16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. ESVIt appears obvious to this reader that in 3:16 John is telling us the giving of the Son, the work of Christ and Christ’s saving work originates in the will and act of God Himself. John uses “God” (ho theos) here but this does not limit the language of this act to a Trinitarian person but simply God Himself as the source and giver of life. Those who believe in the Son should not perish but have eternal life because of what God has done through the Son. The Psalmist well before the Incarnation prophetically wrote, “Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me:” (40:7 ESV)
God "loved" and God "gave":
The LEB has “For in this way God loved the world...” It is God who “loved” the world and “gave” the “only Son”. This is done by His will and action. The verbs “loved” and “gave” here are in the aorist third person form (egapesen) of agapao. This means that John has in mind a specific action in the past; the giving of the Son. This is an action done temporally in the time-space continuum and not necessarily an atemporal state of existence. An eternal begetting is not implied anywhere in Scripture.
God Sends the Son:
Jesus was God manifest in the flesh (1 Tim. 3:16) and had been sent from the womb of Mary on divine assignment and mission. John 3:17 uses the Greek word for “send”. This verb apostello (apesteilen) is in the aorist aspect also (e.g. “loved”; “gave”) and therefore implies past time. This is why in English John suggests “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (3:17 ESV) The text also concerns what God has done through the Son “in order” or so that the world might be saved through him. This refers to the Son as our mediator for sin and atonement through Him alone.
I find the use of the verb “send” should be understood within the temporal perspective that Jesus Christ experienced. It should at least be the starting point. The “sending” or “coming” is in terms of a commissioning and sending of the only begotten Son of God. A descent from a non-earthly location in the sense of an angel or emanation was probably not on the mind of John here.
"into the world" and "I have come":
The phrase “into the world” perhaps can be taken in the same sense as a father sending his son out "into the world" to make his own way. This happened at the outset of Jesus' ministry in Luke 4:18-21 where the same verb for “send” (as used in John 3:17) is also used in the perfect third person form as “sent”. In Luke Jesus says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me...He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” (ESV)
John 18:37 says, “Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” ESV
As a man he was “sent” and “given” by God for the mission of redemption. The use of “I was born” and “come into the world” do not necessarily refer to two separate events but one can serve as an explanation of the other. Notice this portion of F.F. Bruce's' rendering of John 18:37:
“...The purpose of my birth, the purpose of my coming into the world, is that I should bear witness to the truth.”(2)Bruce notes that “Here it is the incarnate Logos who is speaking, the embodiment of eternal truth, now revealed on earth at a particular time and place.”(3) We must be careful that we do not press the language too much. Leon Morris notes that “Pre-existence and incarnation are the precondition for, but not the point of this way of speaking.”(4) Such a way of speaking may not have been immediately compelling to those around Christ that He was God in the flesh or an angelic being descended from heaven.
Although that may be possible such things as coming into the world can be said of Jesus as well as “the prophet” (John 6:14); “the Christ” (John 7:27; 11:27) and every human being (John 16:21). Nicodemus recognized that Jesus was a teacher “come from God” (John 3:2) and even John the baptist is a man said to be “sent from God” as well as sent “before” Christ (see John 1:6; 3:28). In his voluminous work The Wars of the Jews Josephus uses similar language:
(400) “Thou, O Vespasian, thinkest no more than that thou hast taken Josephus himself captive; but I come to thee as a messenger of greater tidings; for had not I been sent by God to thee, I knew what was the laws of the Jews in this case,a and how it becomes generals to die.(5)In Mark 9:11-13 we see John the Baptist as the "Elijah" who "has come". (See Mal. 3:1–2; 4:5–6) Here John the Baptist is clearly thought of as divinely commissioned, but that does not imply to the reader that he came from a non-earthly location.
For the Trinitarian the sending of the Son proves that the Father and Son are two separate person just as Jesus and the disciples are two persons. In this case the Father and the Son then are each existing prior to the Incarnation with their own mind and consciousness. If God is a Trinity of persons in this sense then there is no way to logically escape that the Trinity teaches tritheism (three gods). Jesus and the disciples share the fact that they as Christ had a divine commission and anointing.
The Genuine Humanity of Jesus Christ:
In the Incarnation God is distinctly aware of Himself as truly human and of course of Himself logically transcendent.The concept of sending refers to the Incarnation in the sense that it refers to the genuine humanity of Jesus Christ. A genuine human existence. Such a concept teaches us nothing about the divine nature of God. God, who existed outside of the time-space continuum, was also uniquely present in Jesus Christ. Although Jesus in His human nature can be spoken of as sent He can also be wherever two or three gather together in His name (Matthew 18:20). The fact that He made this statement while still on the earth shows that He did not give up His omnipresence in the Incarnation. Oneness Pentecostals affirm the genuine and complete humanity of Jesus. Yet this is not done to the exclusion of his supreme Deity. We must however allow all of Scripture to speak.
The Incarnation or the deity of the Messiah may ultimately be inexplicable. As noted in earlier posts Oneness Pentecostals hold the two truths of Christ as a genuine human and as God to be equally true. As a genuine man Jesus experienced limitations; was subject to time; prayed; endured, and was tempted. Christ’s humanity means that everything we humans can say of ourselves, we can also say of Jesus in his earthly life--except for sin. In every way that we relate to God, Jesus related to God, except that he did not need to repent or be born again. Thus, when Jesus prayed, when he submitted his will to the Father, and when he spoke about and to God, he simply acted in accordance with his authentic, genuine humanity.
1) “The giving of the only Son clearly embraces both incarnation and vicarious death; it is the entire mission of the Son that is in view.” Beasley-Murray, G. R. (2002). Vol. 36: Word Biblical Commentary : John. Word Biblical Commentary (51). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
2) Bruce, F.F. (1983) The Gospel & Epistles of John. (353) W.B. Eerdmans Publishing.
3) ibid. 354
4) Morris, Leon. (1986) New Testament Theology. (241) Zondervan Publishing
5) Josephus, F., & Whiston, W. (1996). The works of Josephus : Complete and unabridged. (3.400) Peabody: Hendrickson.