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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Parnell

How Supremacy Simplifies (John 3:36)

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. —John 3:36

There are really two options: either life or death. And it all hinges on what we do with the Lord Jesus.

John the Baptist articulated the same thing that Jesus taught previously in chapter 3 of John’s Gospel. Jesus said whoever believes in the Son has eternal life (John 3:16); whoever does not believe in the Son is condemned already (John 3:18). This same simple contrast is repeated in verse 36—faith in Jesus means eternal life; unbelief means wrath.

This contrast leads us to consider afresh what makes up “true and solid wisdom,” which as Calvin puts it, is the knowledge of God and of ourselves. In particular, who is Jesus and what are we to do?

The Supremacy of Jesus

The most surface-level glance at John 3:36 would affirm the supremacy of Christ. Life and death are at stake and wherever we land is determined by whether we believe in Jesus or reject him. That’s really it. Jesus is the hinge-point of our eternity. He came into a world full of sinners in order to save us. There wasn’t anything neutral about humanity. The world was condemned already because of our rebellion against God. The wrath of God was cued up for us as our destiny (see Ephesians 2:1–3).

But having faithfully lived in our place, Jesus suffered on the cross for our rebellion. He bore that wrath we deserve and was raised from the dead in triumph. This altered the issue for humanity to no longer be mainly about our sinfulness, but about what we say about Him. We’re all sinners. That is clear. But now it comes down to whether we believe in the crucified and resurrected Son of God or whether we reject Him and perpetuate our destiny for God’s wrath. Jesus has that kind of supremacy.

What About Us?

Notice how the language of John 3:36 is updated from John 3:18. To not believe the Son (unbelief) is described as to not obey him (disobedience). They are one and the same. Failure to trust in the person and work of Jesus is to reject Him, to rebel against the demands of His supremacy.

There is only one appropriate response to what Jesus has done—embrace him, abandon every other pursuit—and every other potential pursuit—to cling to Him as our only hope. To believe Him is to have eternal life. To not believe Him is to continue in God’s wrath.

Jesus forces a very simple question on all of us: do you trust Him? Do you relinquish your vain attempts to be good enough? Do you give up your hopes of earning God’s favor by the things you do? Do you believe Jesus?


For Reflection

  1. Consider the simplicity of the John 3:36 contrast. How would you describe this verse to someone else?

  2. What are other ways the supremacy of Jesus simplifies your everyday life?

  3. Are you putting your hope in things other than Jesus? If so, confess them and trust in Him.


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