And along the lines of Easter, it hit me last night while watching Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” with a friend that this week is all about the suffering and salvation of our Lord---how He who knew no sin became sin for us, so we could become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Let us never forget the price Christ paid for us: that is, the shedding of His blood. In case you think the gospel is a nice neat fairy tale, take a look at Gibson’s work. If you watch it and don’t cry, well...I just pity you, is all...
Today, I’d like to finish my work in John 3. I am still in the series on the Doctrine of Eternal Judgment. Just know that even when the posts don’t bear the title “The Doctrine of Eternal Judgment,” I am still in it. I’ve examined earlier portions of John 3. Today’s post will examine John 3:17-18. I think to some extent, these two verses have already been covered...but we can never be reminded too much of what the Lord requires.
Let’s read the text together:
“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:17-18, NKJV).
I have covered Jesus’ words to Nicodemus regarding “Our witness,” the witness of not just the Son but the Father also. I made a statement that inclusivists cannot get around Jesus’ words regarding the Father’s witness. John later writes in 1 John 5:9-12 that “this [salvation by Christ] is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son”, namely, that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life...and that none comes to the Father unless he or she comes to Jesus (John 14:6). Worshipping Yahweh will not do it, because God the Father has testified of His Son, Jesus, as the way to salvation. 1 John 5:10 states that those who deny the Son “has made Him [the Father] a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.” For those who refuse to believe in Jesus and think that there is “some other way to the Father” (or, in the case of inclusivists, believe that one can go straight to the Father and by-pass Jesus), such make God the Father out to be a liar. God has testified that His Son is the way to eternal life...and should another way be allowed, then the Father has lied to us. How can inclusivists claim to praise the Father when they call Him a liar by denying Jesus as the only name to believe in for eternal life...when they deny that one must explicitly confess Him to be saved (Rom. 10:9)?
Now, on to John 3:17.
The text itself states that the Father’s sending Jesus was not to “condemn the world,” to sentence the world to hell fire. Many people, including Rob Bell in his latest book, “Love Wins,” claim that the Gospel is all about damnation. Jesus’ words, however, correct Bell’s (and other’s) claims about the gospel. It is first and foremost “The Gospel of Love.” It is because “God so loved the world” that He sent Jesus (John 3:16). Notice the emphasis on “love” in these verses? Show that to the next person that “half-labels” the Gospel...show them that the emphasis on love testifies to the heart of the Gospel message.
Why was Jesus sent? “that the world through Him might be saved.” It was God’s desire to save the world that He sent Jesus. Calvinists focus way too much on damnation in the Gospel. Judgment is not the primary goal of the Gospel; the primary goal of the Gospel is LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!!!
Having said this, however, I must now provide Jesus’ words in John 3:18---
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (Jn. 3:18).
The primary goal of the Gospel (the message about Jesus as the Father’s gift to the world) is love...but love consists of two elements: grace and judgment. It is in grace that the Father gives Jesus to die for humanity’s sin...but it is in judgment that the Son must deal with those who will not receive Him.
This is where Jesus lays out the rules for the gift: one can either receive Jesus or reject Jesus. If one receives Jesus, “he is not condemned,” he is not subjected literally and metaphorically speaking, to Hell fire; but the one that does not believe in Jesus, he is “condemned already,” because he will not believe. In other words, the wrath of God already abides on the unbeliever.
Let me add a word on grace and judgment. When a parent aims to get a child to obey, what does that parent do? The parent lays out the rules for the child. “Johnny, if you do your chores, you can go outside; if you don’t do your chores, you can’t go outside.” Johnny knows then, that his parents desire that he do his chores; and he also knows that if he does, they will reward him...but if he doesn’t, he will not be rewarded, but punished. So what are Johnny’s parents to do if he decides to rebel and not do the chores? Would you expect his parents to reward him and give him a bike, or let him go outside and play, making excuses for why he didn’t do what they demanded? No. Most parents would say that “if you spare the rod, you spoil the child,” as the saying goes. Parents would be prepared to discipline the child should the child refuse to comply.
If God is the divine parent, and we are His children, how logical is it to argue that earthly parents punish their children, but God does not? If God doesn’t punish and condemn, then why should parents? After all, is not the earthly-parent analogy to point to the heavenly parent-child relationship between God and His children (Hebrews 12:5-11)? So if God doesn’t condemn His children, then parents should stop disciplining their children...and yet, parents would continue to discipline (even if they believed God didn’t) because discipline serves some useful purpose in regards to the child. In other words, discipline is at the very least necessary to life. I am pleased to inform you, however, that God does “chastise those He loves.” Not only is the parent-child analogy present in Hebrews 12; it also exists in Proverbs 3:11, 12. The emphasis here demonstrates how vital it is that we understand this one thing about God (that He disciplines, judges, and condemns) if we get nothing else straight about Him!!
Jesus makes it clear in John 3:18 that He has a standard: that is, that men and women would confess the name of Jesus Christ and believe in Him for salvation. Those who do are saved, but those who refuse are condemned eternally. Do not parents do the same with their children? Isn’t it funny how the parent-child analogy is used every time someone wants to argue eternal security, but NEVER for things like exclusivism? The point is, that parents set the rules for their children and they retain power and control over their children, whether or not children obey or refuse to obey, the rules. Can God not do the same? Will God not be sovereign at the end of history, a Sovereign Lord to those who will bow and confess His Lordship, a Sovereign Savior to those who “grabbed ahold” of Jesus, and a Sovereign Judge and Enemy to those who refused? Where is God’s sovereignty compromised? It isn’t. And this is what will be for those who receive Him as well as those who didn’t. God will not be disappointed at the end of history; rather, those who don’t believe in Him will be.
Jesus set the rules, and you can either accept Him or reject Him. As Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised Him [Jesus] from the dead, you will be saved.” Will you trust in Christ for your salvation today? This word is for those on the most-distant islands: Christ is the only hope for salvation you have!
“Look to Me and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself; the word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return. That to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath. He shall say, ‘Surely in the Lord I have righteousness and strength.’ To Him men shall come, and all shall be ashamed who are incensed against Him. In the Lord all the descendants of Israel shall be justified, and shall glory” (Isaiah 45:22-25).