There's an old saying, "If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it must be a duck."Today we will learn that if it "looks like faith" it is not necessarily faith . . .
Yesterday we focused on the omniscience of Jesus in this text. Today we will study that there is a kind of faith in Jesus that He does not approve. Whoa. That is a big one. Let's dig in and make certain that we understand!
Today's study is a result of the omniscience that we focused on yesterday. John the gospel-writer notes that when Jesus looked into the heart of some of those who believed, he saw something other than the kind of faith that makes you a child of God.
It seems to our finite minds that Jesus should be thrilled with the folks who see the signs and believe. But he’s not. Verse 24 says, “But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because He knew all people.” This is not the way He treats His own sheep whom He calls by name. When Jesus withholds himself from them, he is saying that they are not believing in a saving way. They are not the children of God -- They are not doing what we noted in John 1:12.
Wait a minute! What's wrong with their faith; what is wrong with their believing? Let's check out the clues . . .
In the very next chapter (and don't forget, chapter divisions are a human, later-than-the-writing-of-the-gospel invention) we see Nicodemus coming to Jesus and saying:
"Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” John 3:2This is the kind of faith that Jesus sees in the people. It's a huge statement of faith -- it's what some Jews believe about Jesus; it's what Muslims and even some unsaved believe. Jesus is "from God" and what He does are "signs" of the power of God in Him.
It's very significant faith. But it is not saving faith. We know from the rest of the story that Nicodemus (at the time he questioned Christ) was not born again. He was still spiritually blind, and only saw the signs -- they were so impressive that he concluded they must involve the almighty God.
Remember the clue in verse 23: "Many believed in His name when they saw the signs ...." Signs were meant to point people to the true Savior, the Son of God and what He stood for. But John is noting here that many saw the signs and did not see what they stood for.
Let's look at an example:
So his brothers said to him, ‘Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.’ For not even his brothers believed in him” (John 7:3-5)Wow! The reason that his brothers wanted Him to go and do His miracles, was to get some attention in Judea! And that was because they did not believe in Him. Well, they knew He worked miracles....they could believe that. They were excited about it and wanted him to get the attention they thought he deserved. That, John states, is unbelief. And here is how John clarifies it:
“How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” John 5:44
You see, deep down in their hearts (remember yesterday? Jesus sees our hearts perfectly.) His brothers loved the glory of man. They saw Him working miracles and not receiving much glory. They wanted attention for Him, and indirectly for themselves. They wanted Him, and themselves, to receive admiration.
Here is the bottom line: real, saving faith in Christ is an humble thing. It's what we do because we are broken, and need "fixing." It's not what popularity seekers or power-hungry people, or sign-followers do. You see, sign-seeking is not a good idea. Many people today scoot from one sign or wonder to the next. They look for the spectacular; if it's incredible, it must be from God, right? Then when the leader or worker has marriage problems or financial or legal problems, they are disappointed and disillusioned.
“False christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.”Matthew 24:24Yes, they may do signs and maybe even miracles. And they will cause the sign-seekers to fall away from following Christ. They had faith, yes. A kind of faith. And that is what Jesus knew, and John is warning us about.
Paul tells us in Thessalonians:
“The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and lying signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.”Thess. 2:9-10In the last days before Jesus comes, there will be signs and wonders. Some of them will be real. And they will be lying - full of deception. Many who profess faith in Christ; a kind of faith, a faith that does not love the truth, will switch that faith from Jesus to another sign-worker who seems more impressive.....and they will perish in the end.
So, as we look at yesterday's study and today's, we need to ask ourselves: Is our faith based on a spiritual sight of the glory of the Son? Do we see Christ and His cross as compelling us to repent and partake of His life and follow His glory? Or are we only attracted to signs and wonders?
It's awe-inspiring to think that Jesus, who could see perfectly into the depths of every soul, and Who could summon angels to do His bidding, and Who could make things happen with a single word -- this Jesus knew what was in man (and woman). He chose when and where and how and why He would die. And He did it for us. He and His cross are the greatest glory -- if we believe on Him, the Lamb of God will take away our sins and make us children of God.
The greatest glory is that He is our Savior! He lives, and makes intercession for us. Praise Him!