John 3:18
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(18) He that believeth on him is not condemned.—Again, judged is better than “condemned.” There is, moreover, an important change of tense in this verse, which the Authorised version does not mark clearly. He that believeth on Him, is not judged: but he that believeth not hath been (and is) already judged.

Because he hath not believed.—The human spirit fulfils the end of its being, and finds its highest good, in communion with God. It cannot, then, fail to recognise and believe in a revelation of God. This revelation has been made in the only way in which it can be fully made (comp. John 1:18), in the person of the only begotten Son. The very fact that He is rejected is the judgment of the spirit which rejects. It has lost by neglect its power to perceive, or by will it hides itself from God. “I heard Thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10).

3:1-8 Nicodemus was afraid, or ashamed to be seen with Christ, therefore came in the night. When religion is out of fashion, there are many Nicodemites. But though he came by night, Jesus bid him welcome, and hereby taught us to encourage good beginnings, although weak. And though now he came by night, yet afterward he owned Christ publicly. He did not talk with Christ about state affairs, though he was a ruler, but about the concerns of his own soul and its salvation, and went at once to them. Our Saviour spoke of the necessity and nature of regeneration or the new birth, and at once directed Nicodemus to the source of holiness of the heart. Birth is the beginning of life; to be born again, is to begin to live anew, as those who have lived much amiss, or to little purpose. We must have a new nature, new principles, new affections, new aims. By our first birth we were corrupt, shapen in sin; therefore we must be made new creatures. No stronger expression could have been chosen to signify a great and most remarkable change of state and character. We must be entirely different from what we were before, as that which begins to be at any time, is not, and cannot be the same with that which was before. This new birth is from heaven, ch. 1:13, and its tendency is to heaven. It is a great change made in the heart of a sinner, by the power of the Holy Spirit. It means that something is done in us, and for us, which we cannot do for ourselves. Something is wrong, whereby such a life begins as shall last for ever. We cannot otherwise expect any benefit by Christ; it is necessary to our happiness here and hereafter. What Christ speak, Nicodemus misunderstood, as if there had been no other way of regenerating and new-moulding an immortal soul, than by new-framing the body. But he acknowledged his ignorance, which shows a desire to be better informed. It is then further explained by the Lord Jesus. He shows the Author of this blessed change. It is not wrought by any wisdom or power of our own, but by the power of the blessed Spirit. We are shapen in iniquity, which makes it necessary that our nature be changed. We are not to marvel at this; for, when we consider the holiness of God, the depravity of our nature, and the happiness set before us, we shall not think it strange that so much stress is laid upon this. The regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is compared to water. It is also probable that Christ had reference to the ordinance of baptism. Not that all those, and those only, that are baptized, are saved; but without that new birth which is wrought by the Spirit, and signified by baptism, none shall be subjects of the kingdom of heaven. The same word signifies both the wind and the Spirit. The wind bloweth where it listeth for us; God directs it. The Spirit sends his influences where, and when, on whom, and in what measure and degree, he pleases. Though the causes are hidden, the effects are plain, when the soul is brought to mourn for sin, and to breathe after Christ. Christ's stating of the doctrine and the necessity of regeneration, it should seem, made it not clearer to Nicodemus. Thus the things of the Spirit of God are foolishness to the natural man. Many think that cannot be proved, which they cannot believe. Christ's discourse of gospel truths, ver. 11-13, shows the folly of those who make these things strange unto them; and it recommends us to search them out. Jesus Christ is every way able to reveal the will of God to us; for he came down from heaven, and yet is in heaven. We have here a notice of Christ's two distinct natures in one person, so that while he is the Son of man, yet he is in heaven. God is the HE THAT IS, and heaven is the dwelling-place of his holiness. The knowledge of this must be from above, and can be received by faith alone. Jesus Christ came to save us by healing us, as the children of Israel, stung with fiery serpents, were cured and lived by looking up to the brazen serpent, Nu 21:6-9. In this observe the deadly and destructive nature of sin. Ask awakened consciences, ask damned sinners, they will tell you, that how charming soever the allurements of sin may be, at the last it bites like a serpent. See the powerful remedy against this fatal malady. Christ is plainly set forth to us in the gospel. He whom we offended is our Peace, and the way of applying for a cure is by believing. If any so far slight either their disease by sin, or the method of cure by Christ, as not to receive Christ upon his own terms, their ruin is upon their own heads. He has said, Look and be saved, look and live; lift up the eyes of your faith to Christ crucified. And until we have grace to do this, we shall not be cured, but still are wounded with the stings of Satan, and in a dying state. Jesus Christ came to save us by pardoning us, that we might not die by the sentence of the law. Here is gospel, good news indeed. Here is God's love in giving his Son for the world. God so loved the world; so really, so richly. Behold and wonder, that the great God should love such a worthless world! Here, also, is the great gospel duty, to believe in Jesus Christ. God having given him to be our Prophet, Priest, and King, we must give up ourselves to be ruled, and taught, and saved by him. And here is the great gospel benefit, that whoever believes in Christ, shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and so saving it. It could not be saved, but through him; there is no salvation in any other. From all this is shown the happiness of true believers; he that believeth in Christ is not condemned. Though he has been a great sinner, yet he is not dealt with according to what his sins deserve. How great is the sin of unbelievers! God sent One to save us, that was dearest to himself; and shall he not be dearest to us? How great is the misery of unbelievers! they are condemned already; which speaks a certain condemnation; a present condemnation. The wrath of God now fastens upon them; and their own hearts condemn them. There is also a condemnation grounded on their former guilt; they are open to the law for all their sins; because they are not by faith interested in the gospel pardon. Unbelief is a sin against the remedy. It springs from the enmity of the heart of man to God, from love of sin in some form. Read also the doom of those that would not know Christ. Sinful works are works of darkness. The wicked world keep as far from this light as they can, lest their deeds should be reproved. Christ is hated, because sin is loved. If they had not hated saving knowledge, they would not sit down contentedly in condemning ignorance. On the other hand, renewed hearts bid this light welcome. A good man acts truly and sincerely in all he does. He desires to know what the will of God is, and to do it, though against his own worldly interest. A change in his whole character and conduct has taken place. The love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost, and is become the commanding principle of his actions. So long as he continues under a load of unforgiven guilt, there can be little else than slavish fear of God; but when his doubts are done away, when he sees the righteous ground whereon this forgiveness is built, he rests on it as his own, and is united to God by unfeigned love. Our works are good when the will of God is the rule of them, and the glory of God the end of them; when they are done in his strength, and for his sake; to him, and not to men. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a subject to which the world is very averse; it is, however, the grand concern, in comparison with which every thing else is but trifling. What does it signify though we have food to eat in plenty, and variety of raiment to put on, if we are not born again? if after a few mornings and evenings spent in unthinking mirth, carnal pleasure, and riot, we die in our sins, and lie down in sorrow? What does it signify though we are well able to act our parts in life, in every other respect, if at last we hear from the Supreme Judge, Depart from me, I know you not, ye workers of iniquity?He that believeth - He that has confidence in him; that relies on him; that trusts to his merits and promises for salvation. To believe on him is to feel and act according to truth that is, to go as lost sinners, and act toward him as a Saviour from sins; relying on him, and looking to him "only" for salvation. See the notes at Mark 16:16.

Is not condemned - God pardons sin, and delivers us from deserved punishment, because we believe on him. Jesus died in our stead; he suffered for us, and by his sufferings our sins are expiated, and it is consistent for God to forgive. When a stoner, therefore, believes on Jesus, he trusts in him as having died in his place, and God having accepted the offering which Christ made in our stead, as being an equivalent for our sufferings in hell, there is now no further condemnation, Romans 8:1.

He that believeth not - All who do not believe, whether the gospel has come to them or not. All people by nature.

Is condemned already - By conscience, by law, and in the judgment of God. God disapproves of their character, and this feeling of disapprobation, and the expression of it, is the condemnation. There is no condemnation so terrible as this - that God disapproves our conduct, and that he will express his disapprobation. He will judge according to truth, and woe to that man whose conduct God cannot approve.

Because - This word does not imply that the ground or reason of their condemnation is that they have not believed, or that they are condemned because they do not believe on him, for there are millions of sinners who have never heard of him; but the meaning is this: There is but one way by which men can be freed from condemnation. All people without the gospel are condemned. They who do not believe are still under this condemnation, not having embraced the only way by which they can be delivered from it. The verse may be thus paraphrased: "All people are by nature condemned. There is but one way of being delivered from this state by believing on the Son of God. They who do not believe or remain in that state are still condemned, for they have not embraced the only way in which they can be freed from it. Nevertheless, those to whom the gospel comes greatly heighten their guilt and condemnation by rejecting the offers of mercy, and trampling under foot the blood of the Son of God, Luke 12:47; Matthew 11:23; Hebrews 10:29; Proverbs 1:24-30. And there are thousands going to eternity under this "double" condemnation:

1. for positive, open sin; and,

2. for rejecting God's mercy, and despising the gospel of his Son. This it is which will make the doom of sinners in Christian lands so terrible.

18. is not condemned—Having, immediately on his believing, "passed from death unto life" (Joh 5:24).

condemned already—Rejecting the one way of deliverance from that "condemnation" which God gave His Son to remove, and so wilfully remaining condemned.

Whose firmly and steadily assenting to the propositions of the gospel, revealing Jesus Christ as the only and all sufficient Saviour, commits the care of his soul unto him trusting and hoping in him alone for eternal salvation, which no man can indeed do without doing what in him lieth to fulfil the condition upon which Christ hath promised life and salvation, that is, keeping the commandments of God, is exempted from condemnation by the law of grace. But he that believes not the doctrine of Christ, and does not upon the terms of the gospel receive him for his Saviour, is already condemned for his obstinate infidelity, which is the certain cause of damnation: as we say of one mortally wounded, that he is a dead man, though he breathes for a while; and we speak in the same manner of a malefactor, convicted and attainted of a capital crime, though the sentence be not executed; because their death is inevitable. The not believing in the only Son of God, who is able to save to the utmost all that regularly trust in him, is such a contempt of the merciful, all sufficient, and sole means of salvation, that it is absolutely necessary, and most just, that all those who refuse to be saved by him, should perish by themselves. From this scripture arise two questions: the first concerning the heathens, who never heard of Christ. The second concerning infants, who die before they come to years of knowledge. As to the former, the apostle hath determined, Romans 2:12, As many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law. There is the same reason for those who sin without the gospel; they shall not perish for not believing on him of whom they have not heard, Romans 10:14, but for not obeying such revelation of the Divine will as they had. The case of infants is excluded from this text (speaking only of adult persons). It is certain, that so many of them as belong to the election of grace shall he saved, and that by virtue of the blood of Christ; but which way God brings them to heaven is a secret to us. Some from this text have concluded, that unbelief is the only damning sin; which is no further true, than that no sin will damn that soul which shall truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

He that believeth on him is not condemned,.... Whether Jew or Gentile, because a believer is openly in Christ; and there is no condemnation to those that are in him: and though the sentence of death passed upon all in Adam, and judgment came upon all men to condemnation in him; yet this sentence being executed on Christ, the surety of his people, who has been condemned to death, and has suffered it in their stead, his death is a security to them from all condemnation: and they are delivered by him from the curse and condemnation of the law: and having in conversion openly passed from death to life, they shall never enter into condemnation; and this is the happy case of every one that believes in Christ:

but he that believeth not is condemned already. The Persic version renders it, "from the beginning"; he remains under the sentence of condemnation passed in Adam upon him; the law accuses him, and pronounces him guilty before God; he is under the curse of it, and it is a ministration of condemnation and death to him; nor has he any thing to secure him from its charge, curse, and condemnation: this must be understood of one that is a final unbeliever, or that lives, and dies, in a state of impenitence, and unbelief:

because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God; whom God has sent to be the Saviour of lost sinners, and to deliver them from wrath to come; and there is no other name but his, whereby men can be saved; so that such that do not believe in him, must be damned.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 3:18. More exact explanation of the negative part of John 3:17. Mankind are either believing, and are thus delivered from condemnation (comp. John 5:24), because if the Messiah had come to judge the world, He would only have had to condemn sin; but sin is forgiven to the believer, and he already has everlasting ζωή;—or they are unbelieving, so that condemnation has already been passed upon them in idea (as an internal fact),[165] because they reject the Only-begotten of God, and there is no need of a special act of judgment to be passed on them on the part of the Messiah; their own unbelief has already passed upon them the sentence of condemnation. “He who does not believe, already has hell on his neck,” Luther; he is αὐτοκατάκριτος, Titus 3:11. John 3:18 does not speak of the last judgment which shall be the solemn and ultimate completion of this temporal judgment,[166] but it does not call it in question, in opposition to the Jewish Messianic belief (Hilgenfeld). See on John 5:28-30, John 12:31. Well says Euthymius Zigabenus: ἡ ἀπιστία κατέκρινε πρὸ τῆς κατακρίσεως. Comp. John 3:36.

πεπίστευκεν] has become a believer (and remains so); the subjective negation in the causal clause (contrary to the older classical usage), as often in Lucian, etc., denoting the relation as one presupposed in the view of the speaker. See Herm. ad Viger. p. 806; Winer, p. 442 [E. T. p. 602]. Otherwise in 1 John 5:10.

τοῦ μονογ. υἱοῦ τ. θεοῦ] very impressively throwing light upon the ἤδη κέκριται, because bringing clearly into view the greatness of the guilt.

[165] Hence it is clear that the signification of κρίνειν as meaning condemnatory judgment is correct, and not the explanation of Weiss, Lehrbegriff, p. 184, according to whom the “judgment” here means in general only a decision either for life or death. In that case, not οὐ κρίνεται, but ἤδη κέκριται, must apply also to the believer. But this very distinction, the οὐ κρίνεται used of the believer and the ἤδη κέκριται of the unbeliever, places the explanation of a condemnatory κρίνειν beyond doubt. This is also against Godet, who with reference to the believer hits upon the expedient of supposing that the Lord here anticipates the judgment (viz. the “constater l’état moral”). But according to the words of Jesus, this suggestion would apply rather to the case of the unbeliever.

[166] This temporal judgment of the world is the world’s history, the conclusion of which is the last judgment (John 5:27), which, however, must not (as Schleier-macher, L. J. 355) be dissipated by means of this text into a merely natural issue of the mission of Jesus. See on John 5:28. See also Groos in the Stud. u. Krit. 1868, p. 251.

John 3:18. ὁ πιστεύωντοῦ θεοῦ. Expansion of previous verse. God sent His Son not to judge but to save; and whoso accepts the son and His revelation is not judged. It is no longer “every Jew,” nor “every one chosen by God,” but every one that believeth. All here is spiritual. Although judgment was not the object it is the necessary result of Christ’s presence in the world. But it is a judgment very different from that which the Jews expected. It is determined by the attitude towards Christ, and this again, as afterwards shown, is determined by the moral condition of the individual.—ὁ μὴ πιστεύων ἤδη κέκριται, “he that believeth not is already judged”: not only is left under the curse of his own evil actions; but, as the next clause shows, lies under the condemnation of not believing.—ἤδη κέκριται, he is already judged: it is not some future assize he doubtfully awaits and which may or may not convict. He is judged, and on a ground which to John seems to indicate monstrous depravity, ὅτι μὴ πεπίστευκεντοῦ θεοῦ. Not to perceive the glory of this august Being whom John so adored, not to receive the revelation made by the Only Begotten, is proof not merely of human infirmity and passion, but of wickedness chosen and preferred in presence of revealed goodness.

18. is not condemned … is condemned already] Better, is not judged … hath been judged already. The change of tense from present to perfect must be preserved. Unbelievers have no need to be sentenced by the Messiah; their unbelief is of itself their sentence. The next verse explains how this is. ‘Judge’ and ‘judgment’ are among S. John’s characteristic words.

John 3:18. Κέκριται, is judged [condemned]) This word is employed κατʼ ἄνθρωπον, in condescension to human notions. He who does not believe, already has that [judgment, condemnation], which he falsely supposes the Son of God brings upon [into] the world.

Verse 18. - Salvation is the Divine result of believing on him, and salvation lifts the saved man from the necessity of the judgment, of the moral discrimination which awaits every man, and is passed upon every man by his own conscience and by the providence of God. The word κρίνω does not necessarily mean "to condemn" (see ver. 17), and whensoever the unfavourable issue of judgment is emphatically referred to, then κατακρίνω ισ used (Romans 2:1; Romans 8:3; 1 Corinthians 11:32; Matthew 27:3). Still, this first clause shows that the predominant sense in which it is used throughout the passage is condemnatory. He that believeth on him - i.e. whoso submits and yields to the truth confessed and conspicuous in the Christ - he who accepts the mission of the Logos, both before and after the Incarnation (see notes on John 1:12-14) - is not judged. If there be a judgment, it is one of acquittal. In his case judgment is salvation, salvation is the judgment. Faith, affectionate confidence in the supreme Judge, transforms the judgment into mercy, anticipates the Divine and gracious result. But he that believeth not (subjective negative) has been already judged, and is now so adjudged (here the word seems necessarily to assume a condemnatory character) that he hath not believed on the Name of the only begotten Son of God. Such non-belief reveals insensibility to truth, indifference to the reality of things, unsusceptibility to the light, and a moral perversity which has been persisted in. The approach to such a one of the Eternal Logos did not move him, the unveiling of the Divine face did not awe him into reverence. The sin of his life had blinded his eyes, closed his ears, hardened his heart, and the consequence was that when the Name of the only begotten Son was made known to him, like all previous Divine self-revelations, it exercised no commanding influence upon him, no convincing power, no saving grace. To refuse Christ, to manifest unbelief under such circumstances, proves that the laws of Divine judgment which are always going on have already enacted themselves. He has been (and is) condemned. He is "judged already," and the unbelief is the judgment which the self-acting moral laws, or rather which the Logos actively at work in every human being, pronounces upon him. The manner in which any man receives Divine revelation is the judgment passed upon his entire life up to that moment by the unerring and infallible wisdom of the supreme Judge. The final judgment is thus anticipated, but it is not irreversible, and, should repentance and faith supervene by Divine grace on this stolid indifference and damnable unbelief, the once unbeliever will become the believer, the judgment upon whom is no more a judgment of condemnation, but one of life and peace. Nothing can indicate a more untractable, unspiritual, and carnal state than a refusal to admit so great and imposing a manifestation of the Divine nature as the Name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:18Is condemned already (ἤδη κέκριται)

Rev., more correctly, hath been judged already. Unbelief, in separating from Christ, implies judgment. He has been judged in virtue of his unbelief.

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