Jun 13, 2013

John 3:18 - William Button

John 3:18, “He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believe on the name of the only begotten Son of God.” This text he seems to exult in, and with it to triumph over all his opposers. “The passage (says he) which was last considered, was thought to prove nothing; because, though it declared that he that believeth not should be damned, yet it did not assign the want of faith as the procuring cause of damnation; but that cannot be pleaded here. Here is expressly said, such are condemned because they have not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God” (p. 77). But this passage, like the other, contains nothing more than a descriptive character of persons who are not, and who are condemned. He that believeth on him is not condemned; but I presume his believing on him is not the cause of his not being condemned, but his union to Christ, and being interested in his obedience and death is what secures him from condemnation. And his believing is no more than an evidence of his union and interest in him: so the not believing, or continuing in unbelief, is an evidence of a person’s not being in Christ and so of his being under condemnation. Great stress indeed is laid on the word because, which is put in capitals, and is considered as a very strong proof that his unbelief is the cause of condemnation; but if Mr. F. has no better argument than this to support his cause, it must sing, for this will not bear up. In John 16:27, the same word is used, where Christ addressing his disciples says, “The Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me.” Now, as has been observed by a late writer, “this cannot be understood of their love being any foundation, or moving cause of the Father’s love, to which the words of the apostle John had been a direct contradiction, I John 4:10, Not that we loved God, but he loved us. But through their love to Christ; or, because they loved Christ, it appeared the Father had loved, and drawn them to his Son, by the cords of his everlasting love, we loved him because he first loved us” (Johnson’s Faith of God’s elect, p. 163-164). Now then as in the one place the love of the disciples (though the word because is before it) is nothing more than an evidence of interest in the Father’s love; so in the other, the want of special faith (though the word because is before it) is nothing more than an evidence of being under condemnation. And in the next verse our Lord informs us of the cause of condemnation; “and this is the condemnation,”—that is the cause of it (not that they had not special faith) but that though light was come into the world, even the glorious Messiah, the sum and substance of the types, shadows, and prophecies, yet they loved darkness rather than light, that is, the greater part of them, as Dr. Gill expresses it, “preferred the darkness of the ceremonial law, and the Mosaic dispensation, and even the traditions of the elders, before the gospel revelation made by Jesus Christ.” They persisted in opposing and rejecting the Messiah, and all his sayings, because their deeds were evil; all which is indeed cause enough for condemnation, without adding thereto the want of special faith, which it had not pleased God to bestow upon them.

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