The Believer and the Unbeliever
James Smith, 1855
"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." (John 3:17-19).
The law was given that the offence might abound, that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world become guilty before God. The law shows us what sinners we are, condemns us for sin, and binds us over to answer for it before God.
But God sent his Son to save those whom the law condemned; and to open their mouths in prayer and praise at his throne. Jesus came on purpose to save; he was sent by the Father to do so; and to save sinners of every age, nation, and color. He came . . .
to deliver us from the curse of the law, by being made a curse for us (Galatians 3:13);
to be a sin-offering for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21);
to reconcile us to God by his death (Romans 5:10);
to redeem us from all iniquity (Titus 2:14);
to put away our sins by the sacrifice of himself (Hebrews 9:26);
to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18);
that we might live together with him (1 Thessalonians 5:10).
The Savior had high authority, the kindest heart, and the greatest store of blessings — and he came to employ all for the everlasting salvation of poor sinners!
He who believes on Jesus is not condemned. The believer was condemned by the law; but he is now justified by the gospel. He has embraced the Savior as God's remedy for sin and guilt; he has had personal dealings with Jesus about the salvation of his soul; and he has given up himself to the Lord, not only to be delivered from punishment — but to be used to his glory. Now . . .
the sentence recorded against him is repealed,
a title to eternal life is given, and
a saving interest in all covenant blessings is secured.
He shall not be condemned, for . . .
Jesus is his powerful Advocate;
the Holy Spirit is his Teacher and Guide; and
Jehovah looks upon him, and treats him as a beloved child.
He is reconciled to God — and at peace with God. He has hidden in the Rock of Ages, and found safety. To him there is no condemnation, for he is in Christ Jesus; and he walks not after the flesh — but after the Spirit.
But he who does NOT believe — is condemned already. He may assent to the truth of the Word; but if he has not yielded up his heart to God, he is an unbeliever still; and will be found in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. He loves the darkness, and prefers it to the light. He is willing to remain ignorant of the true character of God, his righteous law, and glorious gospel; he feels no great interest in the good news of Christ, as coming to save sinners; he slights the gospel, which is the best and kindest message God has ever sent to fallen, ruined man.
He loves the darkness of error — and prefers it to the light of Divine truth.
He loves the darkness of sin — and prefers it to the light of holiness.
He loves the darkness of unbelief — and prefers it to the light of faith.
He prefers the work and ways of the prince of darkness — to the work and ways of the Lord of glory.
Oh, how awful is this! and vet how common!
Sinner, how have you been acting while in health? Did you seek the Lord? Did you take the light of his Word to examine your own heart, your own way, and what was likely to be your everlasting end? Or did you prefer labor, profit, ease, pleasure, and sin, to the concerns of the soul and eternity? If so, you are condemned already! You have not to ask, "Shall I be condemned?" You are condemned!
WHO condemns such a sinner?
God, the God of love.
The God who is good, ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy.
The great and dreadful God.
The God who keeps mercy for thousands — but who will by no means clear the guilty.
The God who, rather than condemn — would give his own Son to suffer, bleed, and die!
Yes, sinner, God condemns you — not only by his law — but by his gospel also. What does God condemn such a sinner for? For slighting, rejecting, and crucifying his Son. If Jesus Christ is the Son of God, he ought to be believed, loved, and adored: if he is not, the Jews were right in putting him to death as a blasphemer, for saying he was so. Every sinner, therefore, who refuses to admit the claims, bow at the throne, and receive the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, becomes a party to the crime committed by He Jews in crucifying the Son of God. They virtually say, "Away with him! Crucify him!" They trample his blood under their feet, and acquiesce with the Jews in the justice of putting him to death.
O sinner, how can you appear before God, charged, as you are, with the death of his only begotten and beloved Son? If you prefer darkness to light — you prefer the conduct of Judas to that of John; and Barabbas to the Lord Jesus. This is the crowning charge — the greatest crime that can possibly be charged against a sinner!
WHEN is such a sinner condemned? Now . . .
under the reign of mercy,
in the land of hope,
before the judgment of the great day!
He has rejected God's remedy,
he has despised the Savior's blood,
he has resisted the Holy Spirit,
he has chosen death in preference to life.
WHAT is such a sinner condemned to? He is condemned to be punished with sorer punishment than the heathen — than those who died under the law!
He is condemned to punishment, in comparison with which the punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah is tolerable.
He is condemned to everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.
With WHOM is such a sinner condemned to suffer? He is to suffer with hypocrites, apostates, liars, swearers, harlots, whoremongers — and with the devil and his demons! Oh, what fearful, disgraceful, and miserable company!
The gospel slighted and rejected . . .
becomes the savor of death unto death,
increases the sinners condemnation,
and leaves him without hope or help,
renders his condemnation most just, fearful, and eternal.
Who can object to the condemnation of a man who has refused a pardon, and joined in degrading the Son of God, who out of mere love died to obtain it?
There are many who hear of Christ, and talk of Christ, to whom we may say, as Paul to the Galatians, "Christ shall profit you nothing." For as bread does not profit — unless it be received; so Christ, who is called the bread of life, must be received by faith, or we are none the better for hearing of him! Yes, we are the worse; for it is better not to know the way of righteousness, than knowing, to refuse to walk in it. You may feel at ease; but God says, "Woe to those who are at ease in Zion!" (Amos 6:1.) And he will reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished (2 Peter 2:9). God may delay to execute the sentence — but he will not falsify his Word; the wrath is only postponed — it is increasing, it will be most dreadful!
But yet there is hope — and hope for you. The Lord, considering all your sins, says, "Yet now return unto me!" He will receive you graciously, he will yet pardon, and accept, and glorify his rich and free grace in you. Therefore do not despair, do not despond; but say, "I will look unto the Lord!" David tells us of some who did so, and the effect: "I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles!" (Psalm 34:4-6).