DISCUSSIONS ON DISPUTED TEXTS
9. VERSES 17-21
Proven from Scripture throughout the entirety of this discussion will be what we briefly touch on here and on the following verses. The negative purpose is given in verse 17: “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world.” Christ came not to condemn any person, elect or reprobate. That simply was not the purpose of Christ at His first coming. At His Second Coming, Christ will “in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9).
Contrary to sending His Son into the world to condemn all those within it, Christ sent His Son to save the elect whom He hath chosen in eternity. Christ was sent by God on this earth to do His will. His will included working out that perfect righteousness and dying on the cross for the sins of His people. It also includes the final preservation of them to glory everlasting. The word “might” doesn’t imply that Christ is a potential Saviour anymore than the word “should” in verse 16 proves that the believer shouldn’t perish, but he has the possibility of doing so. It is absolute and is something that Christ shall do. He Himself so stated it in John 12:47, “I came…to save the world.” Herein we have Christ’s positive purpose in coming to the world: “to save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
Those for whom Christ died have faith procured for them in that righteousness of His (2 Peter 1:1) and will believe in Him and His gospel. Such are not condemned, nor can be (Romans 8:34). They are justified by His righteousness (see Romans 5:12-19) and free from the penalty and curse of sin. This here, 18a, ends the discussion regarding the elect of God, up until verse 21.
We now have a brief commentary from 18a-20 regarding the condemned and their condemnation. The unbelievers are already condemned, and their unbelief further proves this to be the case. Unbelief is not the sole cause of condemnation, but it furthers it. Unbelief is synonymous with calling God a liar, because it’s rejecting God’s testimony regarding His Son (1 John 5:10). The word “because” shouldn’t be taken as “it is because of this and this alone they are condemned.” But the verse in its context should be understood as, “These people are not believers, nor has faith been procured for them by Christ’s righteousness. Because they don’t believe, we can tell that they are those whom God chose as vessels of wrath and God’s wrath abides on them and they are condemned.”
VERSES 19 AND 20
Here is the reason for this condemnation; they love their sins too much. By the “light” we are not to understand Christ only, but “the light of the glorious gospel of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Men love the filth of their sins more than they love (no man loves Christ who is not saved, nor His gospel) Christ and His gospel. Men loved this darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil; by which is meant, they didn’t want their evil deeds reproved (verse 20). All men are in such a state, but here we have those who are condemned to everlasting death. Those that do the evil are those that continually practice it.
Paul informs us of this as well in Ephesians 5:11-13. “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.” Earlier in verse 8, Paul said we are light in the Lord and we should walk as children of light. Being light, we are to reprove all the works of darkness, which the condemned perform, as well as the elect who haven’t been effectually called yet. By reproving their wicked sins, they are made manifest. The wicked don’t want their sins made manifest, they love them too much, and they don’t want to give them up. Nobody should want their shameful deeds made manifest. They drink iniquity like water. It’s needful for them, it’s an everyday routine to practice the sins they love so much.
Christ said, “The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil” (John 7:7). Christ testified that the works being done were evil, and for this He was hated. So it further confirms what Christ said in John 3, that those who performed evil deeds hated the light and did not want their sins to be reproved. Many came not into the light of Christ’s preaching, for their deeds would be reproved. So shall those who see us and know we are God’s people not desire to be around us, for we are light in the Lord, and their evil deeds should be reproved of us. “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18). “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:5).
Those that do truth are none other than God’s people, “Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God” (3 John 11). God’s people do not do this of their own freewill, nor can they. It is Christ who commanded us, “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Ephesians 5:14). This speaks of the irresistible grace of God in quickening dead sinners (Ephesians 2:1). “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
We were chosen and called of God. It is He who “hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9). He called, and we followed, hence we are said to come to the light (John 3:21). It was Christ “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:13). And now, we are “in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15). We, as children of light, should take heed to the wonderful words of Christ, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). Praise God, we have come into the light that are deeds may be reproved, and now we are children of light, yea, the light of the world. But it was in no way, shape, or form dependant upon our supposed freewill, but upon God’s elective decree, for “whom he did predestinate, them he also called” (Romans 8:30) into His glorious light. As Arthur Pink said, we continually do this, we continually go to the light of God’s word so that our deeds may be reproved and made manifest and to learn that which pleases and displeases God.