What does John 3:21 mean?
ESV: But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
NIV: But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
NASB: But the one who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds will be revealed as having been performed in God.'
CSB: But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God."
NLT: But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants. '
KJV: But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
The Greek phrase translated as "practices the truth," or "does what is true," or "lives by truth" is poiōn tēn alētheian. This uses the same term used to describe Jesus as the "true" Light in John 1:9. The phrase implies those who are committed to reality, fact, and honesty—all of which lead a person to Christ. Verse 20 says that a life without Christ is meaningless, and ultimately ends in disaster. Hiding from Christ, the Light, is an effort to keep our evil actions hidden. In contrast, according to verse 21, life in Christ results in our actions being approved by God. Rebirth through Christ (John 3:5) gives us meaning and purpose (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10). Those who put their effort into pleasing God don't have to be ashamed of how they've spent their time (2 Timothy 2:15). Those who want to cling to evil hide from the light, those who want to be free from evil move into it.
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.
John chapter 3 is one of the most important in the entire gospel. Many crucial ideas are explained in this passage, including the role of Jesus as Savior. After the loud, public commotion at the temple, John transitions to a quiet, nighttime discussion. 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.
The gospel of John is meant 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 need to believe 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.
The gospel of John was written by the disciple John, decades later than the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. 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”—in order to prove that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Some of the most well-known verses in all of 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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