Condemnation – definition

Fear definition depends on the context
Correctly understanding these terms leads to a better
understanding of the character of God and the Gospel.

Traditional Legal Model – God condemns and has negative feelings towards sinners and will impose punishment on them if they don’t make things right.

Biblical Healing Model – God does not condemn or have negative feelings towards sinners. His focus and efforts are always to heal and restore.

A Modern Definition

Condemnation (noun)

  • the act of condemning.
  • the state of being condemned.
  • strong censure; disapprobation; reproof.
  • a cause or reason for condemning.

(www.dictionary.com, accessed Apr. 30, 2019)

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

Condemnation (noun)
1. The act of condemning; the judicial act of declaring one guilty, and dooming him to punishment.
For the judgment was by one to condemnation Romans 5:16.
2. The state of being condemned.
Dost thou not fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation Luke 23:40.
3. The cause or reason of a sentence of condemnation John 3:19.

(http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/condemnation, accessed Apr. 30, 2019)

Here is another condemnation definition:

“The verdict [acquittal or guilt] indicates that the defendant is either free from or accountable to the law’s penalty for that crime. Thus the result is either vindication or condemnation. Condemnation can refer either to the legal status of liability to punishment or to the actual infliction of that punishment. At times the word is also used in a broader context to refer to negative evaluations of a person by peers or by one’s own conscience.” (https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/condemnation.html)

I have no problem with that as a definition of how condemnation functions; the real question is: “does God condemn or not?”

To understand condemnation, I think it is important to recognize that condemnation (or acquittal) is the result of the process of judgment. If a person is condemned they have also been judged (in that case, as guilty). The two are closely connected.

See the glossary definition for judgment which includes a short video illustrating Jesus’ non-judgmental, non-condemning attitude.

Now let’s investigate in more detail God’s role, if any, in the condemnation of sinners. Christians take comfort in this passage:

“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18  He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19  And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:17-19)

Non-believers might look at the “he that believeth not” section of verse 18 and say “that’s me; God is going to condemn me.” But look at it closely. Jesus was speaking in the present tense.

“He that believeth on him is not condemned

            but

“he that believeth not is condemned already

When where those (alive in His day) who did not believe to be condemned? Not some time in the future; they were “condemned already.” Does it say who the condemning was done by? No.

Here are more verses speaking of condemnation in the present tense:

“Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” (Titus 3:11)

“For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.” (1 John 3:20)

Those verses indicate that it is not God Who is doing the condemning but the condemned person himself. Here is another verse relating condemnation to words spoken:

“For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” (Matt 12:37)

Those Jesus was talking to were condemned not by God’s words but “by thy words” that is, by their own words.

If condemnation follows directly upon a guilty judgment and a person is self-condemned it follows that they must also be self-judged. Then, if God does not condemn, as shown above, it should follow that God does not judge either.

To see how this works read the page Judged as You Judge.

The next verses after John 3:19 cited above show the danger in ignoring opportunities to learn truth (light):

“For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” (John 3:20-21)

If a person ignores truth (will not come to the light) and convictions of their conscience in this life they will be faced with them in the judgment and will be self-condemned. “Why didn’t I …”

“For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Eccl 12:14)

Note that it does not say who is doing the judging in that verse. God’s role is described in these verses:

“Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.” (1 Cor 4:5)

Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” (1 Cor 3:13)

He brings to light, to the awareness of each one involved, all secrets. If He is bringing it to light, He is already aware of it. He does not have to investigate to learn the facts:

“Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” (Heb 4:13)

The final judgment is for us, not for Him.

Go to The Character of God and the Gospel Glossary for more definitions.

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