Testimony, Condemnation & the Meaning
Jn. 3:17 "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 "He … who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten 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 deeds were evil. 20 "For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
Jn. 7:7 "The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.
I turn aside today to share some provocative thoughts on the relationship between exposing sin in others and condemning them for their sins.
How many times have we heard it said “Don’t condemn people” or “Stop condemning me” when speaking truth to others about an issue of correction toward them? This exhortation is then followed by the admonition, “Jesus didn’t condemn people. He said He did not come to judge. So stop going around pointing out people’s sins to them. ‘Judge not,’.”)
The ideas of exposing sin and the condemning of those so exposed have come to be wed as one in the mind of the church (not to mention the world). It is considered axiomatic that to forthrightly speak to people about sin in their lives is the definition of judging and condemning them. Consequently and for this reason alone, it is considered totally taboo, un-Christian and, most of all, “unloving” to speak directly to others either individually or in a gathering about their sins or need for correction. And therefore one hears no such straightforward talk in the church, which talk, if so uttered, is itself “condemned” by all who hear it.
To set the record straight, I have put forth two passages above. The first is Jesus’ words from John 3 regarding the matter of judging (condemning) others. He indeed says He did not come to condemn. And I want to return to look at this entire passage in a moment.
But first, I have also put up John 7:7. Here, Jesus pointedly says the exact opposite of what is taught regarding exposing sin in others. He says, “I testify of [the world] that its deeds are evil.”
That Jesus can freely say He testifies to the sins of others reveals as false the notion that testifying to sin in others is the definition of condemning them. If we can see this, now let’s return to the rest of what He said in John 3 about what it really means when He says men are “condemned already.”
Self-Condemnation under Light
In verses 18-20, Jesus explains that condemnation is really a self-inspired reaction to truth, not the objective act of a truth teller. In other words, condemnation comes from within a man, not from without the man.
Jesus indeed did not come to condemn. Instead, says He, unbelief in response to truthful testimony about one’s sin is its own condemnation already. That is, unbelieving rejection of such testimony is its own already present expression of self-condemnation because one is seeking to deflect away from his sin, protecting it from exposure. Deflection is admission.
Do we understand what is really being said here? When people react to testimony about their sin and say, “stop condemning me,” they have just opened their own mouth to condemn themselves. “This is the judgment,” Jesus says. This is what the real condemnation is. It is the man’s own self-condemnation by admission in the form of self defense against facing the exposure of his sin.
And so, quite contrary to the romanticized idea that Jesus never made anyone “feel condemned” by His presence or words or actions, He says, “This is why I am hated.” What He really is saying in John 7 compared to John 3 is, “This is why I am accused of condemning people:”
“This is the [real] condemnation—that light has come into the world” (meaning, My witness to people’s sin has come into the world), “but men loved their darkness rather than the light on their sin—and therefore they refuse to believe [in] me” In other words, by their unbelieving reaction against Me, men have testified to their own guilt. They have condemned themselves.
(Incidentally, this is also the meaning of Paul’s word that “we are the savor of death in those who are perishing” (II Cor. 2:16). It is the same idea re-worded. And it is true of Jesus. Though Jesus was and is the only Life and Light to all men, He was not and is not the savor of Life to the perishing. )
He Came to Save….Meaning?
We all know Jesus came to save. That is what He said. “I came not to condemn but to save.” But people can’t be saved without exposing what it is they have to be saved from and why. Does that make sense?
This is why the message of “salvation” today means virtually nothing. Salvation has become subtly redefined to mean the need to vaguely “come into a relationship” with Jesus. But that is not what salvation means, though that is what it involves.
To be saved means to be “preserved” from something as well as unto the knowing of God and eternal life. It firstly means to be delivered from something. Throughout Jesus’ teaching, to be “saved” means to be forgiven for sin, to be delivered from sin’s effects (demonic bondage, sickness and death) and to escape in advance from sin’s consequences (soul destruction under the wrath to come and the Lake of Fire).
But men cannot be saved if they do not know they need to be saved. And they can’t know they need to be saved if they don’t know from what they need to be saved. And they can’t know from what they need to be saved unless somebody has light to give them on their sins, sin’s effects and sin’s consequences! Make sense?
But if men don’t want to hear and believe that testimony to their need for salvation, then they commit self-condemnation by retaliatory accusations of condemnation against the purveyors of light in the effort to protect and cover-up their sin. (“This is the condemnation….”)
- Re-visiting John 3:16 and the Meaning of “Believing”
If we listen carefully then, Jesus is speaking to us in advance of our times to define the true relationship between testimony to sin and the condemnation of those exposed by that testimony. Funny how the meaning of the passage following the best known Bible verse in the whole evangelical world (John 3:16) has nevertheless eluded us.
This entire passage together tells us what it really means to “believe” in Jesus according to John 3:16. To believe in Him is to respond favorably to His light on our sin so that He can save us from its power, effects and consequences, (“that we not perish”), but instead may possess and share and enjoy His life that endures throughout the innumerable ages.
Unbelief by contrast is the self-condemning retaliatory refusal to respond to this light because we would rather protect our sin in secret than be saved from it and all that it causes. This is what it means wherever John says, “but they still would not believe in Him.” And this unbelief through refusal to come to this light to deal with sin is what Jesus ultimately excoriated the cities for at the end of His ministry.
Believing or unbelieving pertains not to the mere “facts” about who Jesus was or what He did on the cross. The devils believe all those facts and tremble. Believing is about the response to light upon sin and whether one comes to the light that exposes that sin in order to be saved from it and to receive Jesus’ everlasting Spirit life—or not.
The True “Good News”
People, this is the true gospel, the true “good news,” and the only meaning of salvation given us in scripture. Any other meaning is a false meaning belonging to a false gospel. Yet today we are given every other which way to “reach men” with some message other than to testify as a light upon their sin by which they may be saved from it and unto God by faith. Who will answer for this?
It’s time for the prophets and for the leaders of our churches to wake back up to the true message of salvation and to take their posts in exposing the sins of the church and the world so that people might indeed be saved. This is the missing good news: You can be saved from sin, from bondage, from death and from the last day Judgment if you will repent by turning to the light and away from your sin. All very good news indeed! …And you will receive His ever-enduring Life through the knowing of God and come to experience His warm embrace as well. For it is to those who turn from their ways to keep His word that He reveals His intimate fellowship (John 14:21,23. Stop looking for love and a passionate relationship with God or a salvation defined by this if you’re not willing to deal with your sin. There is no such thing.)
If you have been browbeaten and wavered and been on the fence and felt suppressed by Laodicean group-think over talking to people correctively about their sins or warning them of its consequences, and couldn’t come up with a New Testament understanding of why doing this truly comports with the character of Jesus and God’s love, or how you can possibly do this without being the real cause for condemnation of people, this writing provides you that justification.
May you be blessed as you re-examine the foundational meaning of being a light of salvation that unapologetically provokes offense in the unbelieving amidst a church culture that protects unbelief in the name of “saving” men.
New Meadow Neck, Rhode Island
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
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Page created December 23, 2018