"God loved the world so that He gave, His only Son the lost to save, That all who would in Him believe, should everlasting life receive.
"Christ Jesus is the ground of faith, Who was made flesh and suffered death; All then who trust in Him alone, are built on this chief Cornerstone."
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Our hymn reflects the familiar verse that has been called "the Gospel in a nutshell." In these few words, we have a concise summary of the Gospel, the essential facts of the Good News that Scripture calls the power of God for salvation—God's love for the world, the gift of His Son, and the promise of eternal life for those who believe in Jesus.
The description, "in a nutshell," may imply something small, even insignificant, but there is nothing small or insignificant about this message. This brief passage contains within itself the mighty, creative power of the Gospel. It is a small seed that holds the promise of the living plant that will grow and thrive through the seed's nourishment. As the apostle Peter writes, "You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding Word of God ... and this Word is the good news that was preached to you" (1 Peter 1:23, 25). That small but mighty Gospel seed formed the heart and center of the apostle Paul's proclamation, as he explained to the church in Corinth: "For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2).
If there is anything small or insignificant involved in this verse—and in the hymn—well, that description fits us fairly well. The world that God loves is a sinful, rebellious world, and we are sinful, rebellious people. Scripture describes us in an unflattering but accurate way; apart from Christ, we were "dead in our trespasses" (see Ephesians 2:5). We did nothing to deserve the love of God. We were unworthy of the astounding gift of His Son. The gift of salvation begins and ends where the little nutshell verse begins, with the love of God. What we deserve for our sins is death and eternal separation from God. But out of His love and grace—His undeserved favor for sinners—God sent His Son into the world. Jesus took onto Himself the penalty of death we earned. All who believe in Jesus, who look to Him in faith, receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
By God's grace through faith, this little nutshell's worth of good news brings us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, into the kingdom of Jesus Christ, our "chief Cornerstone," the rock-solid foundation on whom our lives are built, now and for eternity.
THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, we give You thanks and praise for the gift of Your Son. Help us in the power of the Spirit to be faithful witnesses to Your truth, spreading the imperishable seed of the Gospel. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler. It is based on the hymn, "God Loved the World So That He Gave," which is found on page 571 of the Lutheran Service Book.
1. Without using John 3:16, can you summarize the Gospel in 25 words or less for someone else?
2. What does it mean to say that Jesus is the "chief Cornerstone"?
3. Do you think your life as a Christian stands out to others in way that intrigues them about your faith and the Savior?
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