by Steven Chan
The Bible declares in John 3:17: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” It has been said to me: “Why does God condemn those who do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God?” This is a sad and tragic allegation against God – but it is without merit.
The truth is that God did not send His Son to condemn the world. The world already stood condemned because of the sins committed. God sent His Son that “through Him, the world might be saved.” God’s motive is His deep love for the world: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”(John 3:16) God does not desire that we perish. So, it is a wicked lie to accuse God of seeking to condemn the world through His Son. According to Rom 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” When we sinned, we stand condemned. But Jesus came to set us free from our sins (John 8:32, 36). If we refused His offer, we stand condemned because there is no other name by which we may be saved (Acts 4:12).
In John 3:18-21, Jesus clarified that the world stands condemned because it refuses to come to the light as its deeds were evil (i.e. Jesus is the Light of the world):
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 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. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
In John 12:46-48, Jesus again emphasized that He did not come to the world to judge the world but to save the world:
“I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. 47 And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him–the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day”.
There will be a final judgement “on the last day” when those who refused to accept the gift of salvation from God will be judged by His Word and they will be condemned because of their sins and their refusal to believe the gospel (2 Cor 5:10; 2 Thess 1:7-9; Rev 20:12-15).
In line with the objective of Jesus in coming into the world to save sinners, while He was in the world, He did not seek to condemn sinners but to save them. Paul affirmed it in 1 Tim 1:15: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”
This desire not to condemn but to save was demonstrated on many occasions by Jesus and one of the most outstanding one was that of His mercy towards those who sinned as demonstrated towards the woman who was caught in adultery as recorded in John 8:1-12.
As Jesus was teaching, the religious leaders of the day brought the adulteress to Him and said that according to the Law she should be stoned. But Jesus kept quiet and wrote on the ground. They continued to push Him for an answer as they wanted to test Him. Jesus then made a most remarkable statement that condemned the attitude of being self-righteous, critically judgemental of others, and not being merciful: “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”(John 8:7) The Bible observed that then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.”(John 8:9). By that statement Jesus convicted the accusers that they themselves were not without sin and that therefore they should not have the attitude of having a condemning spirit devoid of any mercy.
Jesus showed mercy to the adulteress when “He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”(John 8:10-11).
Was Jesus compromising the truth by “letting off” this adulteress? Not at all – for He said to her: “Go and sin no more”. He did not say to her that she may continue to go and commit adultery. Brethren, Jesus gave her another opportunity to start anew and not to continue in sin. If she goes away and continues to sin then she would stand condemned by those sins. But until “the last day” and for so long as God permits her to live on in this world, she deserves mercy while not condoning or approving her sins.
In James 2:11-13, the Bible says: “Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” Jesus declared in Matt 5:7: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Remember what triumphs over what? Mercy triumphs over judgement – that’s the declaration of God’s Word.
Let’s be aware of the danger of being critical of the sins of others and having a condemning spirit. At the same time we should be careful not to condone or approve the sins committed. Perhaps we can now better understand what Paul meant when he wrote in Gal 6:1: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” We should be merciful and give the sinner another opportunity to not continue in sin against God: “Go and sin no more”.
The Bible admonishes in James 4:11-12: “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?”
But we should not misunderstand the above admonishment and neglect our obligation to correct those who are in error as stated in James 5:19-20: “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” While not having a condemning spirit, we are required to “turn a sinner from the error of his way” as otherwise he would be heading towards the condemnation of death. Paul himself wrote in 1 Cor 5:12-13: “For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.” If a brother or sister in the church is unrepentant and continues in sin, then that “evil person needs to be put away” from ourselves, i.e. from the fellowship of the brethren.
The Bible records in John 8:12: “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” The Bible urges us all to walk in the light (and not in darkness) so that we may be able to continue to have fellowship one another and the blood of Jesus Christ continues to cleanse us from all our sins as stated in 1 John 1:6-10:
“If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”
We should keep His commandments and not sin, but if we sin, we have Jesus as our advocate. But we should not fail to keep His Word and His commandments:
”My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. 3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him.” (1 John 2:1-5)