14.  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,

This is a reference to Numbers 21:4-9, where all who were bitten by poisonous snakes could be saved if they would only look at the brass serpent Moses set up on a pole.  Looking at this serpent was an act of faith because it was believing and obeying what God had told them to do.  Now the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, was to be lifted up in the same way.  This does not necessarily refer to the cross, but rather to his “lifting up” as an object of faith for all men to see and believe in.  He is lifted up before us just as the serpent was lifted up before the children of Israel.

15.  that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

This is the result for anyone who believes in the One Who is lifted up.  His faith will result in eternal life.  In Greek this is “live for the eon,” and refers to that great future time when God will end His long period of silence and will flow out to the world in His kingdom in a way the earth has never seen before.  All who believe in the One lifted up will have life during that time of God’s great flow.

16.  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

This tells us the reason that the Son of Man was lifted up.  It is because God loved the world!  We look at this wicked and sinful world around us and wonder how anyone could love it?  And yet the fact is that God loves the world, not for the terrible condition it is in now, but for the way He always meant it to be and for the people who live in it who are so precious to Him.  For this reason He gave His Son.  Remember, “only begotten” doesn’t mean that God gave birth to Christ somehow, but rather that He made Him His representative.  Even though Christ always existed with God, there was no need for Him to represent God before anything else existed.  When God created the universe, He begat Christ as His Son.  However, the Lord Jesus lived before then.  Remember, He WAS in the beginning.

This promise is to whoever believes in Him.  Remember, this is the great object of this book of John: to produce believers in Jesus Christ.  In this verse, we see that God’s great object in sending His Son was to give those who believe in Him everlasting life.  This phrase “everlasting life” is different from “eternal life” in verse 15.  In verse 15 it was “live for the eon,” whereas in this verse it is “eonian life.”  As we have suggested before, eonian life is a life that flows with every blessing from the hand of God that would make life forever worth living.

17.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

This reveals God’s purpose in what is commonly called the first advent of Christ.  God did not send (Greek apostello, commission) His Son into the world to judge it.  The Greek word krino translated “condemn” actually means “to judge.”  To judge something is not necessarily to condemn it.  Judging an innocent man means not condemning him.  Judging one worthy of reward means actually blessing him with reward, not condemning him.  We are totally wrong when we take “judgment” to mean “condemnation” in the Bible.  It only means that when it is referring to someone who is worthy of condemnation, but in that case the condemnation is what the judgment results in, not the judgment itself.

Christ in His first coming did not come to judge the world.  Rather, He came to save it.  The world now is wicked and far from God.  Only through Christ’s sacrifice on its behalf could this wicked world we live in ever be forgiven and be renewed in the way God always intended it to be.
18.  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.

This tells us a great truth about belief or faith.  He who believes in the Son is not judged!  If we had to stand before God’s righteous judgment, none of us would come off guiltless.  We are all under the condemnation of sin and death.  Yet because of our belief, God counts our faith instead of righteousness.  Thus, those who believe are not judged.  Yet those who hear the message of Christ and refuse to believe it are already judged.  No further determination is necessary.  Their lives need not be weighed, their deeds need not be considered.  Because they have refused to believe in the name or the reputation God has given of the only begotten Son of God, judgment has already been passed against them.  They are lost, and cannot receive salvation.  Yet we must be careful here!  Those who have not believed here are only those who have heard the message and refused to believe it.  Those who have never heard the message cannot be counted as unbelievers.  You can only believe or not believe something you have heard.  I cannot accuse you of not believing the story I haven’t told you.  That would be ridiculous!  Those who have not heard about the name of the only begotten Son of God will be the ones who will be judged, for they belong to neither category listed here.

19.  And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

This tells us what the judging of these men who have not believed in the name is.  Light has come into the world.  This is the same light as we read about in John 1:4-5 and 8-9.  Yet men loved darkness rather than light.  Which men?  Not all, for some indeed loved the light, as we have already seen in the example of John the Baptist and the disciples.  The men who loved darkness are the same as those who did not believe in the name in the previous verse!  Why did they love darkness?  Because their deeds were evil!

Notice again the similarity to John 1:4-5 and 8-9 in this passage.  This is another proof that this is John the apostle speaking, not our Lord Jesus.  These words and arguments are characteristic of the author of this book, and this is another monologue of his, not a quotation from our Lord.

20.  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.

Those who live a wicked, godless lifestyle do not want to yield their lives to God.  They know that that means that their wicked deeds will be laid bare and brought back upon their own heads.  Thus, they hate the light, and reject it.

21.  But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.

Those who produce truth come to the light.  They are not afraid of it, for they know it will expose their works as having been done in God.  May each of us work the works that we would not be afraid to display in the light, for these are the works that God would have us to do.

22.  After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized.

There were two main sections to the nation of Israel.  Galilee was the northern section and Judea the southern.  The capital of Jerusalem was located in Judea.  Between these two sections sat Samaria, the land of the half-Jews.  Now, the Lord goes from Jerusalem, where he most likely had his interview with Nicodemus, into the Judean countryside, and begins baptizing.  We learn in John 4:2 that He Himself did not baptize, but rather His disciples did.  Yet, of course, they must have baptized with His permission and approval.

23.  Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there.  And they came and were baptized.

John had most likely gone to the feast as well, and he too is now baptizing in Judea, in this place with many springs, Aenon (which means “Springs”) near Salim. The name “Aenon” is related to the Greek word aion, which we have mentioned as meaning “an outflowing source.”  These springs were outflowing sources of water.  Thus, this name was given to this place.

24.  For John had not yet been thrown into prison.

Knowing that many of his readers are probably aware that John was imprisoned by Herod shortly after baptizing the Lord, John the author sees fit to mention here that the story he is telling occurred before this event.

25.  Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification.

A dispute arises about purification.  This verse seems to have nothing to do with what comes before it or what comes after it the way it stands.  It seems likely that the text originally read “between some of John’s and of Jesus’ disciples about purification.”  The word for “of Jesus” is Iesou in Greek, and could have been abbreviated to “Iou.”  This then could have been mistaken for an abbreviation for “Ioudaion” or “a Jew.”  Someone thinking to fix an error then could have converted this from singular to plural, and thus made the passage to read “Jews” as in our modern text.  If this dispute was between John’s disciples and Jesus’ disciples, however, the whole passage makes much more sense, and fits much better with what happened in verse 26.  It was Jesus’ disciples that John’s disciples were disputing with, and this is the reason they come in anger to John, hoping he’ll do something about this new, upstart baptizer!

26.  And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He Who was with you beyond the Jordan, to Whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!”

The disciples of John are upset with Christ.  In their minds, John had given Him great honor and testified to him, and now he was stabbing John in the back by trying to steal his ministry!  Perhaps they were hoping that John would speak out against Jesus and start turning the crowds away from him.  More than likely their argument with the Lord’s disciples more grew out of their anger and jealousy over the attention the Lord Jesus was getting instead of their master than it did out of any real difference in beliefs about purification.

27.  John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.

John’s response to his jealous disciples is to remind them that both his ministry and Christ’s did not come from their own decisions and wills in the matter.  He cannot simply decide to speak out against the Lord, nor did Christ just decide to start baptizing.  Both their ministries followed the course laid out for them by God.

The Jews were very reluctant to ever say the name of God.  The strictest of the orthodox Jews today are the same way.  Some modern rabbis will not even write the name “God,” but will use some substitute like “G-d.”  It was thought that by avoiding speaking the name of God, one could avoid ever taking it in vain.  This was the common view among the Israelites in that day.  Thus, they would try to avoid speaking the Name whenever possible.  One of the common substitutes for the name “God” was “heaven” as the dwelling place of God.  We have already seen an example of this in verse 13, and this is how “heaven” is used here.  John is saying that He and Christ could have received no ministry if it had not been given to them by God.

28.  “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’

John reminds them that he had already claimed a subservient place to Christ Who went before him.  The implication that Jesus is the Christ is plain.  John was sent before the Christ, but now Christ has come, and so John must begin to give up the spotlight.

29.  “He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice.  Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.

The friend of the bridegroom played a very important role in marriage ceremonies in those days.  Yet it was the bridegroom who had the bride.  John claims the role of the friend of the bridegroom.  The spotlight may not be on him, but it gives him joy just to be present with the bridegroom and to share in the bridegroom’s happiness.  John was content to stand by and hear the voice of his Master.  This was a big enough role for him.  What a humble, obedient man this was!

30.  “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

This is John’s last word on the matter.  His time of glory had come and gone.  He was not upset about it.  Rather, he was happy that the glory was now going to his Lord.  He knew that the more popular Christ became the less glory John himself would receive, and yet he didn’t care.  He wanted the glory to go to Jesus Christ rather than himself.  He wanted Christ to increase and himself to decrease.  Let us all take this attitude in our own lives, letting ourselves and our own selfish desires decrease until Christ increases to become the center of our lives.

31.  He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth.  He who comes from heaven is above all.

Once again we have many Bibles that continue John’s quotation on until the end of the chapter.  I do not believe that this is correct.  John’s testimony climaxed in verse 30.  John the Baptizer had nothing else to say.  It is John the apostle, the author of this book, who speaks in verses 31-36, teaching us more about Jesus Christ and continuing the great purpose of his book: to encourage us to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

Here we have the words “from above.”  These two words are both a translation of one Greek word, anothen.  This is the same word we have translated as “again” in verse 3 of this chapter.  Yet this verse clearly shows that “again” cannot be its meaning.  The word meant “from above” in Koine Greek.

John the author here contrasts Jesus Christ with John the Baptist.  Jesus Christ is from above, and He is above all.  John the Baptizer received his ministry from above, and so was likewise above all men who speak in their own name.  Just a normal man, one who is of the earth, is earthly and speaks of the earth.  That means his words have no origin outside of our own planet and our own natural existence.  Yet one whose message comes from above is above all such.  Then again, John uses “heaven” as a substitute for “God” in the last phrase in this verse.  He who comes from God is above all.  This means he is superior to all who come from any earthly source.  This applies specifically to Christ, Who not only received His message from above, but also came from God Himself.  He is indeed above all!

32.  And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony.

Since they receive their message from God, all the prophets speak truth.  Yet they only speak of things that have been given to them by God.  Only Christ speaks of things that He Himself has seen and heard.  His testimony is the most reliable at all, being of things He personally experienced.  Yet His testimony is rejected!

By “no one,” John uses a figure of speech for a great many people.  Obviously, if no one literally received His testimony, the next verse could not exist.  But this is a common figure of speech called “Synecdoche” or “Transfer.”  In this case it is “Synecdoche of the Whole,” whereby the whole of something is put for a part of it.  In this case, “all” is put for “the greater part.”

33.  He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true.

This is a summary of faith.  It was lack of this, a lack of certifying that God is true, that led Adam and Eve astray in the first place.  And it is this certifying that God is true that constitutes faith ever since and makes salvation from sin and death possible.

34.  For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.

Every other prophet speaks the words of God “by measure,” for He speaks God’s words when God inspires him, but the rest of the time he speaks his own words.  Yet when we consider Christ, He does not receive the words of God “by measure,” but rather His every word comes from God.

35.  The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.

This is the Father’s attitude towards the Son.  He loves Him, and has given all things into His hand.  “Hand” symbolizes power.  The Father has given the Son power over all things!  This is stated many other places in the New Testament (I Corinthians 15:27, for example.)  If this is the trust the Father places in Him, we can know that we can trust Him as well.  And we should love Him just as the Father does!

36.  He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.

John concludes with this great truth about salvation.  He who believes in the Son has everlasting (or eonian) life!  This life is already his, although he may not be enjoying it yet.  But he will enjoy it when the time comes.  Yet he who does not believe the Son will not see life.  “Believe” here is not the same word as in the first part of the verse, but is apeitheo, a word that occurs only here in John, and means “does not obey.”  Eonian life is reserved for those who obey the Son.  Does this mean that obedience, not faith, is required for salvation?  Not at all, for by the Son’s Own testimony, he who believes in Him works the work of God!  (John 6:29)