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)
What Condemns A Man?
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus that came to Jesus by night inquiring of the teachings of the man from Nazareth. Nicodemus acknowledged the people viewed Jesus as a teacher come from God and that His teaching had authority. As the Lord explained the need for men to be born again, the ruler of the Jews was puzzled how a man could be literally be born of his mother a second time. Jesus was referring to the spiritual birth that was found in the acceptance of the heart to the will of God consummated in the waters of baptism. The Lord explained to Nicodemus that like Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of man must be sacrificed for the sins of the world. Declaring God’s eternal love Jesus told His inquirer that God so loved the world to offer His only begotten Son as a sacrifice and for those who believed in the Son of God would be saved. Most people are familiar with the passage of John 3:16 but few know Jesus had more to say about salvation in the context of His conversation with Nicodemus. To better understand the love of God to send His only begotten Son, the honest student of scripture must see what else qualifies the teaching of Jesus. The purpose of the coming of Christ was not to condemn the world but to save men from the wrath of God. In the text of John 3:16 the love of God and the wrath of God are found. First, the love of God is seen in that He gave His only begotten Son for men to believe in Him. Jesus did say that if a man did not believe on the Son of God he would perish, suggesting an eternal punishment instead of everlasting life. Before time began the Father established that all men would find grace through His Son in His death on the cross. Jesus came to save men. He taught the message of salvation beginning with the first word of the gospel: repent. His desire was to save all men and bring them to the love and mercy of the Father. However, Jesus was killed on a cross through the ignorance of men who denied Him being the Son of God. They did not believe He was the Christ, rejected Him and delivered Him up to die. Jews and Gentiles stand guilty of the murder of God’s Son and yet through that sacrifice all men have the grace of God afforded to them for salvation.
Jesus Christ is the sacrificial lamb offered by God to show men His love and grace. Believing Jesus is the Son of God will bring the heart into obedience and a willingness to follow His teaching. This kind of belief is not a shallow type of feeling that only acknowledges the name of Jesus without complete allegiance to the will and word of the Father. To believe in Jesus is to submit to His will, His authority, and His word. Faith comes from hearing and when one hears the word of God they will subject their lives to the will of the Father. When a man believes in Jesus he will not be condemned. His heart is open to the teachings of the Lord. On the day of Pentecost when the twelve apostles preached the first lessons of God’s grace to a crowd of devout Jews, three-thousand souls obeyed the message of the gospel because they believed and accepted the will of God. There were no arguments or literary debating on what a man must do to be saved but willing hearts that gladly accepted the word of God and those who gladly received the word were baptized for the remission of sins. This was in keeping with what Jesus told Nicodemus in the new birth. To be born again is not a feeling of the heart alone where salvation comes through faith alone. Those on Pentecost followed the command of God in doing all that was needed to be saved.
What condemns a man? When a person hears the story of Jesus Christ and does not believe he is condemned already because he is unwilling to accept the name of Jesus as being the saving power of God’s love. Jesus explained to Nicodemus there are those who will be condemned because they refuse to accept the will of the Father. If a man is not born again he cannot enter into the body of Christ. Failing to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, a man will be condemned and this condemnation comes from his heart in refusing to accept the grace of God. On the day of Pentecost, there were many devout Jews that did not obey the gospel as the three-thousand did. Throughout the Acts of the Apostles, Luke tells the story of how the church grew and multitudes obeyed the gospel but there were many people who never accepted the teaching Jesus as the Son of God. They did not find salvation in death because they were condemned already for refusing to accept the teachings of the Father. God had done all He could do in sending His Son. When men refuse to believe that Jesus is the Son of God there is nothing left to save man. Death becomes a horrible experience when men learn that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God but it is then too late. Jesus taught in His sermon on the mountain that most men would be lost because they are unwilling to embrace the teachings of the Father and will be condemned. On the final day of Judgment, there will be those who are saved and there will be a vast multitude of people who will be lost. Condemnation will come upon those who refuse to make Jesus king of their lives and live in the word of the Father.