Do They Believe?
June 17, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
It is not unusual for me to finish preaching a sermon on Sunday and have more things on my heart and mind that I wanted to address. I wrestle between the desires to dive deeply into the wonders of Scripture, verse by verse, and maintaining a pace that keeps us moving forward through our book of the Bible. This last Sunday was my 47th sermon in the Gospel of John, and we have just hit the halfway mark. At the end of the day, however, my confidence rests not in my ability to map out a sermon schedule but in the efficacy of God’s Word. God ministers among us through His Word, which does not return to him empty (Is. 55:11).
Some weeks, I use this space as an opportunity to address something from our sermon text that I left out from the sermon. This last Sunday we were wrestling with the hard truth of the unbelief of the Jews. They become hardened in their unbelief. God does not actively cause anyone’s unbelief, but he withholds his gracious assistance as a form of judgment. Without his help, no one will come to faith in Christ. No one deserves or has the right to God’s assistance. This is humbling, and, I pray, inspiring of worship of Christ.
I did not spend much time on John’s “nevertheless” statement in 12:42. This is another challenging statement. John writes, “Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”
Several questions arise from this challenging passage: 1. Are these “authorities” true believers? 2. John 5:44 says one cannot believe if he does not seek the glory that comes only from God; how does this fit with John 12:43? 3. Why does John even mention this “nevertheless”?
Let me try to answer my own questions, while applying these truths to us.
- Maybe… Throughout John’s gospel, he has mentioned the “belief” of the crowd, but then demonstrates that their faith is not saving faith (cf. 2:23-24; 6:66; 8:30-32). Many were drawn to Jesus because he was so unique. But to believe that Jesus is special is vastly different than believing that Jesus is the Savior from your sins.
These crowds, however, may be part of the crowds who come to saving faith through the ministry of the apostles in Acts. Where do the thousands of people come from to repent, believe, and be added to the numbers of the church? Even a “great many of the priests became obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). So the many authorities who believe in Jesus but do not confess him may be those who are being prepared by the Spirit to come to saving faith in the days of the early church. We can rest in the truth that all those whom God calls he justifies (i.e. saves; cf. Rom. 8:30).
- Loving the glory that comes from man is idolatry. It is looking for “salvation,” although no one thinks of it in those terms, from man. What can man do for me? How can man meet my needs? Therefore, loving the glory that comes from man is a roadblock for faith in Christ. So, if these authorities do love the glory from man more than the glory from God, they cannot put their faith Christ for their salvation. That idolatry must be overcome.
This is a warning to all. Love of the praise of people is idolatrous and a faith-killer. We need to be vigilant for such snares to our faith and fight for satisfaction in Christ alone.
- John’s purpose of writing is that we, the readers, would believe Jesus is the Christ and Son of God (20:31). I believe John includes these people who believe, but don’t believe, for two reasons. First, he wants to encourage us that coming to faith in Christ is a process. Do not be discouraged if you or a loved one do not come to saving faith the first time you or they hear the gospel. These were eyewitnesses of the miracles of Jesus and still it took time for people to believe. Second, John wants us to be clear that there is faith and then there is faith. There is a faith in Christ that finds him intriguing and worthy of our time and attention, but this faith does not rest in him alone for salvation. Then there is saving faith, a faith that believes that Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and rests in him alone for salvation. The main purpose of John is to call us to true saving faith in Christ.