John 3:17-21  Condemnation and Light

Introduction:      The word “condemn”, appears in verses 17, 18, and 19.  The word light appears in verse 19, 20, and 21.  Of condemnation we shall see that it was not the reason Jesus came, it rests upon those who do not believe and it will never again rest upon those who have been saved from it, and those who will not come to the truth will be separated from those who do.  Of Light we shall see that wicked, evil men prefer darkness to light, they do not come to the light because of their guilt, and those who believe the truth of the Gospel will come to the light that God may be glorified.


John 3:17  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

              There is contained here two of the three members of the God head.  There is but one God and we worship Him alone in trinity and in unity.  God, in this verse is God the father and his Son is Jesus Christ.  God the Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world.  In chapter four of this book we shall learn that God is a spirit.  To send His Son into the world was to have His Son become flesh, for this world is not spirit.  Jesus has well explained this fact to Nicodemus by telling him “that which is born of flesh is flesh and that which is born of spirit is spirit.”  He again expressed this difference between Heaven and earth to him by saying (John 3:12) “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you [of] heavenly things?”

              There is contained here the reason He sent His son.  He did not send Jesus to condemn the world.  A popular idea of the Jews of Jesus day was that Messiah would come and destroy the gentile nations.  Jesus puts that idea to rest with the words of this verse.  In the next sentence He will explain that those who do not believe are condemned already.  Jesus had no need to come and condemn men, they were condemned already.  God sent His Son, Jesus, that the world through Him might be saved.  This plan had been made before man was created for Jesus is described by John as the lamb slain before the foundation of the earth.  This plan was explained to Adam with the shedding of the blood of an innocent animal to cover the nakedness of Adam.  Adam was promised the seed of the Woman would crush the head of the serpent.  Jesus told Nicodemus that men would be saved through the Son of God.  Jesus is that Son of God and just like Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness even so must the Son of Man, who is the Son of God, be lifted up that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  In this same book we will read a story of a woman who was taken in adultery.  Jesus will say to her “neither do I condemn thee…” Jesus did not come to condemn but to provide the one and only means of salvation.


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.

              Now we see a most marvelous and wonderful promise from the mouth of Jesus.  Those who look, live.  Those who believe that Jesus Christ died for their sins and will trust in Him to save them are not condemned.  There are two conditions of men.  There are those who are condemned and those who are not.  One can be a temporary state and the other is a permanent state.  If you repent of your sins and believe in Jesus Christ as your savior then you are permanently saved.  You are not condemned.  If you do not believe then you are condemned.  You may change this state by repentance and faith in Christ.  If you continue in your unbelief until overtaken by death you will remain condemned for all eternity.

              There is contained here a fact which is misunderstood by many.  There is but one thing that condemns a person.  That one thing is unbelief.  Sin does not condemn.  Jesus paid our sin debt.  What remains is for you to believe.  If you will believe that there is a God and that the bible is God’s word, and that you are a sinner and that you deserve to spend eternity in the fires of hell, and believe that Jesus has died for your sins and that He will save you if you will call upon Him then you will not be condemned.  You must believe.


John 3:19  And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

               The Greek word translated condemnation here means a separation for the purpose of discarding the bad.   We use the term culling today.  Jesus is telling Nicodemus that a culling is coming.  The Lord will cull the bad from the good.  The basis of this condemnation is love of darkness over light.

              The word “that” could have been translated “because” in this verse.  The separation will come because light is come into the world and men love darkness instead of light.  They do not want to know and do not accept the truth that they are frail sinful humans in need of a savior.  This basically speaks of men rejecting Jesus Christ as the savior.  They see no need of a savior and do not accept the truth that they are condemned and headed for the fires of a devils hell.

              The reason they reject the light is because their deeds were evil.  To come to the light is to admit and confess evil, sinful deeds.  Men do not like to admit guilt.  Parents spend much of their time making their kids admit guilt.  Adults still do not like to admit guilt.  They still love darkness.  They would rather save face than to admit guilt. 

              Be warned, a separation is coming.  Those who do not believe are the ones who love their evil deeds more than a Holy and righteous God who has come to bring them light and life. 


John 3:20  For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

              Those who do evil hate the light.  Thus to know if your deeds are evil then look at your opinion of the light.  If you hate the light your deeds are evil.  Those who do evil will not come because they will be shown to be guilty.  The word “reproved” means to have exposed.  Standing in the presence of a Holy, righteous God causes men to see themselves for what they are.  Thus Peter said to Jesus once “depart from me for I am a sinful man.”  Isaiah, when standing before God said “woe is me.”  I once heard a definition of repentance which seems to fit in right here.  Repentance is seeing yourself the way God sees you.  It is agreeing with God about your sinful condition.  When this occurs you to will say “woe is me.”  You too will feel ashamed to be in His presence, to stand in His light, for your deeds are evil.  When you stand in His light you can only plead for His mercy.  Be not afraid for He is a merciful God!


John 3:21  But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

          Those in Jesus day who were keeping the law in truth were those who accepted the picture of the sacrifices.  The Law directed those who do truth to Jesus and they accepted Him immediately.  Those who were misapplying the Law hated Jesus.  The whole point of the law was to show men their sinful condition and that they were without hope.  One who truly strived to keep the law would throw up his hands in sheer frustration and plead for mercy.  The law made sin apparent and pointed the worshiper to Christ.  All the penitent sinner had to do was look and live.  Those who, like Abraham, believe in God as the savior of men do not fear of hate the truth but come to the light.  He, like the Apostle Paul, is not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.  He is not afraid to come to light for his repentance and faith in Christ are the works of God. 

John 6:28-29  Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? (29)  Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. 

              When you come to Christ, in sorrow because of sin, seeking His forgiveness and pardon it is God who has drawn you to himself.  You have come in answer to His call.  He will not turn you away.  This, Jesus called the work of God.  Good works will follow according to what Paul wrote to the Ephesians.

Eph 2:10  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

              We know that Nicodemus became a disciple of Jesus.  He was a secret disciple at first but would in time openly proclaim Jesus as his Lord.

              John wrote these things that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God and that believing ye might have life through His name.  I personally believe that the light came on , if you will, for Nicodemus after Jesus mentioned the serpent int the wilderness.  That simple act of faith was all it took for those in Moses’ day and a simple act of faith is all it takes today. 

               What may we conclude from these words which Jesus has spoken to Nicodemus. 

     1.  You have been told this story that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ.  Will you believe?

     2.  You will not understand spiritual things until you have been saved.

     3.  In order to be saved you must trust in God to save you.         

     4.  Wicked, evil, lost sinners prefer condemnation to light.

     5.  Those who will accept the truth and believe will not be condemned.

     6.  Those who are saved come to the light so all can see what God has done for them.  They let the light shine before men that they may see the good works and glorify the Father which is in heaven.