Summary: John's Gospel makes it clear that sinner's are responsible for their own unbelief which inevitably leads to condemnation.

Condemned or Not (Read John 3:16-21)

The glorious truth of God’s unfathomable love and His plan of salvation for humanity is stated in John 3:16-17: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. “

God clearly did not send His only Son into the world for the purpose of judgment, but rather, His purpose was to save the world through the life and death of the Son. The passive voice is used in the phrase “that the world might be saved”, indicating that the world is saved from an outside source of deliverance, namely God Himself, by sending the Son. God brings spiritual and eternal deliverance through the instrumentality of the One, Unique, Son Jesus.

The reason for Jesus’ coming from Heaven in the flesh was to save, but judgment is also indicated: “That whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life”: Eternal Life for ALL WHO BELIEVE is contrasted with those who will “perish”, so what happens to those who have not or will not believe? They will die eternally because there is ONLY forgiveness and life IN GOD’S Provision of the Son sent from God.

The Great Divide

Look at verse 18: "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” He who believes (in the present tense) into Him is not judged (also in the present tense). The person who believes is in a continual habitual state of “believing in Him” and is not judged as a present ongoing activity of God.

The person who does NOT believe (in the present) already has been judged. The person who does not believe is in a continual habitual state of “NOT BELIEVING” and stands under a settled state of condemnation and judgment of God that will eventually yield its final results. Ongoing unbelief results in condemnation AS the person lives in this state of unbelief. It will be consummated, not with eternal life but with eternal punishment. WHY? “Because he has not believed in (or into) the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Unbelief causes condemnation or judgment while the unbeliever lives. God has set forth Jesus as the only WORTHY OBJECT OF ONES BELIEF/FAITH. The ultimate evidence that Jesus alone is the only object of faith is that God raised Jesus from the dead. Rejection of Jesus in favor of another way to God rejects God’s Choice that the person of JESUS ALONE MUST BE THE WORTHY OBJECT of one’s settled belief and trust.

Not believing in Jesus alone as Savior and Lord is equivalent to self-condemnation; God is not to be blamed but rather the unbeliever who remains in his sin. Human beings remain responsible and God does not compel anyone to believe, but everyone born into this world and born in sin faces the necessity of escaping an already existing condemnation against them. In verses 1-8, the focus was on the necessity of the “new birth” or “birth from God”; in verses 12-18 the emphasis is on believing. The verbs in verse 18, “has been judged” and “has not believed” accentuate the settled state of the unbeliever’s condemnation because of their own unbelief.

Rebellion and Rejection

Verse19 says: "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 "For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”

Christ is the Light which brings spiritual life and light to mankind. He brings spiritual knowledge, righteousness and truth. He is God’s illumination to sinful man, lighting the true way to a relationship with God. If one does not come to Christ, he will never be enlightened. God did not leave man “lightless” but shed His light in His Word, through the prophets, man’s inner conscience and in His Creation, and now in His Son, so that fallen man does not have to remain “fallen”.

What is the difference between believers and unbelievers? It is not a matter of the innocence or the guilt of either one: They are both guilty. The difference between the two is their attitude and heart response to the light. Remember John 1:4-5: “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”

In today’s passage (3:19-21) “light” and “darkness” have moral implications which are seen in the rejection of Jesus as God’s Messiah, showing that man is in bondage to sin and spiritual darkness: they refuse to face their guilt and prefer to innately and irrationally reject the truth which inevitably leads to self-destruction. They continually reject the light and prefer its antithesis, which is darkness, and whatever is not of the light is evil. They are works of the world and like all sin, they are grounded in the failure to believe God, His Word, and so failure to obey His Word and walk and live in the light.

“Sin is the attraction to the false claims of the world (darkness). Thus opposites are not virtue vs. vice; but rather, unbelief vs. belief and unbelief is the root of the sin of the human race. It is never the issue that fallen man is always the worst he can be. We see all sorts of benevolent works done by unbelievers. We also see what man can be in the most terrible of evil acts. The “image of God” is still active in man. But the fallen man does not come to God and His Light. He does the deeds of the world and not the deeds of God, where TRUE “Good” is defined.” (G. Boesenecker, Exegetical Notes on John, p.26)

Their fear is found in verse 20: Their guilt will be exposed if they come to the light. Conviction and shame will inevitably come when exposed to God’s Light and Word and men love their own evil deeds and darkness rather than coming into the Light: Their refusal to come to the light is The WAY in which judgment is accomplished. They will continue to do evil, hate the light, and not come to the light, having been settled to rebel and remain in unbelief. Being immersed in their own sin and darkness, it’s as if they have placed the ‘DO NOT DISTURB’ sign on the door of their hearts, refusing the Light’s entrance.

Practicing the Truth

What a glorious contrast in Verse 21 "But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God." “Whereas EVIL in verse 20 is plural, TRUTH is singular. TRUTH is considered as ONE, a supreme unity of all that is right in word and deed climaxing with the manifestation of Truth Incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ (1:14, 17, 14:6) Here, TRUTH must be seen as the antithesis of evil and darkness. And as such it essentially is equivalent to Matthew’s practicing righteousness (In Matt. 5:20, 6:1 in the Sermon on the Mount)-doing what is right according to the standard of God (which first and foremost is coming to Him through His Son).” (G. Boesenecker, p.28)

“TRUTH is a characteristic of God and is bound up very closely in God’s essential nature: His verity, (His)reality as being the One True God, His veracity (truthfulness), His faithfulness. In John’s emphasis, Truth is not the teaching about God spoken by Jesus, but Truth is God’s actual character revealing itself in and through the Lord Jesus. The revelation of God’s Truth is embodied in the Word made Flesh, in the person of Jesus, in His sanctifying Word which frees from the bondage of sin. Our response to God in worship demands that we approach Him in a manner consistent with His very nature; the worship of our lives as living sacrifices should also be consistent with God’s Spirit of Truth working through us in the everyday.

But how is that possible? God’s truth finds its expression in and through the Gospel whereby God saves utterly putrid, stone-cold dead and thoroughly blind sinners. When the Gospel takes root and a person is born and regenerated by God, the outworking of His Work will be seen in the lives of those who have come to God in Christ. Their lives are now founded on The Truth because God has encountered them with His Truth.

That is what the second part of verse 21 is saying: “that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God." Practicing the truth is never about showing works as monuments to the believer’s superior person but rather, whatever “good” or Godly works we do are only possible because God’s power to change lives is being manifested. God’s redemptive and transformational power in our lives is a tribute to GOD’S superiority, never man’s superiority. The principal work of God is that by His great mercy and grace, He alone saves souls and converts sinners to Himself. It is God’s initiative and God’s work alone and so He alone deserve the service and glory of our lives.

Remember the objective of the Gospel of John in John 20:31: “But these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” If you have received from God a new nature that produced in you a new heart which includes a trust, commitment and obedience to Christ as Savior and Lord, then you can understand what Paul later wrote in Romans 8:1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” God continues to save by His Grace through the Glorious Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, through regeneration by the Spirit and His Word as people come to the Light and live in Him so that HIS WORKS in them might be manifested. To God alone be the Glory. Amen