For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.
Our verse today came as John 3:17 … but it is proceeded by the “universal” verse known so well and quoted so often – John 3:16. But verse John 3:18 following has an equally important message that should be placed in context; so I have decided to reprint the entire passage together for your reference.
John 3:16-19 (NIV)
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.18 Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
Observe that God gave His Son to save us. Our salvation is a gift! We cannot earn it. As Paul expounded in Ephesians 2:8-9: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not of works, so that no one can boast. And “through faith” means that you believe in His Son – Jesus Christ. Through placing your complete faith in Christ and His finished work, His sacrificial blood for atonement, and His resurrection from the dead, you are no longer condemned but have passed from death to life. (Cf. 1 John 3:14) Yet, notice how Verse 18 continues to admonish: “Whoever does NOT believe stands condemned already.” Why? Because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son – Jesus. In Verse 19, the Apostle John goes on to explain why people do not believe: “People love darkness instead of light.” In essence, people love their sin more than they love God….
The Prophet Ezekiel spoke some difficult words … under the Old Covenant … which we would be wise to contemplate:
Ezekiel 33:12 (NIV)
“Therefore, son of man, say to your people, ‘If someone who is righteous disobeys, that person’s former righteousness will count for nothing. And if someone who is wicked repents, that person’s former wickedness will not bring condemnation. The righteous person who sins will not be allowed to live even though they were formerly righteous.’
However, in the New Testament, you will find a more expansive theology shared by the Apostle Peter to consider:
2 Peter 1:3-11 (NIV)
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. 4 Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them (these qualities in increasing measure) is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. 10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things (additions to faith), you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
There are several key themes we can find in this apostolic instruction from Peter. First of all, everything we need to live a godly life comes from His divine power – namely the Holy Spirit. Second, the glory and goodness of Christ avails us of His very great and precious promises (i.e. wisdom, knowledge, gifts of the Holy Spirit, etc.) which allow us to participate (take part in) the divine nature. As such, knowledge of His Word and gifts of His Spirit, equip us to mature in our faith – to bear the fruit of the Spirit in and through our lives. (Cf. Galatians 5:22-23) So Peter encourages us to move forward in maturity of faith in order to confirm the calling and election of God upon our lives! Maturity through a growing faith will keep us from stumbling; and it promises great reward in the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ….
Paul reminds those who believe of this same truth: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) But there is more in the following verses to put this into context and congruence with what Peter articulated in his epistle. I have reprinted it below for you:
Romans 8:1-11 (NIV)
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set us free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh (our sinful nature), God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives lifebecause of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who lives in you.
It is clear that to believe in Jesus Christ goes beyond just a mental assent as to His Deity. We are called to “participate in the divine nature” which God equips us to do through His divine power … the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. Paul asserted if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Him. As the Apostle John wrote: “This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit.” (1 John 4:13) A life IN Jesus Christ is a Spirit-filled life. There can be no other possible conclusion. And a Spirit-filled life will produce the fruit in the life of a believer “in increasing measure” so that he/she will be effective and productive in His Kingdom. The Apostles are quite consistent with what Jesus Himself taught: “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (Cf. John 3:5-6)
So the good news is that fallen, sinful man does not have to remain condemned to separation from our Holy Father … the God of all Creation. God sent His one and only Son to save us … to reconcile us and restore us to Himself … as He determined and ordained before the foundation of the world. All a person needs to do believe in Jesus Christ and begin to follow Him into the discipleship of a Spirit-filled life of Kingdom service. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. He invites us participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires, and to walk in the Light of His glory and goodness….
I pray each of us with grow in knowledge and go on to maturity in the Spirit … to confirm our calling and election … to live lives worthy of the Lord Jesus … to please Him in every way … bearing fruit in every good work … growing in the knowledge of God…and strengthened with all power according to His glorious might. (Cf. Colossians 1:9-11) I ask that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that we may know Him better. I pray that the eyes of our hearts will be enlightened in order that we may know the hope to which God has called us, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people,and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength God exerted when He raised Jesus Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms…. (Cf. Ephesians 1:17-20) Amen.