John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that He have HIs only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."
This verse, often entitles the Gospel in a nutshell, gets quite a workout. Not only is it quoted by almost each & every Christian, & emblazoned on numerous banners strewn at sporting events, it is also used as the buoy & life saver for many at times of trouble & strife.
In the past, I have made comments on the fact that many people do not understand the true meaning of the love of God. How this love that God has for the world is a matter of decision of grace & mercy. God's love for us in Christ is not a matter of butterflies in the stomach or sweaty palms or dry mouth, but a purposeful & deliberate choice of God to refuse to punish & destroy the world for it's rebellion. His choice to love the world is displayed (as in an epiphany) in His sending Jesus to be the Savior & sacrifice for the entire world.
I have spoken of that in the past, so right now I want to concentrate on a different word: whoever. This statement of Jesus declaring the reason for His coming into the world comes at the end of John's account of His meeting with Nicodemus. This Jewish leader has come to Jesus to have his curiosity & question answered. Nicodemus has heard Jesus speak, has been touched by the Word, & the Spirit is working faith in his heart. He just needs some of the defenses of sin & human will torn down by the power of Jesus' Word. But Jesus never says, "whoever". He says, "all".
It is the work of the translator, trying to turn good Greek into good English that takes a rough word by word translation, "in order that all the believing in Him may not perish buy may have life eternal." I won't go into technical terms like participles & the like. And it is not a bad translation to take the explicit word "all" & turn it into the indefinite pronoun "whoever". But here, speaking to a leader of the Pharisees, the scholars of the Scripture, & memorizers of the books of Moses, each & every word is very important.
Jesus has been speaking to Nicodemus about the necessity of rebirth & renewal by the Holy Spirit. Nicodemus needs to hear that simple, sweet news of God's forgiveness & grace, freely offered & freely received. But in tearing down Nicodemus' intellectual defenses to baptism & salvation, Jesus also gives this simple destruction to any emotional or deep-seated ideas of our work for mercy. Pharisees based their ides of God's favor on the merits of their own faithful devotion.
Pharisees worked & slaved to keep each & every law possible to sway God's favor in their direction, & looked down on every Jew who did not fall into line. They surely deserved God's favor by their study, belief or work.
Jesus destroys all of these notions by the simple word, "all". It does not matter if the believer keeps the Sabbath perfectly, if they tithed to the nth degree, if they bend & contort their life to keep all the 300 odd minor provisions set down to preserve the original Ten Commandments. The blessings of the Savior go to those of faith, those who believe. All who believe have life. Whoever is given faith in the Messiah is saved. Whoever does not is doomed. All, Whoever, are given the same opportunity. All, Whoever, have the same gift. Anyone, All, Whoever, have heaven waiting. It is not based on Law, on works, on understanding, or on family descent. All is based on Christ. All are saved through Him & Him alone.
In His Peace, alone,