Dr. Willis Newman, Esmeralda Newman, bible-teaching-about.com

Tim Tebow and
John 3:16

What is all the hubbub about Tim Tebow and John 3:16? The football quarterback from the Denver Broncos placed the Scripture verse on the strips below his eyes when he played. Critics bombarded him by a landslide of criticism! Why, then, did he do it? On top of that, he also knelt on the sidelines in a posture now called “Tebowing.” More criticism. Why do it?

Well, probably because he believes the verse. At least I am sure that is what his dad, Bob Tebow, taught him. I had the honor of studying at the same seminary at the same time back in the 70’s that Bob attended. I was a lower classman at the time, and Bob was a very popular upperclassman. But, I know he believed John 3:16.

Let’s look at the verse, and maybe it will give us a hint why it offends so many people. It reads, “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” (John 3:16). Four things we can learn about God from this verse: love motivates Him; He is generous; He is just; and He must have great power since He can grant eternal life.

1. Sometimes, it is hard to believe that God loves us, because He permits so much evil and bad things to happen in this world, and even to you and me. However, Jesus Christ, who uttered these words, came to earth from heaven to explain God to us (John 1:18). Consequently, if anyone should know what God is like, Jesus would. Most people would not object to a loving God…so that must not be the reason some people are offended by this verse.

2. Second, God is generous. It would seem that people would also like this about God. He is not narcissistic, stingy, and He genuinely has the welfare of people at heart. An important thing to recognize is what God gave: His only begotten Son, that is, Jesus Christ Himself. 

Did you note why God gave Jesus? I think the apostle Paul says it very clear, “He made Him who know no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (1 Corinthians 5:21).

In other words, God sacrificed His Son to pay the penalty of sin for a sinful and guilty humanity. In another place, it is written, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

3. You know, I think we might finally be getting close to the offense. The Bible calls us sinners against God. No one wants to be labeled a sinner. It seems self-evident that we humans sense the need to improve ourselves – otherwise we would not have such things and schools, counseling programs, religion, and the multi-billion dollar self-help industry. Somehow, however, it bruises our egos to be branded a sinner against God. This is a very serious charge with very somber consequences.

4. Even though God loves and is generous, He is also just. That means those who have sinned against Him must suffer awful consequences. Jesus said that some people will, “perish.” If God let sinful people off the hook with no penalty or price to pay, then He would not be just. The problem now really becomes grave, because Paul wrote, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). He went on to say, “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). Those statements refer to you and me! This is not happy news!

If you don’t know what sin is, then here are some verses that really whack us alongside the head, and leave us with no doubt: Mark 7:20-23; Romans 3:9-20.

To make matters worse, John records, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). 

Maybe this is the offense. We don’t mind being told that we need to improve in certain areas of our lives, but it is too hard on our mind to be accused as sinners against God, and that He will send us to hell where His wrath will abide on us forever. 

Startled, you might say, “Will He do that? Surely not!” 

Well, I don’t know. I have never been to heaven or hell. I couldn’t say for sure. I haven’t even been to China or India. However, Jesus Himself said, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46).

5. The great news, however, is the hope John 3:16 gives us. Jesus said if we believe, then we can have eternal life, and that we escape from the penalty of sin. You see, God can be just and forgive us, because He placed our penalty upon Christ. Since Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection satisfies the full penalty due us, then God has legal grounds to grant us forgiveness – and even declare us just before Him as the Great Judge of the Great Courtroom in heaven.

To “believe” means to personally cast our trust completely upon the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ to save us from our sin and guarantee us eternal life. The issue of believe is further explained, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12, 13). 

Here is an illustration. When we step on an airplane to fly across the country to another city, we entrust ourselves to the pilot and the plane to get us safely to our destination. We have nothing else to trust in. We cannot fly the plane, nor can we hold it up should the engines quit. By faith we believe we will reach our destination. In the same way, we trust Christ to save us from our sins, and give us eternal life.

Some people might complain that certainly they are good enough to get to heaven by their good works. Well, it is sure true that some people are better than others are, but the Bible is plain that no one is good enough. That is why our salvation is granted as a gift to us. Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9; cf. Romans 6:23). 

6. Here is another dogma of the Christian faith that might peeve some people. We are taught that through Jesus Christ is the only way we can be forgiven and gain eternal life. It is written, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me’” (John 14:6). To make sure I understand this correctly, even Saint Peter spoke this of Jesus, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). 

It would be nice if several paths existed to heaven, like the old saying, “All roads lead to God.” Personally, I would like that idea. The problem is that there is only one – and that is through Christ. If Jesus Christ is right, then there are going to be many disappointed people wandering around somewhere – but not in heaven.

7. You bring up a good question, “Why should I believe Jesus Christ?” That’s good. Let’s see why. There are at least two reasons. First, He is God…so He should know. 

John tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:1-4). Paul wrote, “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority” (Colossians 2:9, 10; cf. 1:15-19).

Saint Matthew wrote, “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth’” (Matthew 28:18). Saint John wrote of his vision of Christ, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades” (Revelation 1:17, 18). 

Here is another designation we need to realize about Jesus, “’I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty’” (Revelation 1:8).

Now, I put all these verses before you in our study to demonstrate that Jesus is God who possesses all authority and power in the universe, and has the tools to send people wherever He wants, and to give life to whomever He wishes. 

The second reason we should believe Christ is because He rose from the dead, back to life, and that is the greatest demonstration of power imaginable. He did many more miracles, but to come back from the dead is the “granddaddy” of all miracles and deeds of power (John 20:30, 31). 

Look at it this way. We humans have harnessed all the powers of war necessary to wipe humanity off the face of this earth, but we cannot harness the power to bring someone back to life – or to create life. But, God demonstrated His infinite power by bringing this universe into existence, to give life, and to overcome death.

It is, my friend, as the saying goes, “It is what it is.” Whatever we would like to believe about God, heaven and hell, sin, afterlife and how to get to heaven is fine. However, in the final analysis, God’s plan is what counts and what will happen. Nothing we can do will change it. 

This, however, is where the Gospel message comes in: God has provided salvation for us. Consequently, we should gratefully accept it and quit complaining.

8. This is my final guess as to why people get distressed about Tim Tebow flaunting John 3:16. I think it has to do with Jesus Christ. People can talk about God in general, vague terms, but when it comes to Jesus Christ, people get offended. There is something unique about Jesus. His claims about His person, power, and work enrage some people, but cause His own to love Him. 

He even told us of this strange condition when He taught His disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18, 19). 

This bizarre behavior is blatantly present in the United States – and other places as well. In many places of the world, it will cost you your life to convert to or be a Christian. This much is a fact: the enemies of Jesus Christ exert hostile bigotry consistently and systematically against Christianity in our culture. It is obvious in the media, academia, sports, and court system – and in all the institutions of America. 

These, then, are eight reasons I would suggest that motivate people to hurl such an avalanche of insults and criticism against Tim Tebow when he publically displays his faith in his Tebowing posture, and wearing John 3:16 on his attire. 

Finally, let me qualify myself by saying that I don’t know if Tim Tebow believes all I have written here. I have never met him. I don’t know what all he believes. He must speak for himself. All I am saying is that this presentation is what John 3:16 means. 

May God bless you, and if you have never received Christ as your Savior, then I urge you to do it in an act of faith, by a decision of your will, and through a simple prayer that might go something like this: “God I admit to you that I am a sinner in need of your salvation. I cannot save myself, and I trust Christ completely to save me. I personally invite and receive Christ into my heart and life as my only Savior. I want to become the person you want me to be, and I surrender myself to you.” 

Remember that God is more interested in the intent and attitude of your heart, and not so much in saying the right words of a prayer. All the best to you.

Dr. Willis Newman

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