John 3.14-21; CEB: Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so must the Human One be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won't perish but will have eternal life. God didn't send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him isn't judged; whoever doesn't believe in him is already judged, because they don't believe in the name of God’s only Son.
"This is the basis for judgment: The light came into the world, and people loved darkness more than the light, for their actions are evil. All who do wicked things hate the light and don't come to the light for fear that their actions will be exposed to the light. Whoever does the truth comes to the light so that it can be seen that their actions were done in God."
Ah! John 3.16. One of the most famous passages in all the Bible. People learn this verse when they are wee sprites in Sunday School. I would say this and the King James Version of the Lord's Prayer are probably the most well known Bible passages in the world.
Of course, no one remembers the other verses around this one! They just remember John 3.16. There are some other important things in this passages, some that help to accent the beloved verse 16. One of the ones the pops for me is "God didn't send [the Child] into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through [the Child]." What's interesting about this verse is that people often forget it. Some people hold that God is going to destroy this world. That God has already written it off and now is just waiting until the "appointed time" to wipe it out. Rubbish! The passage explicitly tells us that God loves the world! So much so that God became a person to show us the life of God ("eternal life") and the True human life (that's one of the reasons I like the Common English Bible, it uses "Human One" instead of "Son of Man."). And here's a little secret: They're the same!
"Now hold on a minute," someone will say. "There's an awful lot of God's judgment in this passage as well. It's not all pots of gold and rainbows." (Hey, it's St Patrick's Day when I'm writing this.) True. There is judgment. And lets look at this head on.
For some people, judgment is exciting. It get's their juices flowing. Knowing that the "other" is going to get what's coming to them, gives a lot of pleasure to some people. In their minds, forgiveness and love are cop-outs. In their minds, there's no justice in forgiveness and love. And to them, that's what these verses represent. They read this passage as God forever punishing people. They see these judgment verses as "eternal judgment." But I'm not so sure.
The word here is based on krino and means to "pick out (choose) by separating." It's a word used a lot in court scenes. The judge listens to the case and then makes a decision. Or one is looking at two plants and, after examining each one, makes a decision as to which one to purchase. It doesn’t mean “eternal damnation.” Therefore, I think it's more in line with the public ministry of Christ. That is, during his ministry, some people believed and some people didn't. We could possibly extrapolate this further into the audience to whom John was writing. The first followers of Jesus were under heavy persecution by the Jews. And John was pretty specific as to what he thought of those people who didn't believe in Jesus and persecuted the followers of "The Way." And, possibly, we could extend this out to our own day. Some people believe and follow Jesus now, while other don’t. That’s all the “judgment” verses mean.
However, just because someone doesn't believe now doesn't mean that they won't eventually believe. In fact, I think that is exactly what the Bible teaches. For example, let's just take this passage to mean that Jesus was only referring to the Jewish people of his day. Some of them believed during this time but the majority didn't. Are they without hope? Not according to St Paul. In Romans 11, Paul wrote:
Romans 11.25-32; CEB: I don't want you to be unaware of this secret, brothers and sisters. That way you won't think too highly of yourselves. A part of Israel has become resistant until the full number of the Gentiles comes in. In this way, all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The deliverer will come from Zion. He will remove ungodly behavior from Jacob. This is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins.
According to the gospel, they are enemies for your sake, but according to God's choice, they are loved for the sake of their ancestors. God's gifts and calling can't be taken back. Once you were disobedient to God, but now you have mercy because they were disobedient. In the same way, they have also been disobedient because of the mercy that you received, so now they can receive mercy too. God has locked up all people in disobedience, in order to have mercy on all of them.
The judgment that Jesus mentioned to Nicodemus should be seen as a temporal judgment. That is, they didn't believe so they weren't followers of Jesus. And the reason they didn't believe is because they didn't want to change their hearts and lives. They wanted to continue live a way that was contrary to the Way that Jesus lived. But, there is hope in that one day, they will be brought to believe. They will put away their selfish ways and follow the Way of God.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br Jack+, LC