Gospel of John: Penalty, Power, Presence


The ruler of this world has been judged, and all those who had been held captive were now free to follow Jesus into the light, to follow the way and the truth to the Father.

Set Free from Our Past

Free from the penalty of sin. Deliverance of all those who put their faith in Jesus would begin with a one-time act of being saved from the penalty of sin, as the Apostle Paul would later explain.

The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ [is] for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since -all- have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by [God’s] grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Apostle Paul, Romans 3:23 (NRSV)

The end result of sin—the imperfection Paul was speaking of, the falling short of God’s glory—is inevitably death. James would also later touch on this subject when he wrote,

One is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death.

Jesus’ brother James, James 1:14-15 (NRSV)

This inevitability is sometimes described as the penalty of sin, as many passages in both the Hebrew scriptures and the Christian testament will ascribe:

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.

God, to the man in the Garden of Eden, Genesis 2:17

The Lord watches over all who love him,
    but all the wicked [God] will destroy.

King David, Psalm 145:20 (NRSV)

The person who sins shall die. A child shall not suffer for the iniquity of a parent, nor a parent suffer for the iniquity of a child; the righteousness of the righteous shall be his own, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be his own.

Prophet Ezekiel, Ezekiel 18:20 (NRSV)

And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

Jesus, Matthew 25:46 (NRSV)

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Apostle Paul, Romans 6:23 (NRSV)

And, at the beginning of this gospel,

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.

Jesus, John 3:36 (NRSV)

That penalty could now be removed, for God had judged the ruler of this world, and Satan’s powers would be taken from him at the cross.

Set Free in our Present

Free from the power of sin. This is accomplished in every believer’s life through belief in God’s word, trust in the power of the Holy Spirit working together with our obedience to God. You and I now have the freedom, the power, to choose righteousness, to choose being deeply united and in communion with God through Christ.

Again, many passages in the Christian testament describe this breathtaking freedom, but the most prolific writer was Paul.

All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

. . . Do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Apostle Paul, Romans 6:4-5, 12-14

This is not a merely philosophical proposition, or even a paradigm shift. Jesus’ death and resurrection literally gained release from what the Apostle Paul called elemental powers.

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in [Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority

. . . when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. 

. . . God made you alive together with him, when [God] forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. [God] set this aside, nailing it to the cross. [God] disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.

Apostle Paul, Colossians 2:6-7, 8-10, 12, 13-15

Before Jesus opened the way, every person found themselves bound to sin. But now sin is no longer our master.

Set Free in Our Future

Free from the presence of sin. The apostle John said that we will one day see Jesus as he is because we will be just like him, glorified, sin-free. Sin and death will be destroyed, including all that warps and distorts the beauty of God’s creation, the entirety of the cosmos.

That remaking of all that is, the restoration of all things in Christ, is the forward movement of God’s magnificent metanarrative, the revelation of God’s eternal and infinite love for all creation, set in motion in Genesis 3.

Jesus, who must remain in heaven until the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago through his holy prophets.

. . . In accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

Apostle Peter, Acts 3:21, 2 Peter 3:13 (NRSV)

With all wisdom and insight [God] has made known to us the mystery of [God’s] will, according to [God’s] good pleasure that [God] set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Apostle Paul, Ephesians 1:8-10 (NRSV)

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

John,[1] Revelation 21:1 (NRSV)

So Much More . . .

Yet much have I to tell you, but you all are not able to carry it now.

Jesus to his disciples, John 16:12

The time would be right when the Holy Spirit came, because the Spirit of Truth would guide them into knowing and understanding the truths they were now unable to absorb, because the Spirit speaks from God.

The Spirit would recall the truth of Jesus’ teaching, and his life, what would one day be written down in the four Gospels. The Spirit’s guidance would enable them as described in the Acts of the Apostles, and the instruction found in the Christian testament. The Spirit would show them what was to come, illuminating the prophetic passages in the Hebrew scriptures, and also give new prophecy throughout the Christian testament.

The Spirit always works in conjunction with God’s word in Scripture, because the Holy Spirit’s teaching is no different than the Father’s and the Son’s.

The Holy Spirit reveals truth to the world.

Response to Revealed Truth

And what will be the world’s response to the truth revealed?

Some people will be attracted. They will realize that much of the pain in their lives has been the result of sin, of this twisting and destroying of what God had originally created as beautiful and good. They will long to be made whole again and will be full of eager joy to embrace the gospel.

They will be impressed by the joy, peace, fulfillment, and love made evident by those who are filled with the Spirit of God, and live close to the heart of God. With all their hearts, they will want that same communion with God in Christ.

Others will respond with hostility. They will not appreciate at all being made to see that what they think they are enjoying, or think they need, or think is their mainstay, or protection, or security, or . . . has become their master and is actually destroying them.

Nevertheless, it is the Spirit’s work to convict hearts and reveal truth to minds. Our work is to love.


[1] The writer of Revelation attributes this apocalyptical document to “John,” in Revelation 1:1. Many scholars consider this a reference not to the Apostle John, but rather to a student of John who became John the Elder. Others believe Revelation’s attribution was meant for the Johannine community, but was written by a now unknown person.

[Sunlight by rishibando on Flickr | The Library of Congress / CC unknown]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s