John 3:16 is a great verse. Only an idiot would say that it is a bad verse. But only a man equally idiotic would say that the Devil has never tried to pervert it. The main way that the Independent Baptists pervert this verse is to change the tense and put it, at this moment, on a lost person. This is heresy of the first degree. Let me say this in the clearest terms possible: God does not love a lost man. According to the Bible, God showed (past tense) his love for lost sinners by sending Jesus Christ to die on the cross in their place. Never in the NT does God say he loves (present tense) the sinner. The obvious proof of this is that out of 7,957 verses in the King James NT, when a man tries to prove that God loves (present tense) the sinner, 9 times out of 10, he will quote John 3:16. And the verse is written in the past tense. If there was another verse that was better, they would use it. They do not.
One question that arises is, “Is there a verse that shows God does not love the sinner?” I am glad that you asked. There is a verse that proves this in the same chapter: John 3. Look at verse 36. Notice that “abideth” is present tense as verbs that end in “-eth” are third person, singular, PRESENT tense, according to the dictionary. According to John 3:36, the wrath of God abideth on a man without Christ. This is a direct contrast to the heresy that “the love of God abideth on him.” Other places in the Bible show that God does not love the sinner are Psalm 5:5, 11:5, and Proverbs 6:16-19 (some examples are sins and some are people that do those sins). In the NT, Jesus Christ tells people that they are children of the Devil (John 8:47) and in the Pauline Epistles, lost men are children of wrath and disobedience who are without hope and without God. There is no indication that he loves sinners (present tense) until that moment when they run to the cross of Calvary and get saved. At that second, Romans 8 comes into effect and then God loves saved sinners so much that nothing can separate them from the love of God.
This is a great heresy because it destroys the whole reason that a sinner needs to get saved. Imagine a lost man under conviction. By definition, he is worried about the consequences for his sin. He is starting to grasp that God is completely holy, very much unlike himself. And then on his way home from work, he sees the stupid church sign at his local Independent Baptist church. Having long ago abandoned putting up Scripture only, it says, “Smile, God Loves You.” At that moment he is given, by the Devil himself, a reason to ignore his conscience and put away his conviction. He has just been told that he was fine. This is a trick of the Devil. He is not fine and he is headed for hell. His reason for running to Calvary has been removed because “God loves him.” Or so he was told.
This heresy is rampant. One major Independent Baptist ministry that prints tracts has 90% of its tracts starting with “Realize God loves you” and quotes John 3:16. Biblically, this is the first thing that a lost man should realize is NOT true. That is why he is going to hell and that is why he needs to get saved. Also, if God loves everyone, then why would I preach the Gospel to them? He already loves them, supposedly. This lie also diminishes the love that the God of the Bible has towards his Son Jesus Christ and Christians. The “law of opposites” comes into effect here which is to say that if God loves everyone he therefore does NOT love anyone. You have to have “up” to have “down.” The old saying goes, “you can’t love flowers without hating weeds.” Besides to faulty logic, the effects of this heresy are cheap salvations (that is the same as saying “no or fake salvations”)and a lack of reasons to preach to lost men. And more than that, it is a rejection of the clear teachings of the Bible.