19. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world; and men loved darkness rather than light; for their works were evil. 20. For whosoever doeth what is evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, that his works may not be discovered. 21. But he who doeth truth cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest, that they are done in God. 1
19. And this is the condemnation. He meets the murmurs and complaints, by which wicked men are wont to censure -- what they imagine to be the excessive rigour of God, when he acts towards them with greater severity than they expected. All think it harsh that they who do not believe in Christ should be devoted to destruction. That no man may ascribe his condemnation to Christ, he shows that every man ought to impute the blame to himself. The reason is, that unbelief is a testimony of a bad conscience; and hence it is evident that it is their own wickedness which hinders unbelievers from approaching to Christ. Some think that he points out here nothing more than the mark of condemnation; but, the design of Christ is, to restrain the wickedness of men, that they may not, according to their custom, dispute or argue with God, as if he treated them unjustly, when he punishes unbelief with eternal death. He shows that such a condemnation is just, and is not liable to any reproaches, not only because those men act wickedly, who prefer darkness to light, and refuse the light which is freely offered to them, but because that hatred of the light arises only from a mind that is wicked and conscious of its guilt. A beautiful appearance and lustre of holiness may indeed be found in many, who, after all, oppose the Gospel; but, though they appear to be holier than the angels, there is no room to doubt that they are hypocrites, who reject the doctrine of Christ for no other reason than because they love their lurking-places by which their baseness may be concealed. Since, therefore, hypocrisy alone renders men hateful to God, all are held convicted, because were it not that, blinded by pride, they delight in their crimes, they would readily and willingly receive the doctrine of the Gospel.
20. For whosoever doeth what is evil. The meaning is, that the light is hateful to them for no other reason than because they are wicked and desire to conceal their sins, as far as lies in their power. Hence it follows that, by rejecting the remedy, they may be said purposely to cherish the ground of their condemnation. We are greatly mistaken, therefore, if we suppose that they who are enraged against the Gospel are actuated by godly zeal, when, on the contrary, they abhor and shun the light, that they may more freely flatter themselves in darkness.
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.