(John 3:16) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
This is one of the most famous verses, and one of the most memorized, in the Word of God; not only by Christians, but by many non-believers as well. Many believe that Christ was giving Nicodemus a proposal. But on the contrary, the correct interpretation lies not in a proposal by Christ as to say, ‘If you would only believe, then I would react.’ But this is a statement of fact to all those who do believe “in Him” (that is in Jesus Christ) that they will not perish, but will have everlasting life. In fact, believing in Jesus Christ as the Sacrifice for sin, the Substitute for the sinner, and as the Savior having redeemed and reconciled the sinner to God – is the result, and not the requirement to get God to do something for the sinner. The sinner can only react to Jesus Christ after Christ has come to him and given him Life (John 3:3-8; 6:63).
What the sinner comes to believe (or comes to understand and trust), having been given the ability to see and hear spiritual truth, are the facts concerning Jesus Christ. The Apostle John gives these facts in (1Jn 5:20): “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.”
These are the facts that the quickened sinner comes to trust to be truth, and he comes to rest his case in; for his soul’s salvation now and in eternity. This is not an if; but, rather that which will happen to all those whom the Holy Spirit calls (2 Tim. 1:9; Acts 2:39). To trust any word, the hearer must be convinced of the authority of the Speaker. In this case, the one who believes the Gospel story is one who is convinced, without a shadow of a doubt, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; the Messiah of the Old Testament; Sacrifice, Substitute and Savior for him (2 Cor. 5:21); that this same Jesus was crucified, buried and raised from the dead for his offences and his justification (Rom. 4:25); and as (1 Jn. 5:20) says, “..and hath given us an understanding…” This understanding comes only by revelation by the Holy Spirit (Matt. 16:16-17) as Jesus told the Apostle Peter. When this understanding (or perception) comes of Who Jesus Christ is to you; then you will believe, or come to trust this understanding; and then the believer will confess this truth before men (Rom. 10:9-10; Jn. 6:67-69).
What the quickened sinner comes to trust, or believe, is not only that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, but also “that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. (Once the sinner comes to know that Jesus is True, and that the sinner is in Christ and Christ in him (1 Jn. 4:2, 13, 15) – then he confesses that he is a possessor of Eternal Life, because he knows and believes that Jesus Christ is Eternal Life Himself.) This is the true God, and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).
The process of “believing” did not start with the sinner; but it started, and was brought to fruition, by the Holy Spirit of God in the sinner. The sinner is dead in trespasses and sins until Holy Spirit “calls” the dead sinner to life, or “quickens” (Eph. 2:1-8); which is to make alive spiritually; to give the sinner the understanding of who he is in the sight of The Holy God, that is a sinner condemned to die under the curse of sin and sin’s penalty and punishment; and then made to see Who Jesus Christ is to him (his Sacrifice, Substitute (2 Cor. 5:21) and Savior). No sinner ever came to Christ to confess Him as Savior until the gift of repentance is granted to the sinner so as the sinner could understand his need of the Savior. The sinner has to see his need of a Savior from sin’s penalty and punishment (Rom.6:23a), and then must see that Jesus is the Answer to his sin problem (Rom. 6:23b). There will never be relief brought to the sinner until God draws him and convicts him of his sin against God, and reveals to him that his Hope is in the Atonement of Christ on the Cross (Eph. 1:7; Rom. 3:24-25; 5:1-2; John 6:44-45, 63).
But, praise God, God will bring the sinner to conversion by His own power and in His own time. Make no doubt about it, you cannot trust, or believe, the unbelievable story of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, unless, the Holy Spirit of God give you the ability (or that “understanding” that the Apostle John wrote of in 1 Jn. 5:20) to hear, see, and trust, or believe, that what you hear in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is truth, and this truth is for you. It is the Story of the sinner’s Redemption from the curse of the Law (spiritual death, even complete separation from God) and of his Reconciliation to God (being brought back into focus with God, because the sin in Adam had made the separation); and that Jesus is his Justification (or his Righteousness) before the Holy God, Whose judgment is against sin.
O, happy day it is when the quickened sinner comes before God and confesses his sin, and confesses that Jesus Christ is his Salvation now and forever. Hallelujah!