What does John 3:18 mean?
ESV: Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
NIV: Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
NASB: The one who believes in Him is not judged; the one who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
CSB: Anyone who believes in him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God.
NLT: There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.
KJV: 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.
NKJV: “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Verse Commentary:
According to this passage (John 3:16–17), God's love was demonstrated by sending Jesus to us. Rather than coming to judge, Jesus came to save anyone who would believe in Him. This verse emphasizes that there are only two options: life through Christ or death. Scripture offers an open, hopeful view of salvation due to God's love. Yet it also presents God as holy, and the consequences for rejecting Him are dire.

According to the Bible, every person is guilty of sin (Romans 3:23). Everyone deserves to be separated from God (Romans 6:23). Those who do not believe are "condemned already," in the present tense. We have already been declared guilty (John 3:19), because we are guilty. God's love and patience cause Him to delay judgment (2 Peter 3:9), so we have an opportunity for Christ to pay our penalty for us.

The Bible clearly says we are saved by faith in Christ (Romans 10:9–10; Titus 3:5), but also that we are saved only through faith in Christ (John 14:6). Those who don't believe in Him cannot, and will not, find eternal life (John 3:36; Acts 4:12).
Verse Context:
John 3:16–21 begins with the most easily recognized portion of any holy book on Earth: John 3:16. This is a one-sentence summary of the entire gospel. Still, the verses which follow are just as critical for understanding the Christian message. Christ wasn't sent to judge the world, but to bring salvation. This is an expression of God's incredible love. However, those who do not believe in Jesus Christ are condemned in the eyes of God. Human preference for sin causes many to choose darkness over the Light.
Chapter Summary:
John chapter 3 is one of the most important passages in the entire gospel. Many crucial ideas are explained here, including the role of Jesus as Savior. After the loud, public commotion at the temple, John transitions to a quiet, nighttime discussion. The speakers are Jesus and a Pharisee, Nicodemus, who is sincerely interested in understanding Jesus' ministry. These verses make it clear that Christ—and Christ alone—is the means of salvation for the entire world. This text also states that those who reject Jesus are rejecting God.
Chapter Context:
The gospel of John intends to prove that Jesus is God. Chapter 3 contains some of the most direct, most important concepts in Christianity. The ideas of spiritual rebirth and the necessity of belief in Christ are reinforced by the rest of the information in this gospel. John continues to use contrast, moving from the loud and public temple cleansing to the quiet of this conversation. After Jesus injects humility into a powerful leader, chapter 4 will transition again, as Jesus gives dignity to an outcast stranger.
Book Summary:
The disciple John wrote the gospel of John decades after the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke were written. The author assumes that a reader is already familiar with the content of these other works. So, John presents a different perspective, with a greater emphasis on meaning. John uses seven miracles—which he calls "signs"— to prove that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Some of the most well-known verses in the Bible are found here. None is more famous than the one-sentence summary of the gospel found in John 3:16.
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