John 3:16 presents Bible readers with what is likely the purest, most straightforward summary of the good news of God’s saving love that Jesus Christ brings to the world: “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.” Jesus, speaking with the Jewish Pharisee Nicodemus, continued, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17).
Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save the world was an important truth and a new revelation that Jewish believers would need to wrap their heads around. The Jews had no problem accepting the idea of God’s special love for Israel, but the notion that “God so loved the world” was groundbreaking theological material to the Jewish mindset. With this statement, Jesus revealed the all-embracing scope of God’s love under the New Covenant.
God’s agape love does not discriminate between Jew and Gentile, enslaved person or free, male or female (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). The Father sent His Son to destroy prejudices and break down barriers of division to bring God’s great love and salvation to every man, woman, and child in the entire world (Matthew 28:19). And His plan of salvation has been a global strategy all along (See Revelation 5:9; 7:9; 14:6).
Jesus did not come to condemn the world because the world was already condemned. The Greek word (krinō) translated as “condemn” in John 3:17 means “to declare guilty; to pronounce guilt and a punitive sentence on someone in a legal sense; to judge.” The Bible says that all people are born in sin inherited from Adam (Romans 5:12; Psalm 51:5). We come into this world already pronounced guilty and condemned to die (Romans 5:17–19; 6:23).
In Romans 3:21–31, the apostle Paul teaches that Jesus Christ took the punishment for our sin upon Himself when He sacrificed His life on the cross. He died so that we could be “made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are” (verse 22, NLT). Anyone who puts his or her faith in Jesus Christ is restored to fellowship with God (verse 26). Those who belong to Christ Jesus are no longer condemned because “the power of the life-giving Spirit” frees them “from the power of sin that leads to death” (Romans 8:1–2, NLT).
Faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to escape a guilty sentence: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18). Rejecting Jesus results in condemnation and death (John 3:36). Ultimately, salvation for everyone in the world, from the beginning of history until the end of time, is rooted in faith in Jesus Christ (see Romans 4:1–24; Hebrews 11:6, 13, 26; John 1:12). There is no other way to be saved (John 3:14–15; 11:25; 14:6; Acts 4:12).
God sent His one-and-only Son to die, not just for the people of Israel, but as a loving Savior for everyone. He is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save those who believe in Him. Our Savior’s mission was not to sentence people to death: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Christ laid down His life to take away the curse of sin that separates sinners from God (Romans 8:33–34). Jesus came to bring His Father’s gift of salvation so that all who believe in Him might enjoy fellowship in His presence for all eternity.