Are you comfortable using John 3:16?
John 3:16 is one of the most beloved verses in the whole Bible. The one who "believes in" Jesus will not perish but receives everlasting life. We have done some discussion about what Jesus meant when He said "believe in" Him over at my blog:
Free Grace Theology Blog: Are We Robbed of John 3:16? What Does 'believing in' Jesus Really Mean?
Here are a couple of excerpts:
When we use the colloquial expression "I believe in [somebody or something]" or "I trust [somebody or something]" it is shorthand for a much more precise and specific articulation. If I said, "I believe in the airline pilot" or equally it could be stated, "I trust the airline pilot," the intended meaning is clear: "I believe that the airline pilot is qualified and will get me from point a to point b safely." Or it could equally be articulated as, "I trust the airline pilot is qualified and will get me to my destination safely." In all of this it is important to note that each time we use the phrases, "I believe in _______," and "I trust ________," we have a specific content in mind, in other words, we are believing and trusting in someone/something for something specific and precise.
If I said the expression, "I trust the babysitter" it does not mean that I trust her in everything! I would not entrust her with my taxes or rely upon her for medical diagnosis. Nor does it imply that I know everything (or even the most major things!) about her that makes her qualified. It simply means that I have (through whatever communication or consideration) been persuaded that she is trustworthy. Obviously what is intended by this somewhat general sounding expression is in reality something very specific and precise: "I believe that the babysitter is well-qualified and able to sufficiently care for my children in a mature, responsible, and safe manner." We cannot take this any other way! These types of phrases are not used in any other way. These somewhat general sounding phrases are colloquial and in actuality convey implied, specific content based upon the context of the situation in which they are expressed and/or the named object(s) itself/themselves.
What is “believing in” Jesus shorthand for? What is the specific content of that belief? In a nutshell, according to the context, "believing in Jesus" means believing that Jesus gives me eternal life and I will not perish, or equally, trusting in Jesus for eternal life and deliverance from perishing. Essentially, “believing in Jesus” is entrusting one’s eternal destiny to Him; it is certain reliance upon Him for the promised result. It really is this simple, and as such lies unencumbered by any additional caveats or qualifications.
A) Believing in the babysitter = trusting the welfare of your children into the hands of the babysitter, and
B) Believing in the airline pilot = trusting your own welfare into the hands of the airline pilot
Believing in Jesus = trusting your eternal welfare into the hands of Jesus
Jesus didn't intend by using the phrase "believ[ing] in" Him to include His deity, death, or resurrection as matters of saving faith when He spoke the words of John 3:16 (as well as John 5:24; 6:35-40, 47; 11:25-27) to His audience (in this case, Nicodemus). Using the principles of plain, normal, and literal hermeneutics, we come to the conclusion that these evangelistic communications were used by Jesus (and thus inscribed for us by the Apostle John) in a way foreign than how many evangelicals would use them today. When they say that the lost must "beleive in" Jesus to be "saved", they mean much more than what Jesus meant.
Jesus, whose words "are spirit, and are life" (John 6:63), and who has "the words of everlasting life" (John 6:68), made these evangelistic utterances with specific import, simply relating to His audiences that whoever believes in Him (in other words, entrusts their eternal destiny to Him) shall never perish but receives, as an immediate and irrevocable possession, eternal life. To this condition many traditional Christians add, in all reality, a number of complex theological requirements. Therefore the evangelistic passages of John, which we all know, and have been dearly loved over the centuries, are insufficient witnesses to Jesus' soteriological program in traditional Christians' estimation.
Furthermore, for traditional Christians to use them would be confusing, for what Jesus meant by "believe in Me" (which is a condition that once fulfilled is the intermediate agency through which one receives everlasting life) is not considered saving faith by them. Traditional Christians either have to import foreign meaning into the texts themselves (inserting extrinsic data into the meaning of "believ[ing] in" Jesus), or supplement them, when, indeed, Jesus spoke them they were sufficient, self-contained, authoritative decrees providing for His audiences the unadulterated condition for receiving eternal life.
My questions to you are these:
1) Are you comfortable using John 3:16 in your evangelism? Why?
2) Can you sincerely use John 3:16 in light of your theology?
I will offer my answers first:
I am very comfortable using John 3:16 because I believe that men and women get saved the same way that they got saved when Jesus said His beloved evangelistic expressions found in the gospel of John: simply by believing in Him. I am convinced that Jesus' words are still spirit and life. I am deeply persuaded that Jesus' utterances that have been inscribed for us by the Apostle John are still the words of everlasting life.
What about you? Do you believe that Jesus still has the words of everlasting life?