Calvary Road Baptist Church


John 3.19-21


I would like to set before you the real reason someone rejects Jesus Christ, the underlying motive for not wanting to be delivered from the condemnation of sin. This is the real reason why the atheist claims he does not believe in God when we both know that he most certainly does believe in God. This is the real reason why the disaffected and disappointed snowflake claims to be fed up with Christianity and all those hypocrites at Church and is willing to damn his own children to the torments of Hellfire.

Before we look at the real reason for rejecting Christ we need to take a couple of steps back from our close in scrutiny of John’s Gospel. To this point we have carefully and very deliberately investigated John chapters one, two and three, where John’s first chapter begins with God and very quickly zooms in his attention to individuals, rather like Genesis opens with God and very quickly zooms in to a consideration of individuals. Then John’s Gospel closes out the first chapter with the beginning of the Lord Jesus Christ’s public ministry and the Baptist’s identification of Him as the Lamb of God, followed by the gathering of His first disciples, and ending the chapter with the account of His relocation to Galilee from the place on the bank of the Jordan River where John the Baptist conducted his prophetic and baptizing ministry.

The second chapter of John’s Gospel opens on the third day following the Baptist’s pointing the Lord Jesus Christ out as the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world, and His attendance at a marriage in Cana of Galilee. Presumably attending the wedding of a family member or friend, the Lord Jesus Christ performed His first miracle at that event by turning the water in six large containers into wine. The chapter closes with the Lord Jesus Christ traveling from Capernaum to Jerusalem for Passover, there cleansing the Temple and causing a great ruckus in the city, and working additional miracles. Most notably, He also predicted His resurrection, John 2.20-21.

Of course, the third chapter of John’s Gospel opens in a way that is familiar to many people, with Nicodemus coming to speak to the Lord Jesus Christ by night following the Passover and the Lord Jesus Christ declaring to him that unless he is born again he will not see the kingdom of God, unless he is born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God, and that not only Nicodemus but everyone must be born again to gain access to God’s kingdom. The Savior then speaks to Nicodemus using even more imagery about the Spirit of God being as unpredictable as the wind, giving an indication of the Spirit’s sovereignty when performing the miracle of the new birth.

The Gospel summary of our Lord’s conversation with Nicodemus closes out with the Savior’s comment about Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness, yet another word picture, this time anticipating His crucifixion for sins: 

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” 

Thus does the Apostle John reminisce about a series of events leading up to a conversation that took place one night in Jerusalem following a Passover as many as fifty years before.[1] As the aged and last-surviving of our Lord Jesus Christ’s apostles writes this Gospel, he now begins to explain what had transpired in the first two and one-half chapters that he had witnessed so very long ago and was now putting to the written page.

To be sure, there were those first hangers-on, who were energized by the notoriety and the miracles they observed. John remembered that 

“many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did.”[2] 

But the wise and experienced old apostle who had seen it all also remembered that 

“Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men.”[3] 

“He knew what was in man.”[4] 

And before too long 

“many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.”[5] 

Those were the sunshine patriot type of professing believers; the kind referred to in our Lord’s parable of the soils in Matthew chapter 13. They are those who receive the word with joy, Matthew 13.20, but then fall away because they are in some way offended by adversity, Matthew 13.21. Though those types of unconverted people are certainly dealt with in God’s Word, they are not those who command aged John’s attention in our text or who are dealt with in response to our question about the foundational and underlying reason why Jesus Christ is rejected.

The Apostle John goes deeper in his Spirit-inspired explanation than the observable behavior and conduct spoken of by the Savior in that parable. John addresses the question that naturally arises as he unfolds his Gospel account. But before we answer the question at hand we will read our text, John 3.19-21, and ask ourselves one question. Once you have found John 3.19, I invite you to stand to read along silently while I read aloud: 

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.

20  For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

21  But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. 

Here is the question I would like to ask as a prelude to the consideration of our main concern: Why did no one respond to John the Baptist’s announcement that this one was the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world? Oh, two pairs of brothers responded, James and his brother John and also Andrew and his brother Peter. But with all those people who had gathered to hear John the Baptist preach and who clamored for him to baptize them after they claimed to have repented of their sins, why was it that only four men seemed to react favorably when that last and greatest of all the prophets declared that the Messiah they had anticipated for centuries had come and there He is?

Here is another item of curiosity. The Lord Jesus Christ walks from the lower Jordan River with His newfound disciples to the region of Galilee to the North, adds two more disciples, and then attends a wedding and performs the astounding miracle of turning water into wine, yet no more additional disciples are mentioned. Do you really think the servants who first knew the Lord Jesus Christ had turned the water into wine kept their mouths shut about what He had done? Do you really question whether word of the miracle spread through the marriage feast like wildfire? I have no doubt. The Apostle John makes no mention of anyone choosing to follow the Master as a result of what He has just done. My inclination is to believe no mention was made of new followers because no one who became aware of the miracle then decided to follow Him.

Then, in Jerusalem, where He stirred up the crowd by cleansing the Temple, astonished multitudes by working more miracles, and amazingly predicted His resurrection in a comparison He drew between Himself and Herod’s Temple, He apparently piqued the interest of only one individual in the entire city of Jerusalem. Think of it. With several hundred thousand Jewish men in the city for a religious observance, the Passover no less, a man works miracles, cleanses the Temple, and predicts His resurrection from the dead, yet of all those there for seemingly religious (which is to say spiritual) reasons, there was but one old man curious enough to follow up with a request for an audience with the Savior.

Does that not strike you as odd? Does that not seem inexplicable to you? Three significant events are reported by the Apostle John in as many chapters in his Gospel account. The first event is the identifying of Jesus Christ as the Messiah and predicting His sacrifice for sins by John the Baptist. The second event is a marriage feast in which He performs a miracle unlike any other miracle worked by anyone before Him, a miracle of the kind only God worked during creation week, without any reported significant response. The third event was the miracles, the Temple cleansing, and then the prediction of His resurrection in Jerusalem, all in front of religious pilgrims come to the city to worship God, with a single old man reacting with curiosity.

Do these three things tied together not fill you with wonder? Especially when you consider that this series of declarations, miracles, predictions, and so forth with the Lord Jesus Christ at the center of it all are witnessed by people who are distinguished by their singular devotion to the proposition that the God of Israel will someday send their Messiah to deliver them from sin and oppression. With the exception of six young men (Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, and Nathanael) and one old man named Nicodemus, no one seems in the least bit interested. Oh, they journeyed from Jerusalem to the Jordan River to hear John the Baptist preach, but they paid no attention to the one John the Baptist preached about.

What more do you think God must do to get people’s attention and arose their interest? Consider what the Lord Jesus Christ has done to this point. A prophet points Him out. He works a unique miracle such as only God has worked before. He then performs miracles in Jerusalem, cleanses the Temple at Passover, and predicts that He will rise from the dead. He arouses the curiosity of a single old man. I would suggest to you that the problem here is not a problem with God. Neither is the issue related to any shortcoming found in the Lord Jesus Christ. You would think that dealing with reasonable human beings as we have seen would produce incredible interest. The One who takes away the sin of the world has come. The One who works miracles only God has previously worked is here. And though miracles and a prediction of victory over death such as not seen since the prophet Jonah have been issued, no one seems to care.

Now we better understand why the Apostle John placed our text here: 

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.

20  For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

21  But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. 

Three observations from our text bring us to an understanding of the real reason Jesus Christ is rejected: 


In John’s Gospel, we see the apostle’s frequent use of the imagery of the light in the first chapter as a representation of the Lord Jesus Christ. In John 1.5 he writes, 

“And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” 

In John 1.7 he writes about the relationship of John the Baptist to the Lord Jesus Christ: 

“The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.” 

In John 1.9 he describes the Lord Jesus Christ using the light imagery yet again: 

That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” 

John uses this imagery because the Lord Jesus Christ so describes Himself, in both John 8.12 and John 9.5, by declaring, 

“I am the light of the world.” 

Therefore, it should be no surprise to the reader that our text makes direct reference to the Lord Christ as light five times in three verses: 

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.

20  For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

21  But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. 

Jesus Christ, as light, has come into the world, verse 19. Men loved darkness rather than light, verse 19. Of course, this is illustrated in the first three chapters of John’s Gospel by the absence of responses that I have already related to you. According to verse 20, the light is hated by everyone, and they will not come to the light. Then, by way of contrast, we see in verse 21 that they who are wrought in God come to the light.

The Lord Jesus Christ’s use of the word light to refer to Himself and John’s use of the word light to refer to the Savior are no doubt, at least in part, an allusion to His holiness, as well as an indication that His nature is one of illumination and revelation. The very nature of our Lord Jesus Christ shows and reveals the moral nature of those who are lit up by Him. 


Of the three verses that comprise our text, only verses 19 and 20 contain any information about the individuals who are unresponsive to the Lord Jesus Christ:

In verse 19 we are informed that unsaved men loved darkness rather than light. The unresponsive men who gathered to hear John the Baptist preach, but who did not react when he pointed out to them that the Lord Jesus Christ was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world; they rather loved darkness. The unresponsive people gathered for a wedding in Cana in Galilee who were made aware of the astonishing miracle worked to turn water into wine by the Son of God; they rather loved darkness. And the multiplied thousands of religious pilgrims who traveled to Jerusalem supposedly to worship the God of Israel by celebrating Passover, who saw miracles worked, who saw the Temple cleansed, and who heard the resurrection predicted; they rather loved darkness despite being convinced in their minds that they loved God.

In verse 20 the apostle informs us that unsaved people hate the light. A person who travels from Jerusalem to the banks of the Jordan River to hear the last and greatest of the prophets yet has no response when the Messiah is pointed out to him is someone who hates the light. That is, the reason they did not respond to John the Baptist when he said, 

“Behold, the Lamb of God,” 

was because they hated the light, which is to say they hated the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who were at the wedding in Cana were aware the host had run out of wine, a terrible breach of etiquette in that culture. They had to have been made aware of the new wine they were then served was made from water by the Lord Jesus Christ’s miracle. Why was it they marveled at the miracle and enjoyed the great wine served but did not otherwise respond? Why is it that lost men are willing to enjoy the benefits of the blessings but are unwilling to otherwise respond in a meaningful way? Because they hate the light, which is to say that they hate the Lord Jesus Christ. They might love His goodies, but they hate Him personally. But perhaps the most astonishing display of spiritual coldness and unresponsiveness was displayed by the religious pilgrims come to Jerusalem for Passover. They were on a spiritual pilgrimage! They came to worship God and to celebrate His great deliverance of the people from Egyptian bondage at the annual Passover feast. There in the city, they had heard the Lord Jesus Christ refer to the Temple as “my father’s house,” John 2.16. They remained indifferent to what they saw and heard. Why? They hated the light. Religious though they were, they hated the Son of God. 


Consider the explanation given to us in verse 19 for men loving darkness rather than light, loving sin rather than loving the Lord Jesus Christ: 

“Because their deeds were evil.” 

Evil deeds. What kind of deeds are properly described as evil? The Greek word translated evil, ponyros, refers to that which is morally or socially worthless.[6] Thus, John is not only referring to murder and adultery, but also to behavior that is quite socially acceptable but which has no real value. It’s just stuff people do. Some people would rather stay home and play with a pet than follow the Savior. Others are perfectly happy to go on a religious pilgrimage; they just want nothing to do with genuine devotion to the Messiah their people have anticipated for centuries. The implication is that people are so comfortable living their lives and continuing in their well-established routines that they quite literally hate anything and anyone who might disrupt them and disturb them in their comfortable patterns.

Consider the explanation given to us in verse 20 for a man doing evil and demonstrating an unwillingness to come to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved: 

“For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” 

Notice how universal is the scope of John’s accusation in this verse. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come to the light. My friends, John is here declaring that every single human being who will not come to Christ (since to come to Christ is to come to the light) has two motivations: First, there is the motivation of hatred. This verb that is translated by our English word hate is miseoo, and refers to a strong aversion, hatred, and detesting.[7] You and I both know individuals who want nothing to do with Christianity, refuse by their nonattendance to come to Church, and yet strongly deny that they hate the Lord Jesus Christ. But the Apostle John says differently. To stay home from Church is evil. To reject the Gospel is evil. To not follow Jesus Christ as His disciple is evil since to that end you owe your existence. All such is identified by the Spirit-inspired apostle of Jesus Christ as hating the light, as hating Jesus Christ. “Oh, but I don’t hate Jesus,” you will hear someone protest. Oh, but yes you do, says the apostle. Next, added to an aversion of Jesus Christ is an aversion to what the Lord Jesus Christ does: 

“For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” 

No one, and I mean no one, likes to be told he is wrong, that what he is doing is wrong, and that there will be dire consequences for doing what he has chosen to do. People would rather continue to do wrong, remain steadfast in their wicked and doomed ways, than to be reproved for what they are doing and told of the damage that it will cause. Therefore, to avoid being told they are wrong and what will happen as a result of being and doing wrong, they will steer clear of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Gospel message by not coming to Church, or by tuning the message out if their parents bring them to Church while still live at home.

We now consider verse 21: 

“But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” 

This is a very admittedly difficult verse to explain, but it is obvious that here the Apostle John is contrasting the motives and conduct of some with what he has written about everyone else in verses 19 and 20. While verses 19 and 20 discuss the overwhelming majority of those who were exposed to Jesus Christ without responding, without being interested, without finding the One who is altogether lovely in any way attractive, but despising and hating Him, in this verse, John deals with those few, those very few who are different. Notice how the different are different. The different are characterized by a lifestyle of doing truth rather than doing evil, by coming to the light instead of fleeing from it because of love for darkness. This rare individual wants his deeds put on display, but not because he presumes to be better or to be in any way virtuous. Rather, it is because he recognizes that God is working in his life. That is what “wrought in God” refers to, God working to will and to do of His good will. 

Astonishing, is it not? The Son of God leaves heaven to be born of a virgin. Then, after growing up in the sleepy little village of Nazareth He leaves His mother with His now grown half-brothers and sisters to be baptized by His cousin, John the Baptist, to face the temptations of the Devil for forty days in the wilderness, and to then return to the place where He was baptized to be publicly identified by John the Baptist and begin His public ministry.

One would think it would cause a bit of a stir when John the Baptist twice identified Him as the Lamb of God.[8] However, few took notice. Very few. Only four men at first. And He had to call them to dedicated service three times before they left all to follow Him.[9] We saw little indication of genuine reaction in Cana at the wedding, and only the meeting with Nicodemus after so much took place for people to see and hear in Jerusalem.

How are we to explain people’s reactions to the Lord Jesus Christ, to His pronouncements, to His miracles, and to His Gospel? Why do people reject the Lord Jesus Christ? What is the real reason for rejecting Jesus Christ? It isn’t being offended by the hypocrisy of some Christian you know. It isn’t the insensitivity of an obnoxious Church member. Those are some of the excuses, but they are none of the reasons.

The real reason for rejecting Jesus Christ is hatred of Him. That is what the Apostle John declares in John 3.20. Additionally, people love darkness rather than light, verse 19. It is that simple. And what about those few who are Christians? Christians can claim no credit because their lives can only be attributable to the work of God. John’s conclusion to explain the mystifying response (or should I say lack of response) of the people is hatred of Christ, love of spiritual darkness, evil deeds, and an unwillingness to be told you are wrong. So it was then, and so it is now.

Would you disagree? Would you deny that you hate Jesus Christ? That you do not love darkness? You can show the Apostle to be wrong, or show that you are numbered among the very few rather than the very many, in a most simple way. Come to the light. Come to Christ. And then live for Him.


[1] Leon Morris, The Gospel According To John - Revised Edition, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995), page 25.

[2] John 2.23

[3] John 2.24

[4] John 2.25

[5] John 6.66

[6] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 851-852.

[7] Ibid., pages 652-653.

[8] John 1.29, 36

[9] A. B. Bruce, The Training Of The Twelve, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, reprint edition 1971), pages 11-18.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.