16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
“So” and “that” correspond in this verse. God’s love and gift correspond to one another. God demonstrated His love for the world by sending His one and only Son. There was no one like Him; He was one of a kind. This is a repeat of the purpose of verse 15.
The “gave” here includes both giving Jesus in the incarnation and His crucifixion.
The Greek places stress on the actuality of God’s gift. God did not love to give, but He loved so that He gave. His love is not vague sentimentality and feeling but a love that cost Him something. God gave what was most dear to Him—His one and only Son.
The tense of “gave” is at one point in the past (aorist indicative). This giving by God took place in eternity past. It was not something that He thought about after the fact. The gospel centers primarily on the object of God’s love rather than on His love itself. The Father determined from eternity to give the Son to pay for the penalty of mankind’s sin. Here Jesus was still alive and was speaking about how He would die.
The word “gave” indicates that when God gave His Son, He gave something of great value (Ro 8:3, 32). The Son was the Father’s gift to the world. This is a gift to be received, not earned. God manifested His love in an infinitely glorious way, by sending His one and only Son to die for our sins.
His only begotten Son,
“Only begotten Son” is literally one and only Son. Christ was a one-of-a-kind Son to the Father. He was completely unique from any other son. This phrase emphasizes the greatness of God’s gift. God’s gift to us was one of a kind, one vicarious sacrifice for everyone.
God’s gift of salvation was both unique and great.
God is the first cause of the principle of salvation. Our salvation originated in His love. Although there was nothing worthy in us, He gave His one and only Son to die for our sins (Jn 1:14, 18; 3:18; 4:9). There was nothing in us that caused Him to take the initiative for our salvation.
God did not lend His Son. He sacrificed Him for us. He gave the best He had to give. Neither was Christ an unwilling victim (He 9:14). There was no sacrifice too great for God to give for us. We cannot measure the love of His sacrifice for us.