John 3:16 – Does It Say What You Think It Says?

Arguably the most quoted verse from the Bible is John 3:16 – “For G-d so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Most have believed this verse is the gospel in a nutshell. Just believe in Yeshua and you will be saved. The one problem I have always had with this thought is we are told in James 2:19 – “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” In Matthew 8:29 you can deduce that these demons at least acknowledge Yeshua’s deity therefore believed – “and they cried out, saying, “What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Or how about Mark 1:23-24 (Luke 4:34) – “Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24 saying, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” If the demons believed are they saved as well? I don’t think so, so either John 3:16 is misunderstood or the demons will be in Heaven with all those who believed at one time or another.

I know there is a lot of discussion about the words world, begotten, and whoever, but I was thinking more about the word believes. The Greek word used here is pisteuo. While pisteuo can mean believes, the question here is, is believes the correct meaning or translation? The root word for Pisteuo is pistis and means to believe, trust something or someone, to comply. A synonym is obey per the Liddell-Scott’s Lexicon. In Greek placing an a in front makes the word take on the negative form. For instance, many times in the Brit Chadasha anti-law is anomos. Apisteo per Liddell-Scott is disobey or refuse to comply. Apisteo is translated this way in 1 Peter 2:7 – “Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,”. Also in 2 Timothy 2:13 – “if we are unfaithful, he remains faithful—he cannot deny himself.” If one is unfaithful, then they are not following whatever they were supposedly faithful. Just a few verses down from John 3:16 is John 3:36 where it says – “The one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who disobeys the Son will not see life—but the wrath of God remains on him. The word believes here is pisteuo and disobeys is apeitheo. Here just a few verses from John 3:16 shows it is not just a mere belief in Yeshua, but obedience is necessary.

Based on the information so far you could translate John 3:16 to state – “For G-d so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever obeys in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” I know in the English obeys in Him does not sound the best, but maybe that is why they use believe. Yet as we have discovered it can’t just be believe.

Are there other Scriptures that fit with this different translation? John 8:30-32 says – “ While he was saying these things, many believed in him. Then Jesus said to those Jews who had believed him, ‘If you continue in my word you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” This tells us that some of the Jews believed in Him, but goes onto to state IF you continue in my word you are truly my disciples. In v51 Yeshua said “Truly, truly I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never experience death forever.” So one could state that if you are not doing his word you are not his disciple and will experience death. Later, as Yeshua continued to speak to them, the ones that believed in Him, picked up stones to throw them at him. Again, a mere belief is not what G-d is looking for in those who follow Him. Peter said in Acts 5:32 – “And we are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” So far so good in my opinion and there is more. John 14:15 says If you love me, you will keep my commandments. In case you missed it, he rephrases it in v21 the one who has my commandments and keeps them—that one is the one who loves me.

Do you need further confirmation of this thought? In the next chapter Yeshua speaks about the vine and the branches. John 15:1-10 – “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch that does not bear fruit in me, he removes it, and every branch that bears fruit, he prunes it in order that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I in you. Just as the branch is not able to bear fruit from itself unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you, unless you remain in me.

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him—this one bears much fruit, for apart from me you are not able to do anything. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown out as a branch, and dries up, and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this: that you bear much fruit, and prove to be my disciples.
9 “Just as the Father has loved me, I also have loved you. Remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.
If you do not bear fruit (obey, perform works, deeds, mitzvot) you will be removed, gathered up, and thrown into the fire. If you do bear fruit, you prove to be Yeshua’s disciples.
I don’t want to belabor the point, so if you want you can look up these additional verses: John 5:28-29, Luke 6:46, Revelation 22:14, Revelation 3:1-3, and Revelation 3:15-16.  There are many more passages that convey the same meaning. Is there anything else that helps prove this point? Yes, there is.

To provide some context to John 3:16 we are going to go back to verses 14 & 15. They are “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” We have the same issue of translating pistueo as believes. We are given a clue, something else to compare it to. The serpent in the wilderness is in Parasha Chukat which if you are reading the weekly parashas then you just read this a few weeks ago. The children of Israel were complaining and so G-d let loose some serpents. The Israelites were being bitten and were dying. The people started to repent and came to Moshe for him to speak to G-d on their behalf. G-d instructed Moshe to make a serpent out of brass and to place it on a pole. That whoever gazes at it would live. At least that is what the English says. The word used for gaze in Hebrew means to look intently. This is a look of enduring contemplation. Our own hope of healing from all of the effects that our sinfulness has brought upon us is to look away to our blessed Master Yeshua. This is what the writer of Hebrews was meaning when he wrote “Looking away [from all that will distract] to Yeshua, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 AMP. The Israelites were to look away to G-d’s antidote for the poison that the bite the fiery serpents had injected into them. Those who gazed intently were saved. We too will be saved when we turn our gaze upon Yeshua and look upon him intently. In other words, do His will. This is the intent of John 6:40 – “ For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who looks upon the Son and believes (Pisteuo) in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” We have to affix ourselves to Yeshua. Just as the Israelites repented and obeyed we must as well.

The sower of the seed story uses pisteuo as well. Luke 8:13 – Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. They become lost again because of disobedience. How can I say this? How did they fall away? It wasn’t that they just stopped believing. In the time of temptation they fell away. They were no longer obedient. Many of Yeshua’s parables teach the same thing. Luke 12:42-46 shows this pretty clearly. V43 says “It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. 44 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.” Woe to him who does not do the will of G-d – v46 – “The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.”

I referenced near the beginning how “obey in Him” does not sound like proper English. Would it surprise you that the word in is not in the original Greek? The Greek word for in is en. The word translated as in is eis and is a preposition that means into, unto, to, towards, for, among. This word is used 1,775 times and is translated as “in” 138 times in the King James. In the Liddel-Scott Lexicon the word eis is never rendered as in. Depending on the usage of the word the preposition is working with determines which of the words should be used. In this case unto is the correct usage. So now we have John 3:16 stating: – “For G-d so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever obeys unto Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” This is not exactly how we speak today, but is a truer translation of the original Greek.

To quote James here, faith without works is dead. If you have true faith in Yeshua/G-d then you will do His will. You will turn from your own desires. You will delight in the Torah. The Torah will give you liberty like no other. Yeshua did not come to change all the rules. He did not create what seems like a new religion for Christians. What He did and what He said has Judaism written all over it. Not one time did Yeshua say something against the Torah. He never added to it or subtracted from it. For if He did, that would have been sin (Deut. 12:32).

What many do not understand when they “accept” Yeshua they are agreeing to a covenant. A marriage covenant. There are two parties to every covenant. Certain things are expected from both parties. Believers expect G-d to be faithful to us. Part of this faithfulness is when His son returns that we would be included with those who are gathered to Him. We expect G-d to take care of us. That includes providing food, shelter, clothing, etc.

What does G-d expect from believers? He expects emunah (faith), obedience, and teshuva (repentance) when we sin. Obedience to what? To His Torah. In Matthew 5 we are told the Torah will not go away until Heaven and earth pass away. Not one dot or tittle. Are you ready to be a believer who is faithful (obedient) to the One and true God?
What do you think?

Until next time…kadosh, kadosh, kadosh is the Lord!