“He that believeth on him is not judged: he that believeth not hath been judged already because he hath not believed on the only begotten Son of God. And this is the judgment that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil. For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, lest his works should be reproved. But he that doeth the truth cometh to the light that his works may be manifest that they have been wrought in God” (Jn. 3:19-21).
These verses conclude the discussion which began in verse 1 when Nicodemus came for his interview with Jesus. This will not be the end of this figure contrasting light with darkness as illustrating good with evil. This contrast began in chapter 1 when John, referring to Jesus, said, “In him was life and the life was the light of men.” In the verses which follow, John the apostle speaks of John the Baptist’s witness of Jesus who was the “light come into the world” (Jn. 1:6-8). There is, on the part of John, alternative references to Jesus as the light and on the other hand, to His life and teaching as light. In John 8:12 Jesus is identified as the light which came into the world; here, in John 3, partial reference to light is a reference to Christ’s teaching or truth. While John repeatedly uses this contrast, he is not alone in such a usage. Both Paul and Peter use light and darkness to contrast good and evil.
Jesus told Nicodemus that God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world, adding that the one who does not believe in Him is judged already. The one who does not believe in Jesus is judged already because he did not believe on the name (authority or power) of the only begotten Son of God. Peter said, “And in none other is there salvation, for neither is there any other name under heaven wherein we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). God gave Jesus a name (authority) which is above every name (Phil. 2:9). We are not to suppose that none are judged (condemned) until they reject Jesus as the Son of God. We fall under condemnation when we do wrong and are awakened to the wrongs we have done (Isa. 59:2).
In the passage from John 3, Jesus said that men loved darkness rather than the light. Although the visit of Jesus with Nicodemus occurred early in His ministry, the opposition of Satan was already there and rejection by the rulers was eminent. Ultimately, light would overcome, but evil would have its momentary victory (Matt. 27:20-26).
There was the natural opposition to Jesus because there was the natural antipathy which evil has to good. Paul wrote, “What fellowship hath righteousness and iniquity? Or what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14). While the rulers would feign themselves to be lovers and defenders of truth, it was pretense. Jesus said of them, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lust of your father it is your will to do …” (Jn. 8:44). It is easy to follow Satan’s leadings for to do so we yield to those things which are pleasurable. It doesn’t matter that the pleasure is seasonable (Heb. 11:25), and the end of our decision to sin is grievous for “the way of the transgressor is hard” (Pro. 13:15). Such is the power of sin.
Jesus continued: “He that doeth evil hateth the light and cometh not to the light lest his works should be reproved.” One does not have to tell the thief, murderer, or fornicator that his actions are wrong: he knows. He just does not want censure or reproof from anyone regarding his actions. Not only does the sinner not want that proof, he wants that voice silenced.
The ire of the Jewish rulers was raised when Jesus condemned their hypocrisy. They “violated the Sabbath” when they led their ox from the stall to water and felt perfectly justified to do so for the matter of compassion’s sake. Yet while they “made allowances” in such an instance for themselves, they were incensed when Jesus freed a woman from a nearly two decade bondage of infirmity on a Sabbath day (Lk. 13:10-17). They would demand strict compliance with their tradition that one must wash his hands before meals but would invent ways by which they could circumvent God’s command to “Honor thy father and thy mother” (Matt. 15:1-6). They would demand fulfillment of an oath were it confirmed by “the gold of the temple,” but if one were to swear by “the temple,” he was not bound to keep his word (Matt. 23:16-17). They could silence the voice of the light coming into the world, thinking that by silencing that voice they could continue with impunity practicing the sins they had always done. They could silence — for a while — His voice but they could not make their wrong, right.
Are we approaching that same high-handed opposition to light and truth today when a government makes any condemnation of the practice of the homosexual “hateful speech,” punishing such “speech” by fine and/or imprisonment?