I has an interesting conversation with my 16 year old daughter the other day. She asked me why people always use John 3:16 on signs at stadiums, on bumper stickers, etc. I told her that many think of that verse as a good summary of God's Word. She said, "I know that, but WHY do they do that?" What she was asking was WHY use it? She had seen it on a shopping bag given out by a popular clothing store (I think it was Forever 21).
Her question was a good one and one with a couple of answers. First of all, the owner of any store is free to put any kind of message he wants on his customers' shopping bag. Second, the owner is most likely a Christinan and believes that John 3:16 is a verse that will lead his customers to read God's Word. But what I took away from our conversation is my daughter questioning the purpose of a widely-accepted evangelical practice of stamping John 3:16 on everything.
We didn't end up condemning the use of John 3:16 (the word and numbers, not the actual verse), but since turning to confessional Lutheran practice that verse no longer carries the sole weight that it once did for me as an evangelical. I don't turn to that particular verse to summarize God's Word. To me, a good summary must clearly illustrate the law and the gospel.
John at Confessing Evangelical posts:
In the second of his expository lectures on Romans from 1989 (see previous post), Dick Lucas quotes the Lutheran theologian Anders Nygren on Romans 1:16,17:
The Gospel is not the presentation of an idea, but the operation of a power.
In other words, we need to avoid an intellectualised, "static" view of the Gospel as being nothing more than a set of facts and doctrines that we appraise and then either accept or reject. Instead we need to recognise that, as Nygren continues...
Hat tip to Rob at Love and Blunder