“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16, New World Translation.
“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.”—John 3:16, King James Version.
Meaning of John 3:16
God loves us and wants us to live forever. For that reason, he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to the earth. While on earth, Jesus accomplished much. For one thing, he taught his followers about his God and Father. (1 Peter 1:3) For another, he gave his life for mankind. To gain everlasting life, we must have faith in Jesus.
The depth of God’s love is expressed in the words, “he gave his only-begotten Son.” * Jesus was a unique Son of God. How so? Jesus alone was created directly by God. (Colossians 1:17) He is “the firstborn of all creation.” (Colossians 1:15) All other creations, including the other angels, came into existence through Jesus, or by means of him. Yet, Jehovah * God was willing to send his dearest Son “to minister and to give his life as a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matthew 20:28) Jesus suffered and died to liberate us from sin and death, which we inherited from the first man, Adam.—Romans 5:8, 12.
Exercising faith in Jesus involves more than believing in him or acknowledging what he did for us. We must prove our faith in God’s Son by obeying him and following in his footsteps. (Matthew 7:24-27; 1 Peter 2:21) The Bible states: “The one who exercises faith in the Son has everlasting life; the one who disobeys the Son will not see life.”—John 3:36.
Context of John 3:16
Jesus spoke those words while talking to a Jewish religious leader named Nicodemus. (John 3:1, 2) In that conversation, Jesus revealed details about the Kingdom of God * and being “born again.” (John 3:3) He also foretold how he would die. “The Son of man must be lifted up [hung on a stake], so that everyone believing in him may have everlasting life.” (John 3:14, 15) He then emphasized that this opportunity for life was prompted by God’s great love for mankind. Jesus concluded by explaining that to get life, we have to show faith and do works that please God.—John 3:17-21.
^ par. 4 The Greek word translated “only-begotten” is monogenes, which has been defined as “one and only, . . . the only one of its kind or class, unique (in kind).”—A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, p. 658.
^ par. 6 The Kingdom of God, also called “the Kingdom of the heavens,” is a heavenly government. (Matthew 10:7; Revelation 11:15) God appointed Christ as King of that Kingdom. God’s Kingdom will accomplish God’s purpose for the earth. (Daniel 2:44; Matthew 6:10) For more details, see the article “What Is the Kingdom of God?”