One day a pastor was conducting an object lesson with some children. He held up a walnut shell and pulled a piece of paper out of it on which he had written this verse: “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” (John 3:16). The pastor held the piece of paper up and asked, “What is this?” One child replied, “Sir, that is the Gospel in a nutshell!”
What a great answer! That is exactly what it is. If all the rest of the Bible were destroyed, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, there would still be enough Gospel left in John 3:16 to save every lost soul.
This verse contains ten key words: God, loved, world, gave, Son, whosoever, believeth, perish, have, life.
These ten words seem to go together in five pairs: God and Son, loved and gave, world and whosoever, believeth and have, perish and life.
These five pairs teach us five essential truths:
- God and Son – the ultimate Giver and the ultimate Gift
- Loved and Gave – the two expressions of God’s compassion
- World and Whosoever – the two-fold direction of God’s loving and giving
- Believeth and Have – the two things human beings are invited to do
- Perish and Life – the two possibilities of human destiny
Someone has explained John 3:16 in these terms:
“For God” – the greatest Lover
“so loved” – the greatest degree
“the world” – the greatest company
“that He gave” – the greatest act
“His only begotten Son” – the greatest Gift
“that whosoever” – the greatest invitation
“believeth” – the greatest simplicity
“in Him” – the greatest Object
“should not perish” – the greatest promise
“but” – the greatest difference
“have” – the greatest certainty
“everlasting life” – the greatest possession
When God wants to do something spectacular, He simply takes a little crooked letter and a small round letter and puts them together to form the word “so.” The word “so” emphasizes the greatness and intensity of His love for people – for the world – for “whosoever” – for people like you and me.
One day a man conducting a survey knocked on the door of a house and a little girl answered it. He asked the child, “How many people live in your house?” The girl replied, “Let’s see, there is Michael, Susan, Billy, and….” The man interrupted her and said, “I haven’t got time for names. I want numbers!” The little girl replied, “Sorry, we don’t have any numbers living here, only people!”
The wonderful truth of John 3:16 is that the Father gave His unique and beloved Son to die on behalf of sinful humanity so that “whosoever” (that includes you) believes on Him would have everlasting life as a free gift. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31), Paul told the Philippian jailer. And he did! Have you?