Discourses on John 3:1-21


John 3:18

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already
because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
How earnestly should the declaration put each one upon enquiry, Am I a believer? The happiness and salvation of every soul in time and to eternity depends upon this single point. May the Spirit of God enable every conscience to give a faithful answer. Let us consider:
1.      What is the condemnation here spoken of.
2.      What is the nature, property and marks of believing
3.      The justice and certainty of the sentence denounced and confirmed against those who believe not.
1. With regard to the condemnation we may enquire:
  1.1 The ground and cause
This is twofold:
    1.1.1 Derived depravity
The loss of that original righteousness, in which man was created, and which Adam by his fall forfeited for himself and his posterity. God formed man for himself and gave him a capacity and disposition for his service and communion. In order to be happy in God, it was necessary that man should have his faculties in due order, that his understanding should be furnished with divine truths, his affections should be supremely fixed upon his Maker, and his will be in a free and regular subjection to his command. We cannot conceive that the just and holy God can have communion with man in any other way. And thus Adam was qualified, and fully enabled to maintain his privilege in a course of holy obedience. But he wilfully yielded to Satan, and sinned in eating the forbidden fruit. Sin brought him into a total disorder and extinguished the spiritual life in his soul. His mind became dark and blind, his affections alienated by guilt, and his will broke out into rebellion against God. He now became averse to that voice of the Lord which he had formerly heard with pleasure. A conviction of sin, which left him condemned, made him desirous if possible to hide himself from his judge – and we can discover no signs of humiliation or repentance, when he was compelled to answer before his judge. The Lord undesired opened a door of hope, and the first promise spoke the language of my text. He that believeth is not condemned. But without this faith Adam considered in himself was a condemned and miserable sinner, he had broken the covenant. And Adam was a public person – the covenant head of all who should proceed from him – in his fall we all fell with him, and lost that right to eternal life which was founded in his perseverance, as well as that holiness of nature without which no man can see the Lord. On this account we are born children of wrath, we come into the world under that covenant of works, which it is become impossible to us to fulfill through the weakness of our flesh, and therefore have no claim to heaven, nor meetness for it if we could be admitted there. However this may seem a hard saying to some, that our happiness should be forfeited and lost before we came into the world; it is impossible in the nature of things it should be otherwise, for who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? [1] All who are awakened, see nothing to cavil at here, but freely glorify the justice of God. But besides this there is another and more obvious ground of condemnation, against which none who are past the state of mere infancy, can offer the least plea. And this is:
    1.1.2 Actual transgression
Omitting the case of Adam, and it is plain we have all broken the commands of God in numberless instances. And his holy law denounces a curse upon disobedience. You are therefore condemned already, unless the blood of Christ, applied by the Spirit, has reversed the sentence. There is no other possible method of escape. Consider therefore:
  1.2 The extent and meaning of this condemnation
It is death – a death opposed to the life promised to believers in the gospel.
    1.2.1 [A spiritual death]
Adam died in the very day that he sinned. That is he died spiritually. In this we are all sharers by nature. Dead in trespasses and sins, dead to God. Incapable of knowing, serving and rejoicing [in] him, and averse to the thoughts of it.
    1.2.2 [A bodily death]
Adam died a bodily death, though he was long spared – and this we must expect. I need not spend time to prove you must die, but O that you would consider the consequences for:
    1.2.3 There is an eternal
This Adam had deserved, but he was saved by faith – the same remedy is proposed to us; happy are they who embrace [it]. Otherwise from death you must pass to judgement, and be sentenced to everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power.
    But blessed be God, there is hope. We read, He that believeth is not condemned. Let us enquire:
2. What is this faith?
  2.1 [Its nature]
Its nature is a heartfelt dependence upon Jesus, acknowledging the justice of the sentence, and trusting in him, as having suffered and died to deliver us from it. And as the appointed author and maintainer of a new life of grace in the soul, the restored of all we lost, and the Reverser of all we incurred by the fall of Adam, or our own iniquities.
  2.2 [The properties]
The properties of this faith are to be noticed. For there is a counterfeit and dead faith. That which is true:
    2.2.1 purifies the heart – Acts 15:9 [2]
    2.2.2 overcomes the world – 1 John 5:4 [3]
    2.2.3 works by love – Galatians 5:6 [4]
  2.3 [The marks]
The marks of this faith are many, but those who have a few, have the rest:
    2.3.1 love to Jesus – 1 Peter 2:7 [5]
    2.3.2 love to his people – 1 John 3:14 [6]
    2.3.3 to the ordinances
    If you understand and experience, this account and these effects of faith, though in the smallest degree, you shall not come into condemnation, but are passed from death into life.
3. But if not, you are condemned already
This is:
  3.1 Certain
The Lord hath spoken. His truth, justice, holiness, are all against you. Where can you flee, or how will you resist?
  3.2 Just
It would have been so if you had never heard of the Gospel, but especially you, to whom the Lord has sent the means of salvation, will perish without excuse if you neglect them. Have you not been warned of your danger over and over? Has not Jesus been preached, and the promises set before you? Will you say you never heard it? Will you say you had no power? But was you not told to ask of God? Have you not been convinced in your consciences? Have you not stifled the truth? The cause is described in the next verse. O go on no longer, but turn to the Lord, for why will you die? [7]

Series No. 21

[1] Job 14:4 Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.
[2] Acts 15:9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
[3] 1 John 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
[4] Galatians 5:6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
[5] 1 Peter 2:7 Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,
[6] 1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.
[7] Ezekiel 18:31 Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?
Ezekiel 33:11 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

Cowper & Newton Museum, 714(2) No. 4

Marylynn Rouse, 28/10/2020