That whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Not perish, but . . .—These words have been added here from the following verse. Omitting them, the sentence should be rendered, that every one who believeth may have in Him eternal life. This construction is borne out by a comparison of John 5:39; John 16:33; John 20:31. “To believe in Him” is not used by St. John. (See Note on John 1:12.) The thought of this verse is that as every Israelite, believing in God, had in the brazen serpent a message from God; so every man who believes in God ever has this message from God in the crucified Son of Man. The object of faith is not here expressed. The words speak only of the man who believeth, whose heart is open to spiritual truth. That man has, in Jesus Christ and Him crucified, a truth which goes to his inmost spirit, sending a new life through his whole being. To the non-believer this may be but the self-sacrifice of heroism. To the believer it is Light breaking upon the darkness of his soul; it is Life bursting the cold sepulchre of a deadened spirit; it is Love winning its way through the scales of a hardened heart; it is Mercy deeper and wider even than his sin; it is Hope bracing the man to a new life of holiness; it is the Word of God, and in Him he has eternal life. The reader will not forget that the lifting up the serpent of brass followed the confession of the people. “We have sinned . . . pray unto the Lord that He take away the serpents from us” (Numbers 21:7).
Should not perish - They are in danger, by nature, of perishing - that is, of sinking down to the pains of hell; of being "punished with everlasting destruction" from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power, 2 Thessalonians 1:9. All who believe on Jesus shall be saved from this condemnation and be raised up to eternal life. And from this we learn:
1. that there is salvation in no other.
2. that salvation is here full and free for all who will come.
3. that it is easy. What was more easy for a poor, wounded, dying Israelite, bitten by a poisonous serpent, than to look up to a brass serpent? So with the poor, lost, dying sinner. And what more foolish than for such a wounded, dying man to refuse to look on a remedy so easy and effectual? So nothing is more foolish man for a lost and dying sinner to "refuse" to look on God's only Son, exalted on a cross to die for the sins of men, and able to save to the uttermost "all" who come to God by him.
in him. It is one thing to believe in him as a teacher, another thing to believe in him as a Saviour. The object of the first is a proposition; we believe a person when we assent and give credit to what he saith, because he saith it. The object of the latter is the person and merits of the Mediator. As the looking up to the brazen serpent healed the person, not by any physical operation, but from the goodness of God, as it was an act of obedience to the Divine institution for that end; so neither doth faith in the Mediator justify and obtain pardon for any soul from any meritorious virtue in that act, but from God’s gracious ordination, that so it shall be; he hath so ordained, that whosoever shall rest upon Christ, and receive him by faith as his Mediator and Saviour, should not perish, but live for ever. There are other things besides faith necessary to salvation, such are repentance, love, and new obedience; nor is faith only mentioned because they are ingredients into it, but because faith is the root of all those, and that from which they must necessarily flow; for it is as impossible that any should truly hope, and trust in, and rest upon Christ for that life which he hath only promised to those that obey him, as it is impossible that any should indeed trust in and rest upon a man who hath promised a reward upon a condition for that reward, without any care to fulfil that condition. But by this and other places, where faith alone in Christ is mentioned as necessary to salvation. Nicodemus was taught, that no obedience to the works of the law without this faith in the Mediator would bring the soul to eternal life and salvation.
should not perish; though he is in a lost and perishing condition in Adam, and by nature, and sees himself to be so, and comes to Christ as such; and though his frames and comforts are perishing, and he sometimes fears he shall be utterly lost; and though he is subject to slips and falls, and great spiritual decays; and shall perish as to the outward man by death; yet he shall never perish eternally, or be punished with everlasting destruction, as the wicked will:
but have eternal life; not by his works, but as the gift of God: and which he that truly believes; has already in the covenant of grace, in Christ his head, in faith and hope; and has the earnest and pledge of it, the Spirit of God; and the beginning of it, which is the knowledge of God in Christ; and shall hereafter possess it fully, and in person, to all eternity: even a life of perfect holiness and knowledge; a life of never ending pleasure; a life free from all the sorrows, distresses, and imperfections of this; and which will always continue.That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)John 3:15. The words μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλʼ of the T.R. are omitted by Tisch, W.H, and R.V Further, the same editors replace the words εἰς αὐτὸν by ἐν αὐτῷ, and the R.V translates “that whosoever believeth may in Him have eternal life,” in accordance with Johannine usage, which does not support the rendering “believeth in Him”. This is the object to be accomplished by the “elevation” of the Son of Man, viz., that whoever, Jew or Gentile, believes that there is life in Him that is thus exalted, may have life eternal.
 Westcott and Hort.
 Revised Version.
 Revised Version.15. That] The eternal life of believers is the purpose of the ‘must’ in John 3:14. For ‘should’ read may both here and in John 3:16.
not perish, but] These words are not genuine here, but have been taken from the next verse. When they are struck out it is better to take ‘in Him’ with ‘have’ than with ‘believeth:’ that every one who believeth may have in Him eternal life.John 3:15. Ἵνα, that) The goodness to us of the Son in John 3:15, and of the Father in John 3:16, is described in the same words. [The grace of the Son is what is most frequently noted, and the love of the Father (2 Corinthians 13:14, the benediction).—V. g.] Comp. ch. John 6:37, “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me: and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out;” notes, ch. John 10:28-29, “Neither shall any pluck them out of My hand:—none is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand:—ὁ πιστεύων, who believeth) Now Jesus begins a plainer style of speech. Faith, in the case of those needing to be saved, is what looking to the uplifted serpent was in the case of those needing to be healed.—εἰς αὐτόν, in Him) as lifted up. The cross [is] the ladder to heaven.—μὴ ἀπόληται, should not perish) by the poison of sin.—ζωὴν αἰώνιον, eternal life) by regeneration and faith. This mention of eternal life is made at the earliest time in each instance, in the discourses of the Saviour, and occurs in this passage first. He takes it for granted as very well known from the Old Testament: ch. John 5:39, “Search the Scriptures: for in them ye think ye have eternal life.” See Daniel 12:2, “Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life,” etc.; Luke 10:25, [The lawyer’s question] “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
The best texts read ἐν αὐτῷ, construing with have eternal life, and rendering may in Him have eternal life. So Rev.
Should not perish, but
The best texts omit.
Have eternal life
The interview with Nicodemus closes with John 3:15; and the succeeding words are John's. This appears from the following facts: 1. The past tenses loved and gave, in John 3:16, better suit the later point of view from which John writes, after the atoning death of Christ was an accomplished historic fact, than the drift of the present discourse of Jesus before the full revelation of that work. 2. It is in John's manner to throw in explanatory comments of his own (John 1:16-18; John 12:37-41), and to do so abruptly. See John 1:15, John 1:16, and on and, John 1:16. 3. Joh 3:19 is in the same line of thought with John 1:9-11 in the Prologue; and the tone of that verse is historic, carrying the sense of past rejection, as loved darkness; were evil. 4. The phrase believe on the name is not used elsewhere by our Lord, but by John (John 1:12; John 2:23; 1 John 5:13). 5. The phrase only-begotten son is not elsewhere used by Jesus of himself, but in every case by the Evangelist (John 1:14, John 1:18; 1 John 4:9). 6. The phrase to do truth (John 3:21) occurs elsewhere only in 1 John 1:6.
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