He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already…
The first entrance of light produces two effects — it makes manifest and it separates. By this well-known result of the dawn we understand that when the Light that saves entered the world His appearance at the same time became the complete condemnation of men. But these words do not refer simply to the immediate effects of Christ's advent. They contain a truth for all time.
I. THE PRINCIPLE OF DIVINE CONDEMNATION. On what ground does. God condemn humanity? It has been said that God deems men for evils which it was beyond their power to avoid; as saving some few, and sending the rest to perdition because he chooses to do so. Christ here affirms that God finally condemns men, not for being sinful, but for content to be sinful.
1. Contemplate sin as a power slumbering in human nature. It is there, even in the child. The most virtuously educated, when thrown suddenly into some unusual companionship, will show it. God cannot doom a man for sinful impulses which any temptation may draw forth.
2. Pass on to the rise of sin into conscious deeds. Has man power in himself to free himself from its slavery?
(1) Every act of sin darkens the light of conscience. God has given man a conscience whose eye is quick to detect evil; but the misery of sin is that the very first action begins to darken the light which was given to guard against sin's blinding power.
(2) Every step decreases the power of resistance; for the longer a man lives in sin, the more deeply he becomes conscious of self-degradation. Destroy a man's self-respect, make him feel that his character is gone, and see how carelessly and recklessly he will act. If, then, sin has such a power, do you think that God finally condemns a man for being sinful? Is it not rather for being content to remain in sin, for loving darkness rather than light?
II. THE MANIFESTATION OF THIS PRINCIPLE IN THE COMING OF CHRIST. When the light came, every man who rejected Him proved his contentment in sin. Two things are requisite to prove this.
1. Man must be brought into a state in which he shall be able to choose deliberately between God and sin: and into this state the coming of Christ brings him. Through Christ the strongest and holiest powers — love, pity, sorrow act in man's nature and appeal to him to enter the light and liberty of the sons of God.
2. Man must show his contentment in sin, and thus doom himself. The rejection of Christ is utter self-condemnation.
(1) Within man is an evil power, and from that power Christ comes to deliver, but man chooses subjection to that power rather than deliverance.
(2) Behind man is a blackened past — man says I accept it; before man is an awful future springing out of his evil — man says I dare its doom: although Christ came to forgive the one and avert the other.
(E. L. Hull.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.