DISCUSSIONS ON DISPUTED TEXTS
5. “THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON”
We will now focus on the actual giving of Christ, “that he gave his only begotten Son.” As will be noted on our discussion regarding “whosoever believeth,” the purpose of sending Christ was for believers to have eternal life. But, we pray God will bless us with a greater understanding regarding what Christ was sent to do. This “giving” may be taken two ways, and we hope to exposit both. Those are, 1) that Christ was sent to perform God’s will, and 2) Christ was sent to die for our sins (the latter being a part of the former, but both are going to be considered separately, though closely related). Not only will this be a brief discussion on this part of the verse, but also on verse 17, for both deal with the same subjects at hand: “For God send not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
First, we will take notice of the fact that Jesus Christ came not the first time to condemn anyone. The first “world” of John 3:17 is all and every individual. This is not uncommon for John to speak of different “worlds” in the same passage, yea, he does it in the same verse, speaking of the physical world, the universe, and the inhabitants of the world in John 1:10 alone! Christ came not to condemn the elect, for they are justified and can have nothing laid against their charge, and Christ died for them and they cannot be condemned (Romans 8:33, 34). The very context of John 3 affirms this. Christ came neither to condemn those that are reprobate. One may ask, “Why not?” Because, “he that believeth not is condemned already” (John 3:18). Christ need not condemn those that are already under condemnation. Christ further speaks of this fact in other terms. Jesus Christ Himself said, “Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust” (John 5:45). The very law condemned them, for “as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law” (Romans 2:12) and “we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Romans 3:19). John 3 goes on to further say that, “and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (verse 36). The world is already condemned in the eyes of God. They’re already guilty. Verse 18 shows us that manifestation of those under condemnation is that they don’t believe the Son of God. The elect eventually do, for their faith was procured by the righteousness of Christ (2 Peter 1:1). Verses 19 and 20 are a commentary on man’s condemnation, but more of this later.
That refusal to believe in the name of God’s Son is a ground of condemnation is not disputed. The question at issue is whether this is now the only ground of condemnation. John 3:18 does not say it is. Nor does any other passage. If it did, the Scriptures would contradict themselves, for as shown above, there are many passages which affords positive proof that God does reckon men guilty of other sins. The truth is, that man is “under condemnation” from the hour of his birth. He is not only “shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin” (Psa. 51:5) but he is also “estranged from the womb.” (Psalm 58:3) We not only inherit Adam’s depravity, but we are also “by nature the children (not merely of corruption) but of wrath.” (Eph. 2:3) The unregenerate are not only devoid of any spiritual nature, they are also “alienated form the life of God.” (Eph. 4:18) -Arthur W. Pink
That Christ came not to judge anyone is noticeable in His own words, “I judge no man” (John 8:15). Parallel to our context of John 3:17 is John 12:46-48. “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” Jesus Christ was the light that had come into the world (John 9:5) and His purpose was for the believers to be taken out of darkness, which certainly does happen (Acts 26:18; Ephesians 5:14; 2 Corinthians 4:6). Christ then affirms that He won’t judge the unbeliever, as our text says in John 3:17a. We skip 12:47c for now and go to 48, where Christ again confirms what we said above. They need not be condemned now, for they’re already condemned and will be judged in the last day. So we have an absolute parallel to John 3 here, showing that the first world includes all and every single individual in John 3:17a. In 12:47a and b, we find out that unbelievers are included in this first world that Christ said He came not to condemn, or judge. He speaks of unbelievers saying “I judge him not” and then says “I came not to judge the world” showing the negative cause of the giving of Christ. He came not to judge anyone at all. The positive cause is given in 47c, where Christ said, “I came…to save the world.” This is an exact parallel, and clears up and validates our understanding of John 3. Who the first “world” is should be clear by now.
We now move on to that part of verse 17 that says, “but that the world through him might be saved.” This is the positive cause in Christ coming into the world, to save the world, the elect of God. So now we arrive at the first point which we above said we will hopefully consider, 1) that Christ was sent to perform God’s will. The word “might” poses difficulty for some as implying that the event is not certain, but is a possibility. As noted in our brief discussion of John 12, the parallel text, Christ didn’t leave any doubt as to what He was speaking of. He said that He came “to save the world” (verse 47). He was going to save them, not merely give them a possibility to be saved. The Greek word for “might be saved” is swqh and is translated as an absolute in Matthew 1:21, which says, “he shall saves his people from their sins.” This is an event that has come to pass already. It’s translated as salvation that absolutely will occur in Romans 5:10, Romans 8:24, Romans 10:9, 13, Ephesians 2:5, 8, etc. The word “might” by itself in the plain English Scriptures is represented as being an actuality, not merely a possibility in Romans 4:16, 5:20, 21, 6:6, 8:29, 9:11, Galatians 4:5, Ephesians 5:26, 27, Colossians 1:18, etc. This word should pose no problem for those who have examined the Scriptures and have seen the Scriptural usage of the term. We are by no means saying that the word “might” is strictly used in this sense, but regarding redemption, I haven’t ran into the Scripture showing it is conditional and uses the word “might” to demonstrate it as such.
In John 3:13, Christ said, “he came down from heaven.” In John 6:38, we have the purpose for why Christ came down from heaven. “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” It is here, in John 6, that most of our discussion for the first point will take place. Christ said, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4:34). The Father sent Christ Jesus in the world “to be the Saviour of the world” (1 John 4:14). This “world” is the same that has been identified earlier, God’s elect. This again is an absolute, He came to be their Savior, not their potential savior. He also sent His Son so “that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9) and “to be the propitiation for our sins” (verse 10). Christ came to perform the will of the Father, a salvific work that He would have Him to do; He came to be the Saviour of the elect. Yea, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).
In John 6:31, the Jews tell Christ of their “fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” This giving of manna to the children of Israel was a type of the Father giving the Son to elect, so that He might give them life. “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world” (John 6:32, 33). As bread was given, so was Christ given. Christ tells them that He is the bread of life He is speaking of after they ask for it (John 6:34, 35). The very bread that God sent down from heaven was in front of their faces, performing miracles, and Christ tells them, “That ye also have seen me, and believe not” (verse 36). The clearly salvific context begins when Christ tells them that those given to Him of the Father will come to Him. When they come to Christ, they will not be cast out (John 6:37). The reason they will not be cast out is because Christ “came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (verse 38). Christ was sent to perform God’s will. It was God’s will that Christ be the Saviour and propitiation of the elect, as was seen above. Being the Saviour of His people is more than just conversion, but entails preservation as well. Hence, Christ “is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:24). “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Hebrews 10:28).
Further on, Christ tells the Jews what His Father’s will is by saying, “this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:39, 40). So the will of the Father, which He sent Christ to do, is to keep the elect, making sure none of them perish, but are raised up in the last day. Now, Christ either saves us fully and our salvation is safe and secure, and can never be brought to naught, or Christ failed the work and will the Father sent Him to do. The latter is blasphemous, perish the thought! The former we affirm as the Scriptural truth, and that is such as is presented herein in this text. In verses 41 and 42, the Jews have a little fit, for they know Christ is a human being, but they can’t understand His divine being. Christ then tells them the blessed truth which many attack, but we continue to affirm and that is that “No man can come to me, except the Father which hat sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me” (verses 44, 45). He affirms this again in verse 65, “Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.” When one comes to Christ, they repent of their sins and believe in Him and Him alone for salvation (John 6:40). Those same people that perform those actions are described as those the Father hath given Christ (John 6:39). Those given by the Father to Christ are His (2 Timothy 2:19) and are the adopted children of God (Hebrews 2:9-17). Christ is presenting a shattering truth. Christ is telling them 1) His Father’s will is that He lose none that were given Him (verses 38, 39); 2) those given Him are those who are chosen and elected, God’s people (verse 37, 39, 44, 65; Heb. 2:9-17); 3) those given to Him believe in Him and Him alone for salvation (verses 35, 40, 47); 4) He gives those people eternal life (33, 51); 5) they are unbelievers, and the reason they are is because it was not given them of the Father to believe on Him (verses 44, 65). May God bless you with more understanding on these blessed truths than He has shown me. I’m not writing an entire commentary on this passage, though one can be written! But the design and intent of sending the Son was for the purpose of the Son fulfilling God’s will, which was to save the elect of God and preserve them until glorification.
Our second point states, 2) Christ was sent to die for our sins. Christ said that He would raise Himself up from the dead (John 2:19), yet the Scriptures also affirm that it was the Father who raised Christ up from the dead (1 Peter 1:21). So too, Christ gave Himself up as a sacrifice, yet the Father gave Him up to be sacrificed. This is not hard to comprehend, for Both are One (John 10:30). That it was the will of the Father to have Christ sacrificed is clear from Isaiah 53:10, “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” It is also presented in John 3:14 where Christ says His lifting up is a “must.” The same is taught in Matthew 16:21, and the like. It is probably most apparent in Acts 2:23, 4:27, 29 and Revelation 13:8. Christ was “delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” and those who killed Him did that which the Father “determined to be done” in His counsel, hence Christ was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
Christ “gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father” (Galatians 1:4). Christ gave Himself as a sacrifice in accordance with His Father’s will. Those for whom He gave Himself were us, for the purpose of delivering us form the present evil world. Paul again teaches us that He “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purity unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). By Christ’s sacrifice of Himself, He redeemed us from all iniquity. The end was to purify a peculiar people to Himself that would be zealous of good works, which we were ordained to walk in (Ephesians 2:10). God sent Christ to be our propitiation (1 John 4:10) and that through faith in His blood (Romans 3:25).
In Romans 8, we have also another wonderful discussion regarding the Father giving up Christ for His people. Discussing our election all the way to final glory in verses 28-30, Paul begins to ask a few questions. The main one we want to focus on is in verse 32. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” The passage is full of the works of God’s grace for the elect. We see that those whom Christ was delivered up for are those very ones that were called according to God’s purpose, foreknown, called, justified and glorified. Because of this, nothing in the present world can possibly be against us. All things are freely given us. But why are they freely given us? They are freely given because of God’s grace. To strengthen the argument that we can receive all things, He mentions the fact of God sending His own Son to die for us all (verse 32). If the Father can give us His “only begotten Son,” of course He would give us all other things, for Christ is the Highest anyone can receive and the best that the Father can give. If He was delivered up for every individual, then every individual would be freely given all things as well. But such is not the case, nor can be. With Christ’s death is His intercession for those whom He died for, Christ has risen and is at the right hand of the Father. What does this result in? It results in the fact that the elect can’t be condemned…at all! (Romans 8:34) Not only does the Son intercede for them, but the Holy Spirit as well, and that in accordance with God’s will (Romans 8:27). What are all these blessings a result of? The Father giving the Son. Here we have multiple subordinate ends that the Father willed should take place, given that Christ fulfilled His part of the covenant, which He being God can only do. The very giving of Christ was to perform God’s will and to be sacrificed. But for whom was all this done? As we have Scripturally demonstrated, God’s elect were those in mind in the divine purpose and plan of God. To say others were is to make the texts we have presented amount to non-sense, and can only make sense if one is a universalist (which itself is heretical and damnable, and inconsistent with Scripture).