“He that believeth on Him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). Quoted to prove that man’s believing is the cause of God’s mercy, and man’s unbelief is the cause of condemnation. The interpretation hinges on the word “because.” This conjunction is employed in two sense—causal (when it denotes the relation of cause and effect), and illative (when it marks a conclusion logically flowing from an admitted fact). Thus “the trees flourish because the ground is rich.” Here it denotes a cause. “We assert that the ground is rich, because the trees flourish.” Here it denotes not a cause (for the vigour of the trees does not cause the soil’s richness), but a conclusion. We infer the goodness of the soil from the vigour of the trees. In other words, the character of the trees proves, demonstrates or evidences the quality of the soil. The “because” in our passage, must be regarded in the second sense. “It does not imply that the ground or reason of their condemnation was that they had not believe, or that they will be condemned because they do not accept the Saviour.” So candidly admits A. Barnes, though he held Duty-Faith. “It, therefore, intends neither a moving nor a procuring cause, but denotes what is evidential of the unbeliever’s state. Faith in Christ is the evidential sign of the soul’s interest in salvation—unbelief, of the sinner’s condition, who is without Christ, and under the condemnation of the Law.”—John Foreman. “We are here taught, not the cause of men’s coming into condemnation, but the evidence of their remaining under it.”—John Stevens.
“If the conjunction oti ‘because’ as it is here employed, causes a difficulty, let the reader compare this occurrence of the word in its relation to the verb ‘believe’ here, with that which is found in John 16:27. Nothing further can be needed to set any understanding at rest.”—Israel Atkinson.