“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:17-18).
Most biblical commentators of the Gospel of John agree that John 3:16-21 was the apostle’s commentary about Jesus Christ being the source of salvation, rather than Jesus’ own words directly spoken to Nicodemas (John 3:1-15). As one commentator explains, “Lest we be confused about the fact that looking to Christ in faith alone is necessary for salvation (vv. 14–15), John elaborates on the purpose of Christ’s coming into the world and shows us that it is rooted in God’s desire to save sinners. Of course, that these are the words of John and not Jesus does not make them any less inspired or authoritative. All Scripture is God-breathed and finds its origin in our triune Creator.”
The Apostle John explains that God the Father did not send God the Son into the world to condemn the world. This does not mean that God will not judge the world (Revelation 19:11-5), but rather that Jesus’ purpose in coming to this world the first time was not judgment but to provide the means of eternal salvation. Jesus came into a fallen world already dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1-3) and under condemnation (John 1:5; Romans 1:18-32). Jesus did not primarily come to increase the world’s condemnation but rather to provide a way of deliverance for sinners. However, as one commentator explains, “the opportunity for salvation is limited. Jesus is coming again, and God will judge mankind at that time by Christ Jesus, condemning the impenitent (Romans 2).”
We should also note that sinners do not presently stand before God in a neutral position while God awaits their final decision of whether they will receive or reject Christ. The prevailing idea being that only when sinners face God’s Great White Throne Judgment they will be condemned to hell.
Rather, those who do not believe in Christ as Savior and Lord presently stand condemned before God. Why? The answer is given in the latter part of vs. 18 where it says, “Because he (the individual sinner) has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
Dr. R. C. Sproul explains, “Full and final condemnation of the impenitent is coming when Christ returns, but that does not mean condemnation is not already here in some sense. If Christ is the only way of salvation, as John’s gospel makes clear in passages such as 3:16 and 14:6, then to reject Him as Savior is to put oneself under condemnation. This is the point of John 3:18. The fullest expression of condemnation will not come until the last day, but rejection of Christ before then means that the sentence of condemnation is already pronounced and all that awaits is final punishment. Those who look to Christ escape condemnation, but those who refuse to trust Him are as good as condemned already.”
Have you rejected Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord? If so, please know that all who do presently stand condemned before God. Right now, repent of your unbelief and trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ to deliver you from God’s judgment. If you do, then immediately tell a Christian friend about your new faith in Christ and ask them to pray with you and help you begin reading and studying the Bible.
Soli deo Gloria!