Is John 3:16 Christian?


Probably the most well-known verse in the Bible is John 3.16. It reads,

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

The first principles of interpretation are 1) to examine a passage in its context and 2) to recognize that a verse may have several applications but only one interpretation. With these principles in mind, the goal of this study is to examine John 3.16. It is widely published as a statement of the way of salvation. But is it?

Jesus’ Earthly Ministry: National Repentance

The Lord Jesus Christ took on flesh and was born of Mary. As a Jew, he ministered to the nation of Israel. Paul wrote of His ministry:

For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers (Romans 15.8).

Jesus was a “servant of the circumcision,” the Jews. His role was “to confirm the promises to the fathers.” These promises were the covenants God had given the nation: the Abrahamic, Land, Mosaic, Sabbatic, Davidic, and New. Through covenants, best understood as promises, God told Israel what He would do for them. He promised He would bless them, give them a land, make them a nation of priests, give them an eternal king and kingdom, and write His laws on their hearts. Lastly, they would become a light and blessing to Gentiles. This was known as the prophetic or kingdom program. All these blessings depended upon Israel accepting her Messiah–the source of all blessing. None of the blessings could come apart from Him.

When Jesus began His public ministry, his herald, John the Baptist, announced Him to the nation in anticipation of the long-awaited kingdom. Matthew 3.1-3 reads:

1 Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight!’”

National repentance was the required condition for God to establish His kingdom (Matthew 4.17). The nation, however, refused to repent. Instead, they crucified their Messiah. As horrific and tragic as this was, hope remained. He had arisen from the dead. Encouraged by this hope, Peter addressed his people:

36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself” (Acts 2.36-39).

Notice Peter addressed the whole nation (v. 36). He continued the message of repentance and water baptism John and Jesus had preached (v. 38). Even though Israel had crucified her Messiah, if the nation repented, the prophetic plan would be fulfilled (cf. Acts 2.14-21, 3.17-21).

Jesus’ Earthly Ministry: Individual Salvation

National repentance (all Israel, cf. Romans 11.26) was required before the Lord would return to establish His kingdom (Matthew 23.37-39; Acts 3.19-20). National repentance meant individual salvation. What did a Jew have to believe to be saved during Jesus’ earthly ministry? The answer to this question is clearly revealed in the Scriptures. One had to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. Matthew recorded:

15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven (Matthew 16.15-17).

Peter believed who Jesus was. He was saved by believing in the identity of Jesus. That was the gospel of the kingdom. We find this same belief in Martha. Following the death of Lazarus, Jesus came to comfort the family. Distraught by her brother’s death, she told the Lord that had He been present her brother would not have died. He replied Lazarus would rise again in the resurrection and that He was the resurrection and the life. Martha responded:

She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world” (John 11.27).

Martha believed in the identity of Jesus: He was the Messiah. He was the Son of God.

Notice too, Paul’s salvation:

3 As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; 4 and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, 6 but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do” (Acts 9.3-6).

Saul believed in the identity of Christ–that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. That was his salvation. What did Saul preach following his salvation? He preached the identity of Christ:

19 Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, 20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God” (Acts 9.19-20).

This truth is confirmed further in the following passages: John 3.18; Acts 2.21, 38, 3.6, 16, 4.7, 10, 12, 17, 18, 30, 5.28, 40-41, 8.12, 16, 9.14-15, 21, 27, 10.43, 48, 19.5, 22.16, 26.9.

 Jesus and Nick

The passage in John’s gospel of Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night is familiar to almost anyone who has attended church. Nicodemus acknowledged Jesus had come from God. Jesus replied, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3.3). From this opening ensued a conversation in which Jesus sought to give Nicodemus the understanding that to have a relationship with God required a spiritual birth, not merely a physical birth. Since Nicodemus knew the Scriptures, Jesus took him to his Bible. He declared:

14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3.14-16).

Jesus’ reference to the serpent was the account in Numbers in which God sent poisonous snakes as judgment to Israel due to their unbelief and constant complaining. Moses wrote:

6 The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord and you; intercede with the Lord, that He may remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people. 8 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.” 9 And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived (Numbers 21.6-9).

Because the people acknowledged their sin, Moses interceded for them and the Lord provided the remedy for the snake bites: a bronze serpent set on a standard (נְחַשׁ נְחֹשֶׁת, nehushtan, caduceus). To effect the cure required faith (obedience): one had to look upon the serpent on the pole. The lesson Jesus wished Nicodemus to learn was that life came from faith (obedience). Notice that Jesus told Nicodemas that it was believing in the name of Christ that was necessary for salvation (John 3.18).

Earlier, Jesus had told Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3.5). The water to which Jesus referred was water baptism. Under the kingdom gospel water baptism was required for salvation as evidenced by the Scriptures (Mark 1.4, 16.16; Acts 2.38, 22.16).

Paul’s Gospel

Paul received his gospel directly from the Lord. He wrote the Galatians:

11 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1.11-12).

Paul’s gospel, received from the ascended Lord, was that Christ died for our sins and arose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15.1-4). This is the gospel by which we are saved today. Paul called it the “gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20.24), “my gospel” (Romans 2.16, 16.25, 2 Timothy 2.8), the “glorious gospel” (2 Corinthians 4.4 (KJV); 1 Timothy 1.11). No record in the Scriptures exists of anyone proclaiming Christ’s death and resurrection for salvation before Paul. In Jesus’ earthly ministry and shortly thereafter, one was saved by believing the “gospel of the kingdom,” that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, not that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead. We do not tell people to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God to be saved today. We tell them that to be saved one must believe Christ died for their sins and arose from the dead. Why? Because Paul is our apostle: the apostle of the Gentiles (Romans 11.13; Ephesians 3.1; 1 Timothy 2.7; 2 Timothy 1.11 (KJV)) and after the Council of Jerusalem in 51 A.D., Paul’s gospel became the only valid gospel (Acts 15.11; Galatians 1.6-9).

Conclusion: John 3.16

The passage at hand, John 3.16, was spoken by Jesus to Nicodemus, a Jew. During Jesus’ earthly ministry He proclaimed the “gospel of the kingdom.” For one to be saved under this gospel required believing who He was, the Messiah, the Son and God and water baptism. Therefore, interpretively, in context, John 3.16 is not a Christian verse. It is a Jewish verse since Jesus in His earthly ministry came to proclaim salvation to Jews not Gentiles (Matthew 10.5-6, 15.21-24).

Applicationally, if one reads Paul’s gospel into the message, John 3.16 can have a legitimate Christian use. If the Lord’s words, “whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” is presented to mean whoever believes Paul’s gospel, that Christ died for his sins and arose from the dead, has eternal life, then the passage can have a Christian sense. But it must be understood that this was not what Jesus meant when He spoke with Nicodemus.

All Scripture is beneficial for us (Romans 15.4; 1 Corinthians 11.10) but all Scripture is not to us. For clear communication, especially in proclaiming the gospel, we need to keep the message as simple as possible. We should use passages that clearly define how we are saved. These are found in Paul’s writings (1 Corinthians 15.1-4; Romans 3.21-30, 4.1-5, etc.).

©2014, Don Samdahl. Anyone is free to reproduce this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold.

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62 thoughts on “Is John 3:16 Christian?

  1. becky

    Hi Don,
    I was thinking about John 3:16 this morning and remembered you had a study on it. I marvel at the Lord’s wisdom, though speaking to a Jew, He knew the whole world would benefit applicationally from this wonderful verse. Thank you for this study.

  2. becky

    One more comment/question. Wouldn’t John 3:16 have been something”new” for the Jews? Was it ever known that the Word of God would become flesh, being the Son of God?

    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      God gave prophecies concerning the coming Messiah throughout the OT such as Isaiah 7.14, 9.6; Matthew 2.1-8.

  3. Bret

    Thanks for the info on this site. One thing I’m wondering, you said no scripture proclaimed his death and resurrection for salvation. But Isaiah 53 mentions:
    Pierced for our transgressions
    Crushed for our iniquities
    By his wounds we are healed
    The Lord makes his life an offering for sin
    After he has suffered he will see the light of life
    By his knowledge my servant will justify many
    Bore the sin of many
    Made intercession for the transgressors

    That sounds like Paul’s gospel more than the gospel of the kingdom.

    I look forward to your response.

    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      My article, For Whom Did Christ Die? may shed some light on this subject. Isaiah 53 was not understood. Even Peter, after Jesus’ resurrection did not proclaim Christ had died for our sins. Not until Paul did this truth become known.

  4. Timothy Welch

    please be careful with context.
    this is encouraging but John 3:16 is the gospel message

    Jesus simply told Nicodemus what he needed tohear.
    It was customized to him
    we all must be born again not just Nicodemus

    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      John 3.16 can save no one today apart from Paul’s gospel. John 3.16 was the kingdom gospel in which people were to believe in the identity of Christ, that He was the Messiah, the Son of God. Such belief can save no one today. One must believe Christ has died for our sins and risen from the dead. That was not what Jesus told Nicodemus. See my articles, The Gospel, and The Gospel of the Kingdom.

      1. Barry

        In John 3:16 who is speaking? The answer is Jesus and it was prior to the Cross and Resurrection in which we must believe to be save. Paul’s gospel in Romans 10 believing with the heart must believe that Jesus was Resurrected from the Cross and without this happening there is NO SALVATION period…………

        1. Bobbi

          There is more to the gospel today than there was in Jesus earthly ministry…He was born a Jew and under the law.
          Yes we hopefully know now, with the complete scriptures, that Jesus was all man and all God!
          God told us …2 Corinthians 5:19
          “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.”
          One really interesting thing is that ” world” in Greek is “Kosmos” =an apt and harmonious arrangement or constitution, order, government
          ornament, decoration, adornment, i.e. the arrangement of the stars, ‘the heavenly hosts’, as the ornament of the heavens. 1 Pet. 3:3
          the world, the universe
          the circle of the earth, the earth
          the inhabitants of the earth, men, the human family
          the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ
          world affairs, the aggregate of things earthly
          the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments riches, advantages, pleasures, etc, which although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ
          any aggregate or general collection of particulars of any sort
          the Gentiles as contrasted to the Jews (Rom. 11:12 etc

          So it speaks to the entire creation including humankind.
          That is so beautiful!

  5. Vanessa

    Its me again. If I annoy you please forgive me but I have many questions. Is John 17 speaking of the Church of Grace or the Church of the Kingdom. John is speaking of the In Christ Position which is not Kingdom. Please if possible direct me to any other readings on John 17.

    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      Everything in Jesus’ earthly ministry pertained to Israel. However, John 17.2 extends beyond this. All to whom God gives eternal life are Christ’s. We, the Church, the body of Christ, and true Israel have one Lord.

  6. Vernon

    Hi Don,
    The word “world” in Jhn 3:16 is the Greek word “cosmos” which is all inclusive and includes everyone including Gentiles.
    The “whosoever” is also all inclusive.
    Is this a case of a single interpretation but more than one application?
    These two words in this verse need explaining to my befuddled mind.



    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      Yes, it is inclusive. But remember, at this point, the gospel of the kingdom was operational. The faith part of that gospel was to believe Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, not Paul’s gospel. Interpretively, given the context that Jesus was speaking to Nicodemas, and He made reference to Israel’s history (the lifted serpent), the passage speaks to Jews. But I would say (like John 17) it transcends Jews. A Gentile could believe that Jesus was Israel’s Messiah, the Son of God, and be saved. The gospel of the kingdom ended at the Jerusalem Council when Peter spoke the words of Acts 15.11 (see my article, The Great Hinge). Today, of course, no one (Jew or Gentile) is saved by believing that Jesus is the Christ. Both Jew and Gentile must believe He died for one’s sins and rose from the dead.

  7. AJ


    I am finding difficulty seeing that being born of water is referring to water baptism. I’m understanding that Jesus is making a distinction between the flesh and the Spirit based off of Nicodemus’s misunderstood response about being born again. Please clarify more that in that verse Jesus is referring to water baptism and not being born of water in the flesh. Thanks.

    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      Here’s a pretty good argument I found at
      “Born of water” does not stand alone here, but rather inseparably collocated with “and spirit”. Just as “raining cats and dogs” refers to one rain, or “this item is our bread and butter” refers to one mainstay item, “water and the spirit” refers to one birth.

      In other words, we are not to take this is “first you must be born of water and then of spirit”; rather, “unless one is born of water and spirit” in v5 is parallel to “unless one is born again” in v3.
      To see that the parallelism, lets parse the two verses together:
      v3: Jesus answered him
      v5: Jesus answered him

      v3: “Truly, truly, I say to you
      v5: “Truly, truly, I say to you

      v3: unless one is born again
      v5: unless one is born of water and the Spirit

      v3: he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
      v5: he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
      Although the phrase “born of water and of the spirit” is not found in the Old Testament, we do see water and spirit both tied to personal and covenantal renewal, notably in Ezekiel 36:25-27:

      I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from fall your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (ESV)
      Here water is used to explicitly symbolize cleansing from impurity, and spirit for the transformation of the heart to full obedience. All that Jesus has done here is add the concept of birth to further explain what he had said in v3.

  8. AndrewA

    John seems to have several verse and chapters with a message of believing on the name of Jesus to be saved and made a son of God.

    in fact the first chapter is were John first declares this.
    ch 1 verse 12 (kjv)
    12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

    would you mind explaining this more. What is John talking about when he wrote this verse and other like it that say to believe on the name of Jesus and receive him to be saved and made a son of God. Is this still in fact the kingdom message?

    It seems to sound very similar to Paul’s message.

    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      Believing on the “name” of Jesus was believing Who He was (Matthew 16.13-17, John 11.23-27). This was the gospel of the kingdom. Paul’s gospel of grace focused on the work of Christ, that He died for our sins and rose from the dead. In the verses from John you cite, where is the work of the cross and His resurrection? At some point the Twelve learned of Paul’s gospel but they did not know it until after Paul. They had no idea Christ’s death had paid for our sins. Take a look in Acts of how “name” is used in reference to Christ and keep in mind Luke wrote Acts to explain to the Jews why the kingdom of God did not come and why God commissioned Paul and created the Church. You might enjoy my article, The Preaching of the Cross.

      1. AndrewA

        Alright that clears it up a little bit. Thanks for the quick answer.

        Yes it is actually pretty clear that the work of the cross and indwelling of Gentiles by the holy spirit was very much a mystery. After all if it wasn’t their would be no point for the council of Jerusalem spoken of in Acts.

        I have another question based on your response I noticed you mentioned until Paul started teaching the new message so is their is a point when the Apostles did start picking up the message of Grace? Can we see this in any of the letters written by them?

        1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

          It’s very hard to find any evidence of the significance of the cross and Paul’s gospel in non-Pauline writings. Peter clearly stated in Acts 15 that it was Paul’s gospel alone from then on but we do not find it in their writings.

  9. Vanessa

    Good Morning Don,
    We who follow Christ are called Christians. Would the Kingdom Message followers also have been called Christians.? A discussion we had one morning found us asking this question. Thank you.

    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      See Acts 11.26, 26.28, and 1 Peter 4.16. The term seems to have been first employed by Gentiles under Paul’s ministry. Later, kingdom believers seemed to have taken on the designation. Originally, they had been known as followers of “they way.” In this article, I am being somewhat provocative to arrest the attention of readers to see the difference between Paul’s gospel and ministry and the kingdom gospel of the Twelve.

  10. Vanessa

    Hello Don,
    I was beginning to think that the Gospels were written for my learning but were not written to me till I came across the following. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2, 3). And”Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2). And”Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years” (Rev. 20:6). I know we who are raptured dont experience the 2nd death and yet we are Priests of God yet I have begun understanding via my new teachings that we are not kings and priests. Please will you expand on these 3 verses. Thank you so much.

    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      Israel’s blessings will be earthly but held in store in heaven until Christ returns (Matthew 6.19-20, 19.21). All believers will be glorified with a resurrection body–Israel and Church. God promised Israel they would be a nation of priests (Exodus 19.4-6) and Peter wrote the Jews (1 Peter 1.1) they were a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2.9).

  11. Saju Skaria

    Hi ‘Doctrine’!

    I am a bit confused on your teachings……

    So as Christians do we not have to follow what Jesus taught? Do we not have to expect to enter into the mansion he is preparing for us as per Jn 14:1 ?

    Are the Old Testament is for the Israelites, and the Gospel for the Jews and the Paulian Epistles for the Gentiles who believe in Jesus and part of His body, which is church?

    Appreciate if you could clarify.

    Saju Skaria.

    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      We are to follow what Jesus taught. What you assume in saying what you say is what Jesus taught in His earthly ministry. But Paul received his doctrine from Jesus in His heavenly ministry. All Church doctrine comes from Paul. It is through Paul that the risen, glorified Christ communicated truths for us, the Church, the body of Christ. Paul is for us what Abraham, Moses, and the prophets were for the Jews.

  12. Ronnie

    Hello, Don.

    I thank you for all your time, dedication and patience in your Bible Studies… I appreciate your teachings which helped me learn so much as I follow the Scriptures’ powerful and wonderful teachings.

    I have a question:
    If Israel is the “Bride of Christ”, then how can she be also “Priest”?
    I realize what Peter said (as you have mentioned above to Vanessa), yet I cannot myself figure it out both “titles” or positions.

    I also had the same problem/question when I used to believe that the Church is the Bride of Christ instead of the Body of Christ.
    Please explain.

    Thank you and may GOD bless you, richly!

    Ronnie Alexe

    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      God stated he would make Israel a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19) which Peter stated 1 Peter 2.9. Israel’s priests could only come from Levi and only qualifying Levites could be priests. This function will apparently be opened up to all Jews.

      1. Ronnie

        Thank you so much for your reply. It brought a little more light to my understanding, or the lack of it. :)
        Now, can you please tell me more on what exactly you meant by your last comment…
        …..would it be like a some will be a part of the bride of Christ and others (Levites only) will be part of the priesthood?

        Thank you, again.

  13. Joe

    Acts 13:34 tells me that Jesus Christ became the Only Begotten Son at his resurrection. If we understand that as we read Jn 3:16 I assume it fits I Corinthians 15:1-4. Personally I don’t think most understand it that way. I know i didn’t 50+ years ago when I accepted Jn 3:16 as my means of salvation. I believed that Jesus was a real person and did good works and died on the cross to save me from my sins. As I got older I began to think. I decided that if I had an opportunity to save my kids from a life or death situation I would die for them. I think many parents would. As I continued to think about this I began to wonder what the big deal was. Lots of people would die for others. The soldier who throws himself on a hand grenade to save his friends. It wasn’t until I realized it was the RESURRECTION that was the important part. Surely we’ll never know the agony Christ suffered paying for our sins but it’s his life that saves us.

    What is interesting is that I Corinthians was penned before the gospel of John. I wonder why John did not emphasize the resurrection? Maybe the phrase , ‘only begotten Son’ implies the resurrection but how many people know that? Please correct me if I’m wrong about any of this. Thank you.

    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      Salvation in the gospels was gained by believing Christ was the Messiah, the Son of God (Matthew 16; John 11). The salvation Paul proclaimed was believing that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15.1-4). These were different gospels. John 3.16 only works (today) if Paul’s gospel is understood and “read into” it. For interpretive purposes John 3.16 only works prior to the decision of the Jerusalem Council (51 A.D.). It says nothing about Christ’s death and resurrection. How do we know John was written after Corinthians? Dating several of the books is quite problematic. The fact John does not emphasize the resurrection reveals a major problem in dating it after Paul. The liberal scholar J.A.T. Robinson revealed several of these dating problems in his work, Redating the New Testament. John lived to be quite old but we do not know when he wrote his gospel, letters, or Revelation. I think a much stronger case can be made that John wrote fairly early. You are correct that Jesus became the only Begotten at His resurrection.

      1. Joe

        I did a cursory review of dates and found the gospels came after some of Paul’s letters but it’s the internet so it was just a guess. I am curious as to why you would use J.A. T. Robinson as a source. The Preterists use him and the following is from Wiki:

        Robinson was also famous for his 1960 court testimony against the censorship of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, claiming that it was a book which “every Christian should read”.[34]

        I remember finding this book in my parent’s closet. I was about 13. Ooh la la! I would never have guessed a big time preacher person would have promoted it.

        1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

          Robinson had many problems. But this book was honest (unlike Honest to God). His liberal friends dismissed and disliked it because he showed how tenuous and strained (shoddy scholarship) their dating of the NT was (remember at this time some were dating NT books in 150 A.D.). Preterists use him because they believe all prophecy was fulfilled by 70 A.D.–especially, Revelation. The dating of Revelation before 70 A.D. is essential for Preterism. Such dating poses no problems for non-Preterists, e.g., me.

          1. Joe

            thank you for your patience with me. You are obviously an intellectual. I’d like to know your history. I have a feeling (or maybe you’ve mentioned) you are a Dallas graduate. I have Chafer’s Systematic Theology. 7 volume set ….Some of the sentences are soooo long and his thoughts are as deep….L.S.C. addresses the two gospels but as a percentage of his work it is small.

            1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

              I’ve Chafer’s work too. Chafer was a great teacher but poor writer. He has a great deal of wonderful information but he’s excruciating to read.

  14. Bea

    Please help me with how to, delicately and respectfully, say to my Pastor that teaching so much from the OT with intermingling mainly from the 4 Gospels, and some references to Paul’s letters, does not really give the best guidance to his congregation of who they are and have in Christ, nor how to live a Christ-like lifestyle? That by teaching from Paul’s letter and following his example, and be “imitators of him, just as [he is] of Christ” (1-Cor. 11:1), is not in neglect of teaching all of Scripture. He seems to believe that messages [in a fashion I call ‘dishing up alphabet soup’] is just ‘preaching what the Bible gives us.’ Often times the Message will be based on a few verses from a Book, but more often than not the ‘topic or theme’ never really relate to the ‘topical verses.

    I moved to SC from NY in 2007, and for 4-1/2 years just visited several of the local churches, finding none with satisfactory teaching to what I was familiar with. I found a lot of traditional messages, that only left me with no more food for thought/insight than when I went in. Not really uplifting at all. Much of my ‘spiritual food and education’ comes from prayer/personal study, and from some TV programs (Les Feldick, Andrew Wommack, Forgotten Truths and a few others), plus wonderful websites like yours and Grace Ambassadors.’ Yes, I’m dropping names!! I believe when a person/ministry is “rightly dividing” and wholly teaching God’s truth, they deserve to be named.

    I settled into the congregation where I am now because it was not quite as stodgy and traditional as some of the others. Coming into a new year, Pastor is imploring us to help grow our membership. In the past, I had invited a few, not many, to attend service but they were not inclined to leave where they were already in fellowship, because the messages were basically the same (alphabet soup).

    So again, how can I responsibly mention that Paul’s letters are God’s instructions to the church (Body of Christ) today; yet, let it be understood that I’m not saying he must preach Paul exclusively?

    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      I would approach this from two directions. One, I would tell my pastor I would like to hear more messages from Paul’s epistles. Two, I ask him to try it out to see how God would bless the church under this situation. Daniel refused the food and drink from the king’s table and ate vegetables and water. At the end of ten days, he and his companions were healthier than those who ate from the king’s table. Paul’s epistles are God’s word TO us. All Scripture is profitable and FOR us but Paul’s letters give us the teachings to the Church, the body of Christ. As with Daniel, I am confident God will bless this faithfulness and obedience.

    2. Frank

      Hi Bea, I too found that once I learned of dispensationalism I could no longer waste my time at any of the local churches. I’m not interested in biblical soup. I do spend much time studying here, Grace Ambassadors, Berean Bible Society, and Randy White Ministries of Taos, NM. I thank God every day for the blessing that is

  15. Nick

    Hello Don,
    Thank you for your labor in the scriptures. Here’s my question: Did Jews who received the kingdom message and became Sons of God according John ch.1 become members of the body of Christ? Did the early Jewish believers including the 12 become members of the body of Christ only when they heard Paul’s Gospel? Or were they already in The Body of Christ but didn’t know it until Paul revealed it to them? Paul’s letter to the Roman’s comes to mind: Romans 16:7 KJV “Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.”
    Paul says that there were some “in Christ” before him.

    Thank You

    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      Thank you. The Church, the body of Christ, did not begin until Paul. The term “in Christ” is not synonymous with the Church. So, the Jewish believers were “in Christ” the same as Moses, David, Jeremiah, etc. See 1 Peter 3.16, 5.14 for other than Pauline uses of the expression.

      1. Nick

        Thank you for your reply. I guess my confusion is wrapped around the term “In Christ” It seems in light of how Paul uses the term in 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Galatians 6:15 that it refers to the body and being a new creature.
        And if the Church, the body of Christ started with the conversion of Paul, did the Jewish believers including the 12 have to hear Paul’s gospel to be baptized into the body of Christ?

        Thank you

        1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

          The 12 stayed part of the OT program just like Moses, etc. They were not part of the Body of Christ. Their destiny is earthly, to rule over the 12 tribes (Matthew 19.28). The Church’s destiny is heavenly.

  16. Becky


    I liked this article but it raised many questions for me. Understanding that the Gospels are OT and pertain to and written to Israel/Jews, I still read them for insight and to glean practical applications, but now I’m wondering what the term ‘salvation’ really means.

    Does it mean eternal life, reconciliation w/God, forgiveness of Sin debt, forgiveness of sins, or all of the above? Does “saved” mean “born again” and vise versa? Does ‘saved’ mean ‘inheriting eternal life’, treasure in heaven, deliverance from the wrath of God, eternity on earth, eternity in heaven.

    The gospels speak of one ‘enduring to the end’ to be saved or believing to be saved or having faith to be saved, being born again . . . to see/enter kingdom of God, or “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein…” (this one has me stumped) and Paul speaks of reconciliation through Jesus.

    I believe in Paul’s Grace Gospel and that there’s a difference between Israel and the Church but what confuses me is why the ‘salvation’ labels/message in the Gospels & Paul appear to be so different (as noted above) if they all refer to a cure from the same snake bite, i.e., Adam’s Sin. If you addressed this topic in this article or another one, I may have glossed over it or didn’t comprehend what I read – sorry. Would you point me in the right direction? Thanks.


    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      The Lord Jesus Christ is the Savior. He solved the problem of sin and death. What changes in the various programs is how we acquire that salvation. As I’ve pointed out in various places, salvation (man’s acquisition of it) required faith and works before Paul. A clear picture does not exist of how men were saved before Paul. For us, it is explicit: 1 Corinthians 15.1-4. There’s no 1 Corinthians 15.1-4 passage in the OT. We know they were saved, but how is murky. Animal sacrifices were required for the patriarchs and for the Jews under the Law. Animal sacrifices required faith and works. One had to bring the sacrifice and one had to believe the sacrifice covered sin. In the gospels, Jesus said to be saved one had to keep the Law, forgive others, believe He was the Messiah, be baptized. All these things are in the gospels. Some people say there’s only been one gospel and that men have always been saved the same way. This is nonsense with no Scripture to support it. The way they arrive at such an idea is by reading Paul into the OT and gospels. Some teach Adam, Abraham, Moses, etc. were saved by believing Christ died for their sins and rose from the dead. Lunacy. Faith is believing what God has revealed at the time. These people were saved by believing what they knew. If God said to spin around three times to be saved, faith would respond by spinning around. This is why faith is obedience. Naaman was saved by washing in the Jordan. “Enduring to the end” relates to Jews during the Tribulation (read Revelation 2-3).

  17. Kaitmo

    Brother Don really appreciate your faithful ministry and especially your Faith +nothing Gospel.

    My questions ones from Gen 15:16

    Gen 15:6 And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

    As the text here says that Abraham believed “In” the Lord. Did he not believe “in” the Lord?

    Also when the Lord counted his faith as righteousness, (I presume in declaring him Holy before Him) would that mean that Abram was still in his sin so to speak?

    Appreciate your thoughts.

    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      I don’t think I’m following your question. Abraham trusted God (believed what He revealed in in verses 4-5) and the Lord declared him righteous.

  18. Vernon Gray

    Hi Don,
    It appears that Jesus expected Nicodemus to know that he needed to be born again. He sort of scolded Nicodemus for NOT knowing that he needed to be born again as he was a leader of the Jews.
    Are we in this dispensation “born again?” I no longer use the term “born again” of myself, I merely say that I am “saved.”
    Am I right? And if I am, why am I right. In what sense did the Jews of that day get “born again?”

    Thanking you for your time,


    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      Interestingly, Paul never used used the term ἄνωθεν, which means “born again” or “born from above.” The preposition ἀνά can mean “again” or “above, up.” It is a spiritual birth so it signifies salvation. I like to stick with Paul’s terms since he is the apostle of the Gentiles.

  19. Tom

    I have just read a couple of your articles and they all have a similar theme, so these are general questions not specific to this article. After Jesus ascended, were the apostles preaching the wrong message? Or with Peter having the keys to the kingdom, the way to be saved was whatever he ratified? So if Peter had not ratified Paul’s gospel, it would not be valid? Jesus said His words would not pass away, so does that mean His commands do not need to be followed but we just have them for historical reference?

    Finally a question specific to this article, is it possible to be a Christian and not believe both truths about Jesus? Like somebody believed Jesus was just a great prophet who God sacrificed for our sins, but not that He was Messiah Son of God.

    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      Both Paul’s gospel and the gospel of the kingdom were valid salvation messages until the end of the Council of Jerusalem. Please see my article, The Great Hinge. Today, only Paul’s gospel (1 Corinthians 15.1-4) is valid for salvation.

  20. George

    Hello bro Don, when you say water baptism was required for salvation for kingdom program on earth, why does the Holy Spirit fall on Cornelius, Without water baptism, Peter seems to be surprised and frankly so am I, seeing the great commission Required that all the nations would be baptised in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, how do you explain this descrepancy? Thanks… Also John 3:16 mentions only faith in Jesus’s name to be saved but a few verses down it says one must keep commandments to be saved, sort of what James is preaching, faith without works is dead, how do yoiu see this fitting in in john 3:16

    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      See my article, The Great Hinge. The testimony of the Scriptures is that salvation in the kingdom gospel required believing Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, water baptism, keeping the Law, and forgiving sins.

    2. Bobbi

      Am but a lowly sister here and student of the scriptures. I think what was happening here in the Cornelius passage, may have been the same as had been happening since Acts 9 when the Lord saved Saul (Paul).

      The Lord was demonstrating that there was a change in what he was going to do, as compared to what they were expecting from the prophecy scriptures.
      Firstly… where do we see in the prophecy scriptures that there would be raised an apostle separate from the 12? What happened and is revealed in Acts is that Israel nationally, rejected Christ Jesus as their Messiah. God was showing Peter in the clean/ unclean animal vision that things were going to be changing. God was going to be doing something new, which is why Cornelius family received the Holy Ghost first. I imagine Peter was surprised as well! He even had to ask why he was there! This dear apostle Peter, that was given the keys to the kingdom did not know why he was there! Until Cornelius explained what had happened. Then Peter said:
      Acts 10:34Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:..
      You see, he was figuring it out . God was changing what he was doing and through these things in Acts he was showing them. Rom. 9-11 explain that national Israel
      was diminished and fallen but Rom. 11 explains that it is only for a time. There is no discrepancy when you understand Acts is transitioning from one dispensation to another.
      Another thing to consider is John is one of the 12. He wrote to his people, who were Jews, Israelites.
      Hopes this helps.

  21. George

    Hi brother Don, I am perplexed when John says for his little flock if that when they sin, Gos is just to forgive them of their sin, if they confess, but in another place he says if they sin, they are not of God and God is not in them?! How can these 2 contradictiory statements be both right ?

    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      John recognized believers are not sinless. As long as the Adamic nature is present with the new nature, the two natures will be in conflict and sin will occur. However, the point he is making in 1 John 3 is of continual sin born from an attitude of rebellion against God. This is the nature of Satan which is why John mentions him in verse 8.

  22. Joe

    I was looking for an appropriate article for my question. My questions deals with a popular verse not unlike Jn 3:16. My questions deals with a subject that has been in the news lately. The Pope wants to ‘explain’ the phrase “Lead us not into temptation”. Don, in your opinion, is this a mistranslation from the origianl language? Surely God would not lead us into temptation like the Pope suggests.

    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      What does “leading into temptation” mean? Does it mean God tempts man to sin? I rarely agree with the Pope but in this case I think he’s right. The sense of the desire of the prayer is to avoid temptation and thus sin—i.e., deliver from evil.

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