing time into discipline, I just unplugged the DVD player. It just won’t work when it’s not plugged in.

We’re not plugged in to the source, so it is no wonder we’re not working. We’re like unplugged laptops in that our previous connection to power keeps us going, but only for so long.

If there’s a solution to our problem… if we are cut off from the source of life (as our frailty indicates)… if we are destined for death… then salvation must include some way to access heaven. Salvation must be a way of getting plugged back in to God.

The Solution

The solution to all of these problems, according to John 3:16, is that God the Father gave the Son.

First, giving the Son defeated the devil. God sent his Son into enemy territory as man. Satan tried to tempt Jesus to believe lies, but he failed. He then resorted to killing Jesus, and here he succeeded, but then Jesus defeated death itself.

Second, giving the Son dealt with our sin. Each of us is guilty, but Jesus took the penalty upon himself. He received a death sentence that we deserved. Our sin is dealt with through him.

Third, giving the Son developed a new family. Adam’s family was and is messed up. So God sent the Son to become a man, a perfect man. Jesus is the second Adam. Jesus is a fresh start.

Fourth, giving the Son displayed the way of love. Jesus’ willingness to humble himself, even to the point of death, teaches us the power of sacrifice. We needed a demonstration of true love, and we got it in Jesus Christ.

Fifth, giving the Son deleted the divide. Because Jesus is both fully God and fully man, He is able to serve as a mediator. God became man not simply to dwell with us, but to lead us back to Him. Jesus is qualified to plug us back in to the God, the source.

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John 3:16 book

Post by Bryan » Fri Dec 07, 2012 1:21 am

mattrose wrote: and as one in controller of the whole world

This looks like a small grammatical problem to correct.

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