Holding to Truth

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A Deeper Understanding of John 3:16 and How God Makes Sinners the Bride of Christ

“John 3:16”—it’s been printed on the bottom of soft drink cups, put on posters, waved at athletic events, and flashed across people’s TV screens. But what exactly is John 3:16  talking about? God is revealing how He makes sinners the bride of Christ.

John 3:16 and how God makes sinners the bride of Christ

I believe that most people only know this verse in a very superficial way with little appreciation for its context or deeper meaning.

So let’s consider the deeper meaning of John 3:16 so that our appreciation is uplifted and our experience enriched. Then we’ll be ready to share the good news of this wonderful verse with others we love.

How God makes sinners the bride of Christ

Better teachings can’t help poisoned people.

We need an antidote. We all got poisoned by Satan, the old serpent (Gen. 3:1).

Whether it’s hidden selfishness, jealousy, and hatred or whether it’s visible outbursts of anger, immoral deeds and vice—deep inside we know that in our nature there is something very wrong.

There is something in us that rebels against God, rejects Christ, and avoids the convicting of His Spirit. By our natural birth we’re all children of the devil, the old serpent (1 John 3:10; Rev. 12:9).

What does this have to do with John 3:16?

In John 3, a respected Jewish leader named Nicodemus, came to Jesus thinking that he was pretty good and wanting Jesus to teach him to be even better.

Jesus told him that he needed to be born anew (v.3).

Why? Because regardless how good he felt about himself, Jesus knew that Nicodemus was just a snake-bitten sinner, infected with Satan’s deadly poison. He was just like the rest of us.

The Lord told him that even if he could return to his mother’s womb and start all over again—his sinful nature would still be just the same. He couldn’t improve it—and neither can we. What he needed was another kind of birth—a birth of a different nature, that is to be born from above—to be regenerated.

What does it really mean to be born again or regenerated ?

“To be regenerated is to have the divine, eternal life (in addition to the human natural life) as the new source and new element of a new person.” [Holy Bible Recovery Version, John 3:6, footnote 2]

If it were just a matter of going to heaven when we die, we would still have no remedy to Satan’s poisonous element in our nature today. We would still lack the divine life we need to fulfill God’s plan.

What do we need in order to become the bride of Christ?

First, we need the cross of Christ.

The Lord Jesus told Nicodemus, in John 3:14-15,

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that everyone who believes into Him may have eternal life.”

We can be regenerated only because the Lord Jesus was crucified on the cross for us. He died on the cross in the form of the serpent, that is, in our form. And He did it so that we might have His eternal life. His cross deals with sin, the poisonous element of Satan in man.

Second, we need the Spirit of Christ.

In His resurrection, the Lord Jesus became the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45). This was so that He could impart His eternal life into us that we could be born of the Spirit.  John 3:6 says,

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

So through His crucifixion, Christ dealt with the serpent’s sinful element in us, and through Himself as the life-giving Spirit, He imparts the divine life into us. He takes away Satan’s poison of sin and replaces it with God’s eternal life in Christ.  In this way we’re regenerated to become the bride of Christ.

The bride of Christ — the purpose for us to be regenerated

Many think that it’s just so that we won’t perish in the lake of fire for eternity (Rev. 20:15). But actually, according to John 3:29-30, it’s to make us the bride of Christ, His increase. John the Baptist said of Jesus,

“He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices with joy because of the bridegroom’s voice. This joy of mine therefore is made full. He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Christ’s eternal bride is His increase. It’s the living composition of  the  regenerated people. Christ is the Bridegroom who is now waiting to have us as His bride.

So how can we be regenerated?

John 3:16 says,

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that everyone who believes into Him would not perish, but would have eternal life.”

We simply need to believe into Him. Those who believe into the Lord Jesus, the One lifted up on the cross for us, receive Him as the life-giving Spirit into their spirit so that they may have the eternal life to become Christ’s bride.

Simply pray,

“Lord Jesus, I believe into You. I receive You right now. Thank you for becoming a real man of blood and flesh to die as my replacement. Thank you, that on the cross you judged Satan—the old serpent, dealt with his poison of sin, and left my sins there. Praise you, that You also resurrected from the dead to become a life-giving Spirit so You could get into me, to regenerate me. Lord I invite You to come in, take away my sin, fill me with Your life and make me part of your increase, your bride. Lord Jesus, I love You.”

How did you experience regeneration? How did it change your life? We’d love to here from you.

This post was inspired by a section on knowing the deeper denotations of the Scriptures in a book by Witness Lee entitled The Practice of Prophesying, pp. 32-33. Let me know what you think of this post by leaving a comment. If you’re already regenerated, please share this wonderful truth with your friends so that they too can be regenerated to be part of Christ’s bride. If you liked this post, you may also enjoy my favorite song on John 3:16.

About Tom Smith

Hi. My name is Tom Smith. I'm the writer behind Holding to Truth in Love, and I love the Lord Jesus and His life-giving Word. Please feel free to send me an e-mail through the contact page if you have any questions. I hope you'd take a moment to subscribe to the Holding to Truth blog. Then you'll be sure not to miss a post. Thanks!

7 Replies

  1. I have experienced regeneration and although I did not know it at the time, that brought me into the bride. Now I have the same life as all the other regenerated people. Now I experience oneness in Christ.

    1. Tom Smith

      Don, I’m so glad that eternal life isn’t just something we have to wait for until we die. As soon as we’re regenerated, we enter into the present reality of the eternal life that makes us one in life with our fellow believers who have also experienced this same divine birth. It’s so good to realize that regeneration is the beginning of bride preparation and that we can be in the present process of preparing Christ’s bride by enjoying this eternal life. May all the Lord’s children be enlightened to this revelation so they don’t miss out on this experience today!

  2. Zack Njeri

    Thank you for Sharing this truth. I was seeking for a deeper understanding of God’s Love in John3:16..of which I have ended up being regenerated. How sweet it is when you are regenerated! God bless you Sir Tom.

    1. Tom Smith


      Glad you were touched by God’s love in John 3:16 which brought you into the experience of regeneration. Yes, it is so sweet to be regenerated and to realize that God is now our Father and that we are born of Him (John 1:12-13) with His eternal life to become His genuine children who can now call Him “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15). The more we all on Lord Jesus (Rom. 10:12-13) and the more cry out to our Father in the Spirit of sonship (8:15), the more real and sweet this life relationship becomes. Thank you for your confirming comment.

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