John 3:16 Part 1

The Hope of 3:16
By Larry d. Wright

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV)

INTRODUCTION: This verse has been described as “the greatest verse in the entire Bible.” It along with Psalm 23 is dearly beloved by people of all ages and places. In Greek there are only 25 words (26 in English, NIV) in this verse and the center word in son. That is appropriate because Jesus is the center of God’s plan and passion for mankind. No other single verse in all the Scriptures has been as blessed in the salvation of souls as this incredible verse.

This verse begins with God and ends with life and is the number of HOPE for anyone, anywhere and anytime. In fact, this verse spans the continents and the ages to reveal God’s eternal love for mankind. It is ageless. Children love this verse and learn to memorize its words in kindergarten. Senior adults love this verse and whisper its promise in their dying years. Soldiers love this verse and cherish his hope as bullets pass by their foxholes. Brides love this verse and hold it dear as they stand in the altar to be wed.

Martin Luther called John 3:16 the miniature gospel. It has been called the gospel in a nutshell and “a love letter from God written in blood and addressed to all.”

Max Lucado says, “This verse is the alphabet of grace, a table of contents to the Christians hope, each word a safe-deposit box of jewels. Read it again, slowly and aloud, and note the word that snatches your attention.” [1]

If ever there was a verse that Satan would love to blot out of the Bible, it would be John 3:16. If ever there was a verse that makes hell tremble, it is John 3:16. If ever there was a verse that has lightened the path to heaven for multitudes, it is John 3:16.

If you had only one verse to whisper in the ears of a person slipping into eternity, would it not be John 3:16?

Some have divided the verse into these parts:

· God’s Great Grace (INITIATIVE), “For God so loved the world”
· God’s Great Gift (SACRIFICE), “That he gave his only begotten Son”
· God’s Great Gospel (INVITATION), “That whosoever believeth in him”
· God’s Great Glory (INSURANCE),“Should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Today, I want us to examine the Grace, Gift and Gospel revealed in this verse. Next Sunday, on resurrection Sunday, we will look at the Glory as revealed in the phrase, “shall not perish but have eternal life.” 

Notice with me God’s Great GRACE.

FOR GOD: John 3:16 begins as the Bible begins in Genesis 1:1 with the existence of God taken for granted. “Jesus assumes what the Scriptures declares: God is.” (Lucado, p.17) 

The Psalmist states that “Only a fool would think otherwise.” (14:1)

The entire Bible affirms the existence of:

· A God (with emphasis on singular)
· A God who reveals Himself to mankind
· A God who loves all humanity with a perfect love

“For God” means there cannot be a here without a there. There cannot be an upper without a lower. There cannot be a before without an after. There can not be a watch without a watchmaker. There cannot be a creation without a Creator.

A Prophet of Israel named Isaiah declared, “I am God, and there is none like me.” (Isaiah 46:9)

So, John 3:16 opens with For God.

SO LOVED. In this verse wesee love defined by its nature.   God’s type of love cannot be confined or imprisoned in mere words. God’s love requires ACTION. The word "loved" occurs 56 times in the book of John.

The dictionary defines love in this way: "to have a feeling, affection, or regard for, to be strongly attached to or attracted toward, to hold dear". Yet, all these definitions are anemic, weak and inadequate when defining the God’s type of love.

God doesn’t try to define love. He demonstrates it.

Paul reminds us, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

ILLUSTRATION: As a gem dealer casually was strolling the aisles at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, his eye caught the attention of a blue-violet stone the size and shape of a potato. He looked it over, then, as calmly as possible, asked the vendor, "Will you take $15 for this rock?" The seller, realizing the rock wasn’t as pretty as others in the bin, quickly lowered the price to $10. The money exchanged hands and the new owner walked away a millionaire. The stone has since been certified as a 1,905-carat natural star sapphire, about 800 carats larger than the largest stone of its kind. It was appraised at $2.28 million.

It took a lover of stones to recognize the sapphire’s worth. It took the Lover of Souls to recognize the true value of ordinary-looking people like us. So, this verse proclaims, “For God, so loved…”

Deuteronomy 10:15 makes an unusual claim: “The Lord chose your ancestors as the objects of His love.” What is unusual? The word used is hasaq which means “tethered love.” This powerful Hebrew verb, hesed, means that the Lord attached or binds Himself to the objects of His love.

The awesomeness of God’s love becomes greater when you add the word "so".


"so loved" surpasses illustration. Many have tried to apply it to the love of a mother for her child but that falls inadequately short.

ILLUSTRATION: The following ad appeared in a Boston newspaper years ago.

“TO MY BOY WHO LEFT HOME MONDAY NIGHT, SEPTEMBER 15. My darling boy, If you should see this, which I pray our Heavenly Father you may, please let your distressed mother know where you are.” Mother

The notice was signed with one word - "Mother". That was all. No name. Nothing to let the world know who she was. Just the cry of a mother seeking her lost boy. Not a word about whose fault it was. No blame. No reproach. Just the reaching out of a mother’s love seeking to bring her wanderer back.

But even a mother’s love falls short of the love of God. The mind of man will never grasp the love of God. All we can say is that the love of God is uncaused, uninfluenced, spontaneous, and sovereign.

The OT story that vividly illustrates God’s love is the stubborn love of Hosea for his wayward wife Gomer. He sacrificed everything and bought his wife from the action block of slavery. Even her unfaithfulness could not deter his love. The OT word hasaq is translated agapao in the NT. It is God’s type of love.

Ephesians 5:2; “Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us.” (The Message) What is God’s love like? Extravagant!

Listen to Deuteronomy 7:7-8; “The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you…” Did you catch that? It says God loved you because he loved you.

Jeremiah 31:3 declares about God’s love: “I have loved thee with an everlasting love.”

God’s love is everlasting and unending. That means His love has no beginning. All earthly love had a beginning but God’s love reaches back to before the world was as well as forward to when all mountains are but dust. God’s love is infinite, illimitable, unbounded.

The little chorus sung by children says it best, "Wide, wide as the ocean, High as the heaven above, Deep, deep as the deepest sea, Is my Savior’s love."

Paul said, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:17-19)

Max Lucado writes:

“There are many reasons God saves you: to bring glory to himself, to appease his justice, to demonstrate his sovereignty. But one of the sweetest reasons God saved you is because he is fond of you. He likes having you around. He thinks you are the best thing to come down the pike in quite a while… If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If he had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning. Whenever you want to talk, he’ll listen. He can live anywhere in the universe, and he chose your heart. And the Christmas gift he sent you in Bethlehem? Face it, friend. He’s crazy about you!”


I can make that claim because John 3:16 states, “For God so loved…”


The word "world" is found 77 times in John. It is not talking about the matter (like rocks and trees) that make up our cosmos or the world system but the world people John describes in 1 John 2:15-17.

I love these words of Walter Wilson who said, "No one in all the world could possible love everyone in the world. In fact most people find it difficult to love all their relatives."

But God has found it possible, with His great heart of love, to love every individual in the entire world in spite of all our faults, sin and depravity.

God loves the Jews but also the Germans who killed the Jews; Russians, Chinese, Arabs, Americans, and Africans. He loves all people groups and all skin colors.

We teach our children to sing, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight."

· God loves the civilized but also the heathen.
· God loves the Baptists but also Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Catholics & Charismatics.
· God loves the fundamentalists but also the liberals.
· God loves the capitalist but He also loves the communists.
· God loves the Democrats but He also loves the Republicans.
· God loves preachers but also murderers, gamblers, bartenders, and prostitutes.
· God loves holy people but He also loves homosexuals.
· God loves people who work on the railroad and He loves the people who live across the tracks.
· God loves homeowners but He loves the homeless as well.

He loves the sinner not the sin, the criminal not the crime, the rebel not the rebellion, the liar not the lie, the idolater not the idol.

You can come to Him “just as you are” but because of His great love He will not leave you that way. He will wash you, cleanse you and make you new within. His love contains the power to do just that.

“For God so loved the world…”

I have spoken to you about God’s great GRACE. Now think with me about God’s Great GIFT.


The world knows a little about giving but God’s gift cost Him something that we humans known knowing about. Most of the giving we know about is giving that is affordable with little or no element of sacrifice in it.

God is extremely wealthy but He did not give the cattle on a 1000 hills or silver and gold hidden in the mountains. He gave all he had in the person of his Son.

"He gave" means He suffered because of His gift. We think a lot about the suffering of the Son in the passion of the cross but have you ever thought about the suffering of the Father. Could you stand in a window of your house and watch an angry mob spit upon, beat, abuse, and kill your son while you possessed the power to stop it in the infinity of a second? God did! God could have stopped the killing, the insanity of Calvary, the malicious bloodshed but HE GAVE!

Why? Because he SO loved the world that He gave.

I believe that one of the most puzzling and perplexing verses in the entire Bible is found in Isaiah 53:10; “Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.”

Friend, we can not understand or comprehend that type of sacrificial love.


This is a word of relationship and because of that relationship there was great pain in the giving of the Gift.

The Greek word for “one and only” is momogenes, an adjective compound of monos (“only”) and genes (“species, race, family, offspring, kind”). When used lways describes a parent-child relationship. John uses the term 5 times: 1:14; q:18; 3:16; 3:18; 1 John 4:9. [2]

Jesus is a one-and-only. He shares God’s DNA.

There is one final thing.

Observe with me God’s Great Gospel
(Announcement of Good News)


This means all. You are a “whosoever.” It is a universal word. It is God’s wonderful word of welcome. This word invites the world to God. “Whosoever makes it clear; God exports his grace worldwide.” (Lucado, John 3:13, Number of Hope, p.66)

· All have sinned and all need a Savior.
· It means any who will.
· It means those who believe.
· It could mean you.

I am glad that it did not have my specific name in it because in my lifetime I have met several other people with the name “Larry Wright”. If my name had been put in this verse I would always wondered for whom was the promise intended. If a name had been put here then all other people would have been left out.

I thank God that John 3:16 says "whosoever" because “whosoever” means ME. “Whosoever” means YOU.


The word “whosoever” is an INCLUSIVE word. The word “believeth” is an EXCLUSIVE word. The word “believe” with its various endings occurs 100 times in John’s gospel. This word “believe” denies salvation by any other way but by faith.

· It denies works, even good works as a means of salvation. Look at the context of our text and you will read about the spiritual seeking of a religious man named Nicodemus. Nicodemus was educated, rich, moral, religious, a do-gooder, a "church member", intelligent, but not saved. Jesus told him in John 3:3, "ye must be born again".

The doors of heaven swing on this experience of a PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP. We are saved by faith and not by human goodness or achievements. John made this fact clear in his prologue: “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.” “Born of God” is the ONLY way!

Ephesians 2:8-9; “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Titus 3:5; “he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,”

ILLUSTRATION: Bible translators in the New Hebrides Island struggled to find an appropriate verb for believe which created a serious problem. While hunting with a tribesman, translator John G. Patton solved the problem. They returned from an exhausting hunt and upon arriving at the veranda, both men dropped their heavy load and fell in the porch chairs.

The man exclaimed in his native tongue, “It is good to stretch yourself out and rest.” Immediately Patton knew how to translate the word “believe.”

“For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever stretcheth himself out on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”


The Bible makes it clear that salvation is in a single Person and that person is the One given by God the Father.

Acts 4:12; “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."

1 John 5:12; “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

Jesus Christ. Salvation is not found in believing in any person or even the church, or a good Christian life, but in Christ alone.

There are many people in our world trying to convince you otherwise. They contend that there are many “ways” to connect with God. This New Age message is as old as the devils lie to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and it is contradictory to the message of the Bible.

John 3:16 declares that we must believe in Him, meaning Jesus ALONE!


Have you ever misplaced a gift certificate then discovered it some months later? You react with enthusiasm but soon your spirits are dampened when you look at the expiration date. An invitation that is expired is worthless.

The Holy Spirit beckons you to accept God’s free and great grace but I must WARN YOU…there is an expiration date. You can wait too long.


[1] Max Lucado, 3:16 Number of Hope, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, soo7. p. 9

[2] Lucado, p.44