Summary: The Greatest Verse in the Bible – John chapter 3 verses 16-21 – sermon by Gordon Curley PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request – email:

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• Comment: Clear & Simple (vs 16)

• Clarification: Belief & Unbelief (vs 17-18)

• Conclusion: Light & Darkness (vs 19-21)



• Muhammad Ali was an American professional boxer and activist.

• He is widely regarded as one of the most significant;

• And celebrated sports figures of the 20th century.

• One of his many media tricks was to look down the lens of a camera and shout;

• “I am the greatest!”

• Many of his fans bought tickets to see the champion perform;

• And others brought tickets in the hope of seeing him humbled!

• He tells the story in his book, ‘The Soul of a Butterfly’,

• That one time while on board a plane,

• The flight attendant asked him to put his seat belt on.

• He said to her, "Superman don't need no seat belt".

• She smiled at him and politely replied; "Superman don't need no plane, either."

• TRANSITION: If there is one word in the English language;

• That is sure to cause a debate when spoken, it is the word “greatest.”

• In fact, take two people, any people,

• And you can always stir trouble by using this one simple word.

• For example, ask a couple of rival football fans;

• Who is the greatest team or who had the greatest player or manager;

• And they will debate with one another for hours.

• Ask two car enthusiasts what is the greatest automobile ever made;

• And they will eagerly debate their opinion.

• Ask two people what is the greatest movie ever made?

• Or the greatest singer or group or record ever made?

• Or who the greatest prime minister or the greatest politician was,

• And they’ll chase that rabbit as long as they have breath to do so.

• There is something about that word “greatest”

• It stirs up something inside of us.

For many Christians our passage this morning contains the greatest verse in the Bible:

• This verse is over used by Christians;

• They wear it t-shirts, wristbands, car stickers, posters and… well the list goes on and on.

• I was preaching in Chippenham recently and they have a café called ‘3:16’


• In many sporting arenas (especially in the USA),

• It is not uncommon to find the reference ‘JOHN 3:16’ in large letters,

• Held up on a poster board somewhere in the crowd.

• In 2009 Tim Tebow (American professional baseball player);

• Wore this reference on his face during the National Championship game,

• He sparked off 90 million Google searches for the verse.

• TRANSITION: Now there are 31,102 verses in the Bible;

• So why does this one dominates the Christian ad campaign of promoting the gospel.

• In answering that question let me quote you the great reformer Martin Luther;

• He called John 3:16 “the gospel in miniature.”

• Others have called it “the Gospel in a nutshell.”

• It is the greatest verse in the Bible. It is the golden text of the Word of God.

• It is probably known by more people than any other verse in the entire Bible.


• I have a Gideon New Testament that I like to preach from,

• It is not just any old Gideon New Testament.

• It is a presentation edition that was given to me in 1987;

• When I did some work for the Gideon’s at one of their conventions.

• In the front of my Gideon New Testament is John 3:16 in 25 languages.

• And I have over the years as I have travelled around in a number of countries;

• Been able to witness and point out this verse in that persons language.


• Some of you might be surprised to know that there is debate regarding these words;

• The debate surrounds who actually spoke them or wrote them.

• Some would argue that these verses (16 to 21);

• Are a continuation of the words of Jesus to Nicodemus;

• If your Bible have the words of Jesus in red, these verses will probably be in red ink.

• Other would say no,

• The words of Jesus to Nicodemus end in verse 15;

• And the apostle John’s comments begin in verse 16.

A number of reasons support this idea – let me suggest three:


• Jesus often refers to Himself as the Son of Man (3:15),

• But never as God’s “one and only Son,” or “begotten son.”

• Which is John’s way of referring to Jesus.


• Also, Jesus does not normally refer to God as “God,”

• But rather Jesus always refers to God as “the Father” especially in John’s gospel.

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