John 3:16, one of the most famous and widely quoted verses in the New Testament, is in the headlines again.
Former NFL New England Patriots star, Aaron Hernandez, apparently wrote “John 3:16″ across his forehead before he reportedly hanged himself in his prison cell. A Bible in the cell lay open to the same verse.
Hernandez, a convicted murderer, was serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. He had lived an irreligious life. Was the appeal to John 3:16 an attempt to ask forgiveness? Or admit guilt? Who knows? But it does point to the knowledge and power of this great verse, even by a secular world.
The Protestant reformer Martin Luther called John 3:16 “the gospel in miniature.”
Biblical Commentator William Barclay wrote that John 3:16 is “the very essence of the Gospel.”
Gospel preacher, Robert Jackson, entitled John 3:16 in a sermon “The greatest sentence ever written.”
John 3:16 has been described in so many different ways.
John 3:16 “is the promise that bears hope for the hopeless.”
John 3:16 “is the Mount Everest of Scripture passages from God’s Word.”
John 3:16 “is the hope diamond of the Bible.”
John 3:16, “the golden text of the Bible,” are the simple words of Jesus to the Jewish ruler Nicodemus.
“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.”
It all begins with God. He is the epitome of love. The author of salvation. And the Father of life and light.
People matter to God. The world is the object of God’s great plan for salvation. The human race without God is lost. Helpless. Hopeless. Hapless. We need him.
Because God loves, he gave. That’s his nature. His personality. His character. He is the giver of good gifts. Perfect gifts. Needed gifts. And the greatest of all gifts is His one and only Son, Jesus Christ.
Through Jesus we can know the Father. Receive redemption. Be cleansed from sins. Find peace. Enjoy blessings. And live an abundant life.
And who can receive this invitation? Whosoever will! Me! You! Anyone willing to deny self, take up His cross, and follow Him.
But John 3:16 is quite clear. This hope. This promise. This opportunity. Is found in one person. Him. Jesus! Indeed there is salvation in none other name.
Perish. It’s the one word in John 3:16 that bothers us a bit. It suggests the possibility of eternal damnation. Of losing the soul. Of spiritual death. And sadly some will perish. But, you don’t have to!
We can receive eternal life. Heaven’s hope is real. It is possible. It is promised. It can be achieved.
Jesus admonishes not to reject Him, but to receive His words. To believe Him. To love Him. To obey Him. And to accept his offer of eternal pardon.
But John 3:16 is not a “get out of jail free card.” Or a last-minute verse that offers absolution from guilt. The terms of salvation’s offer are His. Not ours. Jesus would later say, “If you love Me, keep My commandments…If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 14:15; 15:10)
John 3:16 was the first verse I memorized as a child. Sixty years later it still speaks to me with its of message of faith, hope and love. Beginning with God and ending with eternal life, John 3;16 is “the gospel in a nutshell.”
If you know nothing about the Bible, John 3:16 is a good place to begin. If you’re a mature disciple of Christ, John 3:16 is a good place to return.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman