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©Kris Gerbrandt

Chapter 3:17-21 (ESV)

Posted on July 25, 2023  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 3:17-21 (ESV) - “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Question to consider: What does it mean to believe in the name of the only Son of God?

Nicodemus was under the impression that one only needed to be born into Israel to be a citizen of God’s kingdom. He was shocked that Jesus stated that people needed to be born again from above. 

If that wasn’t shocking enough, Jesus said that God “so loved the world” that He gave His only son. The world included Gentiles. If John was baptizing Jews in a manner that had been reserved for Gentiles, and Jesus proclaimed that God loved the Gentiles, would that not mean that Jesus intended for Gentiles to enter into the kingdom of God as well?

Of course, that is exactly what Jesus said next— that the world might be saved through Him. In fact, Jesus made the exclusive claim that everyone was already condemned unless they believed in the name of the only Son of God. What did that mean? It doesn’t just mean that we accept the idea that Jesus is the Son of God. As Jesus’ brother, James, once wrote, “Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19) Believing in “the name” is to have the Son stand in as our redeemer before the Father. We are putting all of our hope in the work Christ did in fulfilling the Law on our behalf and admitting that even our best works are evil by comparison. By coming to the light, we are turning our backs on our feeble attempts at righteousness and being clothed in the righteousness of Christ. 

Nicodemus might have come to Jesus under the cover of darkness, but we know from John later in this gospel account that he eventually came into the light to help bury Jesus. It is part of our rebellious nature to want to be our own savior. When we think of the love of God, we want to think God loves us because we are lovable. God’s love, however, is not a warm and fuzzy feeling God has for us. It is a tender mercy offered to a condemned criminal. This is so much better than a fuzzy feeling because feelings come and go. This is a promise given to His Son that will not fail. However, it is conditional. It is exclusive to those who have been reborn into Christ Jesus.


Dear heavenly Father, thank You for fixing Your love for us on a promise that never fails. Help us to love Your light rather than our own darkness— even if that means being exposed to the scorn of this world. For we know that this world is going away, but Your kingdom stands forever. Amen.