And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:14-17)
When the Israelites were wandering in the desert, God sent a plague of snakes to punish the people for their rebellious attitudes. Those doomed to die from snakebite could be healed by obeying God's command to look up at the elevated bronze snake and by believing that God would heal them if they did (Numbers 21:8, 9). Every time the words "lifted up" occur in the Gospel of John there is a reference to Jesus’ death (John 8:28; 12:32, 34). When Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, those who looked at it lived. So it is with the Son of Man (John 1:51). Our salvation happens when we look up to Jesus, believing He will save us. God has provided this way for us to be healed of sin's deadly bite.
The entire gospel comes to a focus in this verse (John 3:16). God's love is not static or self-centered; it reaches out and draws others in. Here God sets the pattern of true love, the basis for all love relationships - when you love someone dearly; you are willing to give freely to the point of self-sacrifice. God paid dearly with the life of His Son, the highest price He could pay. Jesus accepted our punishment, paid the price for our sins, and then offered us the new life that He had bought for us. When we share the gospel with others, our love must be like Jesus' - willingly, giving up our own comfort and security so that others might join us in receiving God's love.
Some people are repulsed by the idea of eternal life because their lives are miserable. But eternal life is not an extension of a person's miserable, mortal life; eternal life is God's life embodied in Christ given to all believers now as a guarantee that they will live forever. In eternal life there is no death, sickness, enemy, evil, or sin. When we don't know Christ, we make choices as though this life is all we have. In reality, this life is just the introduction to eternity. When you receive this new life by faith, then you will begin to evaluate all that happens from an eternal perspective.
To "believe" is more than intellectual agreement that Jesus is God. It means to put our trust and confidence in Him that He alone can save us. It is to put Christ in charge of our present plans and eternal destiny. Believing is both trusting His words as reliable, and relying on Him for the power to change. If you have never trusted Christ, let this promise of everlasting life be yours - and believe.
God so loved the world: God’s love is not restricted to any one nation or to any spiritual elite. The word "World" may also include all of creation (Rom. 8:19–22; Col. 1:20).
Word Focus: the only begotten Son - (Gk. ho monogenes huios) (John 1:18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9) G3439; G5207: The Greek word for only begotten suggests a one and only son; it does not necessarily convey the idea of a birth. For example, Isaac is called Abraham’s only begotten in Heb. 11:17 and in the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament (Gen. 22:2, 12, 16), when actually Abraham had two sons: Ishmael and Isaac. The Son of God is the Father’s one and only, His unique Son. Although the Father has begotten many children through the new birth (John 1:12, 13), none of these are exactly like Jesus Christ, the unique Son of God. His Sonship is from eternity. As the unique Son of God, He has a special glory and an unrivaled place of honor.
At His first coming, Jesus came so that the world through Him might be saved. When Jesus comes again, He will come in judgment upon those who refused His offer of salvation. Let this be the day of your salvation and don't continue to put it off. We never know when we will take our last breath and our heart will stop beating. There are no "second chances" when it comes to our eternal life... either it will be in Heaven or Hell.
Father God, it is my prayer today that those who are hurting and in need of a savior will humbly come to You and accept Your free gift of salvation by putting their faith and trust in Your Son Jesus Christ. Father, I thank you for all of the blessings that you have given to me and that through all my trials You have always been there to lift me up and give me the encouragement needed to move on. I pray this all in Jesus' name. Amen.
References: NKJV Holy Bible, Life Application Bible (NIV), the Nelson Study Bible.