The Gospel in a Nutshell  
Six lessons based on John 3:16


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"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (KJV)

"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." (NIV)

Lesson One Overview

Objective: To help children understand and memorize John 3:16, the gospel in a nutshell! There is enough material from each lesson to fill approximately 30 minutes per class period. You can expand your class time by singing more songs during song time. (For K-5th grade. Older children can participate. However, for craft time you might have them design a larger Matchstick Cross, rather than the other projects (see Lesson 5 and/or have them do the project for older children from Lesson 2). 

Ultimately, the gospel is much bigger than being condensed into a "nutshell." Gospel means "good news," it is more than Jesus dying and rising from the dead to give us eternal life. The gospel is an Old Testament promise that God would reclaim, restore, and push back the curse of sin and death to establish his rule and reign on earth, as it is in heaven. And until Jesus returns to earth to establish a new Heaven and a New Earth, we live in the already and not yet of God's Kingdom rule.

*See Is. 52:7, 61:1; Na. 1:15.

Song Time Suggestions: 

Learn the John 3:16 song (click here to get it),  and the John 3:16 Rap, below.

(Sung in military cadence style (ie. Left, left, left-right-left). You can make up hand motions to go with the song.)

John 3:16,
John 3:16

For God,
For God,
For God so loved the world.
For God so loved the world.

That he gave,
That he gave,
He gave his only Son.
He gave his only Son.

That whosoever believes in him,
That whosoever believes in Him,
Shall not DIE!
Shall not DIE!

Today, I want to read one of the Bible's most well-known verses (open a Bible and read John 3:16). 

John 3:16 is the gospel in a nutshell--it explains the entire Bible. This verse condenses all of God's plan from the beginning of time and throughout Scripture, into this tiny "nutshell" of a verse. The word gospel means, good news. Let's look at this verse again, what good news does it contain? (allow for discussion, and possible answers: God loved, he gave, not dying, given eternal life.)

John 3:16 is such a popular and important verse that many Christians create giant banners of the verse address and then hang the banners from the rails in sports stadiums for others to see. Maybe you've seen them? (Show pictures if possible.) Why do you think they do this? They do this because they want other people to know the good news about Jesus too!


Begin memorizing John 3:16
(Gospel Pictograms™ make it easier for your children
to memorize the verse more quickly.)

Craft Activity: Children make their own set of John 3:16 
Gospel Pictograms




Lesson Two: For God so loved the World...

Sing the John 3:16 songs

a condensed version of the creation story from a child-friendly Bible or tell it in your own words.
(You might want to use the Creation to Cross Totem pole to show and tell the creation story. Click here.)

When God created the world and everything in it, he said it was good. He spoke everything into existence. It was a perfect place without sin. But sometime later, something terrible happened that effected the rest of the world forever. Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan to disobey God. As a result, their disobedience brought God's punishment: death, on themselves and all future generations of people. But their sin brought a death curse to the entire world as well ("Cursed is the ground because of you..." Gen. 3:17).

Yet, even though Adam and Eve disobeyed God, he still loved them and had a plan from the beginning of time to save them and all those who would trust in him (Genesis 3:15).  The Bible says that someday the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to death and decay (Romans 8:21-22). God is working to restore the earth to its original perfection and to establish his rule on earth as it is in heaven, this is the true gospel story. We live in the already and not yet of God's kingdom. When Jesus began his ministry he said, "The time has come, the kingdom of God has arrived; repent and believe the good news" (Mark 1:15). Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, but the gospel will not be fully complete until Jesus comes again. In that day he has promised a new heaven and a new earth to all those who trust in him! 


Craft Activity:
Children make the Creation to Cross Totem Pole

(For older children: have them tell the creation to redemption story by painting it on a plank of wood. They can still use the pattern as a guide, but draw and paint it larger.)


Lesson Three: ...that he gave his one and only Son...

Sing the John 3:16 songs

Do you remember from our last lesson how God created the world? (He spoke it into existence.)  

Read John 1:1-3 and vs. 14 from a Bible

Discuss the following:

What does this verse say about the Word? (The Word is from the beginning, was with God, and is God.) 

What else does this verse tells us about the Word? (Through him all things were created. Nothing was created without him, vs. 3.) 

What happened to the Word? (The Word became flesh or human, vs. 14.)

Who do you think this human Word is? (The Bible says the Word is Jesus, vs. 17.)

These verses from the Gospel of John teach us that Jesus is God. He is God in the flesh! He is the second part of the Trinity: "God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit". God became a human and lived on earth. John 3:16 tells us why: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son..." 

Do you recall the punishment that resulted for all people when Adam and Eve sinned? The punishment is death. Not only physical death, but eternal death and separation from God. Yet, God knew that we could not save ourselves. So he became a human-being to save us. He came to earth to take our punishment. He came to die in our place so we could live eternally with God, and not eternally separated from God!  

Jesus said that he is the only way to get to God: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."


Play the One Way Game. Click here.


Become a SUPPORT PARTNER. Click here.


Lesson Four: ...that whoever believes in him...

Sing the John 3:16 songs

The Bible says, whoever believes in Jesus, will not perish but have eternal life. 

Many people, possibly most people, believe there is a God. But the Bible says that even the demons (Satan's angels), believe in God, and they do not and will not live in heaven with God (James 2:19)! So what kind of belief do you think God wants from us? What does it mean to, believe in him? (Accept answers.) 

Faith Chair Illustration: Place a chair at the front of the room. Ask a volunteer if he or she believes the chair can hold him or her up. Point out that the only way you can know for sure that the chair can hold you up is by sitting in it.
You can know in your head that the chair is real. You can think that it is strong enough to hold you up, but until you actually sit on it, does your action go from believing in your head, to trusting that it can hold you up.

In the same way, believing in God is more than just knowing that he exists. To believe in God means to trust him, to lean on him, to understand that you have no hope apart from him and his work on the cross to pay the penalty for your sin. When you put faith in action by trusting Jesus with your life, both here and in eternity, only then do you have true, believing faith!


Craft Activity: Copy pattern, right, onto heavy, white card stock paper. Have children draw a picture of themselves sitting in the "trust chair" and then color it with colored pencils. Glue a magnet to the back to place on the fridge at home.


Lesson Five: ...shall not perish...but have eternal life.

Sing the John 3:16 songs

The Bible tells us that if we trust in Jesus we will not perish. What does it mean to perish? (It means we will not die.) We die physically because of sin. When Adam and Eve sinned, death resulted for all mankind and all of creation. But this verse tells us that we will not perish or die eternally when we trust in Jesus. When Jesus died on the cross, he did not remain in the grave. He rose from the dead. The Bible tells us that he is the firstborn from the dead. Adam and Eve brought sin and death, but Jesus gives us forgiveness and life! (1 Corinthians 15:22)

Today's craft activity reminds us that Jesus is no longer on the cross. He rose from the dead to give us eternal life!

Craft Activity: Make a Match-stick cross. Click here. 


Lesson Six: John 3:16 and beyond: The Choice.

Sing the John 3:16 songs

The verse immediately following John 3:16 says, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." (vs.17)

When the Bible speaks of condemning people, it means to find them guilty of breaking God's laws. The Bible says we are all guilty of sinning (Romans 3:23). John 3:17 tells us that God did not send Jesus to earth in order to find us guilty of breaking his laws. Rather, he came to earth to save all those who would trust in him. This verse shows us that a choice must be made. God demands a punishment for breaking his laws, and that punishment is death (Romans 6:23). The question is, "Who's death will pay for your sins?"  When you stand before God, either you will trust in Jesus to have paid your death punishment or it will be your own eternal death and separation from God that he requires of you. God says, "Today is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:2) Don't put it off. Trust in Jesus today!


This is such great news and should not be kept to ourselves! God wants us to tell the good news about Jesus to everyone we know! You can do this by using your Gospel Pictograms™ and by telling others about God's great love for them!

Art Activity: Design Gospel Pictograms™ for John 3:17. Children can work together in small groups and draw on large sheets of banner paper or give children their own set of small poster boards to make individual sets.

Children can also make giant banners of the John 3:16 verse address and then hang the banners in front of your church for passersby to see.

Copyright 2008 S.A. Keith - All rights reserved.

Editor recommendation:
How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels
is an excellent study for adults.


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