John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” What a great single-verse summary of the gospel! But even though this one verse stands true on its own, there is still a context that we must consider.
Jesus was talking to Nicodemus, a Pharisee who recognized by the miracles He did that Jesus was sent from God: “This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:2).
But Nicodemus didn’t get the things Jesus taught, even though Jesus referenced the prophets to show they wrote about Him. Jesus said, “Aren’t you the teacher of Israel and you do not understand?” So He gave another example: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him has eternal life” (John 3:14-15).
“For God so loved the world,” that He sent His Son. See, Nicodemus thought that the Messiah the prophets talked about was coming to save the Jews. Jesus used this story from Moses, when God sent serpents to punish the people for their sin (Numbers 21:4-9), to foreshadow how God would deliver from His wrath a people that would include every tribe, tongue, and nation on earth.
That is what is meant by “For God so loved the world.” It doesn’t mean every person in the world. It means more than just Jews. And in both verses 15 and 16, the qualifier is “whoever believes” will be saved and have eternal life.
The love of God the Father includes people from every nation, that He gave His Son as a sacrifice for the sins of His people, whoever believes in the person and work of Jesus Christ, that they would be saved from the wrath of God and have eternal life. So take this gospel message to every nation that they would believe and be saved when we understand the text!