“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. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” ~ John 3:18-21
Let’s take a few minutes to look at this passage. Just a few verses ahead is the famous John 3:16, (“For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have eternal life”). We quote that verse as if it should be all anyone needs to come to Jesus, but Jesus himself surrounded that statement with a wealth of supporting verses that have much to tell us about Him—and about ourselves.
1. “He that believeth is not condemned.”
This is a simple, straightforward statement of the position of the believer in the eyes of God. Those who believe on Jesus are not condemned. Period. No caveats or clauses. If you believe, you are not in the position of being condemned. Jesus himself said it, and leaves no room for arguing on that point.
2. “But he that believeth not is condemned already.”
Many people feel that as long as they are well-behaved, are generous and good, that God will surely take them in after this life. Jesus refutes that. He says that if a person does not believe on His name, that person is condemned already, regardless of how he/she lives his/her life.
Why is this? Because no matter how good you are, you always fall short.
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” ~ Romans 3:23
“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” ~ Romans 3:10
You see, when we measure our own goodness we have a terrible habit of comparing ourselves to people we consider far worse than ourselves:
“Well, I’m not a cheat or a liar or a child molester or a murderer. I am a good person.”
The problem is, our (self) righteousness is insignificant compared to God’s standard!
“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” ~ Isaiah 64:6
We often ignore/discount Him because in the light of His goodness we suddenly don’t look as “righteous”. So we compare ourselves to those we consider to be beneath us, convincing ourselves that our self-defined “good” status is what gains us entrance to presence of a Holy God.
The problem of sin is this: when it comes to being good, God’s standard is Himself. He is perfectly holy and just and selfless. Anything short of that must, by definition, be excluded from Himself. So we fall into that category when we insist on being accepted by our own goodness; our own goodness is not even close to good!
Jesus came and died so there would be another way to come to God: through HIS goodness! He knew we could never pay the price to be free of our sin; so He came and paid it for us. All He asks is that we accept Him, accept what He did; then we are no longer condemned! When we grasp the depth of His awesome gift, the wonder of it sweeps us right into worship. What a joy to be utterly un-condemned!
3. “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”
We are not only condemned by our status as un-godly, we are condemned by our stubborn refusal to admit that we are sinful. The light came to brighten our dark world, and what did people do? How did people in Jesus’ time treat Him? With disdain and mistrust.
They abandoned Jesus in droves when He failed to meet their expectations of a warrior king; they showed up to gawk at His miracles and were thrilled to eat His food, but when His message turned hard they walked off and rejected Him (John 5-6). And they demanded his death on a cross when there was no legal or moral cause to do so. Their hearts were dark, and even in the presence of the Light of God, they preferred to stay in the dark.
Do not for one second think that, if we have been there, we would have acted differently. The Jews of Jesus’ day claimed as much, and He confronted them with the truth. (Matthew 23:29-32) The only disciples that truly discerned who Jesus was did not do so of their own wisdom, it was given to them by God. (Matthew 16:15-17).
When it comes to the hearts of men, nothing was different before Jesus’ day, and nothing is different afterwards . We are rotten to the core, and don’t want to face it, and will go to great lengths to extinguish any light that comes close enough to expose us. (“For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” ~ John 3:20)
4. “But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”
Even though we are sinners condemned in our sins, and even actively keeping ourselves there, there is a great and glorious “BUT!”
There is another option!
Through the blood of Jesus, we are no longer condemned!
When we accept His Truth we become a new creature, one that not only no longer hides in the dark, but is actually drawn to The Light! Why? Because we have nothing to fear from The Light!
In The Light, our status is no longer defined by our sinfulness, nor by our self-made goodness; we stand un-condemned, and now we have nothing to fear by being exposed. In fact, The Light reveals what God has done for us! He displays for all to see the wonderful works of redemption and forgiveness He has done in the lives of Believers.
If you are a child of God, don’t ever find yourself hiding in the corner. Fear of being exposed is an old habit we often fall into, even though we are forgiven. We start to measure our worthiness once more by what we do: how regularly we go to church, how often—or rarely!—we read our Bibles, how well we acted like Christians this week at home or work or school.
But we were never saved by that standard in the first place. So, why would God suddenly hold that over our heads? We are not to live in fear, because fear is torture; and the only one who tortures is God’s enemy, Satan. (I John 4:18)
Have you done something since believing in Christ that you are ashamed of? Bring it into the Light! You don’t need to hide your flaws from Him; as if you could really hide it in the first place! He already knows – and you still stand un-condemned before him. Don’t hide, bring it to Him! Let Him expose the darkness so that He can make it a place through which He can shine. Don’t come to the throne in fear and trembling:
“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” ~ Hebrews 4:16
If Jesus does not condemn you, then no one else has the right to do so (Romans 8:1). Stand firm on that, and don’t be afraid of The Light.