Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

John 3:21

But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God."
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Darkness;   Jesus, the Christ;   Light;   Righteous;   Righteousness;   Works;   Scofield Reference Index - Inspiration;   The Topic Concordance - Condemnation;   Light;   Manifestation;   Truth;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Light;   Works, Good;  
Dictionaries:
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Propitiation;   Truth;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Backsliding;   Light;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Episcopacy;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Faith;   Nicodemus;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Jesus Christ;   Nicodemus;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Truth;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Gospels;   John, Gospel of;   John, Theology of;   Logos;   Mss;   Nicodemus;   Scribes;   Truth;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Death of Christ;   Deceit, Deception, Guile;   Discourse;   Holy Spirit;   Impotence;   Incarnation (2);   John (the Apostle);   Light;   Light and Darkness;   Nathanael ;   Obedience (2);   Property (2);   Quotations (2);   Regeneration;   Reproof;   Righteous, Righteousness;   Sin;   Son of God;   Teaching of Jesus;   Truth (2);   Morrish Bible Dictionary - 30 To Do, Practise;   31 To Do, Work, Labour;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Regeneration;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Tabernacle, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Johannine Theology, the;   Truth;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Nicodemus;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Wrought in God - In his presence, and through his assistance. This is the end of our Lord's discourse to Nicodemus; and though we are not informed here of any good effects produced by it, yet we learn from other scriptures that it had produced the most blessed effects in his mind, and that from this time he became a disciple of Christ. He publicly defended our Lord in the Sanhedrin, of which he was probably a member, John 7:50, and, with Joseph of Arimathea, gave him an honorable funeral, John 19:39, when all his bosom friends had deserted him. See Dodd.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on John 3:21". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/john-3.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Are that doeth truth - He who does right, or he that obeys the truth. Truth here is opposed to error and to evil. The sinner acts from falsehood and error. The good man acts according to truth. The sinner believes a lie - that God will not punish, or that there is no God, or that there is no eternity and no hell. The Christian believes all these, and acts as if they were true. This is the difference between a Christian and a sinner.

Cometh to the light - Loves the truth, and seeks it more and more. By prayer and searching the Scriptures he endeavors to ascertain the truth, and yield his mind to it.

May be made manifest - May be made clear or plain; or that it may be made plain that his deeds are performed in God. He searches for truth and light that he may have evidence that his actions are right.

Wrought in God - That they are performed according to the will of God, or perhaps by the assistance of God, and are such as God will approve. The actions of good people are performed by the influence and aid of God, Philippians 2:12. Of course, if they are performed by his aid, they are such as he will approve. Here is presented the character of a good man and a sincere Christian. We learn respecting that character:

1.He does truth. He loves it, seeks it, follows it.

2.He comes to the light. He does not attempt to deceive himself or others.

3.He is willing to know himself, and aims to do it. He desires to know the true state of his heart before God.

4.A special object of his efforts is that his deeds may be “wrought in God.” He desires to be a good man; to receive continual aid from God, and to perform such actions as he will approve.

This is the close of our Lord‘s discourse with Nicodemus - a discourse condensing the gospel, giving the most striking exhibition and illustration of truth, and representing especially the fundamental doctrine of regeneration and the evidence of the change. It is clear that the Saviour regarded this as lying at the foundation of religion. Without it we cannot possibly be saved. And now it becomes every reader, as in the presence of God, and in view of the judgment-seat of Christ, solemnly to ask himself whether he has experienced this change? whether he knows by experience what it is to be born of that Spirit? If he does he will be saved. If not, he is in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity, and should give no sleep to his eyes until he has made his peace with God.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on John 3:21". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/john-3.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

But he that doth truth,.... That which is true, right and good: "he whose work is just", as the Ethiopic version renders it; or, "he that does that which is right", so the Persic; that which is according to the will of God, and from a principle of love to him, and with a view to his glory:

cometh to the light; to Christ, and to his word, and ordinances:

that his deeds may be made manifest; being brought to the light, to the test, and standard, whether they, are right, or wrong; and that it may appear,

that they are wrought in God; or "by God"; by his assistance, and gracious influence, without which men can do nothing; for it is God that works in them both to will and to do: or, "according to God", as others render it; according to the will of God, both for matter and manner: or "for God", as the Ethiopic version renders it; for the glory of God, which ought to be the aim, and end of every action. The Persic version reads the whole thus, "that the work which is between God and him may be known"; that such deeds may be discovered, which are only known to God and himself.

Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on John 3:21". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/john-3.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

But he that s doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought t in God.

(s) That is, he that leads an honest life, and is void of all cunning and deceit.

(t) That is, with God, God as it were going before.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on John 3:21". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/john-3.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

doeth truth — whose only object in life is to be and do what will bear the light. Therefore he loves and “comes to the light,” that all he is and does, being thus thoroughly tested, may be seen to have nothing in it but what is divinely wrought and divinely approved. This is the “Israelite, indeed, in whom is no guile.”

Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on John 3:21". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/john-3.html. 1871-8.

People's New Testament

He that doeth truth. Truth has to be lived. He who lives it, lives an honest life sincerely desiring light, will come to the light.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Original work done by Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
Johnson, Barton W. "Commentary on John 3:21". "People's New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pnt/john-3.html. 1891.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

That doeth the truth (ο ποιων την αλητειανho poiōn tēn alētheian). See 1 John 1:6 for this striking phrase.

Comes to the light (ερχεται προς το πωςerchetai pros to phōs). Is drawn by the light, spiritual heliotropes, not driven from it.

That may be made manifest
(ινα πανερωτηιhina phanerōthēi). Final ιναhina with first aorist passive subjunctive of πανεροωphaneroō

They have been wrought in God
(εν τεωι εστιν ειργασμεναen theōi estin eirgasmena). Periphrastic perfect passive indicative of εργαζομαιergazomai He does not claim that they are perfect, only that they have been wrought in the sphere of and in the power of God. Hence he wants the light turned on.

Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on John 3:21". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/john-3.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Doeth the truth ( ποιῶν τὴν ἀλήθειαν )

The phrase occurs only here and in 1 John 1:6. Note the contrasted phrase, doeth evil (John 3:20). There the plural is used: doeth evil things; evil being represented by a number of bad works. Here the singular, the truth, or truth; truth being regarded as one, and “including in a supreme unity all right deeds.” There is also to be noted the different words for doing in these two verses: doeth evil ( πράσσων ); doeth truth ( ποιῶν ). The latter verb contemplates the object and end of action; the former the means, with the idea of continuity and repetition. Πράσσων is the practice, while ποιῶν may be the doing once for all. Thus ποιεῖν is to conclude a peace: πράσσειν , to negotiate a peace. So Demosthenes: “He will do ( πράξει ) these things, and will accomplish them ( ποιήσει ).” In the New Testament a tendency is observable to use ποιεῖν in a good sense, and πράσσωιν in an evil sense. Compare the kindred word πρᾶξις , deed or work, which occurs six times, and in four out of the six of evil doing (Matthew 16:27; Luke 23:51; Acts 19:18; Romans 8:13; Romans 12:14; Colossians 3:9). With this passage compare especially John 5:29, where the two verbs are used with the two nouns as here. Also, Romans 7:15, Romans 7:19. Bengel says: “Evil is restless: it is busier than truth.” In Romans 1:32; Romans 2:3, both verbs are used of doing evil, but still with a distinction in that πράσσω is the more comprehensive term, designating the pursuit of evil as the aim of the activity.

Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on John 3:21". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/john-3.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Vincent's Word Studies

Doeth the truth ( ποιῶν τὴν ἀλήθειαν )

The phrase occurs only here and in 1 John 1:6. Note the contrasted phrase, doeth evil (John 3:20). There the plural is used: doeth evil things; evil being represented by a number of bad works. Here the singular, the truth, or truth; truth being regarded as one, and “including in a supreme unity all right deeds.” There is also to be noted the different words for doing in these two verses: doeth evil ( πράσσων ); doeth truth ( ποιῶν ). The latter verb contemplates the object and end of action; the former the means, with the idea of continuity and repetition. Πράσσων is the practice, while ποιῶν may be the doing once for all. Thus ποιεῖν is to conclude a peace: πράσσειν , to negotiate a peace. So Demosthenes: “He will do ( πράξει ) these things, and will accomplish them ( ποιήσει ).” In the New Testament a tendency is observable to use ποιεῖν in a good sense, and πράσσωιν in an evil sense. Compare the kindred word πρᾶξις , deed or work, which occurs six times, and in four out of the six of evil doing (Matthew 16:27; Luke 23:51; Acts 19:18; Romans 8:13; Romans 12:14; Colossians 3:9). With this passage compare especially John 5:29, where the two verbs are used with the two nouns as here. Also, Romans 7:15, Romans 7:19. Bengel says: “Evil is restless: it is busier than truth.” In Romans 1:32; Romans 2:3, both verbs are used of doing evil, but still with a distinction in that πράσσω is the more comprehensive term, designating the pursuit of evil as the aim of the activity.

Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on John 3:21". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/john-3.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

He that practiseth the truth (that is, true religion) cometh to the light - So even Nicodemus, afterward did.

Are wrought in God — That is, in the light, power, and love of God.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on John 3:21". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/john-3.html. 1765.

The Fourfold Gospel

And this is the judgment1, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil.
    John 3:19-21

  1. And this is the judgment, etc. These verses show that when God judges a man by his faith, the judgment is not arbitrary and irrational. Men "believe" according to the secret aspirations and desires of their nature. Christ, as the example and model of life, shines out as the light of the world; those who approve and love such a life are drawn to him and constrained to believe in him. Spiritually, they abide in his presence, that they may compare their lives with his, and that they may be assured that their works are wrought under the renewing and sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit, who is sent of Christ. But one whose desires are evil shrinks from Christ, and struggles to disbelieve in him; he seeks to know as little of Christ as possible, because such knowledge exposes the wickedness and depravity of his own sinful nature.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on John 3:21". "The Fourfold Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tfg/john-3.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

А поступающий по правде. На первый взгляд это звучит весьма глупо и неуместно. Ведь отсюда следует, что люди могут быть праведными и истинными прежде своего возрождения Духом Божиим, а это никак не согласуется с повсеместным учением Писания. Мы знаем, что вера есть тот корень, из которого произрастают плоды добрых дел. Августин, чтобы развязать этот узел, толкует слова «поступать по правде» как признание того, сколь мы несчастны и лишены способности творить добро. Действительно, истинная подготовка к вере состоит в том, чтобы мы, побуждаемые ощущением своей нищеты, восхотели прибегнуть к божественной благодати. Однако все это далеко от смысла Христовых слов. Он просто хочет сказать, что поступающие искренне больше всего желают света, дабы их дела стали известны всем. Ведь после такой проверки станет очевидным, что они правдивы в глазах Божиих и чисты от любого обмана. Но дурно и невежественно поступит тот, кто выведет отсюда, что люди еще до обретения веры имеют добрую совесть. Ибо Христос говорит не о том, что вера избранных похвалу за добрые дела приписывает себе, а о том, как поступали бы неверующие, если бы не сознавали за собой зло. Христос пользуется здесь словом «истина», потому что мы, обманутые внешним блеском, обычно не думаем о том, что скрывается внутри. Поэтому Он говорит, что целомудренные и непритворные люди охотно предстают перед взором Божиим, единственным Судьей наших дел. Ведь о делах здесь говорится, что они «соделаны в Боге», Значит, это те дела, которые угодны Богу и по Его закону являются добрыми. Отсюда мы научаемся, что о делах можно судить только в евангельском свете, поелику иначе наш разум абсолютно слеп.

 

 

 

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on John 3:21". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/john-3.html. 1840-57.

Frédéric Louis Godet - Commentary on Selected Books

Ver. 21. "But he that doeth the truth cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest because they are wrought in God."

Sincere love of moral good predisposes to faith; for Jesus is the good personified. There are in humanity, even before the appearance of Christ, men who, although like others affected by inborn evil, react against their evil inclinations, and pursue with a noble ardor the realization of the moral ideal which shines before them. Jesus here calls them those who do the truth. St. Paul, also in accord with St. John on this point, describes them as those who by persevering in well-doing seek for glory, honor and incorruption (Romans 2:7). This earnest aspiration after the good, which the theocratic discipline stimulates and protects in Israel, forms a contrast to the mummeries of the Pharisaic righteousness. It can be present in a penitent publican, no less than in an irreproachable Pharisee.

The same idea is found again in the expressions to be of God, to be of the truth (John 8:47, John 18:37). This disposition is the condition of all real faith in the Gospel. The adherence of the will to the preparatory revelation of God, whether in the law of conscience or in that of Moses, is the first condition of the adherence to the higher revelation of divine holiness in Jesus Christ. The expression to do the truth denotes the persevering effort to raise one"s conduct to the height of one"s moral consciousness, to realize the ideal of the good perceived by the conscience; comp. Romans 7. The soul which, it may be, in consequence of the bitter experience of sin, longs after holiness, recognizes in Jesus its realized ideal and that by which it will itself attain to the realization of it. The figurative expression to come to the light signifies to draw near to Jesus, to listen to Him with docility, to surrender oneself to Him; comp. Luke 15:1-2. Is there not, in the choice of this figure, a delicate allusion to the present course of Nicodemus? As truly as this night which reigns without is the figure of the unbelief in which the lovers of sin envelop themselves, so really is this light around which these few interlocutors meet, the emblem of the divine brightness which Nicodemus came to seek for. And so it will come to pass. It is the farewell of Jesus: Thou desirest the good; it is this which brings thee here. Take courage! Thou shalt find it!

If the upright hearts come to the light, it is because they do not, like those spoken of before, dread the manifestation of the true character of their conduct; on the contrary, they desire it: To the end, says Jesus, "that their works may be manifested because they are done in God." I return thus to the ordinary translation of the close of this verse. I had previously preferred the following: That they may be manifested as being done in God; comp. for this Greek construction, John 4:35. But the first construction is more natural here. The truly righteous man seeks, as Nicodemus did, to come into contact with Christ, the living holiness, because he has within him nothing which impels him to withdraw himself from the light of God; on the contrary, the nature of his works is the cause of his being happy to find himself fully in that light.

The expression wrought in God seems very strong to characterize the works of the sincere man before he has found Christ. But let us not forget that, both in Israel and even beyond the theocratic sphere, it is from a divine impulse that everything good in human life proceeds. It is the Father who draws souls to the Son, and who gives them to Him (John 6:37; John 6:44). It is God who causes to resound in the sincere soul the signal for the strife, ineffectual though it be, against inborn evil (Romans 7). Wherever there is docility on the part of man towards this divine initiative, this expression works wrought in God is applicable, which comprehends as well the sighs of the humbled publican and the repentant believer as the noble aspirations of a John or a Nathanael. Such a man, conscious of his sincere desire for the good, does not fear to expose himself to the light and consequently to come to Christ. The more he acts in God, the more he desires to see clearly within himself, to the end of attaining a still more perfect obedience. In the previous editions, I had referred the in order that to the need of a holy approbation. Weisssees in it the desire to show that the good works accomplished are those of God and not those of the man. I think that the question is rather of a need of progress. Luthardt seems to me to have completely perverted the meaning of this verse and to have lost the very profound teaching which it contains, by explaining: "He who practices the moral truth manifested in Christ soon attaches himself to Christ by the religious bond of faith." But does not the practice of the holiness revealed in Christ necessarily imply faith in Him? The saying of Jesus in John 7:17 has a striking analogy to this.

"In humanity anterior to Christ," says Lucke rightly, "two kinds of men are mingled together. With the appearance of Jesus, the separating begins;" αὕτη ἡ κρίσις . "Under the trees of the same forest," observes Lange, "all sorts of birds find shelter together during the night. But in the morning, as soon as the sun sheds forth his rays, some close their eyes and seek the darkest retreat, while others clap their wings and salute the sun with their songs. Thus the appearing of Christ separates the lovers of the day from those of the night, mingled together until then in the mass of mankind." We must not, however, understand this idea in the sense which the Tubingen school ascribes to the evangelist: That there are two kinds of men opposite in their nature. All the expressions used by John: "They loved rather," "to practise evil things," "to do the truth," are, much rather, borrowed from the domain of free choice and deliberate action. (Comp. Introd., pp. 132f.).

It is with this word of hope that Jesus takes leave of Nicodemus. And we can easily understand why, in contrast with John the Baptist"s course (John 3:36), Jesus spoke, in the first place, of those who reject the light (John 3:19-20), and, in the second place, of those who seek it (John 3:21). He wished to terminate the conversation with a word of encouragement addressed to His interlocutor. He had recognized in him one of those righteous souls who will one day believe and whom faith will lead to the baptism of water, and thereby to the baptism of the Spirit. Henceforth Jesus waits for him. Reuss deems the silence of John respecting his departure surprising. "We have, indeed, seen him come; but we do not see him go away. We are wholly ignorant of the result of this interview." Then this scholar boldly draws therefrom a proof against the historical reality of the personage of Nicodemus and his conversation with Jesus. Is this objection serious? The evangelist should then have told us expressly, that Nicodemus, on leaving Jesus, returned to his own home and went to bed! Does not the effect produced upon him by the conversation appear plainly from the later history? Comp. John 7:50-51; John 19:39. John respects the mystery of the inner working which had just begun, and leaves the facts to speak. It is the revelation of Jesus to Nicodemus which is the subject of this narrative, and not the biography of this Pharisee. No more does Matthew mention the return of the Twelve after their first mission (chap. 10); does it follow from this that their mission is not historical? The narrative of our Gospels is wholly devoted to the religious end and does not entertain itself with empty details.

We are now in a condition to give a judgment respecting this interview. It seems to me that its historical character follows from the perfect appositeness, which we have established, in all the words of Jesus and in their exact appropriateness to the given situation. The statement of John 3:1, "A man of the Pharisees" is found to be the key of the whole passage. Every word of Jesus is like a shot fired at close quarters with such an interlocutor. He begins by bringing home to this man who approaches Him, as well assured of his participation in the divine kingdom as of his very existence, a sense of all that which he lacks, and by saying, although in other terms:

"Unless thy righteousness surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees, thou shalt not enter the kingdom of heaven." After having thus made a void in this heart full of itself and its own righteousness, he endeavors to fill this void in the positive part of the conversation, in which He answers the questions which Nicodemus had proposed to present to Him. In this answer, He opposes, from the beginning to the end, programme to programme: first, Messiah to Messiah, then, salvation to salvation, finally, judgment to judgment, substituting with regard to each of these points the divine thought for the Pharisaic expectation. There is enough, as it seems to me, in this direct application, this constant fitness, and this unshaken steadiness of course in the conversation to guarantee its reality. An artificial composition of the second century would not have succeeded in adapting itself so perfectly to the given situation. In any case, the cohesion of all the parts of the conversation is too evident to allow of the distinction between the part belonging to Jesus and that belonging to the evangelist. Either the whole is a free composition of the latter, or the whole also must be regarded as the summary of a real conversation of Jesus. We say: the summary; for we certainly do not possess a complete report. The visit of Nicodemus, of course, continued longer than the few minutes necessary for reading the account of it. John has transmitted to us in a few salient words the quintessence of the communications of Jesus at this juncture. This is what the quite vague transitions by means of a simple and, καί, indicate. We have before us the principal mountain peaks, but not the whole of the chain (comp. Introd., p. 99).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on John 3:21". "Frédéric Louis Godet - Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsc/john-3.html.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

Ver. 21. But he that doeth truth] Tenebriones Papistae male sibi conscii, aeternum atri, et tetri sunto, et habentor, gui non tam cute, quam corde Aethiopici, solem quo magis luceat, eo magis execrentur. But our hearts (as our climate) have mere light than heat. Sir Philip Sydney used to say of Chaucer, that he wondered how in those misty times he could see so clearly; and how we in these clearer times go on so stumblingly. "If any be ignorant, let him be ignorant," saith Paul, 1 Corinthians 14:38. And so much any one knows, as he does of God’s will, as the apostle intimates, when he tells us that "Christ knew no sin," that is, he did none, 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Wrought in God] Right. 1. Quoad fontem, a pure heart. 2. Quoad finem, the glory of God. Else they are but splendida peccata, sins in a silken suit. (Aug.)

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on John 3:21". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/john-3.html. 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

John 3:21

I. Let us endeavour to arrive at some distinct meaning of that remarkable expression—doing truth. (1) The first thing in it is to be really in earnest. Until a man is thoroughly in earnest about his soul God will have nothing to do with him. But as soon as a man is really in earnest, the work is almost half done; at all events, the result is safe. (2) A man who is doing truth has begun to draw to Christ. He makes much of Christ. He begins to feel the power and beauty of Christ. He is learning to depend upon Christ; to find Christ in everything. (3) To do truth is to be very practical in religion. It is not only to hold Christ; but to carry out Christ into daily life. It is true that actions are the results of feelings; but every one who would have lightened feelings must do actions. Whoever will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine.

II. Of this character God says he is coming to the light. For there are assimilations in moral truth, as there are in nature, and wherever there is an assimilation, there is an attraction. This man has some light, and therefore he is under the influence of light! Light draws him. There is a principle in him which must be always running up to the Fountain from which this principle sprang. This man who comes to the light is daily growing in the beautiful grace of transparency of character. The nearer he gets to the light, the more transparent he is. His whole being can now bear examination. He loves truth; he courts truth; he is truth. There is reality in that man. You may weigh his words; you may scrutinise his actions: for he is learning to walk as a child of light. Up and up towards the very Fountain of light he is daily travelling. He is not light, but he is coming to the light. In greater nearness to Jesus every day; in more constant communion with Him; with more of His presence; in more of His image; he is striving to live to Him. Christ is a centre around which he moves continually, in a closer and a closer circle, coming to the light! He to Christ; Christ to him. The affinity grows stronger and stronger.

J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 2nd series, p. 251.


References: John 3:23-36.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. ix., p. 184 John 3:24.—Ibid., vol. xi., p. 235. John 3:29, John 3:30.—J. Stoughton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 395.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on John 3:21". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/john-3.html.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

John 3:21. He that doeth truth He that practiseth truth: that is, "is exercised in righteousness and goodness." See Ephesians 5:9. This phrase often occurs as the character of a good man: compare. Psalms 119:30. Isaiah 26:2. 1 Peter 1:22. 1 John 1:6.; and it is used with peculiar propriety, since there is really truth or falsehood in actions as well as in words. Of the same kind is the phrase ποιειν ψευδος, to make a lie, used more than once by St. John, perhaps in a beautiful opposition to this before us; and if it were rendered practiseth a lie, that opposition would be more apparent. See Revelation 21:27; Revelation 22:15. The phrase that they are wrought in God signifies, that they are always agreeable to the divine nature and will, and the consequence of that union of soul with God, which is the perfection and happiness of the intelligent natu

Such was the purport of our Lord's discourse with Nicodemus, which we may easily believe affected him greatly. He perceived that Jesus saw into his heart, was thoroughly convinced, and from that time forth became his disciple, defended him in the great council of which he was a member, and, with Joseph of Arimathea, paid him the honours of a funeral,when all his bosom friends had deserted him. See ch. John 7:50, John 19:39.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on John 3:21". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/john-3.html. 1801-1803.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

21.] Who is this ποιῶν τ. ἀλήθ.? the end of ch. 1 will best explain to us,— ἐν ᾧ δόλος οὐκ ἔστιν, see also Luke 8:15, and Psalms 15. The πράσσων πονηρά is crooked and perverse; he has a light, which he does not follow; he knows the light, and avoids it; and so there is no truth, singleness, in him; he is a man at variance with himself. But the simple and single-minded is he who knowing and approving the light, comes to it; and comes that he may be carried onward in this spirit of truth and single-mindedness to higher degrees of communion with and likeness to God. “The good man seeks the light, and to place his works in the light, not from a vain love of praise, but from a desire for communion wherein he finds strength and security,” De Wette. But this is not all: the manifesting his works, that they are wrought in God, is and can be only by the candle of the Lord being kindled within him, and he himself born again in the Kingdom of God: see Psalms 139:23-24.

We hear nothing of the effect produced on Nicodemus by this interview. It certainly did not alienate him from Jesus, see ch. John 7:50; John 19:39, also ch. John 12:42. “It speaks for the simplicity and historic truthfulness of our Evangelist, that he adds nothing more, and even leaves untold the immediate result which the discourse had.” (Baumgarten-Crusius, in Stier, iv. 102, edn. 2.)

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on John 3:21". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/john-3.html. 1863-1878.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

John 3:21. δὲ ποιῶν τὴν ἀλήθ.] The opposite of φαῦλα πράσσων, John 3:20, and therefore ἀλήθεια is to be taken in the ethical sense: he who does what is morally true, so that his conduct is in harmony with the divine moral standard. Comp. Isaiah 26:10; Psalms 119:30; Nehemiah 9:33; Job 4:6; Job 13:6; 1 John 1:6; 1 Corinthians 5:8; Ephesians 5:9; Philippians 4:8. Moral truth was revealed before Christ, not only in the law (Weiss), but also (see Matthew 5:17) in the prophets, and, outside Scripture, in creation and in conscience (Romans 1:19 ff; Romans 2:14 ff.). Comp. Groos, p. 255.

ἵνα φανερ. αὐτοῦ τὰ ἔργα] φανερ. is the opposite of the μὴ ἐλεγχθῇ, John 3:20. While the wicked wishes his actions not to be reproved, but to remain in darkness, the good man wishes his actions to come to the light and to be made manifest, and he therefore ἔρχεται πρὸς τὸ φῶς; for Christ, as the personally manifested Light, the bearer of divine truth, cannot fail through His working to make these good deeds be recognised in this their true nature. The manifestation of true morality through Christ must necessarily throw the true light on the moral conduct of those who come to Him, and make it manifest and show it forth in its true nature and form. The purpose ἵνα φανερ., κ. τ. λ., does not spring from self-seeking, but arises from the requirements, originating in a moral necessity, of moral satisfaction in itself, and of the triumph of good over the world.

αὐτοῦ] thus put before, for emphasis’ sake, in opposition to the evil-doer, who has altogether a different design with reference to his acts.

ὅτι ἐν θεῷ, κ. τ. λ.] the reason of the before-named purpose. How should he not cherish this purpose, and desire the φανέρωσις, seeing that his works are wrought in God! Thus, so far from shunning, he has really to strive after the manifestation of them, as the revelation of all that is divine. We must take this ἐν θεῷ, like the frequent ἐν χριστῷ, as denoting the element in which the ἐργάζεσθαι moves; not without and apart from God, but living and moving in Him, has the good man acted. Thus the κατὰ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ, 1 John 5:14, and the κατὰ θεόν, Romans 8:27, 2 Corinthians 7:10, also the εἰς θεόν, Luke 12:21, constitute the necessary character of the ἐν θεῷ, but are not the ἐν θεῷ itself.

ἔργα εἰργασμένα] as in John 6:28, John 9:4, Matthew 26:10, et al., and often in the classics.

Observe from John 3:21, that Christ, who here expresses Himself generally, yet conformably to experience, encountered, at the time of His entering upon His ministry of enlightenment, not only the φαῦλα πράσσοντες, but also those who practised what is right, and who were living in God. To this class belonged a Nathanael, and the disciples generally, certainly also many who repented at the preaching of the Baptist, together with other O. T. saints, and perhaps Nicodemus himself. They were drawn by the Father to come to Christ, and were given to Him (John 6:37); they were of God, and had ears to hear His word (John 8:47, comp. John 18:37); they were desirous to do the Father’s will (John 7:17); they were His (John 17:6). But according to John 3:19, these were exceptions only amid the multitude of the opposite kind, and even their piety needed purifying and transfiguring into true δικαιοσύνη, which could be attained only by fellowship with Christ; and hence even in their case the way of Christian penitence, by the φανέρωσις of their works wrought in God, brought about by the light of Christ, was not excluded, but was exhibited, and its commencement brought about, because, in view of this complete and highest light, the sincere Old Testament saint must first rightly feel the need of that repentance, and of the lack of moral satisfaction. Consequently the statement of John 3:3; John 3:5, still holds true.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on John 3:21". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/john-3.html. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

John 3:21. ποιῶν, who does) ποιεῖν is often used of continuous zeal; as with the Latins, mercaturam facere, etc.— φανερωθῇ, may be made manifest) Even Nicodemus subsequently acted more openly.— ἔργαεἰργασμένα) Words akin [conjugate].— ἐν θεῷ, in God) in the light, by the virtue [the power] and love of Him, from whom cometh all truth.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on John 3:21". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/john-3.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Truth here is put for true things. He who purposeth, designeth, and acteth nothing but what is just, and holy, and good, and what is consonant to the will of God; he is not afraid to bring his notions and actions to the test of the Divine rule, published by him who is the true Light. For he desires that what he doth may be made manifest, both to himself and others, that they are wrought in, with, or according to, by, or through God (for the particle en, here used, is used in all these senses, 1 Corinthians 7:39 Revelation 14:13). Those works are said to be wrought in, with, by, or through God, which tend to the honour and glory of God as their end, and flow from him as their cause, which are done with his strength and assistance, and for his honour and glory.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on John 3:21". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/john-3.html. 1685.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Doeth truth; acteth according to truth.

Wrought in God; by the aid of his Spirit, and according to his will.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on John 3:21". "Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/john-3.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God’.

On the other hand those who do what is right have no fear of the truth about their lives coming out. They gladly come to Jesus and listen eagerly to His words and to the word of God and let Him examine them, for they know that His words will help them get rid of sin and that when He examines them He will help them rid themselves of what is spoiling their lives. They want their lives to be open to examination and be put under the spotlight of God, so that what they really are can be seen, that they are true children of God.

‘That it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God’. Such a man’s conscience is totally clear. He does not mind that his life is brought into the light, for he knows that anything he had of which he should be ashamed has been dealt with by the blood of Christ, and that now he is so living that there is nothing to be ashamed of. Thus he is happy for anyone to see the light shining from him. As Jesus said elsewhere, ‘let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven’. (Matthew 5:16). But in the end, more importantly, he is happy for God to see what he does so that God will be pleased with what he has done.

‘That his deeds have been wrought in God.’ That is that that they have been carried out by one who is committed to God and enveloped in Him by faith, that they are the result of an attitude of obedience which brings them within His sphere. That they have God’s full approval as wrought by one who is truly His. They are the consequence of his close walk with God.

But a final word of warning. Coming to Jesus Christ and believing in Him involves coming to the light. Those who continue in darkness may have some kind of belief but it is not the belief in Jesus Christ that saves, for when Jesus saves His work is effective.

Note. Are John 3:16-21 the words of Jesus?

The impression given by the passage is that we do have here the words of Jesus. It is not of course possible to assert dogmatically that those who take another position are not correct, for each must see it as he will. But there is nothing in the passage which is not said elsewhere by Jesus in one way or another. John 3:13-15 are equally 'extreme' in their ideas, and many would not deny them to Jesus. (Some would deny any words to Jesus, but that is another matter).

Nor is there any theology in it that is not spoken elsewhere by Jesus. He elsewhere speaks regularly of 'the Son', which by inference means 'the only Son'. He has already just spoken of His coming death in veiled form (and it is equally veiled in John 3:16. We look on it from the other side of the resurrection).

But a main argument for the position of those who see this as a comment of John’s is that here Jesus speaks baldly of 'God' whereas normally He speaks of 'the Father'. However the fact is that God is only mentioned twice in the whole passage, whilst elsewhere Jesus does equally suddenly and baldly say 'God' elsewhere (e.g. John 13:31-32; John 4:10; John 4:24; John 5:42; John 6:27; John 6:33; John 6:46; John 7:17; John 8:40; John 8:47; John 11:4; John 14:1), as He also does in the other Gospels. Yet in all places He is also careful not to overuse the term. Note how He often uses the passive tense so as to avoid saying 'God'. E.g. 'They shall be comforted' rather than 'God will comfort them'. This attitude was especially important when speaking to the Pharisees and strict Jews for they too sought to avoid using the name God as much as possible, while not doing so completely.

But here Jesus is in personal and close conversation with a seeker and wants the idea to come over with full force. Furthermore this is at the beginning of His ministry and we could equally suggest that He had not yet finalised His later way of speaking. So there really is no strong reason for denying that these words are the words of Jesus.

One possibly stronger argument, is that it is difficult to see John 3:35-36 on the lips of John the Baptiser. It was Jesus who spoke of 'the Father' and 'the Son'. But it is one thing to see a small comment at the end of a section as a comment of the author, quite another to argue the same for a much larger portion as here. And besides, John the Baptiser does say some surprising things and had no doubt had many close conversations with Jesus after His baptism.

Whether the author would add words to the words of Jesus in a way that could be so easily misleading is a matter of opinion. But there is a strong case for suggesting that in the early church the words of Jesus were looked on as so important that such a procedure would have been frowned on.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on John 3:21". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/john-3.html. 2013.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

21.Doeth truth—A most expressive phrase. Right is truth, and wrong is falsehood. Infidels and sinners act a lie.

Cometh to the light—The man who desires to act truth, loves that truth should shine upon his actions. He desires that they may be brought to the test of Christ’s religion and God’s truth. He loves to feel that his heart and life are in unison with the heart of the Redeemer and the life of God. In all this is there not some delicate allusion to the timidity of Nicodemus in coming to Jesus in the darkness of night? Surely the great ruler, if conscious of right, should have come by the light of day. And does not our Saviour here close the interview with an admonition that a good conscience is the basis of true courage?

Twice does Nicodemus reappear in Gospel history. John 7:50; John 19:39.

In the first instance he manifests the same blending of conscientious feeling with caution; in the second he manifests, by the richness of his embalment, his value for Jesus. Perhaps he then understood what meant this lifting up of the Son of man. The first Passover of our Lord’s ministry is now closed, and he leaves the national capital.

 

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on John 3:21". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/john-3.html. 1874-1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

People who adhere to the truth, on the other hand, come to the light and its source, Jesus. They do not try to cover up worthless deeds, but they are willing to expose them to the searching light of God"s revelation (cf. 1 John 1:8-9). They also humbly acknowledge that the good works that they do are really God"s production. They do all this, of course, because God draws them to Himself. One fundamental difference between believers and unbelievers is their attitude toward the light. It is not their guilt before God. Both are guilty before Him. A minority interpretation is that Jesus was distinguishing believers who acknowledged Christ openly, like John the Baptist, and secret believers, such as Nicodemus, rather than believers and unbelievers. [Note: Zane C. Hodges, "Coming to the Light- John 3:20-21," Bibliotheca Sacra135:540 (October-December1978):314-22.]

John 3:19-21 point out the ultimate danger that each reader of this Gospel faces. If one tends to do as Nicodemus did and reject Jesus, it is because he or she does not want to come to the light for moral reasons. People essentially turn from Jesus because the light that He brings exposes things about themselves that they want to remain hidden. Openness to the light is very important. God"s gracious love encourages guilty sinners to open up to the light.

"This [ John 3:19-21] is one of the most important sections in the gospel of John for understanding the light/darkness polarization in Johannine theology and also for understanding John"s gospel itself." [Note: Harris, pp203-4.]

Much of contemporary man"s problem with the gospel is anthropological. It arises from a faulty view of himself. Fallen man generally views human beings as neutral if not good. Therefore the fact that God sent Jesus and Jesus came to save sinners seems only interesting at best. If man is good and not in need of salvation, we can applaud God"s love as admirable. If man is neutral, we can take salvation or leave it. If we leave it, God appears unfair for condemning us. However man is not good or neutral but bad. He already stands condemned and destined to experience God"s wrath. Therefore faith in Jesus becomes a necessary way of escape from that dreadful destiny. The Incarnation is a manifestation of divine grace, not just divine love.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 3:21". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/john-3.html. 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

John 3:21. But he that doeth the truth cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest, because they have been wrought in God. In contrast with those who commit evil is another class—those who do the truth. The words expressing action in John 3:20-21, are different: that in John 3:20 (‘committeth’) refers directly to the particular acts, that which is used here (which properly denotes to make, to produce) brings into view rather the result. The man here spoken of is (so to speak) at work in raising the abiding structure of ‘the truth.’ So far as the truth has been revealed to him, his life is faithful to it; his works are an expression of the truth that is in his heart. As Jesus says (chap. John 18:37), ‘Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice; ‘so here we read, ’He that doeth the truth cometh to the light.’ There is a natural affinity between truth and light; he who is faithful to truth received is, through the very nature of the truth within him, impelled towards Him who is the Truth. He does not come to the light that his works may be made known to others: there is no self-seeking,—perhaps even it is not the conscious purpose of the man himself that is spoken of, but rather the instinctive aim of the truth within him, and thus in reality the purpose of God, that all the works of God be made manifest. The works of this doer of truth have been wrought in God. The discipline by which he is led to the Son is of the Father (see chap. 6 especially). For this cause he comes, and must needs come, at the bidding of the truth, that the works of God in him may be brought out of all concealment and made manifest. His coming to Christ is itself a manifestation of the preceding work of God in him.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on John 3:21". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/john-3.html. 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

John 3:21. ’ “On the other hand, he who does the truth” ’ This is one of John’s comprehensive phrases which perhaps lose by definition. “To do the truth” is at any rate to live up to what one knows; to live an honest, conscientious life. John implies that men of this type are to be found where the light of Christ has not dawned: but when it dawns they hail it with joy. He that doeth the truth comes to the light that his deeds may be manifested, . Is expressive of a fact or declarative of a reason? Must we translate “manifested, that they are,” etc., or “manifested, because they are,” etc.? The R.V[45] has “that” in the text, and “because” in the margin. Godet and Westcott prefer the former; Lücke, Meyer, Weiss and Weizsäcker the latter. It is not easy to decide between the two. On the whole, the latter interpretation is to be preferred. This clause gives the reason of the willingness shown by the man to have his deeds made manifest: and thus it balances the clause , which gives the reason for evil doers shunning the light. He who does the truth is not afraid of the light, but rather seeks increased light because his deeds have been done ; that is, he has not been separated from God by them, but has done what he has done because he conceived that to be the will of God. Where such light as exists has been conscientiously used, more is sought, and welcomed when it comes. “Plato was like a man shut into a vault, running hither and thither, with his poor flickering Taper, agonizing to get forthe, and holding himself in readinesse to make a spring forward the moment a door should open. But it never did. ‘Not manie wise are called.’ He had clomb a Hill in the Darke, and stood calling to his companions below, ‘Come on, come on, this way lies the East: I am avised we shall see the sun rise anon’. But they never did. What a Christian he would have made. Ah! he is one now. He and Socrates, the veil long removed from their eyes, are sitting at Jesus’ feet. Sancte Socrates, ora pro nobis” (Erasmus to More in Sir T. More’s Household). Holtzmann quotes from Hausrath: “As a magnet attracts the metal while the dead stone lies unmoved: so are the children of God drawn by the Logos and come to the Light”. Cf. chap. John 18:37.

[45] Revised Version.

 

 

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on John 3:21". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/john-3.html. 1897-1910.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

doeth. Actively produces, having regard to the object and end of the action. Greek. poieo. Compare the two verbs, prasso and poieo, in a similar connexion in John 6:29.

truth = the truth. Greek aletheia. App-175. A characteristic word of this Gospel. See note on John 1:14.

made manifest. Greek phaneroo. App-106.

are = have been, and still continue to be.

wrought in God: i.e. in His fear, or in His strength.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on John 3:21". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/john-3.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

But he that doeth [`the'] truth, [ teen (Greek #3588) aleetheian (Greek #225)] - whose one object in life is to be, and to do what will bear the light, "cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God"

Cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God - that all he is and does, being thus thoroughly tested, may be seen to have nothing in it but what is divinely performed and divinely approved. This is the "Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile."

Remarks:

(1) What an air of naturalness is there in the first part of this section, regarding the "many" who believed in Jesus name when they saw the miracles which He did at His first official visit to Jerusalem, and during the paschal feast. One might have expected that all with whom He came in contact would be divided simply into two classes-those who recognized and those who repudiated His claims; or, if another class should emerge, it would be of the undecided, or the waverers-either unable to make up their minds, or oscillating between the two opposing views of His claims. But here we have a fourth class, or the first class separated into two divisions-the cordial and thorough accessions to Him and the shallow and fickle believers; and of these latter it seems there were "many" who came over on this occasion. Another thing which strikes one-as betokening the absence of everything artificial in the drawing up of this narrative-is, that "the miracles" which He did during the feast are not recorded at all; although they were such that not only they were won over by them, but the class of which Nicodemus was the most hopeful specimen were convinced by them of our Lord's divine commission. No wonder that unprejudiced readers, even of the highest class, as they bend over these wonderful Records, feel them to be true without, perhaps, one conscious reflection on the question, whether they are so or not-guided by that experience and sound judgment which, with the force of an instinct, tells them that such a Tale cannot deceive. But

(2) If this may be said of the first part of this section, what shall be said of the sequel of it-the night interview of Nicodemus with Jesus-a historical picture which, for graphic vividness, interest, and power surpasses almost everything even in the Gospel History? Two figures only appear on the canvas; but to us it seems that there must have been one other in the scene, whose young and meditative eye scanned, by the night-lamp, the Jewish ruler and Him he had come to talk with, and whose ear drank in every word that fell from both. Our Evangelist himself-was not he there? What pen but that of an eye-and-ear witness could have reported to us a scene whose minute details and life-like touches rivet, and have riveted from the beginning, the very children that read it, never again to forget it, while the depths and heights of its teaching keep the most mature ever bending over it, and its grandeur, undiminished by time, will stand out to arrest and astonish, to delight and feed the Church so long as a Bible shall be needed by it here below? If this Gospel was written when it probably was, some 60 more years must have elapsed between the occurrence itself and this Record of it for the ages to come.

And yet how fresh, how life-like, how new and warm it all is-as if our Evangelist had taken down every word of it that very night, immediately on the departure of Nicodemus. We think we see this anxious ruler-not unaware of his own importance, and the possible consequences of this step to one in his position, yet unable any longer to rest in doubt-stealing along, approaching the humble dwelling where lodged the Lord of glory, and, as he enters, surveying the countenance of this mysterious Person, who courteously receives him and asks him to seat himself. It is Nicodemus who first breaks that silence which was only to be resumed as the last words of the most wonderful announcements ever yet made to any human being fell from the lips of the Son of God, and he who came a trembling inquirer, departed a humble, though secret, disciple. If no other fruit had come of that first visit to Jerusalem but the accession of this disciple, would it not, even by angel-eyes, have been regarded as enough? For, as was said of the precious ointment which Mary purchased to anoint her Lord withal at the supper in Bethany, but in which the Lord Himself saw another and yet dearer purpose - "She is come aforehand to anoint My body to the burying" - so may we say of this Nicodemus, that he was gained, and kept in reserve all the time of Christ's public ministry even until His death, in order that, having purchased an hundred pound weight of myrrh and aloes wherewith to anoint the body, he and Joseph of Arimathea, another secret disciple, might be the honoured instruments of wrapping and laying it in the virgin-sepulchre. Nay, but even if this service had not been rendered by Nicodemus to his dead Lord, that such an interview should have taken place between them in order to its being reproduced here for all time, was itself alone sufficient fruit of this first visit to Jerusalem; and doubtless the Lord, as He sees of this travail of His soul, is satisfied.

(3) Nothing is more remarkable in this scene than the varied lights in which the Lord Jesus is exhibited in it. Observe, first of all, how entirely this "Man, Christ Jesus," isolates Himself from all other men, as not within the category of that humanity whose regeneration He pronounces indispensable to entrance into the kingdom of God: "Except one [ tis (Greek #5100)] be born again." And after giving a reason for this, arising from that kind of human nature which is propagated from parent to child in every descendant of Adam, He adds, "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must [ dei (Greek #1163) humas (Greek #5209)] be born again." Nor can it be alleged that this is a strain upon the words, which need not be pressed so far as to exclude Himself. For in almost every succeeding verse He continues to speak of Himself as if, though truly man, His connection with humanity were something voluntarily assumed-something super-induced upon His own proper being-that by thus coming into our world He might discharge a great mission of love to the world from His Father in heaven: "We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen: No man hath ascended up to heaven but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven: God sent His Only begotten Son." Putting all these statements together, how evident is it that our Lord does mean to isolate Himself as Man from that universal humanity which cannot without regeneration enter into the kingdom of God.

And, in connection with this, it maybe stated that He never once mixes Himself up with other individual men by the use of such pronouns as "we," and "us," and "our" - except where no false inference could possibly be drawn-but always says, "I" and "they," "I" and "you," "Me" and "them," "My" and "your:" -remarkable and most pregnant fact. But next, observe the lofty style into which He rises when speaking of Himself. He could suggest no measure by which to gauge the love of God to a perishing world except the gift of Himself for it: "God so loved the world that He gave His Only begotten Son." What creature, not lost to all sense of his proper place, would have dared to use such language as this? Then, notice how warily-if we may so express it-our Lord uses the two names by which Himself is designated, "The Son of Man" and "The Son of God." When He would speak of His uplifting from beneath, He uses the former - "Even so must the Son of Man be lifted up:" When He would Speak of His descending from above, as the Father's gift to the world, He uses the latter - "God gave His Only begotten Son." And yet, as if to show that it is One glorious Person who is both these, He uses the one of these-and the lower one too-to express both His higher and His lower natures and His actings in both: "No one [ oudeis (Greek #3762)] hath ascended up to heaven but He that descended from heaven, even the Son of man who is in heaven." This was much observed and dwelt on by the Greek Fathers, who called it 'the communication' or 'interchange of properties' [koinoonia idioomatoon], in virtue of the Oneness of the Person [dia teen tees hupostaseoos tautoteeta]. But once more, with all this lofty bearing, when speaking of Himself, with what meekness, with what patience, with what spiritual skill, does He deal with this soul, in whom candour and caution seem to struggle for the mastery-a jealousy, on the one hand, for his own position, and an anxiety, on the other, to get to the bottom of Christ's claims! (4) What a directory for the preachers of the Gospel, and for all who would save souls, have we here! The two great truths, of Regeneration by the Holy Spirit and Reconciliation by the death of Christ, are here held forth as the two-fold need of every sinner who would be saved. Over the portals of the kingdom of God may be seen two inscriptions, as in great letters of fire:

NO REGENERATION-NO ENTRANCE HERE: WITHOUT THE SHEDDING OF BLOOD-NO FORGIVENESS

Or to turn it out of the negative into the positive form --

THE PURE IN HEART SEE GOD: BELIEVE IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AND BE SAVED

As the one of these gives us the capacity for the kingdom, so the other gives us the right to it. The one rectifies our nature; the other adjusts our relation to God. Without the one we cannot see Him; without the other He will not see us. As upon these two pivots saved souls must ever turn, so on these must turn all preaching and teaching that would be divinely owned.

(5) Is it true that the quickening operations of the Holy Spirit are like the gentle breath of heaven-unseen but not unfelt-with laws of movement divinely ordained, yet to us inscrutable; or if to some small extent so to be traced that our expectations may be stimulated, yet as little to be laid down by us as the laws of heaven's breath? Then let the Church at large, let every section of it, and every Christian, beware of tying down the Spirit of God to their own notions of the way in which, the measure in which, the time in which, and the agencies by which He shall work. There has been far too much of this in all past time, and even until now; and how much the Spirit of the Lord has been thus hindered and restrained, grieved and quenched, who shall tell? He is a "FREE Spirit," but as Himself divine, is saying, "I will work, and who shall let it?" The one test of His presence is its effects. "Every good gift and every perfect is from above." "Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles?" Since nothing can be done effectually without the Spirit, and Christ Himself without the Spirit is no Saviour at all to us (John 16:8-15; Romans 8:9), our business is to be lying in wait for His blessed breathings, expecting them from above (Luke 11:13), and prepared both to welcome and use them, to hail them wheresoever and in whomsoever we find them, and to put ourselves alongside of those operations of His, giving them our countenance and lending them our agency for carrying them out to their proper ends-just as sailors in a calm watch for the moment when a breeze shall spring up, which they know well may be when they least expect it, and hoist and adjust their sails to it with a speed and a skill at which others wonder, so as to let none of it be lost.

(6) Definite, sharp, authoritative, spiritual teaching of divine truth is what alone we may expect will be divinely blessed. It was our Lord's transparent perception of the difference between truth and error, and of what Nicodemus needed, as the right beqinning of a religious character, that prompted His special manner of dealing with him. But the weighty brevity, the sharpness of those lines of distinction between "perdition" and "salvation," the high authority with which He bore in these great truths upon this inquirer, mingled with such gentle and winning spirituality-it is this that is so remarkable and so pregnant with wisdom for all that would follow Him in dealing with souls. Nor is He in these inimitable. The authority with which He uttered these great truths is indeed His own; and of this God says from the excellent glory, "Hear Him." But when we utter them, we do it with His authority, and have a right to use it, as did the apostolic preachers. Nay, this is our strength. The apologetical tone, or the reasoning tone-if it be the main characteristic of our preaching-will leave no divine impress, no stamp of heaven, upon it. Weak in itself, its effects will be weak too. And do not the facts of the pulpit attest this? "My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power; that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God."

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on John 3:21". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/john-3.html. 1871-8.

The Bible Study New Testament

21. But whoever does what is true. Those who LIVE truth LOVE the light are pleased to come to Jesus. God’s call makes no sense, if men and women cannot respond to it (see notes on Revelation 22:17).

 

 

 

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on John 3:21". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/john-3.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(21) He that doeth truth is opposed to “him that practiseth evil.” With fixed purpose he doeth not that which is evil or worthless, but that which, when every veil by which it is hidden from himself or others is removed, remains morally true. Regarding truth as the work of life, he cometh to the light, and though for him too it will be a revelation of sins and errors, and deeds of shame, he hates them the moment he knows them, cuts them from his life at whatever cost, and carries his whole being to the light that it may become really true, and that its true works may be made manifest. He will hate the darkness, for he can have nothing to conceal in it. He will love the light, for everything which it reproves he reproves too, and every ray he can gather from it becomes part of the truth which is his life-work. For the remarkable expression “to do the truth,” which, with its opposite “to do a lie” (John 8:44; Revelation 21:27; Revelation 22:15), is common in Rabbinic writers, comp. Job 13:4, and 1 John 1:6; and for “walking in truth,” comp. 2 John 1:4, and 3 John 1:3-4. In 1 Corinthians 13:6, “truth” is opposed to “iniquity.”

That they are wrought in God.—Perhaps better, because they are wrought in God. This is the reason of their being made manifest in the light revealed in the person of Christ. However full the light which had guided men’s steps had been, it was still part of the true Light which lighteth every man, and must lead to Him. Every work wrought in God had already bound them in union with Him, and prepared them to receive Him. That Light was in the world, in the Law and Prophets of the Old Testament Scriptures (Matthew 5:17), in the witness of things invisible ever borne by the things that are made (Romans 1:20), in the law written upon the hearts of men (Romans 2:14-15). As before (John 3:19), these words are general, but we may not exclude from them a special meaning. He who spoke them warrants our applying them to characters, like the true Nathanael, in whom there is no guile (John 1:47); like the rock-man Peter (John 1:42); like the witness John (Matthew 11:11). Some ground was good when the Sower went forth to sow.

Two thoughts are suggested to us at the close of this first discourse. One is, that the writer, with perfect naturalness, says nothing of the effect on Nicodemus, but leaves the after-glimpses to tell their own tale. (See John 7:50; John 19:39.) The other is, that we have come upon teaching distinct in style and matter from that of the earlier Gospels. On this see Excursus D: The Discourses in St. John’s Gospel.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on John 3:21". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/john-3.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
he that
1:47; 5:39; Psalms 1:1-3; 119:80,105; 139:23,24; Isaiah 8:20; Acts 17:11,12; 1 John 1:6
that his
15:4,5; Isaiah 26:12; Hosea 14:8; 1 Corinthians 15:10; 2 Corinthians 1:12; Galatians 5:22,23; 6:8; Ephesians 5:9; Philippians 1:11; 2:13; Colossians 1:29; Hebrews 13:21; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Peter 1:5-10; 1 John 2:27-29; 4:12,13,15,16; Revelation 3:1,2,15
they are
3 John 1:11
Reciprocal: Psalm 25:12 - him;  Psalm 31:19 - wrought;  Luke 5:17 - that there;  John 12:36 - believe;  Ephesians 2:10 - we are;  Ephesians 5:13 - for;  2 Timothy 3:7 - learning

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on John 3:21". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/john-3.html.

Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Ver. 21. "But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God."

To do truth is to do that which flows from the principle of truth,—q.d., to act in truth, Judges 9:16; Judges 9:19. Truth forms the antithesis to falsehood, pretence, and hypocrisy, with which wickedness is associated. To act rightly and to do truth are coincident: cf. Nehemiah 9:33, "Thou hast done right (truth), but we have done wickedly." Here righteousness is designated as truthfulness in antithesis to ver. 20, according to which the wicked shun the light, in order that the true character of their works, which are covered over with falsehood and hypocrisy, may not be brought to light. For one to do truth, is above all things to acknowledge and confess his sin. In Psalms 32:2, he is declared blessed, in whose spirit, in this respect, there is no guile. Cf. the remarks on John 1:48. But we must not, with Augustine, stop here. The expression designates, generally, true moral earnestness,—a living in God, or in communion with Him; so that He is the efficient principle of all actions. The works being done in God presupposes that God is known. The Lord speaks to a member of the covenant-people, among whom God is present with His Spirit. In a member of this people, who is full of upright moral earnestness, there may be much weakness and much error; but the fundamental tendency of his heart is towards God, and therefore he may approach with humble confidence to the light, which, in the appearance of Christ, shone with previously unknown brightness, being conscious that he will not be put to shame by it, but will receive from it a good testimony. What is here said applies to the heathen only in so far as they had entered into connection with Israel,—an instance of which we have in Cornelius, Acts 10:2; Acts 10:4; Acts 10:35,—or, as by more immediate contact with the Church of Christ, they had been awakened and rendered capable of doing the truth. The φαῦλα πράσσων and the ποιῶν τὴν ἀλήθειαν are, moreover, not in mere juxtaposition. There is in men often, indeed usually, the strangest duplicity. They feel themselves, on the one hand, repelled, in so far as sin is mighty within them; and, on the other, attracted, in so far as a more noble moral aspiration stirs within them. So must it have been also with Nicodemus. He was in a state of indecision. He was to make the great choice between the two opposing principles, which contended within him. Jesus would hardly have laid vers. 19 and 20 before him if they had not concerned him; for here it is no locus of dogmatics which is treated of, but everything has a personal reference. If ver. 21 only applied to him, why did he come to Jesus by night? What is afterwards related of Nicodemus shows, that, with regard to the choice here left to him, he decided to come to the light, and now for ever took leave of that evil principle, which cried to him. The further from the light the better.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on John 3:21". Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/heg/john-3.html.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

21.But he who doeth truth This appears to be an improper and absurd statement, unless you choose to admit that some are upright and true, before they have been renewed by the Spirit of God, which does not at all agree with the uniform doctrine of Scripture; for we know that faith is the root from which the fruits of good works spring. To solve this difficulty, Augustine says, that to do truth means “to acknowledge that we are miserable and destitute of all power of doing good;” and, certainly, it is a true preparation for faith, when a conviction of our poverty compels us to flee to the grace of God. But all this is widely removed from Christ’s meaning, for he intended simply to say that those who act sincerely desire nothing more earnestly than light, that their works may be tried; because, when such a trial has been made, it becomes more evident that, in the sight of God, they speak the truth and are free from all deceit. Now it would be inconclusive reasoning, were we to infer from this, that men have a good conscience before they have faith; for Christ does not say that the elect believe, so as to deserve the praise of good works, but only what unbelievers would do, if they had not a bad conscience.

Christ employed the word truth, because, when we are deceived by the outward lustre of works, we do not consider what is concealed within. Accordingly, he says, that men who are upright and free from hypocrisy willingly go into the presence of God, who alone is the competent Judge of our works. For those works are said to be done in God or according to God, which are approved by Him, and which are good according to His rule. Hence let us learn that we must not judge of works in any other way than by bringing them to the light of the Gospel, because our reason is wholly blind.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on John 3:21". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/john-3.html. 1840-57.