Jesus shows us that heathens are judged by their own unbelief. Because, they “loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil.” John 3:19b
“Nicodemus heard from the mouth of Jesus the complete account of the way of salvation, a salvation which is absolutely all-encompassing.” Kretzmann We read the complete account from Jesus in John 3.
Here we will begin with John 3:9 from the World Messianic Bible.
9 Nicodemus answered him, “How can these things be?” 10 Yeshua answered him,
“Are you the teacher of Israel, and don’t understand these things? 11 Most certainly I tell you, we speak that which we know, and testify of that which we have seen, and you don’t receive our witness. 12 If I told you earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended out of heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven. 14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him. 18 He who believes in him is not judged. He who doesn’t believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. 19 This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the light, and doesn’t come to the light, lest his works would be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his works may be revealed, that they have been done in God.”
In order to gain more understanding of what Jesus says, let’s read Kretzmann’s insight, written in 1921 and 1922.
The purpose of Christ’s coming:
V. 14. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, V. 15. that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. V. 16. For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. V. 17. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
The act of Moses in the wilderness, in erecting the brazen serpent before the eyes of the stricken people, was typical, symbolical, Num. 21:1-9. The people that had been bitten by the fiery serpents and then looked upon this symbol in faith were healed, and the poison had no effect upon them, Jesus is the antitype of the brazen serpent. In accordance with the divine counsel of love, in which He Himself had taken part, the Lord took upon Himself the obligation that He also should be elevated upon a tree before the yes of the whole world.
There are three points of similarity between type and antitype in this story. The brazen serpent of Moses had the form and appearance of the poisonous reptiles after which it was modeled, just as Jesus was revealed in the form of our sinful flesh, had the needs and ways of an ordinary human being, was finally punished as a criminal, Just as the brazen serpent, however, had no poison, was altogether harmless, so Jesus, though in appearance like unto sinful men, was without sin, holy, harmless, undefiled. A strange curse was resting upon Him, and for the sins of others, imputed to Him, He hung upon the cross. And finally, just as he that looked at the brazen serpent in faith remained alive, so also every sinner that has been poisoned by sin in its various forms, but now looks up to Jesus, the Savior, in simple, trusting faith, shall not perish, shall not be punished with everlasting destruction, but have eternal life.
For in Christ all sin has been conquered, all guilt has been taken away: there is complete redemption in Him. This thought Jesus now repeats in a burst of Gospel-preaching which is without equal in the world’s literature, which, in fact, summarizes the entire Gospel in one short sentence.
With the full emphasis of adoring wonder Jesus exclaims: For so God loved the world, so much, so greatly, so beyond all human understanding. The greatness of God’s love is such as to call forth this cry of astonishment even from the Son of God, the Savior Himself. God loved the world, God is the Author of salvation, 1 Tim 2:3. He loved the world, all the people living in the world, all that make up the human element in the world; there is none excepted. He proved this love with a deed so wonderful, so surpassingly beautiful, that it cannot be brought out strongly enough in words of human speech, God gave His only-begotten Son as a free gift and present for the whole world. And such is His will and intention that He makes no exception: Everyone that believes in Him shall not perish, shall not see destruction, but have everlasting life, the life in and with Jesus that shall have no end, but consists of bliss and joy through countless ages.
What a contrast: the holy, eternal God and His equally holy and eternal Son giving the highest and best for the world, for the fallen, corrupt humanity, for the bitter enemy of God! The death of the Son of God is the punishment for the sins of the world; the Son of God dies that the world, all the people in the world, might live in all eternity. God’s death, God’s blood, was thrown into the scales in payment for the sins of the world. And there is nothing to be done on the part of sinners but to accept this atonement in faith; for faith accepts and appropriates the redemption of Christ. And the believer has eternal life even now, even here in time. He is sure of his salvation, because it is based upon the work of Jesus the Savior.
“What shall, what can He do and give more? For since He gives His Son, what does He hold back that He does not give? Yea, He gives Himself altogether, as Paul says Romans 8:32: Who spared not His own Son, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things? Surely all must be given with Him who is an only-begotten, dearest Son, the Heir and Lord of all creatures; and all creatures must be made subject to us, angels, devils, death, life, heaven and earth, sin, righteousness, things present and things to come, as St. Paul again says, 1 Cor 3:22-23: All things are yours; and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” Luther
Jesus emphasizes the glorious fact of salvation also by bringing out the same truth in a negative statement. The mission of Jesus as the gift of God to the world was not to condemn the world, though the latter had richly deserved such condemnation. Though He Himself is the Holy One of God, yet He would not, in His capacity as Savior of sinners, judge and condemn them; The sole purpose of His coming was the salvation of the world. Thus Nicodemus heard from the mouth of Jesus the complete account of the way of salvation, a salvation which is absolutely all-encompassing.
The contrast between light and darkness:
V. 18. He that believeth on Him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God. V. 19. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. V. 20. For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. V. 21. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
Jesus did not come to condemn the world, and yet the bulk of the world is condemned. This is neither the will nor the fault of Jesus, however, but that of the unbelievers themselves. The believer accepts the redemption of Christ, and thereby is saved from the judgment of damnation.
Just as gaining mercy is a matter of God’s grace, so believing is a free gift of His hands. But though the same gift was gained for, and is offered to, the unbeliever, he refuses to believe in the name of the only-begotten Son of God. And therefore this unbelief condemns him. By his unbelief he deliberately excludes himself from salvation, from eternal life.
All men whom the judgment of condemnation strikes have only themselves to blame, since they refuse to accept the Redeemer and His atonement. Unbelief is thus the sin of sins, for it rejects the salvation which has been gained and is offered for all sins.
There is a distinguishing mark, a touchstone, for all men in the fact that the true Light, Jesus the Savior, has come into the world, is now present before the eyes of men. Jesus was sitting before Nicodemus at that time, and He is present just as truly now, in His Gospel. But the majority of men did not, and still does not, pass the test. They find no pleasure in the Light nor in the illumination of His Gospel. They prefer the darkness of sin and unbelief. They have no love for the light and for the Author of light. They want nothing of Jesus the Savior. Their sin is no longer the result of ignorance, but of deliberate choice and preference. Their whole life and their works are evil, are the results of their love of darkness and its deeds. They are offered light, but they prefer to remain in darkness; they are offered salvation, but they prefer damnation.
The unbelievers hate the light because their works are morally rotten, they will not bear exposure. Such is their dull, senseless, sullen objection to light that they shun it with all their might. They fear the revelation of their sinful, shameful, paltry, ugly, vulgar deeds and the subsequent reproof. They want to continue their base activity in murky darkness, where nothing of the radiance from above can reach them, as they think.
It is a pity that men prefer their sin and its deeds even now, when Jesus has come to bring them deliverance from its bondage. This is a most impressive warning not to submit to the tyranny of sin, not to serve sin in any form.
On the other hand, he that does the truth, that performs the deeds of truth, lives in accordance with the demands of purity, honesty, integrity, does the works that flow from a regenerated heart, such a one comes to the light. He is glad to have his works revealed in order that they may speak for him. For they are in reality not his own, nor are they dune for his own glorification, but they are done and performed in God, who giveth both to will and to do according to His good pleasure.
Those are truly good works that are done in communion with God. The strength, the ability to do them must be found in God and come from God. They bear the divine character. It is impossible for an unregenerate person, for an un- believer, to perform good works. Truly good works can be done only by him in whom the Lord has kindled faith, who lives in and with God.
Note: This statement of Jesus is a strong argument for the performing of good works. God works faith, God gives strength to do truly good works, God has the glory for them, and this he shares with us by giving us an ever greater amount of light of understanding.
“Now we, in our turn, may not remain without works, as the impudent heads say: Why, then I shall do no good work any more that I may be saved. Yea, thou darest not do any more that serves for salvation; for forgiveness of sins, for the redemption of the conscience, thou hast enough in thy faith; but thy neighbor has not enough, him thou must also help. Therefore God also lets thee live, otherwise people would soon be compelled to take off thy head. But therefore livest thou that thou with life servest not thyself, but thy neighbor.” Luther
The Popular Commentary of the Bible by Paul E. Kretzmann, Ph. D., D. D., has been a favorite among confessional Lutherans since publication of the first volume in 1921. http://www.kretzmannproject.org/