Faith That Does Not Save
Text: John 2:23-25
You may remember that we noticed in the prologue that John is dealing with a lot of contrasts. Death vs life, darkness vs light, that which is created vs He who is uncreated, etc. Among them is faith vs unbelief, and in this portion we see that John is intent in showing the miraculous nature of genuine faith.
We must see this belief mentioned in this passage in contrast with 1:12 “to them gave he the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believed in his name”. Did man contribute to the creation of the world? Did man contribute to the dawn of light? Did man contribute to the birth of life? Clearly from the prologue the answer is a resounding NO, and no one here would debate that.
So with that being the case, it’s rather strange in my mind how some would then debate the origin of genuine faith. It’s clear from John 1 that in John’s mind the origin of the world, light, and life is the same as the origin of genuine faith. And to further clarify the complexity of faith, here in this passage we’re going to see that when man does initiate faith, it is empty. Indeed, it is a damning substitute.
A necessary element of true faith is to have “seen His glory” (1:14), which we shall see is missing from those mentioned here. What we are shown here is Jesus’ ability to know each man with such impeccable accuracy that we are forced to submit to something that makes us uneasy, that is, that He is aware that some who believe in Him are not truly saved. I think all of us would prefer it if this wasn’t the case. It would be better if we were assured that all those who exhibit belief in Christ were genuinely converted, and that all of the unsaved were evident rejectors. But that’s not the case.
I. IT EXISTS IN RELIGIOUS ENVIRONMENTS
As before, the scene here is still in Jerusalem, historically the most religiously rich place on earth. Jerusalem was the city David took over and appointed to be the centre of his kingdom, where the temple was built, and where Jews would go for their pilgrimage feasts; Unleavened Bread/Passover, Weeks/Pentecost, and Booths.
On this occasion it is the feast of the passover. As we said last time, there seems to be an indication from John that it was corrupted like the rest of the Jewish religion at that time, and so it has already been identified as “the Jew’s passover” and not as it was once known as the Lord’s passover. Nevertheless, John makes mention of the attendance of Christ at the passover in Jerusalem on three different occasions, and it is because of the record of this detail that scholars are able to estimate the length of Christ’s public ministry.
In such places there always exists faith, but it is not always saving faith. You don’t find a lot of people expressing their faith in public houses, nightclubs, and brothels. You find it in places of religious worship. Church is a dangerous place. It is in church where false believers are most likely to be found. This is why I preach the way I do. I want all without saving faith to feel uncomfortable. There are too many religious establishments where people in them stop short of getting saved.
II. IT IS ESTABLISHED UPON SIGNS
“many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did.”
Since it is the purpose of John that the writing of this gospel helps people to believe, it’s important to him to show that not all who believe have really believed. The important detail to note about the the type of faith spoken of by Jesus is that it is sign-based. This leads to following Him in a certain sense, but not in a saving sense. We’ll see that each of the passovers in John breed sign-seekers (Jn 2, 6, 11).
Now after this portion, John is going to reveal three interviews, and in the first one I think we’re given an example of a faith that isn’t saving faith in the person of Nicodemus. 3:2 shows the attraction there was to Jesus because of the miracles. There is no denial of what’s going on, and there’s an acknowledgement of His greatest to a degree, but it doesn’t go far enough. It is the faith of nominal Christians, and others. But the point that Jesus is going to make to Nicodemus is that he isn’t born of the Spirit.
You see, anyone can see the signs, but only the enlightened can see the Saviour. Remember Luke 24, where they could not see Jesus even as He walked with them? And those were His own people. But there were those who were blind who saw Jesus before they ever had physical sight. These people have their sight, but they can only see the signs.
John 7:3-5 – note here that the fruit of his brothers’ unbelief is that they want Him to perform miracles to get more attention. Their unbelief desires more miracles. Understand?
John 5:44 – this gives a reason why they would desire this. They loved the glory of man, and since they were the half brothers of Jesus, perhaps they thought they could benefit from His notoriety. It’s like the faith of many who go to church for what they get out of it, rather than taking the place of a servant and saying, ‘I’m here to worship God and hear from God first and foremost’. Why do healthy people flock to healing ministries? To seek for a sign. And this is a dangerous indication of the type of faith they possess.
He didn’t commit himself to them, i.e. He didn’t believe on them even though they believed on Him.
III. IT IS EVIDENT TO CHRIST
i) Because of His knowledge of all people – “he knew all men…he knew what was in man”
People sometimes Google their own name and are surprised at the amount of information Google has about them. You can now actually hire companies to clean up and try to remove the amount of information that is available about you online. But Jesus is not Google. He doesn’t just know your name, address, and what social media profiles you have. He knows everything about everybody, and you can’t hire someone to delete the information. You can’t fall off the grid, or start a new life as someone else.
“But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.” (John 6:64).
There are some who have an ability to read people. They see details that others miss. They have powers of observation and listening that enable them to have a far better understanding of a person than that person knows they’re giving away. If you’ve ever known anyone like that, then that Jesus Christ is that to an infinite degree of knowledge of your inner thoughts and outward life.
For those of you who are married, then I trust you know something of what it is to be so comfortable with someone that you could tell them anything. There is an implicit trust. This is part of what makes the relationship so special and unique among relationships. The openness and vulnerability of a happy marital union.
And yet, you probably still hide things from them. I’m not suggesting you’re hiding something you should tell them, but there are no doubt things you don’t share. Regardless of how open you are, there are simply things you just do not tell one another, if for nothing else than for the lack of time.
But this is not possible with Jesus. There are no secrets in your life with Him, and He is really the only person who knows you fully. Just as your best friend or spouse is often able to help you through problems because they know you better than anyone else, that is elevated to an infinite degree with Jesus. He knows are feelings, thoughts, motives, desires, strengths, weaknesses, powers and limitations.
In fact, we all have certain fears that our relationships are based not only on what people know, but what they don’t know. And there are things people don’t know that we wonder if they DID know, would that change the relationship? But it doesn’t with Jesus Christ.
ii) This should be a comfort to genuine believers
If you are a genuine believer tonight, this should bless your soul immensely, since in spite of His intimate knowledge, He loves you more than anyone. When others misunderstand you, Jesus doesn’t. When others change their opinion of you, Jesus doesn’t. When others question your sincerity, Jesus has a perfect knowledge of it. When you physically or mentally can’t go on, Jesus knows the reality of that.
And with all this intimate knowledge of you, He doesn’t merely spectate. No. His knowledge of you combined with His love and covenant relationship with you, moves Him to sustain you. He is “full of grace” and as He reveals in John 17, He is praying not for the unbeliever, but for you, His follower and friend.
The fact that it tells us that Jesus did not commit Himself to them, shows us by implication that this is what He does with those who are true believers. He commits Himself to them. Isn’t it great to know that Christ is committed to you child of God? Do you think He wavers in His commitment? Do you think He’s half-hearted in helping you with your present trial?
In Luke 22:31-32 “The Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” The Lord knows Peter is going to deny Him, but He also knows Peter is going to recover. The knowledge of Christ enables Him to prepare His people for all trials.
Remember the last chapter of John? After Peter has denied the Lord three times, and after the resurrection the Lord meets with the disciples and because He is committed to their welfare, He helps Peter to get over his tragic denial. Three times the Lord asks, “Lovest thou me?” and Peter replies the first two times, “thou knowest that I love thee” and the third time, “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee”. You see the omniscient knowledge of Christ was a comfort to Peter. He hadn’t had a chance to prove His love to the Lord as yet, but he knew that the Lord would know the extent of his love. The Lord knew how to help His child, and He knows how to help you, too.
iii) This should be a challenge to false converts
Jesus does not believe their believing. Does He believe your believing? Do others believe your believing?
Close – It may be the case that tonight you are one with a faith that’s void of Christ. We should not despair. There were those among this group who eventually came to a fuller understanding of the gospel, and saw Christ more fully in His person and work. Those like Nicodemus, or like his own brothers. Maybe it’s time for you to step out of your profession and into the real possession of Christ?