If there is just one verse which evangelical Bible-using people know it is John 3:16. It is commonly heard in Bible preaching circles, but often misunderstood and misused to teach and even allow for the heresy of once saved always saved. Some use John 3:16 for their salvation with no repentance message (sometimes called free grace or antinomianism in our day). John 3:16 is wonderfully detailed about eternal life. It tells us that because God loved the world (unsaved mankind) as he intensely does, he gave his unique one of a kind son (only begotten son) for our salvation:
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)
John 3:16 continues on to state the object of our faith is to be the Son (the Lord Jesus) and not the Father and the Son (or Jesus and Mary, as some Catholics might think). It also explicitly states that whoever “believes” in Jesus shall not perish, but have eternal life. NOTE: In the end one will either perish or get eternal life. That doesn’t mean, however, that an aspect of eternal life is not possible here and now, this side of the grave, for it certainly is (1 John 5:12,13; etc.).
When people focus in upon the terms “believe” with no repentance mentioned in John 3:16 and “shall not perish” related to salvation, serious misunderstandings surface, especially with the expert dark help of false teachers. That is why truth seekers need to personally search through the Bible, examining the context and considering all other related Scriptures on the same topic. When that is done, it becomes clear that under the umbrella phrase, believes on Jesus for eternal life, that repentance is included. Furthermore, the word believes in John 3:16 is a continuous tense. The offer of eternal life and never perishing is held out only to those who continue with Jesus and:
- don’t cease believing (Lk. 8:13),
- shipwreck their faith (1 Tim. 1:19),
- have their faith destroyed (2 Tim. 2:18)
- get into unbelief (Rom. 11:19-23), which are all possible.
It is also imperative to note that, to believe on Jesus is equated with obeying and/or following Jesus (John 3:36; Acts 5:32; Rom. 6:22; Heb. 5:9; etc.). You can’t get eternal life and avoid perishing by being immoral or living unholy (Eph. 5:5-7; 1 Cor. 6:9,10; Rev. 21:8; Gal. 5:19-21). You must endure to the end to be saved (Mt. 10:22; Heb. 3:14; Rev. 2:10,11). All of that related information is essential for a proper understanding of John 3:16 and eternal life. Without it, misinterpretations leading to dangerous deceptions will certainly occur! There is NO eternal security and the only way to escape perishing is to live holy as you continue to believe on the Lord Jesus here and now. The true plan of salvation (inheriting eternal life) under Biblical grace is not related to Calvinism in any of their five points. God bless you.