Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth (John 9:31).
The healed man, not content with merely exposing the inconsistency and ignorance of his now uncomfortable querists, now proceeds to show by a carefully knit argument that the conclusion the Jews had drawn regarding Jesus was neither logical nor scriptural. His major premise, “We know that God heareth not sinners,” those Jews would not controvert since the Old Testament scriptures they affected to respect so much clearly taught this (Job 27:9; Psalm 66:18; Prov. 15:29; Isa. 1:15).
Nicodemus stated the truth of this premise in his interview with Jesus: “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that thou doest, except God be with him” (John 3:2). This, indeed, was the basic argument the authorities offered against Jesus; by their charge that he was a sinner (John 9: 24), they intended to rest on this premise. If this accusation could be sustained all would admit that Jesus did not act for God, since this premise would be a foregone one. The truth was stated by the healed man both negatively and positively: Negatively, “We know that God heareth not sinners.” Positively, “But if any man be a worshipper of God, and do his will him he heareth.” Thusfar, then, there was agreement on all sides regarding the premise stated. God does not respond to prayers of sinners.
It is sometimes alleged that this passage has no bearing on the question of whether God hears and answers prayers of alien sinners on the grounds that (a) he who uttered these words was an uninspired man, and (b) the remark was made about Jews who were not aliens at that time. Though the man was not inspired, he gave utterance to a truth which is inspired and is often stated in the scriptures: “The eyes of Jehovah are toward the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. The face of Jehovah is against them that do evil. . .’’(Psalm 34: 15, 16). “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear” (Psalm 66: 18). “Jehovah is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous” (Prov. 15: 29). The once blind man’s challenge went unanswered because it was true.
The Jews, though not aliens in the ordinary import of the word, were unwilling to comply with the conditions obligatory upon them and were thus in the position of an alien who prays for salvation instead of rendering obedience to the commands of the Lord which are conditions precedent to salvation. It should be observed that every blessing an alien sinner needs is obtained on specified conditions, prayer not being included among them (Mark 16:15, 16; Acts 2:38; 22: 16). In no instance, in the scriptures, was an alien sinner ever instructed to pray for salvation from past, or alien, sins, and in the only instance in which such a sinner was found praying he was told to terminate it and to complete his obedience: “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16).
Cornelius is not an exception to this rule; inasmuch as the gospel had never been extended to include the Gentiles he was obviously still answerable to God under the same arrangement which had been operative for those not Jews since Eden. For a detailed discussion of the law under which Cornelius lived, prior to the visit of the angel, see QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS, Open Forum, by Guy N. Woods, pages 63, 64. Jesus does not intercede for alien sinners (Heb. 7:25), and God is not their Father (John 8:44; 1 John 3:10). How can an alien sinner lift his eyes heavenward and say, My Father in heaven. . . ?” His father is not in heaven. See, especially, John 8:44.
Guy N. Woods, from A Commentary on the Gospel According to John, pp. 195,196.