Thursday, December 24, 2009

Contradiction between John 3:17 and John 9:39


Dec 21, 2009
What do you make of John 9: 35-41?  In lots of other places in the Gospels, Jesus said He has not come into the world to condemn the world but to save the world.  In vs 39 He says for judgement He has come into the world....

The short answer lies in judgment being a process that includes the violation of a law, identification of the violation, indictment, conviction, sentencing, and execution of the sentence.  Christ's first coming served not to condemn the world, but to identify our guilt.  By providing a means of redemption, however, Christ also established a final standard -- faith -- that determines whether we go on to damnation or salvation.

Because the world has violated the Law of God, the world's guilt already condemns it.  God will sentence the world in the final judgment, but Christ did not come into the world to execute conviction and sentencing in His first advent.  Christ came, rather, to announce our state through his words, his actions, and the world's response to Him, so that we might turn to Him for salvation.  While Christ did not come into the world to condemn it, His coming does play a pivotal role in our judgment.

To set up the long answer, let's review Salvation 101.

In John 9:39, Jesus says,
For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. 
This seems to contradict John 3:17:
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.
The gospel states that God removes us from the darkness and places us into the light when we place our faith in Him and in what He has done for us through His Son.  That requires a context:  Without this good news, all stand condemned before God.  Christ did not need to condemn the world because the world was already condemned.

Natural man responds to The Law -- or to the natural law that, according to Paul, lies within each of us -- in either of two ways.  One group is in a burning building but fail to realize it:  Even if they knew about the fire escape, they see no need to use it.    This self-righteous group misses the point of this law and interprets it as a path to righteousness, missing the unrighteousness that it reveals.  They fail to see themselves in the context of reality, a context that gives the gospel its value to them.

The other group knows that the burning building entraps it, but they have yet to trust and utilize the fire escape.  People in this guilty-conscience group see themselves honestly; they see that they live in condemnation.  Their dilemma provides the context for the gospel.  They accept their condemnation but have not yet taken the next step, consenting to God's provision of salvation.  These people, as Paul argues, stand closer to receiving salvation than does a pious Jew or Christian.

Let's look again at 3:17 with more context:
17  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
18  He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19  And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
John 9:39 (For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind) aligns with 3:18-19.  In order to save us, God must first reveal to us the state of condemnation in which we stand.  For the two groups, we see four results:  Members of the first group, who consider themselves enlightened, either continue in the darkness of self-righteousness or step into the light that reveals their unrighteousness and, as a result, join the second group.  The second group likewise has options either to continue in faithlessness or to trust God for rescue from their condemnation.

Between all these options, Jesus focused narrowly on two results:  Those who cling to self-righteousness continue in condemnation; and those who recognize their condemnation can receive justification.

Between the two passages, we have three closely related Greek words centered on the topic of condemnation:  krima, krino, and krisis.  All have wide ranges of meanings, yet they retain distinctions of judgment, condemning, and verdict.

Krima, used in 9:39, denotes the decision or the process leading to the decision.  The Bible often calls the Old Testament the judgments of the Lord, referring to God's pronouncements concerning sin.  For example, God condemns the unjust balance and a lying tongue.  Moral law is like physical law:  If you try to violate such a law, you will suffer predetermined consequences.  In one case, the enforcement comes from gravity; in another, it comes from God's justice.  Judgment, then, refers more to the substance of the pronouncement.  The verse could be paraphrased,
I am come into this world to reveal man's condition relative to the Law, that the self-righteous might be revealed as spiritually blind and that the humble might receive enlightenment.
Again, this is consistent with with 3:18-19.  The natural man stands condemned not because Christ condemned us, but because we have violated God's Law.  Christ came into the world to shine light on all of us, revealing the dark path of the proud and lighting the path of those who acknowledge their need and consent to the rescue.  God desires to save the world with the result that men see the condemnation under which they stand and turn to the Light for remption.

Krino in 3:17 and 18 denotes the action of convicting or sentencing.  (The possible meanings are wider than that, but the context narrows the meaning down to just this one sense of the word.)  Whereas krima in 9:39 is like a man who has just thrown a hamburger wrapper out the car window and then sees a traffic sign that says, $250 Fine for Littering, krino in 3:17 is the judge issuing the fine. 

The noun krisis (condemnation) appears in 3:19 and refers to the result of the the action, krino (condemn), in 17 and 18.  If we read all four paraphrased verses together, their blending becomes obvious:
17  God sent not his Son into the world to damn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
18  He that believes on him is not convicted: but he that believes not is convicted already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19  And this is the conviction, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
39  I am come into this world to reveal man's condition relative to the Law, that the self-righteous might be revealed as spiritually blind and that the humble might receive enlightenment.
 Before concluding, I'd like to toss in an unlikely interpretation of 9:39.  W. E. Vine's An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words states that the meaning would appear to be, 'for being judged' (as a touchstone for proving men's thoughts and characters)....  If the declension of krisis indicates such, then couldn't the word refer to the speaker rather than to the world?  Look at this fit between 3:16-17 and 9:39 with such an interpretation:
39  I am come into this world to be condemned, that the self-righteous might be revealed as spiritually blind and that the humble might receive enlightenment.
16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17  For God sent not his Son into the world to convict the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
God sent His Son into the world to save the world; He gave His Son to be convicted and sentenced for our sin.  His teaching and actions expose the lost and enlighten the humble so that whosoever -- not just those among some chosen or pious group -- through faith in Him, might be saved from perishing and might have everlasting life.  The commentators I checked did not get this meaning out of 9:39, but in its favor, the Scriptures often have multiple correct meanings (especially in Proverbs), and this interpretation fits beautifully with established doctrine.

I hope I didn't hide the answer in all my verbosity.

1 comment:

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