“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
John 3:16 is perhaps the best known verse in the Bible. There always seems to be at least one person holding a sign proclaiming the verse at every sporting event. The message of the verse provides comfort and encouragement for many: it speaks of God’s love for mankind and the opportunity given for mankind to obtain eternal life.
Many people have heard about the message in John 3:16 but have not heard much else from the Bible. People also hear from many churches that all they need to do in order to be saved is to believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that no matter what they do after that moment, they will be saved. Therefore, many think that as long as they recognize that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, everything will be fine. The Scriptures, however, do not teach this: in fact, they teach the opposite in James 2:24 and 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9. Eternal life is possible; we do nothing to earn it or deserve it, but it comes at great cost.
The Scriptures reveal that we humans do not deserve salvation, and no one is saved because of how great they are or because they have purchased salvation somehow (cf. Romans 3:9-21, Ephesians 2:1-10). Yet this does not automatically mean that salvation requires nothing from us. Let us consider what the Scriptures teach regarding what God seeks from those who would obtain eternal life.
To obtain eternal life, we must certainly believe, but must also do the will of the Father, as it is written:
“Not every one that saith unto me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
To obtain eternal life, we must put away sin, as it is written:
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein? (Romans 6:1-2).
To obtain eternal life, we must do what is right and good, as it is written:
To them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption, eternal life (Romans 2:7).
To him therefore that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin (James 4:17).
To obtain eternal life, we must make Jesus and His will the top priority in our life, and suffer loss and humiliation, as it is written:
“He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that doth not take his cross and follow after me, is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37-38).
Please do not take our word for this, as if our word means much of anything. Instead, please see that we have spoken from the Scriptures regarding these matters. The Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles have declared that it is not enough just to recognize that Jesus is Lord; we must act accordingly, doing the will of the Father, seeking the good and avoiding the evil, constantly suffering loss for Jesus.
John 3:16 is a wonderful passage and we would do well to praise God every day because of His love and His offer of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, we do not want you to be deceived by a false gospel that leads to eternal condemnation (cf. Galatians 1:6-9). The view that says that all we need to do in order to be saved is believe is popular and comforting, but, as the Scriptures reveal, it is simply not true! When we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Lord of Heaven and earth (cf. Matthew 28:18), we must then obey Him and His will, doing His commandments and walking as He walked (1 John 2:1-6). We, the members of the church of Christ, are striving to obey Jesus our Lord, and we stand ready to encourage anyone else who seeks to do the same. We encourage you to consider the options of life or death, and choose to follow Jesus to obtain eternal life!
Ethan R. Longhenry