The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 3:16-21

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 2, 2016

16 For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son: that whosoever believeth in him may not perish, but may have life everlasting.

In this verse our Lord, as if answering an objection which might present itself to Nicodemus, viz., why should the Son of God be suspended on an ignominious gibbet, assigns the true, efficient cause, viz., the boundless love of God for man. Every word is expressive and suggestive. “So,” to such a boundless extent, with such mighty effort and vehemence, “did God,” not a king or emperor, but, God, this Infinite Being—Infinite in all perfections—“love” freely and gratuitously. without any claim on Him, “the world,” all mankind, His enemy by sin (Rom. 5:6–9), “as to give,” deliver over to torture and punishment, not for His own, but for their outrages and sins, “His only begotten (His natural) Son.” What a mystery of godliness. God becoming man. The Highest and the lowest united. The Great Creator showing His love for a wretched, sinful worm of the earth, by submitting to excruciating, ignominious tortures. “Laudetur in eternum Summa Dei Majestas. Venite, adoremus et procidamus ante Deum.”

The cause of the Incarnation and death of the Son of God was the boundless and incomprehensible love of God for the world.

The end was, not to exercise justice in condemning, but mercy in saving.

The fruit, was the saving of man from perishing eternally, and bestowing on him life eternal through faith, accompanied by the observance of God’s commandments.

17 For God sent not his Son into the world, to judge the world: but that the world may be saved by him.

This is explanatory of the last verse in regard to God’s object in sending His Son, which was to bestow on them “everlasting life.” For, although looking to God’s justice, the world would deserve condemnation for its sins; still, it was not to display His justice, in judging and condemning the world that God sent His Son in the first instance, but to exercise His mercy, which is over all His works, “that the world may be saved by Him,” by rescuing them from everlasting death, and bestowing on them, everlasting life. Hence, God wills, by a sincere antecedent will, the salvation of all mankind. Such of them as are lost, are lost through their own fault. No doubt, at His second coming on the day of judgment, the Son of God will display His justice, rewarding and punishing men, according to their deserts, judging every man, according to his works.

18 He that believeth in him is not judged. But he that doth not believe is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

In this verse is proved by a kind of implied dilemma, that God did not send His Son “to judge the world.” For, either a man believes in Him, or refuses to do so. If he believes; then, he is not judged; but is rescued and saved by the mercy of God and the superabundant merits of our Saviour, from the general condemnation, in which all men would be involved, and receives abundance of grace.

If he believes not; then, no further sentence is needed. He remains in the state of damnation, in which all men are involved, as “children of wrath.” He is condemned by the original decree of God and his own determined obstinacy of will to persevere in his unbelief, “because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God,” thus rejecting the only means instituted by God, to save and rescue him from damnation.

St. Augustine (Tract 12), illustrates this by the example of a physician who comes to cure all the infirm. Such as refuse his ministrations, die; not on account of the physician, as if he came to cause their death; but, on account of the infirmities already contracted by them, which they refuse to have cured by the physician.

19 And this is the judgment: Because the light is come into the world and men loved darkness rather than the light: for their works were evil.

This is the judgment.” The cause of judgment or condemnation, “because the light,” which is our Lord Himself, who enlightens every man, whether naturally or supernaturally, “is come into the world” to dissipate, by the diffusion of true doctrine, the darkness of infidelity and sin. “He was the light of the world” (8:12), “and men,” wallowing in the mire of corruption, culpably, “loved the darkness” of infidelity, in which they were enveloped, “rather than the light,” which, by a little inquiry, they might easily ascertain to be the true light. They then acted perversely. For, had they embraced the light and true teaching of Christ, they would be compelled to abandon their present evil courses, which they were determined on pursuing. “Their works are evil.” They shun the light, lest they should be convicted by the light, which the teaching of Christ would shed upon them.

Moral perversity is, ordinarily, the cause, why men persevere in rejecting the teachings of truth.

The words of the verse may also mean: the judgment of condemnation which they pass on themselves consists in this; that, having a full opportunity of walking in the light, performing the works of light, they prefer remaining in darkness, “for, their deeds,” in which they glory and mean to persevere, “are evil.”

20 For every one that doth evil hateth the light and cometh not to the light, that his works may not be reproved.

For every one that doth evil,” and perversely means to persevere in its commission, “hateth the light, and cometh not,” etc., because the effect of the light would be, to expose his wicked works, which he would fain conceal. They would show him to be deserving of reprehension, “that his works be not reproved,” not to speak of their generating remorse of conscience (Eph. 5:11–13).

21 But he that doth truth cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest: because they are done in God.

Doth truth.” There is question of practical truth, of actions or works done in accordance with the law of rectitude and justice—“doth,” sincerely intends and purposes to do good works, to do what is right and true. Such a man, unlike him who means to persevere in his perversity, far from flying and shunning the light, “cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest,” that his future works, which he means to perform in the new course of life which the light will point out to him, may “be done in God,” done in accordance with the will and commands of God.

The words may also have reference to his past works, done in grace, before embracing the light of faith. Pagans may do good works, aided by grace, before embracing the faith. The proposition, “Faith is the first grace,” was condemned by Pius VI. in the Bull, Auctorem Fidei, as put forward in the Schismatical Council of Pistoia, under its Bishop, Scipio Ricci.


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