18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Verse 18 argues that God’s judgment can be averted by believing in His Son. Every person is responsible for his or her decision about Christ (vv. 18-21). The centrality of faith in Christ is at the essence of biblical Christianity. No person can enter eternal life without Christ and dependence on His work for our salvation.
18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned [judged];
The means of salvation is to believe in the finished work of Christ on the cross. The believer is under no sentence of condemnation (Jn 5:24; Ro 8:1). Judgment is a natural consequence of unbelief.
The present tense of “is” indicates that the believer is no longer under the judgment of God. Believers are beyond the danger of eternal separation from God.
To believe “in” or into Him is more than giving credence to what someone said. This expression means to have confidence in Christ, to rely on Him. We rely on His sacrifice for our sin to save us eternally. We rely on Him, not on our works, self-righteousness, or religion like Nicodemus did.
but he who does not believe
The one qualification for condemnation from God is those who do not believe. The present tense here shows that unbelievers are under the continuing effects of God’s judgment. Faith is the means whereby one receives eternal life.
is [stands] condemned already,
The condemnation here is not that at the end of life but is current to those who know not Christ. The Greek tense indicates that those who do not currently believe in Christ stand under God’s condemnation.
People who do not trust the work of Christ for their salvation stand condemned. They do not have to do anything to be condemned; they are condemned from the start. God makes it very clear that unbelievers are in a state of condemnation and not, in this verse, exposed to some future condemnation.
People do not have to actively sin to be lost; they are born into a state of condemnation.
People do not have to do anything to become condemned; they are in a state of condemnation by birth (Ps 51:5; 58:3). They begin physical life in a state of spiritual death. The lost are born judged by God.
People deserve hell because they have not accepted God’s solution to their sin problem. They do not need to do anything to become lost; they are lost. Therefore, all non-Christians exist already in a state of judgment by God. They have not accepted the One who paid for their sins. They do not have to do anything to become lost because they are already condemned to hell. The unbeliever is in a state of condemnation as a result of Adam’s sin and exists in a state of spiritual death.