He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
These are, of course, the words of the Master. And yet, they are words that are often challenged, ignored, debated, and hated by men who would claim to be followers of Christ. To those people – those who would rather obey their own whims, and not the words of Jesus – this is an offensive verse. But it’s not the MOST offensive verse.
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Here is another statement made by the Lord, and for those who would teach that there are many acceptable churches – that there are many different ways to Heaven, through many different man-made institutions – this is an offensive verse. It is contrary to everything those men teach. But it’s not number one on the list.
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
The feminist movement hates this verse (and probably the one who wrote it). The idea that a wife must submit (literally: to be subordinate) to her husband is nonsense, backwards, and…offensive. Still, though, it’s not the worst offender found in Scripture.
The culprit in question — the verse that is most offensive in the Bible was spoken by Jesus, to a Pharisee named Nicodemus, who approached Him one night wondering what a man must do to be saved. In the midst of that conversation, Jesus made this famous statement:
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.
But how, you must be wondering, can a verse as famous as this, be the Bible’s most offensive? It’s called by many the “golden verse of the Bible.” It’s memorized by children as early as the age of 3.
The reasoning is this: Nestled inside this verse of hope and divine grace, is a series of thoughts by the Lord, that – if closely considered – offends more false doctrine than any other single verse in God’s Bible.
How so? Let’s break the verse down into five sections…
“FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD”
Now what could possibly be offensive about that? Well if you’re an atheist, you can’t get past the first two words without wincing. The idea that there is a more powerful being; a higher being, and a greater being than they – it’s offensive. But when you get right down to it, in reality there is no such thing as a true atheist. Those today who call themselves “atheists” are really just “humanists;” those who believe that they are the tip-top of the food chain. They may not admit it, but to the humanist – their god is themselves.
Why is it that these “atheists” are so rabidly anti-religious? Why can’t they – if they don’t want to believe in God – just leave those of us who do, alone? Why do they insist on going to court to try and silence our American right to free expression? Why do they – as Congressmen and Senators – push (unsuccessfully, thankfully) legislation that would remove the tax-exempt status of churches?
There is a concerted effort to remove the words “In God We Trust” from American currency. Why? Prayer has been all but outlawed anywhere near a “public” locale. Why? Philosophy and history teachers in public universities will tell their students – without batting an eye – that our Founding Fathers were all atheists, despite history itself stating otherwise. What’s the motivation? Why do some so deeply loathe the very idea of religion that they will resort to cheap lies in an attempt to destroy it?
Because they want to win the future. That’s a phrase common among “post modernists” (those who believe they have evolved past the old “myths” of their ancestors).
Take the debate over “In God We Trust.” It’s a motto that was established during the Eisenhower administration; just 60 or so years ago. In one generation we’ve gone from embracing Divine guidance to trying to outlaw such expressions in public. If we can fall so far, so fast, what’s in store for the next generation?
The atheist is offended at ANY reference to the God who so-loved the world, because their agenda is to win the next generation of thinkers into thinking that believers in God are small, fanatical, and dangerous. Noted television “personality” (for lack of a better word – and believe me, I tried to find a better word) Rosie O’Donnell recently said “Fanatical Christians are just as fanatical Muslims.” Statements like this are not isolated, and they are not rashly made. They come from the hearts of people who wish to remove the idea of God from the minds of people – and they are offended by the “God” Who “so loved the world.”
But sadly, this verse doesn’t stop at offending only non-believers. The words of Jesus here also anger those who believe in God – whether they realize it or not.
“THE HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON”
Like the previous section, at first glance one might wonder what could be offensive about these words, especially to one who claims to believe in Christ. There are those who believe that there is no Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (three Divine aspects of God), but rather that there is just one – and that Christ was not God in the flesh.
This doctrine is not new, in fact it’s as old as the late first century. The Gnostics of that day claimed to have some advanced knowledge of spiritual matters, and proceeded to pervert the Gospel and the minds of the early Christians with the idea that Jesus was not Who He claimed to be. The writings of John are essential readings for understanding how to combat this heresy, and still today the offspring of that doctrine remains.
Some of these believers claim that Jesus was in fact God, but that he was not human – merely “appearing” to be human. If this were true that how could he have bled on the cross (John 19). How could he have shed tears over Lazarus (Luke 11)? How could he have been born for crying out loud (Luke 2)? Obviously He was a man. Not just a man, of course, but still a man.
Notice John’s refutation of such a notion:
Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
(1 John 4:2-3)
I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.
Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.
(1 John 2:21-22)
Who is an antichrist? Someone who “denies the Father and the Son.” Notice the distinction John makes to Christ and the Father. Furthermore, to Whom was Jesus praying on the eve of His arrest (John 17)? He asked the Father to glorify Him. He wasn’t praying to Himself.
Of course, those aren’t the only ones who are offended by this statement by Jesus. What about the modern day Jew? They, who believe – at best – that Jesus was merely a prophet of God, and – at worst – was a charlatan who got what he deserved upon that Roman cross. The idea that He would be the offspring of God is…offensive.
“THAT WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH IN HIM”
Who might find this clause offensive? What about those who teach that salvation is not for “whosoever” but rather is for “the pre-destinated ones.” The Calvinist (those who follow the teachings of the heretic, John Calvin) believe that there are two kinds of people in this world: The elect and the reprobate.
The elect are those lucky few that God has pre-determined to be saved. No matter what the elect might do, no matter how they might live, they will leave this world and find Paradise awaiting them.
The poor reprobate (Calvin’s word, not mine) was likewise pre-determined by God, only in his case, he was pre-determined to be lost – having no say in the matter at all. He may live the most pious, honorable life that a man may live, but too bad: He just wasn’t elected to be saved.
How sad a doctrine and how evil a concept. Worse still, is the taking of the beautiful flower tulip and contorting it into an acrostic for that wicked doctrine:
T– Total Hereditary Depravity
The idea that every little baby is born completely in sin
U– Unconditional Election
The idea that there’s nothing you have to do to be saved
L– Limited Atonement
Salvation for but a few – arbitrarily chosen by God.
I– Irresistible Grace
If God arbitrarily chooses you to be saved, then you have no say in the matter.
P– Perseverance of the Saints
If chosen to be saved, there’s nothing you can do to lose that salvation.
Every aspect of Calvin’s doctrine is false. Baby’s are not born in sin, since they can’t sin without any concept of what a law is (Romans 7:7), nor can they inherit sin (Ezekiel 18:19-20).
Equally false is the idea that I have no part in my own salvation, which Jesus speaks repeatedly about the things man must do (John 6:28-29).
Paul states very clearly that salvation is for ALL (Titus 2:11), which refutes this TULIP’s ‘L’.
Likewise the ‘I’ is utter balderdash, since it removes the idea of free will – the idea that I can’t make my own decisions, and I can’t choose to either serve God or deny Him. If TULIP is true then what is stopping me from just putting a bullet in my head? Why go on with this life and its heartaches, when I have no say in where I’ll spend eternity.
As for the ‘P’…
“SHOULD NOT PERISH”
Read the words of Christ very carefully. Jesus said those who obey him “Should not” perish. He did not say “Shall not” perish. Those are not just two different words in the English, they are two different words in the Greek.
To say someone “shall not” is in the greek “οὐ,” which means “no, not ever!” It’s a very exact word and has a definitive force behind it. Jesus uses this word in the same context of John 3:16…
He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
Notice, if I don’t believe I SHALL NOT (no, not ever) be saved. But what if I do believe (“believe” = literally “faith+obedience”)? Then I SHOULD NOT perish. The word “should not” in the Greek is “μή,” which means “may not – conditionally speaking). In fact the Greek word is “may” (that’s how you pronounce it).
If Jesus wanted to say that once a person is saved he is always saved he would have said “no, not ever!” He didn’t. He chose the word “may – -conditionally speaking” be saved.
So what’s the condition? My faithfulness.
The very idea that I don’t have to be faithful after salvation – that I can just live it up however I want and God will still just send me on Home when life is over – is just absurd. If that were the case then why do we have the books from Romans-Jude (the majority of our New Testament) telling us HOW to be faithful? Is it just optional?! Why would Jesus TELL (not recommend – command) the church at Smyrna to be faithful unto death?
What Jesus is clearly saying is that it is not God’s will that anyone perishes. But each person is in control of his life – he has to make the decision to be saved, and to remain faithful. He should not perish…but that’s up to him.
Calvin must have read John 3:16 and thought it was pretty offensive. Likely that was the Father’s reaction to his twisted tulip, as well.
“BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE”
Now who could find the idea of eternal life offensive? Well no one of sound mind, obviously. But there are those who say that HELL is not eternal; and if Hell isn’t eternal, then neither is Heaven. What reason these false teachers have for this doctrine is beyond me. Even if Hell were temporary, I still wouldn’t want to go there – not even for a millisecond. Of course this doctrine (like all others mentioned) didn’t originate with man. It came from the mind of the devil. Who else would want to pass off the idea that Hell isn’t eternal, but the prince of that dark domain – the one who would do anything, and say anything to deceive you into spending ALL ETERNITY there.
Both Heaven and Hell are non-corporeal resting places for the soul. The soul – which is eternal – has to end up somewhere for all eternity. It’s not going to whither and fade away like a leaf in the wind. Both resting places are equally as timeless – a necessity if they’re going to house the souls of men. If Heaven is forever, so too is Hell.
Furthermore, Jesus said:
And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
The fire will never be quenched. Not after a thousand thousand years. As encouraging it is to sing that stanza of Amazing Grace:
/When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise, than when we first begun/
It is equally as terrifying to consider it with regards to Hell – the place where eternity will be spent weeping and wishing for a second chance that will never come; for mercy from the God who cannot hear because he has removed his ears from that place. If you find that offensive, you should. Let that be your motivation for staying as far away from the life that would lead you toward that wicked place.
It is the Bible’s Golden Verse; beloved by people the world-over. And yet, if you hold to a false doctrine, odds are that even this simple statement by Christ can defeat it. Whether it’s Atheism, Gnosticism or Calvinism, John 3:16 has the answer.