John 3:17-21

Sunday Morning Bible Study

July 23, 1995


Jesus is having a private meeting, at night, with a man named Nicodemus.

Nicodemus is a Pharisee, a man who has tried to earn his way into heaven by doing everything perfect.

Jesus told him he needed to have a new start, he needed to be "born again"

Jesus has explained that the way to be saved and receive a new life, was by trusting God's Son, Himself, to save you.

Last week we studied that famous verse, John 3:16, in depth:

John 3:16-AV For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

:17-21 Condemnation and light

:17 to condemn the world

Condemnation - a courtroom word.

krino - to judge; sharp, unjust criticism. Our word critic is from this very word.

It's the idea of judgment being handed down.

The court has heard the evidence, the judge then pronounces his judgment, and the prisoner is "condemned".

Somehow, the world gets the idea that we're just trying to condemn people and make ourselves out to be "holier than thou".

And I'm afraid that sometimes that's exactly what Christians are doing.

But Jesus' purpose in coming down from heaven and becoming a man was not to come and point a finger at us.

It was to save us.


Drop the condemning attitude

Matthew 7:1-2 AV Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

The word "judge" (in the Greek) is the same word as "condemn" (in these passages).

People are usually more than aware than we realize that they're sinners.

It's only once in a while when you come across someone who has become so calloused as to think that they have no sin.

People don't need you to condemn them for sin, they need you to point out the Savior.

Don't get me wrong

I'm not saying that we don't talk about sin, or that we ignore sin.

We need to be very plain about sin. If we didn't have sin, we wouldn't need a Savior.

But we don't need to be condemning of people in their sin, because it's something that's already been done, and it's not our job anyway.

In fact, it's really Jesus' job to be doing the condemning.

John 5:26-27 AV For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; 27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.

Jesus will one day pronounce judgment on every person.

But this was not His primary mission in coming to earth.

His primary mission was to first bring salvation.

:17 that the world through him might be saved

Jesus' primary purpose in coming to the earth was not to bring people into judgment, it was to save them from hell.


Until we come to the point where we stop seeing people as ugly, horrible enemies, and start seeing them as objects of God's love, as people for whom Christ died, then I don't think we've come to know God's heart at all.

The Bible doesn't say, "Go ye into all the world and convict those dirty rotten sinners that they're going to hell". But instead, it says:

Mark 16:15-AV And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

The gospel is the "good news".

The good news is that God loves you, and has offered to pay for your sins.

:18 he that believeth on him is not condemned

I think we often confuse the term "condemn" with two other terms.


The court has heard the evidence, the judge then pronounces his judgment, and the prisoner is "condemned".


elegcho 1) to convict, refute, confute

It is a word that usually talks about bringing a sense of shame in the person convicted.

But the main thrust of conviction is that it results with the person who is convicted repenting and coming closer to God.

It's aim is to correct a person's actions, not just bring shame for shame's sake.

It is one of the primary jobs of the Holy Spirit

John 16:8-NAS "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment;

Conviction is a good thing.

It will bring us closer to God.

There are times when we have a part of this ministry too - it's usually called "rebuke". (see 1Tim.5:20; Mat.18:15)

But since it's one of the things that the Holy Spirit does best, we'll find that if we just let the Spirit do His thing, He'll do it all by Himself.

1Corinthians 14:24-NAS But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all;


Respond correctly to conviction

Conviction is from the Holy Spirit.

It is meant to drive you to Jesus.

It's a sense of shame over sin, but it's a sense of shame that brings me closer to God, not farther from Him.

I need to respond by confessing my sin, and then changing.

Accusation - a courtroom word.

kategoreo - to accuse, before a judge

It's the job of the prosecuter.

Think of our old friends Marcia Clark and O.J. Simpson.

The purpose of the accusation is to get the judge (or jury) to pass a judgment of "guilty" on the prisoner.

It might be something that's true.

It might be something that's not true.

When you do your time on jury duty, you are told that you must not make your judgment based on the prosecutor's accusations, but based upon the facts.

Who does this job?

The main one is Satan.

Revelation 12:10-AV And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

Just like a master prosecutor, Satan is constantly bringing all kinds of accusations against you before God.

Some may be true.

Some may not be true.

In practicality, accusation comes across a lot like "condemnation".

If you listen only to Marcia Clark, then you would definitely think that O.J. is guilty.


We are no longer condemned

Accusation and condemnation make you feel like you need to run from God.

You'll start to think things like, "God isn't going to like you anymore", or, "God could never forgive you now".

But the truth is:

Romans 8:1-NAS There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

katakrima - damnatory sentence, condemnation

Has that really sunk in yet?

Why are we not condemned when we believe in Jesus?

When God declares forgiven, it's not like when a friend forgives a debt you owe.

They may have forgiven you, but they still were never paid. They could always justifiably come back later and said you still ought to pay them.

When God forgives your debt, it's because your debt has been paid in full, by Jesus' death on the cross in your place.

And because you accept Jesus' payment in your behalf, God forgives you, completely, debt paid in full.

God's justice has been met, and the debt is paid.

That's why we are told:

1John 1:9-AV If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

One of the greatest needs in the world is that need to be forgiven.

Mental hospitals are filled with people who are struggling with guilt.

The secular psychologist spends a lot of time trying to talk a person out of feeling guilty.

But Jesus has a better way, He doesn't pretend that the sin ever occured, He steps in to pay the debt Himself, and then He forgives them.

This is why we are able to experience such freedom from condemnation, and to have our conscience's completely purged clean:

Hebrews 9:13-14 AV For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

:18 he that believeth not is condemned already

Mankind is already under condemnation.

Refusal to accept God's payment means that you will have to pay it yourself.

You can try to pretend that you won't have to face judgment on your life, but whether or not you believe it, it's going to happen.


Don't remove the guilt prematurely or incorrectly

I think we sometimes do a disservice to people when we try and talk them out of their guilt.

When someone confides in you and tells you how horrible they feel over having done a particular thing ...

Don't try and tell them that it's not all that bad.

Tell them instead where they can receive forgiveness and cleansing.

:18 because he hath not believed in the name

Whether or not a person will be condemned before God boils down to one question:

What have you done with Jesus?

Have you been trying to get into heaven by your own merits, or have you come to realize that only Jesus can take you to heaven?


A person who is trying to get to heaven on their own good works is like a person who decides that they are going to jump across the ocean to Catalina.

Some may get farther than others.

But nobody is going to get there.

You'll only get to Catalina if you go by boat or airplane.

You'll only get to heaven if you let Jesus take you there.

:19 this is the condemnation

It would be better to say, "This is the process that brings about the condemnation".

RWP: It is more precisely the process of judging (kri-sis) rather than the result (kri-ma) of the judgment. "It is no arbitrary sentence, but the working out of a moral law" (Bernard).

:19 light is come into the world

We've already seen back in chapter one that Jesus is the light that has come into the world

John 1:4-5 AV In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

:19 men loved darkness rather than light

We don't like it when people can see our sin, even when we can see our own sin.

Ever wonder why so much crime happens at night?



Every once in a while, I have to get up in the middle of the night to get something out of the kitchen.

I have learned never to be surprised when I turn on the light.

Sometimes the hidden citizens of our kitchen come out to play in the middle of the night.

When you turn on the light, they are kind of shocked momentarily, but then they quickly run to hide in the darkness under the baseboards.

The French prisoner

When the Bastille, a castle-like prison in Paris, was about to be destroyed in 1789, a convict was brought out who had been confined in one of its gloomy cells for many years. But instead of joyfully welcoming his liberty, he begged to be taken back. It had been such a long time since he had seen the sunshine that his eyes could not endure its brightness. His only desire was to die in the murky dungeon where he had been a captive.

In the same way, some men continue to reject the Savior until they eventually become so hardened in their sin that they prefer the dark ways of eternal death.

:19 because their deeds were evil

This is the reason that men loved darkness rather than the light.

We'll get this explained more in the next verse

:20 every one that doeth evil

doeth - prasso - intended, earnest, habitual, performance

literally, "every one that is continually and earnestly practising wickedness"

:20 hateth the light

When we witness to people, or even simply mention Jesus' name, we often get a very negative reaction.

We can be offended, and take it personally.

We'd better start getting used to it. It comes with the territory.

Jesus said,

John 15:18-AV If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before [it hated] you.

:20 lest his deeds be reproved

This is our word for "convict" (see vs.18)

When a person comes into the Light, they get convicted, and they don't like it because they don't want to change.

The definition of "conviction" is that a person is made aware of their sin, and they are moved to repentance.


Understand the reaction

When you get a hostile reaction to someone who you're witnessing to, or even just mentioning Jesus' name.

Sometimes the reason for the hostility is because they are feeling conviction for their sins.

Sometimes you get hit with a barrage of atheistic answers.

Things like:

"How can anyone intelligent believe in God"

"How can a God of love send people to hell"

But the problem isn't always an intellectual one.

It's often a problem of what's hidden in the darkness.

They don't want to give up their sin.

If they acknowledge that there is a God, and that they are His creation, and they are accountable to Him, then they're going to have to face their sin too.

But they'll never tell you that.


Have you ever wondered why "Hollywood" in general is so anti-Christian?

Take a look at what the top people in Hollywood think of sin.

A survey of 104 top television writers and executives.

Believe adultery is wrong

Hollywood 49% Everyone else 85%

Have no religious affiliation

Hollywood 45% Everyone else 4%

Believe homosexual acts are wrong

Hollywood 20% Everyone else 76%

Believe in a woman's right to an abortion

Hollywood 97% Everyone else 59%

-- Newsweek, 7-20-92, p. 55.

Any surprise?

:21 he that doeth truth

doeth - poieo - (different word than in verse 20) - simply means "to do"

It doesn't seem to carry the same intensity as the word in verse 21.

What does it mean to "do the truth"?

John gives us a little more insight in one of his letters:

1John 1:5-9 AV This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

To "do the truth" means:

1. Not saying one thing and doing another, as in saying you know God, but living as if you don't (vs.6)

There are people who claim to be Christians, but are hiding sin in their lives, and trying to pretend that everything's okay.

These people aren't "doing the truth".

2. Not hiding, but admitting that we have sin (vs.8)


To do the truth means to live honestly.

It means you don't try to hide things from God.

You admit to God just what you are.

:21 cometh to the light

Just like a moth is drawn to a flame.

Jesus said of Himself:

John 14:6-AV Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

If a person is truly trying to live a life of openness and honesty, they'll come to the one who is complete honesty and openness, Jesus.

There are lots of people who claim to be open and honest about themselves.

It's kind of a "new age" kind of thing.

But the proof of the pudding is whether or not they come to Christ.

If they really are being honest about themselves, and they aren't trying to hide or hold anything back, then they will come to Jesus.


Don't get me wrong here.

I'm not saying that God wants us to be perfect.

I'm just saying that God doesn't want us to try to hide things from him.


For years I've seen Bil Keane's Family Circus strips about the invisible character known as "not me".

Whenever the mom asks any of the kids who broke the cookie jar, they all respond, "not me".

That's the poor little invisible ghost-like fellow who gets blamed for everything.

I didn't used to appreciate those cartoons very much until a few years ago.

I've found out that that little invisible guy has been coming over to our house a lot.

"Who made such a big mess in the toy room?"

"Who made such a mess in the kitchen?"

"Not me", or, "Timmy did it" (and it wasn't Timmy who answered)

What I long for as a parent is for my boys to come to the place where they are willing to say, "I did it".

:21 that his deeds may be manifest

manifest - to make something obvious, reveal something hidden.

That's what "doing the truth" is all about.

Nothing is hidden from Jesus.

:21 that they are wrought in God

Any good things that have been done have been done under the influence of God's help.

It's not in my nature to be able to do good things.