This passage provides the answers for three fundamental questions every human asks.
John 3:16 isn’t just a verse; it’s a cultural icon. Even those who can’t quote the verse know it’s importance if only because of its presence. We see John 3:16 on posters, billboards and T-shirts. And there is a good reason that it is.
John 3:16 is a single verse that answers the three big questions of life for us.
A person can define the seasons of their lives in many different ways. You might, for example, define a life season based on your living arrangements. There is the season in which you live in a home owned by your parents, then you live in a dorm or apartment, and then eventually in your own home (and then maybe after that again in an apartment or someone else’s house). Or you might define life seasons by the main way you spend your time. First, the bulk of your time is spent in school. Then career. Then in an advanced career, and then finally in retirement.
Perhaps another way you can define the seasons of life is by the nature of the questions you are asking—because each stage of life is really about asking and answering a different set of questions. Initially, these questions are more informational in nature:
• Why is the sky blue?
• What are mosquitos for?
• Why do I have to eat vegetables?
Then the questions change to be more personal:
• Who should I be in a relationship with?
• What kind of work will I engage in?
• Where do I want to live for this period of life?
And at some point, all of us enter a stage in life when these questions become even more meaningful. We come to a point when we start asking real questions about meaning and purpose and identity. These are the real shaping questions; these are the answers, if we get them, that determine not only the kind of questions we ask in the future, but also the way we choose to answer those questions. And though these questions are many, you could make the argument that they all really boil down to these three fundamental ones:
• Who are we?
• Where are we from?
• Where are we going?
Yes, these are the real questions, aren’t they? These are the questions behind the other ones—the questions that get at the core of the meaning of all of life and the way it ought to be spent. Indeed, these are really the questions behind every philosophy, every religion, every educational and economical system. And though a person might look to many sources of truth to find the answer, as Christians, we believe that the real truth can only be found in one place: the Bible. And though the Bible addresses these questions in many ways and in many places, there is a single verse in which we find the answer to all three: “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
1. Who Are We?
Simply put, we are the dearly loved creation of Almighty God. How do we know that God loves us so? It is not because of our bank balances, the size of our homes, or the success we have in careers. Our circumstances are not a trustworthy indicator of the love of God, for God has already proven just how much he loves us. He loves us enough to sacrifice his own Son for us.
But that begs the question of why such a sacrifice would need to be made, doesn’t it? And here, too, we find part of the answer to the question of who we are:
Though we are the dearly loved creation of God, we all have rejected him as our rightful King.
We have, in our own pride, determined to be our own gods. We are sinners, and as such, we are separated from this God who loves us.
Though it might be hard for us to accept, this is indeed who we are.
2. Where Are We From?
Again, simply put, we are from God. We are not cosmic accidents; we are not the result of random chance. We are created beings, created in love in order to relate to God and to glorify him forever. In his love, God has made us with this unique relational capacity—we were made to love God, and to know beyond a shadow of a doubt we are loved by him.
Until we know our origin—until we know where, and whom, we are from—we will always be wanderers.
We will seek to find our worth, value, and substance in transitory things. We will be like children building our little sand castles too close to the water, only to find them washed away again and again. But when we accept and believe this, our true origin story, then we are actually starting to build on the rock.
3. Where Are We Going?
This question is unique, because there are actually two options, and this verse gives us both. We are either bound to perish, or bound for eternal life. If we believe that we are loved and created by God, but that we have rejected his authority over us and now must be made right with him, then in his love God has provided a way.
That singular way is Jesus. The singular issue that determines where we are going is what we do with him. Someone is going to pay for our rebellion, and the price is enormously high. Either it will be us, or it will be Jesus. In his love, God has provided this moment for us, and has opened his arms to whosoever that comes and believes.
Yes indeed, life is about questions. Some are more important than others to answer. But none are more important than these three. Whether we know it or not, your life and mine—both now and into eternity—is really determined by how these questions are answered. By God’s grace, he has told us the truth, and even now he implores with us to come and believe.
This article originally appeared on Thinke.org and is reposted here by permission.