“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” (John 3:16).
One can share the gospel from a host of passages. There are over 100 verses in the Bible which say that whoever believes in Jesus Christ has everlasting life. John 3:16 is special in its brevity, beauty, and breadth–all spoken by the Lord Jesus well before His death and resurrection and the birth of the church.
Just 25 words in the English text. If anyone ever asks you to share the gospel in 25 words or less, quote John 3:16.
Look at the words. God. Love. The world. His only begotten Son. Whoever. Should not perish. Has everlasting life. All of the themes of a great novel are present: a Lover and His beloved, a self-sacrificing death, deliverance from a terrible fate, and living happily ever after” (i.e., living joyfully forever). Whenever I read this verse or hear it read I warm up inside. This is such a beautiful verse.
While some elements of the gospel are only briefly alluded to in this verse, nothing is missing.
Bad news. Our sinfulness and separation from God is evident in this verse. Those who die without trusting in the Lord Jesus will perish eternally. The reference to perishing looks to eternal ruin, suffering, and condemnation (cf. 3:17-18, 36), not to annihilation. This is certainly bad news. Not only will unbelievers miss the joys of being with God forever, but, instead, they will suffer forever.
Good news. The good news of the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ is present in the reference to God giving His only begotten Son. The two preceding verses (John 3:14-15) refer to an incident in Israel’s history when a serpent was lifted up on a pole that the nation of Israel might be healed of a deadly plague (Num. 21:4-9). In that context this reference to God giving His only begotten Son refers to Jesus’ being lifting up on the cross that the world might be healed of the deadly sin problem (cf. John 12:32-33).
The condition. Jesus clearly indicated what one must do to obtain the benefit of His substitutionary death. He did not say “whoever does good works,” “whoever surrenders all,” “whoever denies himself,” “whoever follows Him,” or “whoever confesses Him.” Rather He said, “whoever believes in Him.” The sole condition of eternal salvation is clearly stated as believing in Jesus Christ and Him alone as one’s only hope of heaven.
The result. Whoever believes will not perish but has everlasting life. Assurance and eternal security are evident here, especially when considered in light of the two verses which follow. Verse 18 in particular says that he who believes in Him is not condemned and he who believes not is condemned already. One moves from the state of condemnation to justification the moment he believes (cf. John 5:24). And, while one can stop being condemned by believing in Jesus Christ, there is no way to return to the former condemned state once one believes in Him.
Believe and be saved. The first and most obvious bearing of this verse upon our lives is this: believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and Him alone and at that moment you will be saved. Accept the free gift of eternal life. Give up trying to be saved on the basis of good works, reformation, commitment, promises, and the like. Rely solely on the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Be sure. Secondly, rest in your eternal life. Take God at His Word. Don’t look to your fallible works for assurance. Look to your infallible Savior. As the old gospel hymn says, “Whosoever surely meaneth me.” Once we trust in Jesus Christ we have eternal life. We don’t get it when we die. We get it when we believe in Him.
Remember whoever. Thirdly, in your personal study of Scripture remember the four words of John 3:16,”whoever believes in Him,” Whenever you read in a passage that someone believed in Jesus Christ vou can know that they have eternal salvation.
I am amazed how many commentators and Bible expositors will take a passage that clearly says that someone believed in Jesus Christ and say that the person didn’t really believe. This is commonly done with Luke 8:13; John 2:23; 8:30-31; 12:42: and Acts 8:5,12-13. If the Scriptures say that someone believed in Jesus Christ then they did. Remember, John 3:16 says whoever. Unbelievers do not believe in Christ. Only believers believe.
Share it. Finally, share the message of John 3:16 with others-with neighbors, coworkers, relatives, schoolmates, and strangers. Tell them the wondrous story. Tell them that whoever means whoever.
I’m so glad it does.