Friday, September 01, 2017

The Vision (9.1.17): Condemned by Unbelief

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 3:18-21.

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 (John 3:18).

In this verse John contrasts the regenerate man with the unregenerate man. The unregenerate man is self-condemned due to his unbelief.

The thought here flows from v. 17 wherein Jesus said that God the Father did not send the Son to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved.

John 3:18 begins with a positive statement: The one who believes in the Son is not condemned (v. 18a).

This reminds us of the necessity of faith (cf. v. 16). It also reminds us of the instrumentality of faith. This is what we mean when we talk about justification by faith. Men are not save because of their faith but through the means (instrumentality) of their faith. This distinction is crucial. This is what Paul will speak of when he points to the example of Abraham in Romans 4:1-5. No man is saved apart from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The contrast to this is the person who does not believe in Christ, the person who is enslaved in the blindness of his unbelief. That person stands under condemnation, but this condemnation is not something brought upon the unbeliever by Christ. It is something that the unbeliever has brought upon himself. He is self-condemned (read v. 18b).

Has he failed to uphold some amorphous and vague conception of God? Has he failed to be a mere theist? No, he has not believed “in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” The “name” refers to the fundamental identity of the triune God.

Think of Jacob wrestling with God’s messenger through the night and asking God through him: “Tell me, I pray thee, thy name” (Gen 32:29). Jacob calls the place Peniel, which means “the face of God” “for” he said “I have seen God face to face and my life has been preserved” (v. 30).

Think of Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3 asking for God to reveal his name and God saying, “I AM THAT I AM” (v. 14).

The unbeliever does not believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God. What is his name? He is the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what Paul meant when he wrote, “Wherefore God hath given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow … and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

The unregenerate man does not believe that Jesus is Lord. Either he does not confess it aloud, or he confesses it but does not truly mean it. A parrot can be trained to utter various words and phrases but that does not mean he believes or even understands what he says.

See also the ending of this chapter: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (3:36).  Is there any clearer rejection of universalism that this? And notice that the distinguishing factor between having life and not having life is faith, belief, fundamental trust in Christ alone.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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