What does John 3:16 mean?

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.

John 3:16

Verse Commentary:

This is the core of Christianity: that God loved the world enough to come in human form—Jesus, who died for us, so that anyone who trusts in Him will be saved from sin. This is certainly the most well-known verse in the Bible. It is probably the best-known and most-memorized part of any holy text in human history. The verse is a one-sentence summary of the gospel: the subject line of the entire Bible. The verse also reflects the way the gospel’s essential idea is clear, but there are layers of meaning and knowledge inside of it.

The opening phrase is traditionally translated as “God so loved the world that.” This is typically understood to mean, “God loved the world ‘so much’ that…” That idea isn’t entirely wrong, but the actual phrase means “God loved the world ‘in this way,'” with emphasis on what God did, more than why. Jesus is an expression of God’s indescribable love for “the world,” meaning all of mankind (1 John 4:9–10).

The phrase translated as “one and only Son,” or “only begotten Son” uses the Greek word monogenēs. This is a very precise word which John uses in other places in this gospel (John 1:14, 18; 3:18). the traditional English term “begotten” often makes people think of biology, but monogenēs does not imply it. The word literally means something of the same nature or substance. “In other words, the Son Man—Jesus—is of exactly the same divinity as God the Father. That makes this verse an important part of proving the biblical concept of the Trinity. In typical use, monogenēs is used to imply “the only of its kind” or “sole [only],” or similar ideas.

The life offered to those who believe in Christ is “eternal,” from a Greek word meaning “never ending.” The alternative to life in Christ is destruction: to “perish.” This passage explains that the purpose of sending Jesus was our salvation (John 3:17), but also reminds us that those who don’t believe are condemned (John 3:18, 36). There is no question that, according to the Bible, people can be saved only through faith in Jesus (John 14:6).