This is a very comforting verse of scripture and in it Jesus stated, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." This verse certainly teaches that one is saved by faith. I do not wish to minimized the importance of faith at all, but what type of faith is Jesus speaking of?
Does this verse teach that one can be saved by "faith only"? If one says yes, it does, then he runs into some problems with other scriptures. To claim to be saved by "faith only", removes the need to do anything else. For those who believe this doctrine, teach that salvation is simply believing in Christ as God's Son and accepting Him as their personal Savior. Certainly, one must believe! Jesus said, "...If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins" (John 8:24).
If one places an interpretation on a verse of scripture which contradicts another verse, then he has used an incorrect interpretation on one or both verses.
Therefore, let us consider some other passages. It seems that there were those in the first century that felt that "faith only" could save them. James wrote, "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone" (James 2:17). Again he stated, "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (James 2:26). Now notice, "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only" (James 2:24). If we could be saved by simply obeying John 3:16, the Holy Spirit would not have guided James in making the above statements. For James contradicts the theory of being saved by John 3:16, only.
Paul wrote, "And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" (II Thess. 1:7-9). Notice what Christ is going to do to those who "obey not the gospel". John 3:16 does not teach anything about the gospel. Therefore, it is literally impossible for anyone to be saved, just accepting mentally what our Lord said in John 3:16.
John 3:16 is speaking of a faith that would move and motivate one to do all Christ said in order to be saved. That includes obeying the gospel of Christ, for only through obedience can one be saved. The Hebrew writer wrote of Christ: “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:9). Notice salvation is offered only to those who obey Him, not to those who believe only, in Him It is so sad that people are so biased, that they refuse to accept all of our Lord's teaching. ---Charles E. Burch