This is the Condemnation

This is the Condemnation

© 2021 C. O. Bishop

John 3:17-21


We have been studying through the Gospel of John, as most of you know: Last week and the week before, we twice read that Jesus paid for the sins of the whole world. And, we saw, briefly, that most people would reject Him anyway.

But the question comes to mind, “If all their sins are paid for, how can anyone be condemned?”

A partial answer, in the form of an analogy, was proposed last week, pointing out that Jesus wrote out a “check” in the amount of “Eternal Life,” to be deposited to the account of “Whosoever Will.” And we pointed out that, in order to have that eternal life, one does have to “endorse that Check” by faith. Each person has to respond personally, believing that Jesus’s blood is the sacrifice for their own sins…it is not just “generic.”

So, the next few verses (17-21) explain why people can still be condemned, even though Jesus truly has paid for their sins:

17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

God’s Will: Restoration and Reconciliation

Verse 17 clearly states the purpose of God toward man at large: He sent Jesus “…that the World through Him might be saved.” The invitation is to “whosoever will!” (God so loved the world!) This is not a selective Grace, except in the sense that only those willing to “endorse the check by faith” will enter in. The invitation is there, but many refuse to heed the call to faith.

2nd Peter 3:9 supports this idea, saying that the Lord “…is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

1st Timothy 2:3, 4 says “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God, our Savior, who will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”

As members of the Body of Christ, we have the general assignment to function as ambassadors of Christ. 2nd Corinthians 5:20 says that we are to function “…as though God did beseech you by us…be ye reconciled to God!” That is our collective job! That is our Job! We may all have different tasks, but the job is evangelism and discipleship.

During all the years when I worked at Gunderson, Inc. our collective goal, or “job” was to build high-quality railcars and barges. The Engineers, the supervisors, the forklift drivers, the painters, the welders, and even the janitors had that collective “job.” We all made our living by the successful pursuit of that one collective “job.” But all those different people had completely different tasks.

I’m pretty sure the nurses in the medical office did not really see their job as “producing rail cars.” The medical staff probably saw their job as being “to provide medical oversight and triage, to keep the crews healthy, and avoid liability lawsuits.

(Well…yeah!) But, had the company not been producing railcars, then their goal of providing medical oversight would have been a moot point. They would have had no one for whom to provide care! And the same is true for every other skill or discipline within the company. We did not sell paint—we sold painted railcars. We did not sell pieces of steel: we sold steel railcars, and we did not get paid for just shuffling pieces of steel around in the plant with cranes and forklifts: we were paid for the completed, painted, inspected and fully functional, brand-new, flawless railcar that went out the door after all the shuffling, welding and painting was done!

If anyone forgot that main goal, they rapidly descended into non-productive and even counter-productive behavior, squabbling amongst themselves, supervisor against supervisor, and department against department. That was highly unprofitable behavior, but it frequently went on for years, uncorrected.

We need to keep God’s purposes in mind: we do not want to be counterproductive, or unprofitable as believers. We want to behave in a manner that is profitable for the cause of Christ.

This is the Condemnation

So…if God’s will really is “…to save everyone,” why isn’t it happening? It turns out that God has an eternal standard: though He desires to save the world, His standard has always been to save “through faith in Him.” There has never been an exception. Every single person who has ever been salvaged from the wreckage of the Human race has been saved through faith in God’s plan of redemption. All the way from Adam to the thief on the cross, and all the way to the end of time, the statement Jesus made is true: “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me!

Jesus made it very clear, in verse 18, that “He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

We may balk at what seems to be such a limited, narrow path, but in reality, this is the most “equalizing” prerequisite possible. It has to do only with a personal choice, not one’s personal ability or character. Gifting, skills, intelligence, physical strength, or emotional fortitude are not on the table: Wisdom and philosophical stance are not a factor. Wealth, health, or moral purity are never considered. Being perceived as “good” is not a requirement (again, witness the Thief on the Cross, or the Woman at the Well.)

One thing only has been required: that we “believe in Him whom God has sent.” The people asked Jesus, in John 6:28, “What shall we do that we might work the works of God?” Jesus replied, in the next verse, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent!” Had there been any other prerequisite or any other agenda, He could have stated it right there; But He did not! The way was open to whoever would believe.

As the saying goes, this “levels the playing field,” more than anything else could do. Anyone can enter; because no one can “forbid you to believe.” And no one can force you to believe, so it is always a matter of coming by your own free will.

But there’s the rub: not all are willing! Jesus went on to say, “This is the condemnation, that light has come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

How do we respond to Light?

How we respond to the light of God simply shows the state of our heart. Even a true believer, if they are out of fellowship with God, may turn from that light, because it shames them: it hurts them to hear God’s voice, because they know they are not in fellowship.

On a human level, we may choose to avoid contact with someone whom we have wronged…or who has hurt us. I once was avoiding a man who I thought had behaved treacherously toward me, but he noticed my behavior and sought me out, saying, “Chet, are you avoiding me?” I confessed that I was, and I expressed my observation that he had been part of a group that had wrongly condemned me. But he explained that while he had been there, by invitation, he had not agreed with what was going on, and really wanted my fellowship. I accepted his words as truth, and fellowship was restored, at least to the point that I did not feel the need to avoid him.

J. Vernon McGee shared how the different animals in the barn at night responded differently to the light of the lantern when he walked in. The livestock knew they were about to be fed: they were the servants of the light, and the man who brought it. The rats on the barn floor ran for cover, fearing the light and the man who carried it, because they recognized him as an enemy. But the birds in the rafters mistook the light for sunrise, and began to sing! They knew nothing about the man who carried the lantern. They were responding to the light itself. Each response revealed character of the animal as it revealed their relationship with light.

20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

Adam and Eve fled from the voice of God: they fled from the Living Word as He walked in the Garden in the cool of the day! They fled from the One True Light of the World. Why? Because they had sinned, and had instantly become spiritually dead! They fled the Light of God because they had become creatures of darkness…just like us! They regained a secure position with God through faith, as we see in the rest of that chapter. But we are their progeny by nature: every one of us was born with a sin nature, inherited from Adam.

Romans 5:12 confirms that, saying, “…through one man, sin came into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned…” The result is that, by nature, we were children of the darkness and, by nature, we fled the light.

But there came a moment in each of our lives where the light broke through upon us and we actually understood that light enough to consider the claim of Christ on our lives. John 1:4, 9 show not only that Jesus is that light, but also that He “…lights every one who comes into the world.” The light is for everyone, but we can’t see their hearts. We don’t know when they might respond, nor whether they ever will respond. That is something only God can see.

Drawn to God by the Cross

In John 6:44, Jesus said, “No man can come unto me except the Father which hath sent me draw him,” and, in John 12:32, speaking of His impending crucifixion, He said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” He is the “magnet,” if I may use that illustration: all we see is a “pile of dust” on the floor. Some looks metallic, as it reflects light: some looks like dirt, and some is in particles so small they are impossible to characterize: but Jesus passes the “magnet of the Cross” over that dust, and regardless of all other properties, metallic or nonmetallic in appearance, only the “iron content” of faith responds to the magnet.

In general, other metals will not respond to magnets. Brass, tin, gold and lead have zero attraction to a magnet. Copper can affect the behavior of a magnet, but the magnet cannot pick it up. Plain dirt may have sufficient iron content to be picked up by a magnet, without our recognizing it by other means. Stainless steel, on the other hand, may have enough nickel in it to completely nullify the magnetic quality of the iron, though it still has very high iron content.

Only Jesus can see the hearts of people and know “who they really are” inside. All we can do is to present the “magnet” of the Gospel, and shine the light of the Word, and pray for God’s Spirit to make an impact in their hearts.

Coming to the Light as Believers

Coming to the Light is not a “one-time” experience: Initially, we “came to the light,” because we were drawn by Jesus, and we placed our faith in Him. Perhaps some portion of His Word shined on our lives and made us see a need. Perhaps initially all it did is make us angry, as we thought “Well, who are you to judge me…”

But then the Word continued to echo in our minds as we saw the truth of our guilt reflected in our own behavior, or, we saw it in someone else’s life, and finally realized that what we saw in their life was also true in our own. In every case, eventually we had a decision to make: we would either respond in humility and confession, seeing that God’s Word was true, and that we were truly lost sinners, or, we would reject the truth and turn away, perhaps claiming to have our “own” truth, or simply declaring that God’s Word is irrelevant.

But, as a believer, who has once come to the light, being drawn by the Savior, and having once been born again into the household of God, our position in Christ is secure. However, we still must choose how to respond to His light: We can see the green plants reaching for the sunlight: will we daily, moment by moment, seek His face, just as they so? Or will we treat His Word casually, indifferently…still preferring to stay in darkness, for the most part? We want His blessing, but not His dominion, and we fail to see that the one is not accessible without the other.

How we respond to God’s Word as believers is an indicator of our spiritual condition. God says we should hunger for his Word as a newborn child hungers for milk: He says, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby.” (1st Peter 2:2) Milk does not make a baby a baby: It makes a baby grow! They desire that milk as part of being a baby…if they reject it, we know there is something wrong!

We may be uncomfortable with some portions of God’s Word, because it points out things in our lives that are not pleasing to God.


There is a story about a man who was very proud of the huge old oak tree in his front yard: It was centuries old, and was admired by all who passed by. He felt very privileged to have such a treasure near his house. But one day, he saw a squirrel run partway up the trunk and disappear: He was puzzled, so he walked closer to get a better look. Then he saw the hole into which the squirrel had vanished. He became worried, and called an arborist to tell him what was wrong. It turned out that his precious tree was hollow, and completely rotten inside: it was not only no longer an asset, but it threatened to fall and destroy his home. Finally, he sadly said, “I wish I had never seen that squirrel!

That is “rejecting the light!” That is what we are doing when we are offended by God’s Word. We wish we had not seen that light. But ultimately, like the man with the tree, we have to make a decision: Will we cut out the rotten parts of our life, which threaten all that is of eternal value, or will we go on enjoying the very temporary pleasure of cherishing that sin, whatever it is.

You see, we can do that same thing as the man with the tree: As a believer, you are secure in Christ. That is not the issue! Your position in Christ is secure forever: but your condition requires constant attention from God. He has to continually correct and “prune” our lives so that they do not develop fatal flaws which can render us useless to His service. We are in no danger of being rejected by Him, but we can certainly become unprofitable.

So, by faith, we make a choice to feed on His Word, respond in obedience, even when it is uncomfortable or runs counter to our natural inclinations and desires. And the result is that we grow in Godliness, as He re-shapes us into His likeness.

I’m grateful to see the Lord at work in each of your lives. I rejoice to see people voluntarily feeding of God’s Word, and growing closer to Him as a result. Let’s press forward together, and be transformed by His Word.

Lord Jesus, we see Your face in the scriptures, and we see our own faces reflected in its light. We realize that apart from You, we have nothing to offer a Holy God. Pour out your Spirit in our lives, and supply us the will and the ability to serve You.

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