Welcome back to the last Sunday of April 2020. May God bless you today in your time of seeking Him.
“And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
“This is the judgment.” The verses today will speak essentially of condemnation versus justification. Let’s start by defining “judgment” before we move into the verse’s answer to what the judgment is. Judgment, from the Greek krisis, is a legal process of judgment; it includes the determination against (condemnation) as well as the sentence, but also in this verse can carry the idea of separation, that being a sorting of good from bad in determining condemnation. The gospel, unlike righteousness is typically assumed, is not based upon any form of good outweighing bad. Romans 3:23 tells us, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” the holy character and glory of God being the standard for the righteousness one must have, which none of us do.
The condemnation is “that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light.” In John 1:4-5, we read, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” The significance of light is that light exposes those things visible where they are for what they are. If we walk into a dark room full of clutter and flip the switch to turn on the light, we don’t claim that the room was clean if it hadn’t been for the light. Light only makes visible the state of the room as it already was. Nevertheless, sin actually does move people to try to deny the truth of Jesus Christ and the Bible, practically claiming that a clean heart was only made dirty by “bad lighting.”
When the verse says that men “loved” darkness, the love is agape love; it should be understood that the word here is used as such: “to have a high esteem for or satisfaction with something, to take pleasure in” (BDAG Lexicon, Bibleworks). Why would people take pleasure in darkness, finding deep satisfaction in it nonetheless? Verse 19 ends, “because their deeds were evil.” Pleasure, therefore, is tied to avoiding condemnation. We should note that there may be a parallel between Christ’s words in John 3:16 and John 3:19 in that God’s love for the world caused Him to send His Son into it to offer salvation, whereas the world’s love for darkness made them want to send Him back for fear of condemnation.
There are times when all of us have something impending that we don’t want to face (think of unwanted changes, for example); the common response is to seek to distract ourselves in the meantime. Transitional times in life often are preceded by attempts at distraction. Eternity is on the horizon for all of us; we don’t know how near or far it is for each of us, but we know it’s out there. Those who fear the uncertainty of that future will do their best to live in the here and now. The only way to stop fearing the eternal future is to grow in our understanding of the truth right now, to deepen in our relationship with God along the way, and to be justified in His sight by the means that He has dictated.
“For (because) everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” Romans 3:10-12 says, “As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.'” When a verse repeats statements that almost sound redundant, we need to look for those elements that set it apart from the prior verse(s). The contrast of v. 19 and v. 20 is a difference between what the world loves and what the world hates. The world loves darkness because of its evil; the world hates light for the very same reason. Darkness affords a false sense of covering, whereas light removes any covering. Christ is not inherently detestable, nor is the Bible, nor are His people. Hate exists because of the sin present within a person who has not or will not subject themselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Thank God that the message of the gospel is a message of forgiveness and grace, though in the face of hatred and rejection; this should help us to understand that the hate that we sometimes see or feel towards Christianity (real Christianity) is not because it is distasteful, but because it is insightful. Sin ironically is something that people love to wallow in and yet hate to acknowledge, because acknowledgment ushers in responsibility and accountability. Nothing destroys the pleasure of indulgence on Thanksgiving Day like a step on the scale Friday morning. Nothing destroys the pleasure of indulgence on a day of frivolous, unchecked spending like a quick review of one’s bank account or credit card bill. Light exposes sin, and sin when seen triggers the conscience, which immediately causes the convulsions of accountability.
Finally, this: “But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” The contrast begins with the first word of the verse: “but.” You see, life doesn’t have to be a sin spree while sticking one’s head (or heart) in the sand. “He who does the truth comes to the light.” Coming to the light can only mean that we have found comfort in the light, that the light has now been understood to be a friend to us and not an enemy.
Why does the one practicing the truth come to the light? That his deeds may be clearly seen. Given the introspective nature of the last few verses, I would wager to say that the person who is most vested in having these deeds seen clearly is the believer, the very person coming to the light. The reason for this is that we are constantly looking for encouragement and confidence in where we stand with God, and when we see Him work in us and through us, we see signs all the more of an indwelling Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” The activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives in the work of convincing, convicting, and conforming is a guarantee of our future eternal inheritance.
For anyone choosing to remain in their sin, the only comfort to be found is in darkness and denial. Contrast this with a believer, whose comfort cannot be found in darkness but only in light. What we want to know is that our deeds have been done in God: done in His power; done under His direction; done in faith; done to His pleasure. In recognizing His involvement in our activity, there is incredible connection drawn with God for the believer. Living in light of His promises and seeing His hand at work in our lives brings incredible security.
Every time we live in sin as Christians, we will have uncertainty. Our hearts desire affirmation of our standing with God and darkness will not and cannot offer that affirmation. Every time we come to the light, confessing, repenting, obeying, and submitting to God, what do we find but confidence and pleasure in the light? This is the contrast of this passage and I hope it helps you as it does me to make sense some of the hostility we as Christians may face as well as the comfort we find in the light of God in Jesus, the Scriptures, and His people.
Lord, thank for the light of the gospel. Thank you for the Light of the world, Jesus Christ, who has given us both light and life. Thank you for the truth of your word, a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. Thank you for your love and for calling us into the high calling of bringing you glory. Glorify Yourself through us today, I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.
For reference to the complete text of John 3: