Sermon Discussion – John 3:9-21

Hey discussion leaders, I hope this provides some helpful questions as you revisit this last week’s sermon with your Life Group or family!
Teaching goal:

God’s display of love in John 3:16 magnifies the glory and worth of God above all else, and this is very good for us.

Application goal:

That people would have a greater sense of peace because they know their acceptance before God depends on his work and not on our own.


What is your favorite movie/story that is about love? What is it about that movie/story that you enjoy so much?


What is the greatest gesture you’ve ever made in order to show love (or appreciation) for someone else?

Read John 3:9-21


Intro Questions:

(Note: if you didn’t do the study last week, here would be a good place to recap John 2:23-3:8 and Jesus’ teaching on being born again)

John 3:16 is probably the most well known verse in the entire Bible. Why do you think that is?

Why do you think that people don’t really know John 3:19 as well as John 3:16, they’re only 3 verses apart?

(This is the main question we’ll answer throughout the study, but give it to people so they can start chewing on it): What do you think people will misunderstand if they read John 3:16 without reading John 3:17-21?


Looking at the Text:

The passage starts out with Nicodemus still confused about what it means to be born again. Is there anyone in your study who is still confused as well? It’s ok if they are, Nicodemus was a religious professional and he still didn’t quite grasp it. Why do you think he was still confused?

What is Jesus’ response to his confusion?

  • Answer: a rebuke. “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?”
  • And an Old Testament example (John 3:14-15)


Interpreting the Text:

Read Numbers 21:4-9

What is the problem the people in Numbers 21 are facing? (Fiery serpents and death). How are they saved from the serpents bite? (Looking to the bronze serpent). What is the result of looking to the bronze serpent? (Life)

Why do you think Jesus turns to this story while he’s talking to Nicodemus? How in the world does this help us understand what Jesus is going to do on the cross?

  • Depending on how much your group feels like talking, this may require some explanation. You gain life by looking at the bronze snake. You gain eternal life by believing in (looking to) Jesus. The serpent being lifted up was a sign of the people’s rebellion and their punishment. Likewise, when Jesus is lifted up on the cross (see John 12:32-33), it is a sign of our rebellion and punishment. On the cross, Jesus became sin for us (1 Corinthians 5:21), he became a curse and punishment for us (Galatians 3:13). In a sense, Jesus became a snake so that we could be welcomed back into the presence of God.
  • If you like preaching gospel to your group, let it rip.

Read John 3:16

This verse starts with the word “For,” meaning that it is explaining what came before it (the story of the serpents). How does understanding the story in Numbers 21 begin to help us understand the love of God in 3:16-21?

What kinds of qualities typically make someone or something lovely?

What are some of the qualities of the world in 3:16-21? What do we learn about the world from verse 19? What does the world love? What does it mean that they “love the darkness”?

Why do you think some of the best love stories ever written entail stories of sacrifice and loss? Do you recall the story from the sermon about the father, the son, and the bridge? What was your reaction to it?

What makes the love of God in these verses so unique compared to the way non-Christian culture talks about a loving god? When non-Christians say they believe in a god of love, what did it cost their god to love them? What did it cost our God to love us?

Who actually ends up looking lovely in all of this? (God). What is it about God’s grand gesture that makes it so lovely? According to John 3:16, who is God’s love offered to and why is that significant? (whoever believes)
Personal Questions:

What are some ways that knowing God loves you on account of his Son’s work for us change the way that we think about love? Does it make you more joyful or less? Why?

How could knowing that God loves you for his Son’s sake make you more joyful?

What is the greatest loss that you could possibly imagine happening in your life (loss of money, loved one, etc. be specific)? How does contemplating losing the thing you treasure most help you understand the heart of God in John 3:16-21? How does it differ?

Do you feel disappointed at the idea that God loves you for his own glory’s sake instead of loving you for being a great person? Why might someone feel disappointed because of this? How should it make us feel? How do you think the teaching on needing to be “born again” can help us see God’s glory as a good thing?

Closing remarks:

We learn three great things from this passage in John 3:1-21. First, we are dead and need to be made alive, and God the Spirit accomplishes that in our lives by breathing life into our spiritual lungs. Second, we are condemned and need to be forgiven, and God the Son accomplishes that by dying in order to pay the penalty for our sins. Third, this all comes from the love God, and knowing this will help us see his glory (John 1:14, 1:18)

Final question: how can knowing these truths help you walk through tough seasons in life (doubt, despair, frustration, sin, etc.)?

  • The answer I’m aiming at here is that you can find profound security and peace knowing that God has secured your salvation and this truth is a life raft in the storms of life.

For God – the greatest Lover
So loved – the greatest generosity
The world – the greatest tragedy
That he gave – the greatest sacrifice
His only Son – the greatest gift
That whoever – the greatest openness
Believes – the greatest simplicity
In him – the greatest attraction
Should not perish – the greatest rescue
But – the greatest difference
Have – the greatest treasure
Eternal life – the greatest experience.