Does John 3:18 say that one who does not believe is condemned already?

Referencing “The Adopted Life”, Vol. 1, Issue 2, pp. 7-8, Jonathan Stepp says that the context for reading the Bible is the Word of God, meaning the Son of God who became flesh. The Bible is where we should have received our concept of who Jesus is and what He has done. If this is where we received this concept then why would we, as he put it, have to conform the Bible to this picture of Jesus? The bible represents our revelation from God, and it contains the original objective information describing the Son who became flesh and lived among mankind. The biblical description and teachings of Jesus and the teachings from his apostles should already be conformed to each other without our having to make adjustments to harmonize them.

His picture of Jesus tells him that the apostle John cannot mean that one is condemned because he does not believe in the Son of God. He says that not believing will only mean that one will go on believing his own lie that he is condemned. He only feels lost and condemned in his own mind. His scriptural support is the verse before that says “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him”. Well that certainly was the purpose of His coming, but let’s look at the following two verses (19 and 20). They say that the reason that not believing in Jesus condemns them is that they were already condemned from the beginning because of the sin of Adam, and they refused and rejected the truth about His coming to save them through believing in Him who is the Light that would have removed that condemnation. The Light, referring to Jesus, has come and they LOVED DARKNESS INSTEAD OF THE LIGHT. They made their decision to reject the light (knowledge) of Jesus and the salvation he wanted them to receive. Verse 20 says, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and WILL NOT COME INTO THE LIGHT…”. One final verse must be looked at also. Verse 36 confirms this interpretation by saying “Whosoever believes in the Son has eternal life, BUT WHOSOEVER REJECTS THE SON will not see life, for God’s wrath REMAINS (a reference to “condemned already” in verse 18) on him.”

John Huffman


Pastor Jonathan said…
Hi John,
Thanks for reading The Adopted Life and sharing your thoughts about what I wrote.

Anyone who's interested in reading the article that John's referring to can find it by clicking the link below, it will take you directly to the .pdf of issue 2 and the article is on pages 7-8.

Click Here to Read the Article

With regards to your comments, I would just say this: if Jesus came to save the world (John 3:17) but did not fully accomplish this mission then I think we have a very weak theology of Jesus.

In other words, if the salvation of the world requires "Jesus+Human Belief" then salvation is not by grace and it is not something accomplished by Christ alone. In that scenario salvation is something that requires Jesus' work and our work.

The only way salvation can be by grace is if Jesus came to save the world and accomplished that mission without any work on our part. In this scenario belief does not cause salvation to come into existence but allows us to stop believing the lie that we are condemned and allows us to enjoy the salvation that already exists because Jesus has brought it into existence apart from any work on our part.
Ted Johnston said…
To add to Pastor Jonathan's reply to John Huffman concerning the Apostle John's references to condemnation, I would note that there are indeed dire consequences in the life of the person who does not believe the truth of who Jesus is and what he has done to save humanity.

I understand the Apostle John to be warning about these conseqences as a means to invite belief.

In John's NT gospel and letters the great sin of the world is unbelief. And his evangelistic purpose is to engender belief that Jesus is indeed the Lamb of God who takes away the world's sin. This Lamb is none other than the Logos (creative Word) of the whole cosmos; the Eternal Son of God who has done for us through his incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension what we could never do for ourselves.

And John invites those suffering the pains of condemnation in their unbelief to turn from unbelief (repent) and believe (have faith) in what is already true for them (which is to believe that Jesus is who he says he is).

This belief will transform their lives, ushering them into an experiential knowledge of God (participation in God's triune life) that is eternal life (life of the eternal kind).