The word “gospel,” as most people know, means “good news.” But the good news can’t really be understood until you understand the bad news. What is the bad news? It’s found in verse 18 of this passage.
Whoever does not believe (in Jesus as their Lord and Savior) stands condemned already.
Ever since the time of Adam, every single member of the human race has stood condemned. Why? Because we failed to trust in God, and as a result, we turned our backs on him, and started going our own way. Why is that a problem?
In Romans 6:23, it says,
“For the wages of sin is death.”
We are not in danger of death row. We are on death row, because all of us have sinned. Judgment has already been passed.
So it says in verse 17 that when Jesus came to this earth, he didn’t come to condemn us because we were condemned already. It’s a bit redundant to condemn a person that’s already condemned.
That’s the other side of the gospel. It’s a side that we don’t like to talk about very much. If you don’t believe in Jesus, you’re not going to be condemned by God in the future. You already stand condemned.
How often do we think about that? That right here, right now, many of our family, friends, and neighbors already stand condemned before God. Some of you as you read this also stand condemned before God because of your sin.
It’s not a pleasant thought. But that’s where the good news comes in.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (16-17)
God loved us so much that he sent his Son to save us. Jesus took our punishment for us.
Now he asks a simple question. “Will you trust me? Will you put your faith in Jesus and his work on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins?”
There is only one way off of death row, for you and for those you love. It’s through Jesus Christ. And John writes,
Whoever believes in him is not condemned. (18a)
When we put our trust in Christ, God forgives us our sin. Not because of anything we have done. But because of what Christ has done for us. And he looks at us and says, “Because my Son has paid the penalty for your sin, I no longer condemn you.”
Again, it’s not that God says “I won’t condemn you in the future (although of course, that’s true). But God says right here and right now, “You are not condemned.”
But if you choose to reject Jesus, you are on death row and the clock is ticking. John concludes by saying,
Whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (18b)
What will you do?