"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (Jn. 3:16). This verse has been called "the golden text of the Bible." We hear it quoted often, but do we really look at what it teaches? It begins with "For God...," which contradicts atheism. If God loved the world and sent His Son, then He exists. "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6).
The statement that He "so loved" denies deism, which says that "God created the world and its natural laws, but takes no further part in its functioning" (Webster).
The statement—"He gave His only begotten Son," implies a sacrifice and undermines the entire premillennial system, which says that God sent His Son to be a king, but the Jews killed Him, so He postponed the kingdom. Isaiah clearly predicted that Jesus would be "despised and rejected by men," and that He would "pour out His soul unto death" (Is. 53:3,12). God sent His Son as a sacrifice for sin, and He fulfilled that mission. He never intended to become an earthly king over an earthly kingdom.
The expression—"His only begotten Son," contradicts Judaism, which denies that the Messiah has come. Paul said that God promised this "through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures," and that He was "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1:3,4). The statement also contradicts modernism, which denies miracles. Jesus was "begotten" by the Holy Spirit (Mt. 1:20), but this miracle is not the whole story of His being begotten. Paul quoted the prophecy, in Psalm 2:7, and applied it to Christ's exalted position after His resurrection (Acts 13:32,33). It does not refer to origin, but to His exalted position. Hebrews 11:17 says Abraham "offered up his only begotten son." This referred to his position of preeminence. Isaac was not the first, nor only begotten son of Abraham. Jesus was born of a virgin, lived as a man, died, was raised from the dead and has the position of the "firstborn" – preeminence (Col. 1:15-18).
Next, the verse says "that whoever" believes should not perish. This denies the Calvinistic doctrine that God has predestinated who will be saved and who will be lost. At the house of Cornelius, Peter said, "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him" (Acts 10:34,35). Paul wrote the Romans: "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame...For whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Rom. 10:12,13). If God predetermined who would be saved and lost, He is a respecter of persons and it is not true that "whoever believes" can be saved.
Being saved is conditioned upon "believing in Him." This denies universalism, which teaches that "all souls will eventually find salvation in the grace of God" (Webster). The last verse in chapter three says, "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (v. 36). The belief that saves is not the kind that some of the rulers had (Jn. 12:42), but is obedient belief. Other translations of verse 36 clearly show this. "Those who don't believe and obey him shall never see heaven" (Living Bible), "he who does not obey the Son shall not see life" (Revised Standard Version), and "he who disobeys the Son shall not see that life" (New English Bible).
Finally, the verse says "should not perish but have everlasting life." This denies materialism, which says "matter is the only reality and that everything in the world...can be explained only in terms of matter" (Webster). There is a part of man that is not matter and will not pass away. John said, "The world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever" (1 Jn. 2:17).
The truth of John 3:16 is at war with many false doctrines in the world. Many who quote it to justify their doctrine of faith only, do not carefully consider what it teaches. A person who does not have enough faith to obey Christ does not have enough faith to be saved by faith.