Martin Luther called this verse “the gospel in a nutshell.” What he meant was that if there was any single sentence that captures the nature of God, this verse gets the job done. There are many things in this that help us to understand the nature of God and guide us as we live our lives.
First, God loves. While there are many images of God that we cling to, the promise that God is love is the one we cling to in our faith. All that God does and all that God is, is grounded in love.
Second, the world is what God loves. There are beliefs that the world is evil and to be avoided and even despised. The goal for these people is to escape and get out of here – to get to heaven. But God isn’t in the escape business but loves the world and has come to bring it life in Christ. God made the world and lovingly wants it to do well.
Third, we see this lived out in God’s generously coming to be with us in Jesus. What we receive from God does not come from us or because of us. It is a gift. Martin Luther emphasized the gift as the central element of the gospel. God gives freely and calls us simply to take what is offered with thanksgiving and with praise.
Fourth, this gift is ours when we believe it – when we trust that God simply loves us because it is who God is and it is what God does. Faith doesn’t make God love us. But it does tell us that God does. Believing matters and it changes everything.
Finally, through the eyes of faith, everything looks different. Even death is but a doorway to eternity for those who know and see what God has done in the death and resurrection of Jesus. The fruit of God’s work is life. Believing that is life-giving in itself
Now, that is one verse – all that in just a few words. But it is a verse filled with love, and life and hope. No wonder Martin Luther called it “the gospel in a nutshell.”