by Pastor Anthony Pranno
The most well-known, well-loved passage in all the Bible includes a word that is strangely misunderstood. Take a look at John 3:16…
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.
The word is “whoever” and you can see it right there in the second half of the verse. Whoever means… anyone, everyone, you guys, those guys, them folks, all of us! But for some reason I don’t understand, this incredibly inclusive and universal invitation from the lips of Christ himself is sometimes perceived as exclusive, narrow-minded and intolerant. You’ve heard them before…
- God doesn’t accept certain kinds of people into His Kingdom
- Jesus isn’t interested in me… I’m too bad a person
- The Bible teaches that billions of people are going to hell
- Such-and-such church preaches that only members of their church are saved
Think about that word “whoever” for a minute. God could have easily narrowed the scope of those who were invited to believe in Jesus and inherit eternal life… but he didn’t. Check out these amazing passages from the Gospels and note Jesus’ use of the word “whoever.”
Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.
Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.
I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.
Max Lucado put it like this: The word “whoever” unrolls the welcome mat of heaven to humanity. It invites the world to God.
If you’ve ever heard or believed or been stumped by someone who says, “the God of Christianity must not be loving because a loving God would never send anyone to hell,” you need to meditate for a few minutes on the verses above. God is loving. God’s love for the world – for everyone in the world – is incomprehensible, almost unimaginable. God sincerely wants everyone to turn to Him and believe in Jesus. The problem is that many people in the world really don’t want God!
Remember the stories from the Bible? Over and over we see that God invites “whoever” to receive and believe in his Son Jesus Christ…
- The rich young man
- The poor old widow
- The educated Pharisee
- The uneducated beggar
- The strong Roman soldier
- The weak Jewish paralytic
- The religious
- The pagan
- The woman at the well
- The man whose daughter was sick
- The Ethiopian eunuch
- The Italian centurion
- Widows, orphans, boys and girls, Jew and Gentile, barbarian or civilized…
Race, age, gender, socio-economic status, education, nationality, social acceptance, family background, criminal record, physical abilities, marital status, even religious affiliation doesn’t matter. Whoever really means whoever.
Invite a “whoever” to church this Christmas so they can find out first-hand that Jesus loves them and wants a relationship with them.