For anyone who may be interested, here is the conclusion from my paper at the Evangelical Theological Society Conference which I present tomorrow, November 16, at 3:00 PM in San Francisco.
Absence of διακιόω and δικαίωσις from John’s Gospel inclines Johannine scholars to say little, except in passing, concerning the Gospel’s contributions to the New Testament teaching on the doctrine of justification. The fact that John frames his expressions concerning justification as negated understatements doubtless contributes to this. Nevertheless, two of John’s narratives provide fertile discourse that bears much fruit concerning a rich understanding of his teaching with regard to justification.
John’s contributions concerning justification come by way of recognizing Jesus’ use of litotes in his sayings of John 3:18 and 5:24. When he announces “the one who believes in him is not condemned” (3:18) and “the one who hears . . . and believes . . . does not come into condemnation” (5:24), Jesus is actually saying quite emphatically, “the one who believes is assuredly justified.” For by way of litotes, the emphatic us of understatement to affirm the positive truth by negating its opposite, Jesus is emphatically affirming that his coming brings forward the verdict of the Last Day so that already the verdict is being revealed in how people respond to him, either in belief or unbelief.
Jesus underscores the fact that his presence in this world establishes the presence of the future Last Day judgment when with performative words he announces “an hour is coming and now is when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live” (5:25). Thus, the paradoxical saying indicates that the Son of Man who will call forth the dead on the Last Day is already giving resurrection life to all who believe in God’s Son. Yet, additionally, God’s wrath remains upon all who disobey the Son. Thus, the two antithetical verdicts of judgment in the Last Day—“resurrection of life” and “resurrection of condemnation”—already are being revealed wherever the voice of God’s Son is heard in this present age.
Indeed, resurrection and judgment properly belong to the Last Day. God’s Son came not to condemn the world, yet because the Light has come into the world judgment issues from his presence. His presence brings the Last Day verdict of justification to all who believe but the same Last Day verdict of condemnation to everyone who disobeys by unbelief. Thus, just as Jesus Christ already gives life to the dead who hear his voice ahead of the Day of Resurrection, so also, ahead of the Day of Judgment Jesus announces the verdict of the Last Day, that those who do not believe in the Son already stand condemned while those who believe in him already stand not condemned, which is to say, they are already assuredly justified (3:18).