John 3:17-21

Sunday Morning Bible Study

October 25, 2009


A few weeks ago we began to look at this night time appointment that  Jesus had while He was in Jerusalem with a Jewish man named Nicodemus.

Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a strict follower of the Scriptures. He was a good guy.

Jesus told him that he needed to be “born again”.

Jesus elaborated that this was a spiritual birth, a work of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said that this was something that happened through faith.

Last week we looked at one of the Bible’s most famous verses, a verse that summarizes what salvation is all about:

(John 3:16 NKJV)  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

:17-21 Nick at Night, or … Nicodemus part 3

:17  "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

sendapostello – to order (one) to go to a place appointed; includes a reference to equipment and suggests official or authoritative sending

This is an explanation of why God “gave” His Son (vs. 16).

:17 to condemnkrino – to separate, put asunder; to approve; to judge; to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong

Our word critic is from this very word.

This is a word used in the courtroom.

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”.

:17 savedsozo – to save, to rescue from danger or destruction, salvation from our sins.


Judging correctly

You might think that this means that Jesus doesn’t just people.  Not so.
One of Jesus’ responsibilities will be to judge the world one day.
(John 5:26-27 NKJV)  "For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, {27} "and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.
(Jer 33:15 NKJV)  'In those days and at that time I will cause to grow up to David A Branch of righteousness; He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.
What our verse means is that judgment wasn’t Jesus’ priority the first time He came.  Salvation was His priority.
It is not wrong to judge people.
(Mat 7:1-5 NKJV)  "Judge not, that you be not judged. {2} "For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.

The warning here is about how you judge people.  If you judge people harshly, you will find yourself being judged harshly.  If you judge people with grace and mercy, you will find grace and mercy.

There are some people who go through life with a critical spirit.  All they ever do is find fault with other people.

Guess what?  There aren’t a lot of people who want to spend time with a person like that.  In fact, others often treat them harshly.

Be careful how you judge people.

{3} "And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? {4} "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye?

If you pay attention here, you notice that both individuals have the same problem.  Both have something in their eye.

It is not uncommon to be critical of other people about the very same things that you yourself have a problem with.

One of the issues involved in judging others is pride.

I get to think that I’m better than others.  I get to think that their problems are far worse than my own problems.

The Bible warns us that pride comes before a fall (Pro. 16:18).

Play MMA fighting video.

{5} "Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

Learn to look at yourself first.

When you find yourself being critical of someone else, learn to look in the mirror first.

Is this something that I have a problem with as well?

If it is, then I need to work on my own problem.  I need to learn to identify with the other person I’m judging, because I’m just the same.

I need to learn compassion on those who are struggling with the same thing that I struggle with.

Paul wrote,

(Gal 6:1 NKJV)  Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.

Look to myself – it may be that I have the same problem.  It may be that I could easily fall into the same trap that they have fallen into.  Looking into the mirror first ought to produce a “spirit of gentleness” in dealing with the other person.


The heart to save

When the phone rings and you don’t recognize who is calling, or when the doorbell rings and you don’t know the person standing in front of you, what’s the first thing that goes through your mind?
I want to know what they are there for.  I want to know why they are calling me or standing on my front porch.
I don’t really want to listen to their whole warm up spiel telling me about the evils of this or that thing.  I want to know why they are there.
We have here Jesus giving us His reason for coming to this earth.
He came to save us.  Though He will one day judge the earth, the priority of His first coming was not to be the judge, but to save.
Yesterday afternoon at the Rock Show, Greg Bird challenged us to cultivate a heart for the lost.  He shared from:
(Rom 9:1-3 NKJV)  I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, {2} that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. {3} For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,

Greg shared that Paul was saying that he would be willing to go to hell himself if it meant that his fellow Jews would turn to follow Jesus.

That’s the same heart that Jesus has.

In fact, Jesus actually suffered the penalty for all of our sins in order to save us.  He didn’t do this by suffering in hell, but He did it on the cross when all of our sins were laid upon Him.

(Isa 53:6 NKJV)  All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

God’s heart is that people would be saved.
(1 Tim 2:3-4 NKJV)  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, {4} who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

The word translated “desires” speaks of God’s “will”, His “wish”, what He “loves”, what He finds “pleasure” in.

God’s desire is not for men to perish, but for men to be saved.

What is your priority?
Frankly, some of us just really don’t care about whether anyone else is saved.
Some Christians come off as if their purpose in life is to condemn people and spout hatred.
Jesus’ main goal was to save people, not to condemn them.
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 into all the world and convict those dirty rotten sinners that they’re going to hell”.  But instead, it says:

(Mark 16:15 NKJV)  And He said to them, "Go 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 who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

believespisteuo – to think to be true, to be persuaded of, place confidence in

Present participle – the one who is right now continuing to believe.

not condemnedkrino – to separate, put asunder, to pick out, select, choose; to approve, esteem, to prefer; to judge; to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong

Present tense

Trusting in Jesus keeps us from condemnation because He has paid for our sins, and there is no longer anything to condemn or judge us about.

is condemned – perfect tense

J. Vernon McGee said,

There are a great many who feel that the world is on trial today. It is not. The world is lost. You and I live in a lost world, and we’ll not wait until the final judgment to see that we are lost. Our position is something like a man who is in prison being asked whether or not he will accept a pardon. That is the gospel. It is not telling a man that he is on trial. He is already condemned. He is already in prison waiting for execution. But the gospel tells him a pardon is offered to him. The point is, will you accept the pardon? How wonderfully clear that is. The gospel is to save those who are already lost.[1]

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

condemnationkrisis – a separating; selection; judgment

Even though Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world, there is a sort of “condemnation” or “judgment” that is continually taking place.

It takes place in how a person responds to the light.


Let’s say that you are going to be going out on a big date.  You want to look your best for your date.  But … you’ve slept in late, and you have just enough time to get ready for your big date.  So you walk into the bathroom, stand in front of the mirror, and turn on the light.
What do you see in the mirror?  Do you see anything you need to “fix”?  Is your hair a bit messy?  Do you have smudges of chocolate on your face from last night’s sundae?  Is there stubble that needs to be shaved?   Is your breath a little bit offensive?
What are you going to do with what you see in the mirror?
Your decision is what decides your “judgment”.

lovedagapao – love based on the will.  They have made a choice to value darkness.

darknessskotos – darkness

:19 light … darkness

These words are a picture in the Bible of the difference between right and wrong, between good and evil.

Robertson: "Darkness" is common in John as a metaphor for the state of sinners (#8:12; 12:35, 46; 1Jo 1:6; 2:8,9,11).

:19 evilponeros – full of labors, hardships; in an ethical sense: evil wicked, bad

There is a slight word play here, “deeds that are full of labors”

:20 "For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.

practicingprasso – to exercise, practice, to be busy with

:20 evilphaulos – trivial, worthless, of no account

When the purpose of your life is not centered on God, the truth is that your life will lack true meaning.  You are involved in things that are ultimately “worthless”.

:20 exposedelegcho – to convict, rebuke

The word means to rebuke with so much evidence that the guilty party experiences shame, leading to an admission of guilt.


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” (1:115). 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 Tim. 5:20, etc.). Convince of crime or fault (1 Cor. 14:24; Jas. 2:9). To bring to light or expose by conviction (Jas. 3:20; Eph. 5:11, 13; John 8:46; see on that passage). So of the exposure of false teachers, and their refutation (Tit. 1:9, 13; 2:15). To test and expose with a view to correction, and so, nearly equivalent to chasten (Heb. 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 (Apoc. 3:19), and the consequent exposure of his error. Compare Eph. 5:13; John 1:9–11. This idea of loving darkness rather than light is graphically treated in Job 24 and runs through vv. 13–17.

There are some people who will hide behind difficult intellectual questions.

But sometimes the issue is not about intellectual satisfaction when it comes to believing in Jesus.

Sometimes it is the fact that the person simply does not want to give up their sin.

:21 "But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God."

doespoieo – to make; to do

Present participle – something you are continuing to do at this moment.

Have you ever thought of “truth” being something you “do”?

We usually think of “truth” as being something you “say”.

:21 the truthaletheia (“not” + “hidden”) – what is true in any matter under consideration

It’s hard to “hide” when you’re in the light.  Truth comes with more light.

“Doing the truth” speaks of living a life without secrets.

may be clearly seenphaneroo – to make manifest or visible or known what has been hidden or unknown, to manifest, whether by words, or deeds, or in any other way; thought to describe an external manifestation to the senses hence open to all

have been doneergazomai – to work, labor, do work

Robertson:  He does not claim that they are perfect, only that they have been wrought in the sphere of and in the power of God. Hence he wants the light turned on.

It’s interesting to note that even though Nicodemus came to Jesus at “night”, he is exposing himself to the true Light.

People who really want to change are not afraid of a little light.

Instead, they welcome it.
Light uncovers hidden things, things that need to change.
If I’m doing something wrong, I want to know about it.
If I’m doing something right, it’s not a bad thing that others might get a glimpse of God in how He’s working in my life.

People who don’t want to change run from the light

Sometimes we are just sensitive and don’t want to know that we are flawed.  That’s very sad.
Sometimes we don’t want to change.  We like our worthless things.


Real Change

(1 John 1:5-9 NKJV)  This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.

Some of you have had authority figures in your lives that have betrayed you.  Perhaps it was a school teacher, a boss, or even a parent.  I have known people who struggle each time we talk about God being our “Father” because their father was an evil person.
There is nothing “evil” in God.  He has no “evil motives”.  He is not trying to trick you into following Him and then ruin your life.
God is good.  God is pure good.  He is light.

{6} If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

The person who claims to know God and be in the light, but whose life is still filled with darkness is lying.
They are lying because they really don’t know God like they say they do.
practice the truth” is the same phrase in Greek as our passage, “does the truth”.
“Doing the truth” is not just saying you know God, it’s living like it.

{7} But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses 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.

There are a couple of things in this passage that give us some important steps to maturity and growth in the Christian life.

1. Exposure

This is what it means to “walk in the light” (vs. 7).  You are exposing yourself to the things of God.
One of the ways that we expose ourselves to this light is with God’s Word.
(Psa 119:105 NKJV)  Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.
Sometimes as we expose our hearts to God’s light, we realize that we need to change.  We see the messy face in the mirror that needs to get cleaned up.
Sometimes the exposure to God’s light works to make us more like Jesus.
Film exposure – printing pictures in Dad’s darkroom.
One of my dad’s hobbies was photography.  I grew up in a household where we always had to take time for dad to take pictures.  On vacation we were often having to pose for pictures or wait for dad to get that special “shot”.
Dad not only took lots of pictures, he would also set up his darkroom in the bathroom, process his own black and white film, and make black and white prints.
In the darkroom he would take the film negative and put it in the enlarger, then put the special photographic paper under the lens and expose the paper to the negative.  Then when you put the paper through the developing chemicals, the picture would appear.
It’s like God’s work in us.  We are the paper.  Jesus is the image on the film.  When we expose ourselves to God’s light, God leaves an image on us, the image of His Son.
(2 Cor 3:18 NKJV)  But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

2. Fellowship

Dan was sharing with us this week about a surfer he met who has been taught that the real church ceased to exist in 1988.  He also believes that Jesus is coming back on May 27, 2011.
Don’t bother writing that date down.  Jesus said,

(Mat 24:36 NKJV)  "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.

I kind of think that if someone is out there telling people that He is coming back on a certain date, that this is probably one of the times that He is NOT going to come back.

The saddest part is that this fellow no longer goes to church.  He has removed himself from “fellowship”.  He no longer has one of God’s greatest tools for maturity in his life – fellowship.
Fellowship is hard.  Hanging around the same group of sinners for more than a couple of weeks can be hard.  You will be offended.  You will offend.
But if you take advantage of fellowship, you will grow.
There’s an old “AA” phrase that some of us are learning to use.  In “AA” if you want to really change, you need people in your life who will “pull your covers”.
In his book Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer, a Quaker, tells the story of how God used Palmer's friends to shape his profession in a significant way. Palmer had been offered the opportunity to become the president of a small educational institution. He was certain the job was for him, but he honored the tradition of the Quaker community, which is to call on a dozen trusted friends to engage in a "clearness committee," a process in which "the group refrains from giving you advice but spends three hours asking you honest, open questions to help you discover your own inner truth." Palmer writes that the initial questions were all very easy, until someone simply asked, "What would you like most about being a president?" He writes:
The simplicity of that question loosed me from my head and lowered me into my heart. I remember pondering for at least a full minute before I could respond. Then, very softly and tentatively, I started to speak: "Well, I would not like having to give up my writing and my teaching…. I would not like the politics of the presidency, never knowing who your real friends are…. I would not like having to glad-hand people I do not respect simply because they have money…. I would not…" Gently but firmly, the person who had posed the question interrupted me: "May I remind you that I asked what you would most like?" I responded impatiently, "Yes, yes, I'm working my way toward an answer." Then I resumed my sullen but honest litany. … Once again the questioner called me back to the original question. But this time I felt compelled to give the only honest answer I possessed, an answer that came from the very bottom of my barrel, an answer that appalled even me as I spoke it. "Well," I said, in the smallest voice I possess, "I guess what I'd like most is getting my picture in the paper with the word president under it." I was sitting with seasoned Quakers who knew that though my answer was laughable, my mortal soul was clearly at stake! They did not laugh at all but went into a long and serious silence—a silence in which I could only sweat and inwardly groan. Finally my questioner broke the silence with a question that cracked all of us up—and cracked me open: "Parker," he said, "can you think of an easier way to get your picture in the paper?"  By then it was obvious, even to me, that my desire to be president had much more to do with my ego than with the ecology of my life—so obvious that when the clearness committee ended, I called the school and withdrew my name from consideration. Had I taken that job, it would have been very bad for me and a disaster for the school.
Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak (Jossey-Bass, 2000), pp. 45-46
Healthy fellowship can be one of those ways that God brings “exposure” to our lives.  We need people who are willing to tell us the truth and help us face the reality of our situation.

3. Cleansing

When we are walking in the light, we will find our sin being exposed.  When we respond by admitting our sin and turning from our sin, we will find forgiveness and cleansing.
For some sins, we will have to do this over and over again.  Some sins are very difficult to gain victory over.
John says that if we continue to live our lives this way, we will discover the wonderful truth that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.
(Psa 103:12 NKJV)  As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
(Isa 1:18 NKJV)  "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.

James describes these same processes at work and gives us a fourth element for growth:

4. Prayer

(James 5:14-16 NKJV)  Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. {15} And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
Not all illness is a result of some sin.  But sometimes sin is directly involved with disease and illness.
{16} Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
Though all sin needs to be confessed before God, there are going to be times when it is important that we confess our sins to another person.

If you have sinned against someone, you need to ask them for forgiveness as well as God.

With some of these more difficult to stop sins, it’s not until I learn to admit to others that I have a problem that the sin loosens it’s grip on me.

Pornography, drugs, alcohol – these are the some of the sins that can grab you with a death grip.  Bringing them out into the open, into the light, loosens the grip.

Just be careful who you share with.  Don’t share with the town gossip.  Don’t share with someone who is not strong enough to handle it.

I think it’s significant that James connects sin, confessing, and prayer with healing.

What are you going to do with the light?  Run from it?  Or run to it?


Late one night, a man walks into a dentist’s office. The man says, “Excuse me, can you help me? I keep thinking I’m a moth!” The Dentist replied, “You don’t need a dentist. You need a psychiatrist.” The man said, “Yes, I know.” The Dentist then asked curiously, “So why did you come in here?” The man answered slowly … “Well...the light was on...”

Do you want to change?

Be more like a moth.  Head towards the light.  Embrace the things that bring real change.

[1]McGee, J. V. (1991). Vol. 38: Thru the Bible commentary: The Gospels (John 1-10). Based on the Thru the Bible radio program. (electronic ed.). Thru the Bible commentary (60). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.