John 3:20
For every one that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) For every one that doeth evil hateth the light.—In this and the next verse we have the explanation of the choice of the darkness and rejection of the light. The fact itself is first stated more strongly. Not only does the man that doeth evil love darkness rather than light, but he hates the light. (Comp. Note on John 7:7.) Its presence makes manifest and reproves his works, which he would hide even from himself. It illumines the dark and secret chambers of the heart, and reveals thoughts and deeds which conscience, seeing in this light, trembles at, and turns away to darkness that it may hide itself from its own gaze.

It has been often noted that the word “doeth,” in this and the following verse, represent different words in the original. Perhaps we may distinguish them in English by rendering this verse: “Every one that practiseth evil.” It is not less important to note that the word for evil here differs from the word so rendered’ in the last clause of the previous verse. Strictly, and the change of word seems to demand a strict interpretation (comp. Note on John 5:29), it is not that which is positively, but that which is negatively, evil—that which is trivial, poor, worthless. The man who practiseth such things misses the aim of life, and turns from the light that would point it out to him. He does many things, but forgets that one thing is needful, and spends a life-time in trifles without any permanent result. We are familiar with the thought that immorality shuns the light and warps the will, and thus darkens knowledge and weakens faith; but we remember too seldom the deadening effect of an unreal and aimless existence which is not truly a life.

Should be reproved.—The margin will show that our translators felt a difficulty about this word (see Notes on Matthew 18:15), where it is rendered “tell him his fault,” and comp. the other instances in this Gospel, John 8:9; John 8:46 (“convince” in both), and especially John 16:8 (“reprove,” and margin “convince”). The moral idea is exactly illustrated by the action of light, which makes manifest the wrong, and leads the conscience to see it and repent of it. It is through this chastening that the man passes from darkness to light. It is because men shrink from this chastening that they hate the light. (Comp. Notes on the remarkable parallel in Ephesians 5:11 et seq.)

John 3:20-21. For every one that doeth evil — That is conscious to himself that he lives in known sin, and is inclined to continue to do so; hateth the light — Which would detect and expose his evil practices, and thereby cause anguish and shame to his guilty mind; neither cometh to the light — But keeps aloof from it, being unwilling, not desirous, to know his true character, and the dangerous and miserable condition which he is in. Thus Christ, and his genuine gospel, is hated, because sin is loved. And sinners hate the light, because it discovers the evil and sinfulness of their ways unto them, and condemns them for them. But he that doeth the truth — That complies with the will of God, as far as he knows it; that sincerely and conscientiously endeavours to conform his conduct to the eternal law of righteousness; cometh to the light — With confidence and joy, brings his opinions and practices, his desires and designs, his affections, intentions, and resolutions, his tempers, words, and actions, to the test of God’s word; that his deeds may be made manifest — As in open day; that they are wrought in God — Are performed as in his sight, according to the direction of his word, with a single eye to his glory, and in consequence of that union of soul with him, which is the highest dignity and happiness of a rational creature. “Be it therefore known to you all,” as if our Lord had said, “that this gospel which I preach is the great touchstone of men’s true characters; and as nothing but a corruption of the heart can oppose it, so I faithfully warn you, that if you reject it, it is at the peril of your souls.” Observe, reader, we have in this passage the character of a good man: 1st, He is one that doeth την αληθειαν, not truth merely, but the truth, namely, that walks according to the truth, as it is in Jesus, and that uprightly and conscientiously. 2d, He is one that cometh to the light, that is ready and desirous to receive the truth, as far as it appears to him to be so, and discoveries of God’s mind concerning him, whatever uneasiness may be created to him thereby. He frequently tries himself, and desires that God would try him; being solicitous to know his will, and resolving to comply with it, however contrary to his own will and apparent interests. We have here, also, the character of a good work: it is wrought in God, in union with him by living faith, through the aid of his grace. Our works are then good, and will bear the test of God’s word, 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: and if by the light of the gospel it be manifested to us that our works are thus wrought, then we have cause of rejoicing, Galatians 6:4; 2 Corinthians 1:12. Such was the purport of our Lord’s discourse with Nicodemus; and it appears by some following circumstances of the story, that it made a deep and lasting impression on his mind; and that he afterward became a true disciple of Christ. See John 7:50; John 19:39.3:1-8 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?That doeth evil - Every wicked person.

Hateth the light - This is true of all wicked men. They choose to practice their deeds of wickedness in darkness. They are afraid of the light, because they could be easily detected. Hence, most crimes are committed in the night. So with the sinner against God. He hates the gospel, for it condemns his conduct, and his conscience would trouble him if it were enlightened.

His deeds should be reproved - To "reprove" here means not only to "detect" or make manifest, but also includes the idea of "condemnation" when his deeds are detected. The gospel would make his wickedness manifest, and his conscience would condemn him. We learn from this verse:

1. that one design of the gospel is "to reprove" men. It convicts them of sin in order that it may afford consolation.

2. that men by nature "hate" the gospel. No man who is a sinner loves it; and no man by nature is disposed to come to it, any more than an adulterer or thief is disposed to come to the daylight, and do his deeds of wickedness there.

3. The reason why the gospel, is hated is that men are sinners. "Christ is hated because sin is loved."

4. The sinner must be convicted or convinced of sin. If it be not in this world, it will be in the next. There is no escape for him; and the only way to avoid condemnation in the world to come is to come humbly and acknowledge sin here, and seek for pardon.

20. reproved—by detection. He that makes a trade of sin, and doth evil presumptuously, loving and delighting in it, doth not love the light, nor, if he can avoid it, will come near it; for the light is that which makes things visible, and discovereth them. As it is of the nature of natural light to show things to others as they are; and therefore thieves, and adulterers, and drunkards, care not for the light, but choose the darkness for their deeds of darkness, and come as little abroad in the light as they can when they do them: so it is of the nature of Christ and his gospel to discover men’s errors, both as to the obtaining of justification and eternal salvation, and the errors also of men’s lives; and therefore men and women possessed of errors in their judgments, or delighting in a filthy conversation, hate Christ and his gospel; because that a discovering the right ways of God discovereth the crookedness of their ways, opposite to the truths and ways of God. For every one that doth evil, hateth the light,.... Every man, the series of whose life and conversation is evil, hates Christ and his Gospel, cause they make manifest his evil deeds, convict him of them, and rebuke him for them:

neither cometh to the light; to hear Christ preach, or preached; to attend on the Gospel ministration and means of grace:

lest his deeds should be reproved; or discovered, and made manifest, and he be brought to shame, and laid under blame, and advised to part with them, which he cares not to do; see Ephesians 5:11.

For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 3:20. Γάρ] If by the previous γάρ the historical basis for the statement ἠγάπησαν οἱ ἄνθρωποι, κ.τ.λ., was laid, then this second γάρ is related to the same statement as explanatory thereof (see on Matthew 6:32; Matthew 18:11; Romans 8:6), introducing a general elucidation, and this from the psychological and perfectly natural relation of evil-doers to the light which was manifested (in Christ) (το͂ φῶς not different from John 3:19), which they hated as the principle opposed to them, and to which they would not come, because they wished to avoid the ἔλεγχος which they must experience from it. This “coming to the light” is the believing adherence to Jesus, which, however, would have to be brought about through the μετάνοια.[167]

ἵνα μὴ ἐλεγχθῇ] Intention. This ἔλεγχος is the chastening censure, which they shunned both on account of their being put to shame before the world, and because of the threatening feeling of repentance and sorrow in their self-consciousness. Comp. Luke 3:19; John 8:8; Ephesians 5:11; Ephesians 5:13. “Gravis malae conscientiae lux est,” Senec. ep. 122. 14. This dread is both moral pride and moral effeminacy. According to Luthardt (comp. B. Crusius), the ἐλέγχεσθαι refers only to the psychological fact of an inner condemnation. But against this is the parallel φανερωθῇ, John 3:21.

Observe, on the one hand, the participle present (for the πράξας might turn to the light), and, on the other, the distinction between πράσσων (he who presses on, agit, pursues as the goal of his activity) and ποιῶν, John 3:21 (he who does, facit, realizes as a fact). Comp. Xen. Mem. iii. 9. 4 : ἐπισταμένος μὲν ἃ δεῖ πράττειν, ποιοῦντες δὲ τἀναντία, also John 4:5. 4, al.; Romans 1:31; Romans 2:3; Romans 7:15; Romans 13:4. See generally, Franke, ad Dem. Ol. iii. 15.

[167] In opposition to Colani, who finds a circle in the reasoning of vv. 19, 20. See Godet.John 3:20. The principle is explained in this verse. Underlying the action of men towards Christ during His historical manifestation was a general law: a law which operates wherever men are similarly invited to walk in the light. The law which governs the acceptance or refusal of light is given in the words πᾶς γὰρ ὁ φαῦλαἔργα αὐτοῦ. φαῦλος, originally “poor,” “paltry,” “ugly”; οἱ φαῦλοι, “the vulgar,” “the common sort”. In Polybius, φαῦλα πλοία, πολιτεία φαῦλα, badly constructed; φαῦλος ἡγεμών, a foolish general, and in xvii. 15, 15 it is opposed to deliberate wickedness. Dull, senseless viciousness seems to be denoted. Here and in John 3:29 πράσσειν is used with φαῦλα, and ποιεῖν in the next verse with ἀλήθειαν, on which Bengel remarks: “Malitia est irrequieta; est quiddam operosius quam veritas. Hinc verbis diversis notantur”. Where a distinction is intended, πράσσειν expresses the reiterative putting forth of activities to bring something to pass, ποιεῖν the actual production of what is aimed at. Hence there is a slight hint of the busy fruitlessness of vice. Paul, as well as John, uses πράσσειν, in certain passages, of evil actions. The person thus defined μισεῖ τὸ φῶς, “hates the light,” instead of delighting in it, καὶ οὐκ ἔρχεται πρὸς τὸ φῶς, and does not bring himself within its radiance, does not seek to use it for his own enlightenment; ἵνα μὴ ἐλεγχθῇ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ, “lest his works be convicted” and so put to shame. According to John there is moral obliquity at the root of all refusal of Christ. Obviously there is, if Christ be considered simply as “light”. To refuse the ideal he presents is to prefer darkness.20. doeth evil] The Greek word for ‘doeth’ is not the same as that in the next verse; but it is not quite certain that any distinction of meaning is intended, although John 5:29 inclines one to think so. There the words are paired in precisely the same way as here. On the other hand in Romans 7:15-20 these same two words are interchanged indifferently, each being used both of doing good and of doing evil. In order to make a distinction practiseth evil has been suggested. But ‘evil’ also requires re-translation, for in the Greek it differs from ‘evil’ in John 3:19. The meaning in this verse is rather ‘frivolous, good-for-nothing, worthless.’ He that practiseth worthless things (the aimless trifler), hateth the light, which would show him the true value of the inanities which fill up his existence.

lest his deeds should] Better, in order that his works may not.

reproved] The margin gives ‘discovered.’ In John 8:9 the same word is translated ‘convict,’ in John 8:46 ‘convince,’ and in John 16:8 ‘reprove’ with ‘convince’ in the margin. Of all these ‘convict’ is perhaps the best; in order that his works may not be convicted of being worthless, proved to be what they really are. See note on Matthew 18:15.John 3:20. Πράσσων) ποιῶν, John 3:21.[54] Evil is restless: it is a something more given to working than truth is. Hence they are marked by different words, as ch. John 5:29.[55]—ἐλεγχθῇ) should be reproved, should be convicted of being such as they actually are: against the will of the evil-doer himself. The opposite to this is φανερωθῇ, may be made manifest, John 3:21 : ἐλέγχω, a word suited to this passage, from ἓλη and ἔγχω [I bring to the sun-light]: for ὁ ἔλεγχος εἰς φῶς ἄγει τὰ πράγματα.[56]—τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ) Appositely, it is first said, the works of him [αὐτοῦ being put last], in the case of the man who flees from the light; then in John 3:21, αὐτοῦ τὰ ἔργα [the αὐτοῦ first], his works in the case of him who knows that he will not be put to shame.

[54] The former implies the continuous state of the evil-disposed, they practise evil; ποιῶν, the particular act or acts. Germ. thun and machen: Lat. agere and facere.—E. and T.

[55] And shall come forth, they that have done good, οἱ τὰ ἀγαθὰ ποιήσαντες, to the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, etc., οἱ τὰ φαῦλα πράξαντες, they that have practised evil.—E. and T.

[56] Buttmann denies we can trace the affinities of ἐλέγχω: Lidd. and Scott connect it with λέγω.—E. and T.Verse 20. - This verse expounds and supplies a further and causal explanation of the relation of conduct to character. For every one that praetiseth bad things (πράσσειν and ποιεῖν are contrasted, not only here, but in Romans 1:32; Romans 2:3; Romans 7:15, 19, 20. See Trench's 'Syn. N.T.,' p. 340). The first suggests the repeated acts of a man's conduct, his habits, his practice, and not unfrequently it has a bad sense attributed to it, while the second, ποιεῖν, refers to the full expression of an inward life, and is more appropriate to denote the higher deeds and grander principles). This practice of bad ways (φαῦλα) leads infallibly, by the just judgment of God, to a hatred of that which will reveal and confound the transgressor. Every one, etc., hateth the light (this shows that we cannot err in giving to μᾶλλον in ver. 19 the sense of potius), and the hardening process which is a judgment of God upon man, ever going on, becomes more conspicuous in this, that he cometh not to the light, in order that his works may not be convicted; i.e. lest his works should be revealed - shown to him and to others in their true light. The night time, during which so many evil things, base things, unclean things, are practised, was darkening down over Jerusalem when our Lord was speaking, and would give fateful emphasis to these solemn words. This love of darkness proceeded from a hatred of the revealing power of the light. This rejection of the only begotten Son of God proceeded from a long habit of sin, showing more emphatically than before the need of radical spiritual regeneration - a birth of water and of the Spirit. The rejection of the Christ's claim to cleanse the temple - a fact of which Nicodemus, as Sanhedrist, must have been fully aware - was a striking illustration of his great argument. The "dread of the light is both moral pride and moral effeminacy" (Meyer). (See parallel in Ephesians 5:11, 12.) Doeth (πράσσων)

The present participle, indicating habit and general tendency.

Evil (φαῦλα)

Rev., ill. A different word from that in the previous verse. Originally, light, paltry, trivial, and so worthless. Evil, therefore, considered on the side of worthlessness. See on James 3:16.

Lest his works should be reproved (ἵνα μὴ ἐλεγχθῇ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ).

Rather, in order that his works may not be reproved. Ελέγχω, rendered reprove, has several phases of meaning. In earlier classical Greek it signifies to disgrace or put to shame. Thus Ulysses, having succeeded in the trial of the bow, says to Telemachus, "the stranger who sits in thy halls disgraces (ἐλέγχει) thee not" ("Odyssey, xxi., 424). Then, to cross-examine or question, for the purpose of convincing, convicting, or refuting; to censure, accuse. So Herodotus: "In his reply Alexander became confused, and diverged from the truth, whereon the slaves interposed, confuted his statements (ἤλεγχον, cross-questioned and caught him in falsehood), and told the whole history of the crime" (i., 115). The messenger in the "Antigone" of Sophocles, describing the consternation of the watchmen at finding Polynices' body buried, says: "Evil words were bandied among them, guard accusing (ἐλέγχων) guard" (260). Of arguments, to bring to the proof; prove; prove by a chain of reasoning. It occurs in Pindar in the general sense of to conquer or surpass. "Having descended into the naked race they surpassed (ἤλεγξαν) the Grecian band in speed ("Pythia," xi., 75).

In the New Testament it is found in the sense of reprove (Luke 3:19; 1 Timothy 5:20, etc.). Convince of crime or fault (1 Corinthians 14:24; James 2:9). To bring to light or expose by conviction (James 5:20; Ephesians 5:11, Ephesians 5:13; John 8:46; see on that passage). So of the exposure of false teachers, and their refutation (Titus 1:9, Titus 1:13; Titus 2:15). To test and expose with a view to correction, and so, nearly equivalent to chasten (Hebrews 12:5). The different meanings unite in the word convict. Conviction is the result of examination, testing, argument. The test exposes and demonstrates the error, and refutes it, thus convincing, convicting, and rebuking the subject of it. This conviction issues in chastening, by which the error is corrected and the erring one purified. If the conviction is rejected, it carries with it condemnation and punishment. The man is thus convicted of sin, of right, and of judgment (John 16:8). In this passage the evil-doer is represented as avoiding the light which tests, that light which is the offspring of love (Revelation 3:19) and the consequent exposure of his error. Compare Ephesians 5:13; John 1:9-11. This idea of loving darkness rather than light is graphically treated in Job 24 and runs through Job 24:13-17.

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