We continue this verse-by-verse study of John 1:19-4:54 here in Part 4, discussing the words, the "Son of Man" at the end of John 3:13.
[[On the "Son of Man" see under John 1:51. The NKJV has some added words here, "who is in heaven," and the KJV has "which is in heaven." These words probably were included in John's original manuscript. ((I had a lengthy footnote that goes on for two paragraphs: The United Bible Societies' "Greek New Testament" (fourth revised edition) gives a B rating to the shorter reading, which means that from the Committee's point of view "the [shorter] text is almost certain."
I'll quote what Bruce M. Metzger says here in "A Textual Commentary on the New Testament" (second edition), which is a companion volume to the "Greek New Testament." I believe the "minority" view that Metzger mentions is the correct view; the majority isn't always right! "On the one hand, a minority of the Committee preferred the [longer] reading...arguing that (1) if the short reading, supported almost exclusively by Egyptian witnesses [Greek manuscripts that originated in Egypt], were original, there is no discernable motive that would have prompted copyists to add the words ["who is in heaven," more literally from the Greek, "the one being in heaven"], resulting in a most difficult saying...[This is a weighty point!]; and (2) the diversity of readings [speaking of other minor variations in the readings of the Greek manuscripts] implies that the expression ["the Son of Man who is in heaven"], having been found objectionable [These words would have been found objectionable by those thinking that Jesus spoke these words to Nicodemus before He went back to heaven.] or superfluous in the context, was modified either omitting the participial clause [which was translated "who is in heaven" by the NKJV], or by altering it so as to avoid suggesting that the Son of Man was at that moment in heaven.
On the other hand, the majority of the Committee, impressed by the quality of the external attestation supporting the shorter reading [We have already been informed that the shorter reading "was supported almost exclusively by Egyptian witnesses."], regarded the words ["who is in heaven"] as an interpretative gloss, reflecting later Christological development.")) It is easy to see how these words were problematic for those Christians who thought that Jesus Himself spoke these words: He wasn't in heaven when He spoke to Nicodemus.]] (14) As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness [[I'll quote Num. 21:4-9, "Then they set out from Mount Hor [where Aaron died and was buried] by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey. (5) The people spoke against God and Moses, 'Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food [the manna].' [The fact that this rebellion took place very near the end of the forty-year wilderness wanderings made this rebellion all the more sinful.] (6) The LORD [Yahweh] sent fiery serpents ["venomous snakes" NIV] among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. (7) So the people came to Moses and said, 'We have sinned, because we have spoken against the LORD [Yahweh] and you; intercede with the LORD [Yahweh], that He may remove the serpents from us.' And Moses interceded for the people. (8) Then the LORD [Yahweh] said to Moses, 'Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.' (9) And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived."]], even so must the Son of Man be lifted up [I had a footnote: The Greek here could be translated, "even so it was necessary for the Son of man to be lifted up." Regarding the translation "it was necessary," compare, for example, John 20:9.] [[God had Moses lift up a bronze serpent ((I had a footnote: The "bronze serpent" represented (part of) the penalty for that particular sin. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, bore our sins with the guilt and the penalties on the cross. We must look to Him to be saved from death (both spiritual death and physical death and from the bondage to sin that comes with spiritual death [e.g., Rom. 5:12-21].)) on a standard so that those who were bitten by the venomous serpents could look and be saved from dying physically. God lifted up His unique Son, the Lamb of God, on the cross, and then He lifted Him up (the victorious God-man) to His right hand, so that all who repent and submit (in faith) to Christ and the gospel of salvation could be saved from spiritual death and bondage to sin (and from the other penalties for sin).
Jesus was lifted up on the cross (cf. John 8:28; 12:31-34; 18:31, 32; and 19:17-37), bearing our sins with the guilt and the penalties, so that we (all believers) could be saved from our sins with the guilt and penalties (very much including the penalty for Adam's transgression). Two of the major penalties that the Lamb of God bore for us were spiritual death (so that we could be born again/from above) and bondage to sin (so that we could be redeemed out of the kingdom of sin and death and be righteous and holy). (Spiritual death and bondage to sin for mankind originated with the transgression of Adam in the garden of Eden [cf., e.g., Gen. 2:17; 3:1-24; and Rom. 5:12-21].) Jesus also bore hell for us ON THE CROSS (I didn't say He died spiritually), so we could escape that ultimate penalty for sin. We could not be born again/from above and have the eternal (heavenly) life that verses 15, 16 go on to speak of if the Son of Man had not been lifted up on the cross and then lifted up to heaven. (I had a footnote: We have eternal life from the time we are born again/from above (cf., e.g., John 5:24), but we will not be born into the fullness of eternal life until the end of this age (see above under John 3:3, 6). We must stay faithful (by grace) to Christ and the gospel until He returns, or until the end of our lives if that should come first.)
After Jesus' mission on earth was accomplished, He was lifted up to heaven. His being lifted up to the Father's right hand was a necessary step in the outworking of God's new-covenant plan of salvation. ((The Greek verb translated "lifted up [on the cross]" in John 3:14; 8:28; 12:32 [[I had a footnote: John 12:32 says, "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." John 12:33 shows that Jesus' being lifted up from the earth includes His being lifted up on the cross, but it seems that what Jesus said about His being lifted up from the earth in John 12:32 also includes His being lifted up to heaven. Read John 12:32 in context with John 12:20-31. John chapter 12 is discussed verse-by-verse in my paper on John chapters 10-12 that is on my internet site. Those chapters will probably be on this Christian article site in the near future.]] was also used of Jesus' being lifted up/exalted to the right hand of God in Acts 2:33; 5:31.)) After that exaltation, He received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, and He poured forth the Spirit, the life-giving (who enables us to be born again/from above), sanctifying (who enables us to be righteous and holy), charismatic gift-dispensing Spirit, starting on the day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:33). He also functions there at the Father's right hand as our great high priest (cf., e.g., Heb. 2:17, 18; 4:14-16; and 5:5-10).]]; (15) so that whoever believes [[The Greek (a present participle) shows that the believing spoken of here is continuous action; we must continue to have faith in Christ in order to continue participating in eternal life/salvation. We must appropriate and cooperate with His saving grace on a continuous basis by faith, in accordance with the terms of the new covenant. In the Greek (unlike the English), the noun "faith" ("pistis") and the verb "believe" ("pisteuo") are very closely related; the verb was derived from the noun. Believing (or having faith), as the word is used here (and very often in the New Testament) includes a commitment from the heart to be faithful (by grace) to God the Father, to His Son, and to His gospel of new-covenant salvation.]] will in Him [[The NIV; KJV; NKJV; and the note in the margin of the NASB translate "whoever believes in Him will have eternal life," or the equivalent. I believe the NASB translation is correct. For one thing, the Greek preposition ("en") translated "in" here is different than the preposition ("eis") that John typically uses with the verb "believe," including in John 3:16, 18, and 36, where it is translated "believe in." (I had a footnote: I'll quote what the BAGD "Greek-English Lexicon" (third edition) says under "pisteuo" regarding the meaning here in John 3:15 (page 817). "...in John 3:15 the best reading is ["in (en) Him"] and is probably to be construed with [the verb "has," not with the verb pisteuo] (in John pisteuo usually takes the preposition "eis" when expressing the object of belief, as in 3:16)." It is true, of course, that when John speaks of believing here, he is speaking of believing in Christ (the overall context establishes that point), but here, with the words "in Him," John is making the important point that eternal life is found "in Him," in union with Christ Jesus (cf. 1 John 5:11-13; John 1:4; and 14:6). The triune God is the only source of eternal/heavenly life, truth, righteousness, holiness and everything else that is good.
Eternal life has become available through God the Son's descending from heaven to become the God-man and His being lifted up on the cross and then being lifted up to the Father's right hand after defeating sin, spiritual death, and Satan, and having earned the right to save with a very full salvation those who become united with Him through faith. We are "in Him" (God the Son, the God-man, the Lamb of God, the One with all authority in heaven and on earth) from the time we become united with Him through the (indwelling) Holy Spirit by faith. "In Him" we (all believers) will ultimately be exalted to a place far above what Adam had before the fall (cf. 1 Cor. 15:44-54). This isn't at all surprising once we understand who Christ Jesus is and what He has done for us.]] have eternal life. [See above under verses 14, 15. We have eternal life from the time we are born again/from above by the Spirit through the birth spoken of in John 3:3, 5] (16) For God so loved the world [[God the Father manifested His love for the world by sending His Son, the Lamb of God, to bear the sins of all mankind and then calling mankind to repent and submit to Him, His Son, and His plan of salvation in faith (cf., e.g., Acts 17:30, 31; 1 Tim. 2:4-6; and 1 John 2:2). God, in love, took the initiative in our salvation (e.g., Rom. 5:6-8), but we must respond to His love and grace with repentance and faith to be saved. We are saved one-hundred percent by grace; the fact that we must respond to His grace with repentance and faith doesn't detract from the fact that we are saved one-hundred percent by grace. We are not earning salvation by faith; we are receiving, appropriating, and cooperating with His grace by faith, in accordance with the terms of the new covenant. See my "A Paper on Faith." Extensive excerpts from that paper are available on this Christian article site.]], that He gave His only begotten Son [[As I discussed in some detail under John 1:14, 18 in my paper on John 1:1-18 on my internet site (which should be on this Christian article site in the near future), I believe we should translate "His unique Son," or the equivalent. In the margin the NASB has, "Or unique, only one of His kind." The NIV translates, "his one and only son."]], that whoever believes [The Greek behind these three words is exactly the same as the Greek behind "so that whoever believes" in verse 15.] in [The Greek preposition "eis" was translated "in."] Him [[Compare John 3:18, 36; 6:40; and 11:25, 26, for example; these verses all use "eis."]] shall not perish, but have eternal life. [To perish is to miss having eternal life. The only alternative to having eternal life is having eternal death, the second death of Rev. 20:14, 15, the eternal lake of fire. Perishing doesn't mean annihilation.] (17) For God did not send the Son into the world [cf., e.g., John 3:34; 5:36, 38; 6:29, 38, 57; 8:42; and 20:21] to judge [I would translate "to condemn" with the NIV; KJV; and NKJV.] the world, but that the world might be saved through Him [Compare Luke 19:10; John 12:47; and 1 John 4:14.]. (18) He who believes in [Greek "eis"] Him is not judged [[I would translate "is not condemned" with the NIV; KJV; and NKJV. He who believes in Him is not condemned because, as Jesus says in John 5:24, the new-covenant believer already "has eternal life [Born-again believers already participate in (the first stage/installment) of eternal life.], and does not come into judgment [I would translate "into condemnation," with the KJV. The NIV has, "will not be condemned"; the NKJV has, "shall not come into judgment."], but has [already] passed out of death into life." Believers have their final judgment when they submit to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith and become born again/from above Christians. The only way Christians can change that final judgment (not a good idea!) is for them to cease being committed in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ and the new covenant.
Being new-covenant believers includes living in line with the requirements of the new covenant (by God's enabling grace). I believe the New Testament makes it quite clear that Christians can lose their salvation, not that it is the will of God for us to fall away or that He is trying to get rid of us - quite the contrary - and His grace is more than sufficient to keep us. See my paper "Once Saved, Always Saved?"
As John 3:18 continues it shows that the people who reject the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel have already had their final judgment too, and they have already been condemned. Such persons can reverse that condemnation by repenting and submitting to the Lord Jesus Christ and the new covenant in faith at a later time. It must be understood that we (mankind) were spiritually dead sinners before Jesus came, not ready to stand before Him in judgment (cf., e.g., John 8:21, 24; Rom. 1:18-3:30 [especially note Rom. 3:9]; and Eph. 2:1-3).]]; he who does not believe has been judged already [I would translate "has been condemned already," or the equivalent. The NIV has, "stands condemned already," and the KJV; NKJV have, "is condemned already." If we reject God's one plan of salvation, we are choosing His condemnation.], because he has not believed in [Greek "eis"] the name of the only begotten [I would translate "unique," or the equivalent, instead of "only begotten"; see under John 3:16.] Son of God. [To believe in the name of the unique Son of God is to believe in Him and all that the Bible reveals about Him and the salvation that God has made available in Him (and only in Him).] (19) [[John 3:19-21 give much insight as to why some people submit to Christ in faith while others reject Him. (I had a footnote: Four of the commentators that I found helpful on John 3:19-21 are F. Godet, E. W. Hengstenberg, H. A. W. Meyer, and A. Plummer, not that I agree with everything they say under these verses.) In John 6:45 Jesus said, "It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught of God.' EVERYONE WHO HAS HEARD AND LEARNED FROM THE FATHER, COMES TO ME [my emphasis]." (I had a footnote: John 6:45 in its context applies especially to the Jews of Jesusí day. The Jews who had truly submitted to God and His word and truly learned from Him were ready to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ and new-covenant salvation when they became available. The Gentiles of Jesus day hadn't had nearly the same opportunity to learn from God, but some of them (like Cornelius) had learned a lot about Him through the Jews, and they were ready for the good news of full salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ.) In John 7:17 Jesus said, "IF ANYONE IS WILLING TO DO HIS WILL [my emphasis], he will know of the teaching [Jesus' teaching], whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself." In John 18:37 He said, "EVERYONE WHO IS OF THE TRUTH hears My voice." In John 10:16, Jesus (referring to elect Gentiles) said, "I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and THEY WILL HEAR MY VOICE; and they will become one flock with one shepherd."] This is the judgment [I would translate "condemnation" with the KJV; NKJV.], that the Light has come into the world [[These words speak of God the Son's coming into the world to be born of the virgin and become the God-man (cf. John 1:1-18; 8:12; 9:5; and 12:46). Rejecting Him results in condemnation (cf. John 3:18): He is the (only) way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Him (John 14:6); He is the only One who can save us from being condemned for our sins (and to make us righteous and holy)! As John continues he shows that many reject Christ (and are condemned) because they love the darkness and the evil works of darkness (what you love shows where your heart is; likewise, what you say and do show where your heart is; faith without works of righteousness is dead - it isn't real faith) and, significantly and sadly, they have no desire to change/be changed. Many people who are in great bondage to sin can be saved because they have a desire (at least they eventually come to have a desire) to change. Loving the darkness and the works of darkness (which aligns one with the devil) is the opposite of loving God and His righteousness.]], and men [but not all men] loved the darkness rather than the Light [[The triune God, very much including God the Son, the Light, is the only source of light, which includes truth and righteousness. The darkness is the opposite of the Light/light; it includes the lie (the devil "is a liar and the father of lies" [John 8:44]) and unrighteousness (sin); the devil's kingdom/world is a kingdom of darkness and evil works (cf. 2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:13).]], for their deeds [works] were evil. [[Compare John 7:7; Eph. 5:11. When He, the One through whom all things (including all beings) were created (cf. John 1:3, 10, 11), came to live among men, they rejected Him (John 1:11), but not all men (John 1:12). (John 1:1-18 are discussed in some detail in my paper on John 1:1-18.) Those who love the darkness cannot love the Light, not unless they begin to respond to the Light, who can change their hearts.
Some of the people who eventually submit to the Lord Jesus Christ and become born-again/from above Christians were sold out to sin and the kingdom of darkness before they become Christians, but that type of people aren't included in John 3:21 (which is quoted as we continue). That verse speaks only of people coming to the Light who were already practicing the truth (which includes living in righteousness) and who acknowledge that their good works have been wrought in God (they don't claim that their good works are their own, or that they have earned salvation by their works). In John 3:21 John must have been thinking (at least for the most part) of the "righteous" Jews of his generation. ((I had a footnote: Many of the disciples of John the Baptist, very much including the ones who became apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, were "righteous" Jews (cf. John 1:35-51). Also consider the parents of John the Baptist (Luke 1:6), or Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:26-38), or Simeon (Luke 2:25-35), or Anna (Luke 2:36-38), and there were many others. Apparently Nicodemus was in this category to some extent.)) I put the word righteous in quotation marks to make the important point that these people still needed to repent and be saved through the Lamb of God (cf., e.g., Rom. 3:9).
"Righteous" Jews were typically quick to submit to God's call to repent through John the Baptist and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Those "righteous" Jews were people of faith. They had faith in God and His Word, and they understood that the people of God were required to put Him first and to live in accordance with His will, which is contained in His laws. People can't be "righteous" before God apart from faith; through faith they learned what He required of them and they appropriated the grace that He made available to them. The Jews, unlike the Gentiles, had a covenant with God. Through that covenant they knew a lot about God and righteousness, and they were recipients of grace, but grace on a level far below what is provided in the new covenant in the blood of Christ.
The gospel of new-covenant salvation in Christ Jesus was very good news for the "righteous" believers in Israel; in some ways it was even better news for those in bondage to sin (whether Jews of Gentiles) who wanted (or, in some cases, who eventually were brought to the place where they wanted) to change/be changed (cf., e.g., Luke 7:36-50; 8:2 [with John 20:11-18]). (I had a footnote: For such people the gospel was exactly what they desperately needed and wanted. Christ Jesus and new-covenant salvation (which includes God's giving His life-giving, sanctifying Spirit to dwell in each Christian) is God's only answer to the sin/spiritual death problem. He forgives us and makes us righteous and holy by imparting His righteousness and holiness and enabling us to live in accordance with His commandments.)]] (20) For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds [works] will be exposed. [See under verse 19.] (21) But he who practices [or, "the one doing"] the truth [On Christians practicing/doing the truth compare 1 John 1:6. Practicing/doing the truth of God (by the grace of God in Christ) includes practicing/doing (on a continuous basis) His righteousness and holiness: In Eph. 4:24 the apostle Paul speaks of "the righteousness and holiness of the truth."] comes to the Light, so that his deeds [or, "works"] may be manifested as having been wrought in God." [See under verse 19, including the footnotes.] (22) After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea ["went out into the Judean countryside" NIV], and there He was spending time with them and baptizing [see John 4:1, 2]. (23) John [John the Baptist] also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people were coming and were being baptized - (24) for John had not yet been thrown into prison. [[Why did the apostle John bother to mention that John the Baptist had not yet been thrown into prison, where he was eventually killed by Herod Antipas, at the instigation of his "wife," Herodias (cf. Matt. 14:3-12; Mark 6:17-29; and Luke 3:19, 20)? It was obvious that John the Baptist had not yet been thrown into prison if he was still baptizing, etc. Apparently John the apostle was interacting with the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), as he so often did, which were written long before His Gospel was written. For one thing, the Synoptic Gospels skipped mentioning that Jesus ministered for a while in Judea, in the days before John the Baptist was thrown into prison. (It isn't an error to skip mentioning things that take place; no historical account includes all the details. Thank God that He gave us the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and JOHN!)
Mark (in Mark 1:9-13), for example, mentions Jesus' being baptized by John and His forty-day temptation in the wilderness, then (in 1:14, 15) he says, "Now AFTER JOHN HAD BEEN TAKEN IN CUSTODY, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.' " (Also see Matt. 3:13-4:12; Luke 3:21-4:15.) The apostle John wanted to inform his readers, for one thing, that Jesus (with His disciples) ministered for a while in Jerusalem, which included cleansing the temple and working many miracles, and in Judea, before He went north into Galilee. (This is very important information, information not contained in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, or Luke, and see the footnote under verse 26.) He also informed us that Jesus (and His disciples) made two trips to Galilee before John the Baptist was thrown into prison (John 1:43-2:12; 4:1-54); these trips were not mentioned in the Synoptic Gospels.]] (25) Therefore there arose a discussion on the part of John's disciples with a Jew about purification ["over the matter of ceremonial washing" NIV; the Greek noun ("katharismos") used here was also used in John 2:6, translated "purification" by the NASB]. [In this context (verses 22-26), this "discussion...about purification" apparently involved the baptisms (in water) of Jesus and John the Baptist.]
We will continue this verse-by-verse study of John 1:19-4:54 in Part 5, starting with John 3:26.