The approach used here is one that has been around a long time and has appeared in tracts and other publications. This study is basically as presented in a sermon by Eddie Cloer, a professor of Bible at Harding University, published Truth for Today.
A. “For GOD” — the greatest Being
There is so much about God that we do not know, and cannot know; yet in his prayer in Gethsemane on the night he was betrayed, Jesus indicated that it is possible in some sense to “know” (see John 17:3).
Even the inspired apostle Paul, found it impossible to stretch his mind around the greatness of God, as he expressed so eloquently in Ephesians 3:20-21:.
But the Bible does tell us about God to enable us to trust him and obey him. And, as John warns us in 1 John 2:4, if we don’t obey him, we can never claim to know him.
B. “SO LOVED” — the greatest trait
It’s hard to decide whether love is a trait, an attribute or a characteristic or all three and much more, even a way of life, but in a way it is surely the No. 1 thing in our lives. The apostle Paul referred to it as “the greatest” in 1 Corinthians 13:13.
And Jesus himself placed love above all other commandments (see Matthew 22:32 .
C. “THE WORLD” — the greatest company of people
To whom does God’s love extend? Why, to the most inclusive group of which our minds can conceive — to everybody who has ever lived or will ever live before this world is destroyed. That includes all who have already lived and died, all who are now living, and all who will ever be born.
And even though we might hate to admit it, God loves even the worst of us, as Paul pointed out in Romans 5:8.
D. “That he GAVE” — the greatest act
What did the greatest Being do for the greatest company because He possessed the greatest trait? He gave.
It takes only moments of contemplation to think of several Bible characters who were affected with the “give me” complex: The prodigal son, who said, “Give me my share of the estate.” Bandits on the Jericho road. Judas, who asked, “What will you give me to deliver Him to you?” Simon the sorcerer, who said, “Give me also this power.” How unlike the Lord it is for people to live their lives as mostly “takers,” always wanting more of this world’s goods and hardly willing to part with any of it for the benefit of other
E. “HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON” — the greatest gift
Not all people are just takers, of course. Many wealthy people have given large sums of money to worthy causes. Bill Gates, known as the world’s richest man, has quit his day job in order to devote more time to running his charitable foundation. All these things are commendable, but all of them put together could not begin to equal the gift God gave.
On this Fathers Day, try to imagine giving up a child while knowing that as a result of your gift, the child would die a terrible death. God gave not just his Son, but his only “begotten” son. While we too can be “sons of God” in a way, God had only this one Son who was part of Him. And God gave that Son to be a sacrifice, to die a painful, shameful death for people who did not deserve it.
Even the inspired apostle Paul found God’s gift beyond his power of description; he called it “indescribable” (2 Corinthians 9:15).
F. “That WHOEVER” — the greatest opportunity
The provisions and results of God’s love are for all, extending to the whole company, leading the angel who announced Jesus’ birth to call it “good news of great joy which shall be for all the people” (Luke 2:10).
And near the end of his life on earth Jesus told his disciples to go into “all the world” and preach the gospel to “all creation” (Mark 16:15)
Aren’t you glad that God did not place restrictions on who could respond to his great gift of his only Son? He could have said that “Americans” who believe in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Or perhaps only “North Americans,” or “Europeans” or “Africans” or “Asians,” and so on. But he threw the door open, so that all are eligible to partake of his wondrous grace — including Middle Easterners, Eskimos and South Sea Islanders. So you and I can both know that we are eligible for the next great word in our verse.
G. “BELIEVES” — the greatest foundation
What must we do to take advantage of the greatest opportunity? Believe is the best foundation. On belief, or faith, rests all that we do to become Christians and all that we do as Christians (Hebrews 11:6).
Let none of us dare to think we are true believers unless we are doing what heaven wants us to do. So our faith must be proven by our repentance, our open confession of faith in Christ, and our baptism “into Christ.” These things are simply acts of faith.
H. “In HIM” — the greatest attraction
What will produce such faith as we have been considering? What will move us to obedience to the divine commands? The answer is Jesus. He is the greatest attraction of the ages, for he will “draw all men” unto himself (John 12:32). Our faith is in Christ, who was “lifted up” on the cross, where he died for our sins (see John 3:14-15).
I. “Shall Not PERISH” — the greatest tragedy
As bad as bankruptcies, illness and and a hundred kinds of disasters can be in this life, a person is never really ruined until he or she is lost eternally. And whatever hell is like, it is a place without God, a place where no thinking human wants to be. No one in this life can be as bad off as those who finally perish (see 2 Thessalonians 1:9). This is the greatest tragedy.
J. “BUT” — the greatest difference
Here is a little word that makes the greatest difference in the world. On one side is “perish” and on the other “eternal life.” In between, making the difference, is the little conjunction, “but.”
K. “Have ETERNAL LIFE” — the greatest promise
Nothing can be greater. Nowhere else can such a thing be offered. Such an unequaled reward contrasts with God’s wrath, destruction, eternal fire, and weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth that are said to accompany the punishment of those who do not believe in Christ and do not follow him.
This great verse makes it clear that the eternal life which is available to human beings is located “in Christ.” This is God’s promise to those who “trust and obey.” As his followers, we will be able to say, along with David: “Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6).
—Travis Allen, 6-18-06.