Faith and Unbelief
James Smith, 1860
"He who believes on him is not condemned; but he who believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." John 3:18
When Nicodemus came to our Lord for instruction, he set before him, first, the absolute necessity of a new birth, and then the importance of faith. He told him plainly that except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven; and that it is faith, and faith alone, that delivers from condemnation, and entitles to eternal life. Having set forth the love of God in the gift of his Son, and having testified that God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world—but that the world through him might be saved; he adds, "He who believes on him is not condemned; but he who believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." John 3:18. Here we have placed before us,
Faith and its Result.Faith is giving credit to a testimony, exercising confidence in a promise, and trusting in a person. So that faith in Christ, is giving credit to God's testimony concerning his Son, exercising confidence in the promises of Christ, and trusting his divine and glorious person. The seat of faith is the heart, the source of life—for with the heart man believes unto righteousness.
Faith being in the heart, influences:
the understanding—to submit to God's revelation;
the will—and directs it to choose what God approves;
the affections—and raises them to spiritual and heavenly things;
and the life—so that we perform good works.
Faith is a divine power in the soul, purifying the heart, elevating the feelings, cleansing the conscience, directing the will, and regulating the life! Its end is salvation, hence we are said to believe unto the saving of the soul; and here its result is stated, as no condemnation. The believer is not condemned—he was once—but now he is justified, justified by faith—he has eternal life, and shall never be condemned. Through faith, he comes into union with Christ, who answers for him; and in Christ, there is no condemnation. But the passage sets before us too,
Unbelief and its Consequence."He who believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." The gospel is presented to us—to be believed; and Christ, in the gospel, is presented to us—to be received. If we will not believe, when God speaks; if we will not receive, when God offers, and offers his only begotten Son—-we must surely die in our sins! Now the unbeliever hears of Christ, thinks of Christ, talks of Christ—but he does not entrust his soul to him, to be saved by him. He has no personal dealings with him, therefore he derives no saving benefits from him. He is therefore condemned. He is condemned already, before the judgment begins.
His condemnation is for sin; but his condemnation is not merely for violating the law—but for refusing a pardon, presented to him by God as an act of infinite mercy. Every unbeliever is in a state of condemnation!
He is condemned, BY WHOM? By God, the righteous Judge, the Judge of all.
He is condemned, FOR WHAT? Not merely for breaking the law—but for insulting the lawgiver, by refusing a pardon, procured at no less a cost than the death of his Son, and presented in the exercise of sovereignty, in the everlasting gospel.
He is condemned, WHEN? Now, already! At this moment, while he reads these lines. The manacled criminal in his cell, waiting for the day of execution, is not more really condemned, than is every unbeliever.
He is condemned, TO WHAT? Ah, who can tell? His
punishment is represented . . .
by blackness, darkness, and a horrible tempest!
By weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth!
By a lake of fire, a bottomless pit, and a gnawing worm which never dies!
He is condemned, WITH WHOM? The devil and his demons, with all the infidels, profane swearers, and most depraved of the human race!
He is condemned, BY WHAT? Both the law and the gospel, both the Creator and the Savior.
"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life—but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath abides on him!" John 3:36
O fearful state! O terrible condition! O awful doom!
See then, man's natural condition, he is under law, a law that he has violated, a law that condemns him. See the design of the gospel, it is to deliver us from the curse and condemnation of the law. It brings us good news, that there is a Savior. It presents us with a costly blessing, a free salvation. It seeks to deliver us from the wrath to come. See, the responsibility which it brings; we must receive it—or reject it. We must believe—or disbelieve it. It will be for us a savor of life unto life, or a savor of death unto death. We believe it, and are saved by it; or we disbelieve it, and are shut up under condemnation, and are consigned to hopeless despair.
It shuts us up to the alternative, of either receiving Christ, as God's unspeakable gift; or in the words of the apostle, of putting it from us, and judging ourselves unworthy of everlasting life. Our position therefore is most solemn, for if we are condemned, it is because we would not believe in Jesus: if we are lost, it will be because we would not be saved.
See then, every unbeliever's state—he is condemned already! Yes, however moral the life, however amiable the disposition—he is condemned already! Condemned to be driven from God, from holy angels, from blessed believers; and to be associated with devils and damned souls forever! Condemned, just because he would not believe in Jesus—he would not accept the pardon—he would not be reconciled to God.
Reader, how is it with you? Are you a believer? Have you received Christ? Have you committed your soul to Christ? Have you confidence in Christ? If so, you are not condemned; no, nor never shall be. But if you have never closed in with Christ, if you have never had secret, solemn, personal dealings with Christ; whatever else you may have done, you are condemned—condemned already, and the day when your sentence will be publicly pronounced is fast hastening on. Believe at once—and escape so terrible a doom!