John 3:16-21

Henry Mahan

In the preceding verses our Lord had made mention of His death and had affirmed that the death of the cross was an imperative necessity. He did not say, "The Son of man SHALL be lifted up," but, "The Son of man MUST be lifted up." There is no other alternative if the claims of God are to be met, if the demands of justice are to be satisfied, if sin is to be put away, and if the elect are to be saved– CHRIST MUST DIE! (Rom. 3:25-26; II Cor. 5:21.) The law and justice of God demand it!

(Vs. 16) Someone once said, "Verse 14 is the REMEDY, Verse 15 is the RESULT, and Verse 16 is the REASON." There is more in the cross of Christ than an exhibition of the holiness of God; there is the display of His great LOVE! Verse 16 takes us back to the very foundation of everything. His great salvation was provided by love. Christ came and died BECAUSE God loved us and was determined to have a people like Christ, NOT in order to make the Father love us. There is no discord among the Godhead. The atonement was not the cause but the effect of God's love (I John 4:9-10). In this verse there are seven things told us about God's love.

(Vs. 17) The coming of Christ was not to condemn the world; the world was already condemned (Rom. 5:18). But He came that men and women of all nations might be saved. The word "might" does not express any uncertainty about the fact of their being saved, but the word "might" expresses DESIGN. He came "in order that" the world might be saved. His person and work for sinners enabled God to be both just and Justifier of those who believe (I Peter 3:18).

(Vs. 18) For the believer there is no condemnation (Rom. 8:1) because Christ was condemned in our stead (Isa. 53:4-6). But the unbeliever is condemned already. He enters the world with the curse of sin upon him. By nature he is a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3). If he hears the gospel and believes not, he incurs a new and increased condemnation through unbelief (Matt. 11:21-24).

(Vs. 19) Here is the CAUSE of man's unbelief–he LOVES the darkness and hates the light. It is not only that men are IN darkness, but they LOVE the darkness. They prefer ignorance, error, and superstition to the light of truth (John 5:40-44). What a proof of man's depravity! In the person of Christ perfect holiness, perfect love, and perfect truth came and dwelt among men. What was their reaction to Him? "Crucify Him! Crucify Him! We will not have this man reign over us!"

(Vs. 20-21) Here is the final test. "Everyone that loves and practices evil hates the light (the truth of God), neither cometh to the light." Why? Lest his deeds, error, and sin should be revealed and judged. That is why men (religious and worldly) refuse the Scriptures as they are. God's Word condemns us! God's Word convicts us! God's Word shuts us up to the mercy of God in Christ!

On the other hand, "He that doeth truth," which describes what is characteristic of every believer, "cometh to the light." Note the present tense; he comes again and again to the Word of God. And for what purpose? To learn of God, and of himself, and of his blessed Redeemer. The believer finds his comfort, strength, help, directions, and hope in the exceeding great and precious promises of the Word (Psalm 119:9-11, 17-18, 49-50, 105).

Henry Mahan
Ashland, Ky.


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