Wednesday: Condemnation and Grace
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Most everyone is familiar with John 3:16. What comes after, though, helps flesh it out and explain it even better.

Read John 3:17–21. What does it say about judgment? About grace? How do these verses reveal to us how grace and judgment work together? 

The word translated “condemn” in verse 17 is also translated in some versions as “judge.” Clearly, though, the context is that of condemnation, because God has made it clear in numerous other places that the world will be judged.

Two themes appear in these texts, grace and judgment, and they are radically intertwined. Sin and darkness and evil have brought the need for a God of justice to judge and condemn these things. At the same time, God’s grace offers those who are guilty a way out, and that comes by faith in Jesus Christ.

He that believes in Jesus is not condemned. That’s what the texts say. It’s that simple. Christ’s righteousness covers that person, and that person stands without condemnation, now and in the judgment.

What reason do the texts give for condemnation?  



According to these texts, the default state of humanity is that of condemnation. And that’s because all have sinned and all deserve the death that sin brings. These texts clearly debunk the notion that, after the Cross, all humanity was automatically justified. Instead, after the Cross, the whole condemned world was now offered salvation through the atoning death of Jesus Christ, which was sufficient for every human being. Everyone stands condemned; everyone, though, who through the grace of Christ accepts the provision offered, stands pardoned, justified, and redeemed through Jesus. The condemnation that was theirs is, through the merits of Jesus, canceled, and they stand in His perfect righteousness.

In fact, what does grace mean apart from the prospect of condemnation? Just as the idea of condemnation implies judgment, so does the idea of grace. Were there no potential for judgment (and condemnation), there would be no need for grace. The notion of grace itself all but demands the notion of condemnation. Hence, more reason to see how grace and judgment are linked.

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Wednesday: Condemnation and Grace — 6 Comments

  1. Dear Mounville,
    Yes, everyone will be judged. However, Jesus stands in the place of those who accept Him as Savior. That`s the really Good News of the gospel!

    Jesus died the death that we deserve so that we might have the life that He deserves.

    Before the final judgment there is a preliminary judgment to determine who will go back to heaven with Christ when He comes. It's a little like an investigative hearing in the British & American legal systems. The case against the accused is examined to see if a trial is necessary. For those who have professed to be Christians, the question is whether they have really accepted Christ as Savior, whether they have really allowed Him to be Lord of their lives. And if they have, the verdict is "Case dismissed!" After all, even the devil Himself cannot bring up any case against Christ. :)

    So for those who have truly accepted Christ as Savior, the judgment is really Good News, because it "justifies" them, declaring them worthy of the eternal Kingdom.

    If you'll read the Psalms, you'll find that the writers often called upon God to judge. (See Ps 7:11; Ps 9:19; Ps 58:11; Ps 72:2; Ps 94:2; Ps 98:9 plus many more.) They looked forward to judgment so that they would be justified. To understand that, we must understand the role of Judge in the Hebrew legal system: It was the judge's job and aim to find the defendant innocent of any accusations. That's why the writers of the Psalms looked forward to judgment. They knew that the divine Judge was on their side. They looked forward to justification.

    And we, too, can look forward to judgment when we know that Christ is our Savior, because He is also our Advocate and Judge. (Rom 2:16) :)

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    • I cannot speak regarding the British legal system for lack of knowledge, but in the American legal system the motion for a dismissal of this type would typically come in the pre-trial phase. In other words, if the case is dismissed at this point, the defendant would never come up for trial. There would normally be no possibility for judgment either by jury or judge as the charges would be dismissed in the pre-trial phase.

      Perhaps this is the sense of Romans 8:1, but I prefer to be careful about stretching the trial metaphor too far as it consists of reading meanings into the text based on current cultural understandings of legal processes that may not be accurate to the biblical context.

      However, I like to think of it like this. Except for the final generation, there is no judgment prior to life's record being completely written. In other words, no judgment prior to death. (See Hebrews 9:27) Once that record has been irrevocably recorded, there is a basis for judgment.

      But some die prior to death. They die in Jesus, and their life subject to judgment is replaced by that of Jesus. In effect they come before the judge for pre-trial motions and the judge is told "You've got the wrong man! You want Jesus!" You see, by the cross Jesus took responsibility for our sins upon himself. The judge must acknowledge that and must dismiss because the person before him is not the one responsible for the crime. They cannot put the wrong person on trial.

      By our modern understanding, the principle of double jeopardy would prevent them from putting the one responsible on trial because Jesus already paid the price for the transgression on the cross.

      But for those who have chosen not to accept Christ's offer, they must stand as responsible for own actions and have no hope of a pre-trial dismissal. They must move forward to trial and judgment.

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      • I love your analysis, Stephen, and I agree with it wholeheartedly. You did say:

        "The judge must acknowledge that and must dismiss because the person before him is not the one responsible for the crime."

        In our case, I'd substitute "can" in the two places where "must" appears, as our Judge is seeking to acquit.

        What are the implications of this analysis? I have to say that, in the pre-advent judgment, every detail of our life's record will still be examined in the decision making process. However, the sole purpose of that examination will be to determine whether or not we have fully "believed into Jesus."

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  2. According to Mr Stephen, "Except for the final generation, there is no judgement prior to life's record being completely written. In other words, no judgement prior to death.".
    This is true. But the question is: which death? Is it the death one dies after 120yrs,or that one dies in the lake of fire? Now,if it is the death of the lake of fire,there can be judgement prior the death. How? This is what I think. God looked into the future and saw that in 40yrs time, Jacob will have fear for Him, while Easu will be too busy for Him. So before they were born, He passed the judgement of "I love Jacob and hate Easu". So is there a judgement prior to our life's record being completely written? Yes. This is because our lives has been COMPLETELY KNOWN to God. Therefore,we are actually judged even before we die. There is a judgement that MUST take place before Christ comes to give His rewards,which is prior to death.
    I hope I have not misunderstood your opinion.
    As for Brother White,who said "the sole purpose of the judgement will be to determine whether or not we have fully believed into Jesus", I think you did not take God's encounter with Abraham into consideration.
    Did God do the testing to really "know" (as Genesis says) if Abraham loved Him enough to give up his son;or did God do it so as to enable Him teach humans what faith is? Now, I believe Abraham knew in his heart what he would do when he got up the mountain. Since "the spirit of a man is the candle of the LORD", I believe God knew what Abraham will do. God,therefore,did not test Abraham to "know",but to have answers to give humanity when they ask.
    As for the judgement,it is not being done to "determine whether we have fully beleived in Jesus",for He ALREADY KNOW those who are His. It is being done so as to enable Him have an answer to give us over how we got there (heaven) and a reason to give Satan and his multitudes over how they got there (lake of fire).
    I hope I have not misunderstood your opinion.
    Greetings from Nigeria.

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  3. Greetings to you too, Sabbatimso, and thank you for sharing your thoughts. Yes, I do believe that you may have misunderstood a couple of things just a bit. Hebrews 9:27, which brother Stephen cited, explicitly states that one faces judgment only after (the first) death. It would seem that judgment -- the final determination of one's destiny for life or death, on the basis of whether or not one has been found to be "in Jesus" -- involves more than just God's knowing who are His, or His knowing the end from the beginning. The judgment scene, as depicted in Daniel 7, appears to be a very public affair, conducted in the presence of all interested parties in the entire unfallen universe. Thus, when all is said and done, God's judgments have been made fully manifest, and everyone, including the lost, is satisfied that justice has been satisfied.

    "They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying:

    “'Great and marvelous are Your works,
    Lord God Almighty!
    Just and true are Your ways,
    O King of the saints!
    Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
    For You alone are holy.
    For all nations shall come and worship before You,
    For Your judgments have been manifested.'”

    Revelation 15:3-4 NKJV

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