Why The Gospel Still Matters
John 3:16, NRSV & MSG
NRSV: 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
MSG: 16 “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.
We have seen it written on signs worn by religious fanatics, which sport the Chapter and Verse on one side and the words of the verse on the other. We have seen it emboldened across t-shirts worn by people of all ages and sizes and religious tracts that Christians give out to random passersby or specific people whose doors they knock on as they peddle the Gospel. Some of us may even have John 3:16 as a screen saver on our smartphone, tablet, or computer. Next to John 11:34 (Jesus wept.), John 3:16 might be one of the most popularized and memorized passages around the globe and throughout the generations.
What’s so special about John 3:16? Why do Christians devote so much time to thinking and talking about it? The simple answer: John 3:16 is the “Gospel in a nutshell.” John 3:16 gives us a thumbnail sketch of our salvation in the life, death, and legacy of Jesus Christ. The Apostle John, the beloved disciple — as he describes himself — gives us a clear and concise way to understand, act on, and share what faith in Jesus Christ means. Through this brief passage (27 words, which can be read in 6 seconds and spoken in less than 9), what is the Lord of Life saying to us about eternal life? Like Nicodemus, we also can listen and learn how we might access, here and now, the life God invites and enables us to enjoy. To do that, we will need to internalize and act on these seven (7) foundational truths of the Gospel that Jesus continues to teach us:
- Our salvation finds its origins in the head and heart of the triune God. (GOD)
- Our salvation starts from a place of divine love, God’s unfailing and unlimited concern for us, and commitment to us. (SO LOVED)
- Our salvation is a sheer, exquisite gift from God to us, which we can neither earn, merit, nor are entitled to it. (THAT HE GAVE)
- Our salvation is not simply an extravagant gift, but it’s also an essential, yet costly one. (HIS ONLY SON)
- Our salvation is not exclusively ours, but it’s a universal gift God gives to everyone every day and everywhere. (SO THAT EVERYONE)
- Our salvation can be received only as a gift by one who chooses to believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son, our sovereign and savior, and is alive and active. (WHO BELIEVES IN HIM)
- Our salvation is both a “now and not yet” phenomenon. That is, we have access through faith in Jesus Christ to overcome the forces within, between, and around us that would keep us from enjoying the life, love, and liberation God has given us in Jesus Christ and continues to give us daily through the Holy Spirit. (SHALL NOT PERISH BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE)
I’m willing to wager you did not know this one verse, expressed in 27 words, could offer so many rich layers of meaning. That’s precisely why Martin Luther, the famous Protestant reformer and a thought-provoking Christian thinker, referred to John 3:16 as the “Gospel in miniature.” In short, John 3:16 contains so many explanations about, implications for, and applications to our journey with Jesus.
What does reviewing these gospel nuggets of truth enable you to do today in practical and personal terms? You can explain to others that the main problem with us, individually and corporately, historically and presently, is what Christianity refers to as sin. What does sin do?* Sin blocks us from living our best lives now, blinds us to God’s reality and relevance, and burdens us with the guilt and shame from our past mistakes under whose weight we are on the verge of breaking down and falling apart. More importantly, Jesus is God’s answer to our prayers and problems. Through Jesus, God:
- Frees us from past mistakes and frees us to pursue our God-given mission;
- Opens our eyes so that we might see the light of God’s love shining in the darkness and beckoning us to return home to God, who is waiting for us and will welcome us back; and
- Empowers us to overcome whatever hostile forces that would strip us of our God-given dignity, equality, and destiny.
Central Thought for Today: Let the love of Jesus Christ convince you to share the Good News. Despite your fear that people do not want to hear it, offer the Gospel to others because people are waiting to hear where they can find real help with life’s problems, healing from present pain, and a hope for their hearts.
*What does sin do? Sin:
- Blocks us from living our best lives now;
- Blinds us to God’s reality and relevance; and
- Burdens us with the guilt and shame from our past mistakes under whose weight we are on the verge of breaking down and falling apart.