“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe in Him has been judged already, because he has not believed in the Name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:18
John 3:16 is not only one of the most familiar passages in the Bible, it has also been labeled as one of the most beautiful passages in God’s Word. There Jesus tells us: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”
This verse speaks to us the very heart of the Gospel. It addresses God’s love, God’s Son, and eternal life. As you read it, however, a question immediately arises. Does God save the whole world, even those who do not believe in His Son? Two verses later, in John 3:18, Jesus answers that very question.
Most people do not like John 3:18. It is not one that many people commit to memory. They do not like what it says nor what it teaches. They love to quote John 3:16 out of context and throw “God’s love” all over the place. Don’t get me wrong—God’s love is very great. In fact, it is infinite. There is a never ending supply of love in God.
No matter how great God’s love is, the fact remains that there is sin in the world and sin has consequences. One of those consequences is alienation from God; another is God’s judgment. As we have already learned from the Scripture and the Catechism, we are all guilty of sin and under the wrath of God. We may not like that, but whether we like it or not, that is the way things are from God’s perspective. We have already, by our very nature, rejected God’s Son, Jesus Christ, and therefore face condemnation.
Years ago, there was a small Bible tract that asked a very simple question: “What must one do to be lost?” Notice it did not ask what one must do to be saved; it asked what one must do to be lost. The pages inside of that tract were blank. That was the answer. What must I do to be lost? Nothing—left to yourself, you already are.
The One Who Saves
In order to avoid this condemnation, you have to have true faith ingrafted in you. John 3:16 says “whoever believes in the Son of God will not perish but have eternal life.” Two verses later, Jesus again says: “Whoever believes on Him is not condemned.”
Clearly, you must put your complete trust in the one and only Son of God who alone can save you from the awful predicament of God’s righteous anger. You need to believe in Jesus Christ. He alone can save you from the wrath of God upon your sins. He alone is able to pay the price for those sins through His sacrifice on the cross and, thereby, provide you with the righteousness you need to come before God. The destiny of every person in the world depends upon the relationship they have with Jesus Christ.
Jesus says very clearly, “Whoever does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the Name of the only begotten Son of God.” They have not believed in the NAME of Jesus Christ. What does that name mean? The answer to that question can be found in Matthew 1:21. There the angel of the Lord told Joseph to name the child “Jesus” because, the angel said, “He will save His people from their sins.”
The first two letters of the name “Jesus” come from the Old Testament name for God: Jehovah. The remaining letters come from the verb “to save” or “salvation.” The name “Jesus” literally means “Jehovah saves” or “Jehovah’s salvation.”
When John writes in his Gospel that men and women are condemned because they have not believed on the name of God’s only begotten Son, he means that they are condemned because they will not confess Jesus as Jehovah’s salvation. They will not acknowledge Him as the way God has provided as the means to be reconciled to Him. Jesus alone can save because Jesus alone is the One Jehovah provided.
Receiving the Promise
Receiving the gospel promise is the most difficult thing for people to do spiritually. If you have ever witnessed to anyone about the Gospel, you know that there are many things in the Gospel that people have very little trouble accepting as truth. Most people, for example, have very little trouble believing in the existence of God. Most people who believe in God have no difficulty believing Him to be a God of love and a God of great power. Many people believe in some form of creation and that God has a purpose for their lives.
You can even talk to people about Jesus of Nazareth. He was a good man, born in Bethlehem. He taught a very high moral system and gave an excellent example of His philosophy in His own life. While all these things about Jesus are good and true, to simply believe those things about Him is not enough. You must believe in His Name. You must believe that He is the Jehovah saves.
Faith, in and of itself, does not save you. You must have your faith in the proper object. We all know how much the bible speaks against idolatry. You cannot put your faith in Buddah and expect God to save you. Nor can you worship the God of Islam and expect to be saved.
Likewise, you cannot simply believe that Jesus was a good, moral man who was born in Nazareth and expect God to save you.
John makes very clear in his Gospel that a precise faith is required in a specific Person. That Person, we have seen in past months, must be truly human, truly righteous, and truly divine. Only such a Person can save you. Such a Person has been provided by God in His Son, “Jehovah saves.”
People remain condemned because they reject Jesus Christ as their Savior. Simply because God provided us with the good news of the Gospel does not mean that God is no longer a Judge or that He is no longer terribly angry at our sin. Jehovah will pronounce His judgment and it will either be a sentence of condemnation or a sentence of acquittal.
That acquittal is based upon divine mercy. Mercy because God loved the world so much that He provided a way of salvation—His own Son, Jesus Christ.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news! It tells us that, although we are children of Adam, born in sin and deserving of condemnation, an escape is offered us. We can be free from the burden of sin Jehovah sent a Savior who died on the cross to save condemned sinners. He took the sins of all who believe in Him to the cross where He bore the wrath of God in our place. He was condemned in our place! Then He rose again from the dead to prove that He had conquered sin, death, and hell. Not everyone will be saved. Many are condemned already because they fail to acknowledge the name of the Son of God—“Jehovah’s salvation” How important to confess Jesus as Savior and Lord and to acknowledge Him as Jehovah’s salvation.
Rev. Wybren Oord is the pastor of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan and editor of The Outlook.