Re-framing John 3:16

Photo credit: lightstock.com
Photo credit: lightstock.com

Communicating the truth of God's Word can come in many different forms—conversation, tracts, Bible studies, preaching, biblical storying, blogs, and more. As mentioned last week, holding up a placard or sign with a Scripture reference isn't very useful.

The important thing is choosing a way that fits the person we're talking to and the situation at hand. Only using one approach or method forces people to fit into our grid, as if one-size-fits-all. 

Each of us is different and so are the people we come in contact with every day, whether in a regular or random way. Christian believers need to be ready to share their faith, and share the truth of God's Word, with whomever and wherever they might be.

How can Christians communicate the truth so others hear it and understand it well?

Re-framing John 3:16

Last week's post included some practical guidelines on making the truth of God's Word—the Bible—simple and clear. This is a follow-up with an example for how to follow those guidelines. Hopefully, it will help you communicate Scripture truth so others hear it and understand it.

Many different forms and ways exist to communicate the truth of God's Word

Here are the summarized guidelines from before—

  • Read or listen to the Scriptures in different versions of the Bible
  • Identify keywords in a verse and how they are interrelated
  • Use a dictionary and thesaurus and Bible dictionaries for word meanings
  • Reframe words and phrases within an expanded picture-like explanation
  • Understand the Scriptures in your own words (IYOW)

[see the second half of last Monday's post for more details on each guideline]

Share the truth of God as it best fits the situation and person you're talking to

Making it simple and clear

I'll apply the guidelines above using John 3:16 as an example

Read or listen to the Scriptures in different versions

[All references are taken from YouVersion Bible | for audio versions try– Listener's Bible]

  • For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV) [also available in audio]
  • For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. (John 3:16 AMP)
  • God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NCV)
  • God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. (John 3:16 GW)
  • For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NLT) [also available in audio]

Identify keywords in a verse and how they are interrelated

Keywords— God / so loved / world / gave / only Son / whoever / believes / not perish / eternal life

Most of these words are straightforward, but some need further insight into their original meanings in the Greek—the ones in bold

One of the best online Bible text study tools can be found at– Blue Letter Bible.

The progression of words all point back to the first keyword– God

  • God so loved the world
  • God gave His only Son
  • whoever believes in the Son (God's only son) should not perish
  • whoever believes...have eternal life

Use a dictionary and thesaurus (for word meanings–including Bible dictionaries) 

  • Ex– believe  from <G4102> (pistis); to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by implication to entrust (especially one's spiritual well-being to Christ) : believe (-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with
    • [check out Blue Letter Bible for the Greek word (pistis) and the corresponding number (G4102) in a Strong's Concordance]
  • Ex– only from <G3441> (monos) and <G1096> (ginomai); only-born, i.e. sole :- only (begotten, child) [check out Blue Letter Bible]

Reframe words and phrases within an expanded picture-like explanation

This is especially important with words that are somewhat generic or have broad meanings, like God, love, world, gave, only Son, etc. Here are a couple examples of what I mean by reframing and expanding the explanation that presents a picture or more concrete idea.

Just as figurative or picture language expresses thoughts in familiar ways, learn to explain abstract and conceptual thoughts—biblical and theological truths—into more concrete or familiar ways.

  • Ex– God Which God? One of the millions of Vedic gods of Hinduism? Or the God of Deism? It's important to consider words from the perspective or point of view (POV) of others (especially non-believers).
    • In John 3:16, the apostle John speaks of the Father, who is also the Creator– (see John 1:1-3, 14)
  • Ex– love Which kind of love? In NT (koine) Greek, there were four different words describing for kinds of love— agape, philia or phileo, storge, eros.
    • In John 3:16, the Greek word for love is agape (agapao), which is often referred to as unconditional love, or a love that is willed more than felt.
    • God has an all-encompassing love, which is non-exclusive, intentional, and unconditional. It is similar but greater than a mother's love for her child (Isaiah 49:15-16a)

Understand the Scriptures in your own words (IYOW)

Here's my IYOW version of John 3:16—

  • The Creator of the universe showed great compassion on those whom He created by sending His one and only true Son as an expression of His love, so those who put their trust in Him will not experience eternal judgment, but everlasting life beyond their life on this earth.

Keep it simple and give it a try

I've given a lot more information than you might want to use, but I wanted to provide some clear ideas about how I approach putting the truth of Scripture in my own words (IYOW).

You don't need to go through this long process each time, especially as you become more familiar with the whole Bible. As you gain more experience and understanding in God's Word (2 Tim 2:15 NIV), and read various versions, it will become more natural.

Again, keep it simple, but give it a try!

Post your own IYOW version on social media or in the comments section below.

Feel free to share this post with others— Re-framing John 3:16 — and thanks for reading!