- Isaiah 29:13-24
- John 12:37-50
My dear friends in the Lord Jesus Christ,
The Word of God speaks to us today under the topic, “What sort of faith?” There are four headings:
- Faith that cannot see
- Faith that cannot be seen
- Faith that sees God and passes judgement into eternity
It was James, the brother of our Lord, who made this important statement:
“You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? (James 2:18–20, NIV)
James does not say that works contributes something to saving faith. Far from it! What he does say is that if one claims to have saving faith, it must show in some way one’s live. For out of the abundance of one’s heart, one’s mouth speaks.
So, let’s examine ourselves and ask, “What sort of faith do I have?”
According to the John’s Gospel, chapter 12 as we read it, our Lord is now wrapping up his public teaching ministry. Between chapter 13-17 He privately teaches his disciples; He is arrested in chapter 18, and is then handed over to be killed.
In a way John is looking back on three and a half years ministry of our Lord. There are four groups of people who in some way or another saw our Lord perform miracles and heard Him taught about the Kingdom of God. There were those whose faith could not see; then there were others whose faith could not be seen; but then there were others whose faith saw God, whose faith could pass judgment into eternity.
Faith that cannot see
John records to this stunning conclusion to the public teaching ministry of Christ:
Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in Him. (John 12:37)
This was the same as in the time of Isaiah. John quotes Isaiah 53,
Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? (Isaiah 53:1, NIV)
Paul talks about his own people saying they had all going for them: from amongst all the peoples of the earth, God took them as his own; no other nation had the privilege of living in a covenant with the One and only God of heaven and earth; to them God delivered through his servant Moses his Law, written with his own finger; they had a temple designed by God and, in spiritual sense, occupied by God Himself; to them God made promises that the Messiah would come from them; this Messiah is Christ who is God over all! (Romans 9:1-5) And yet, when He came to which was his own, they did not receive him (John 1:11). Paul then says it is almost as if God has failed (Romans 9:6). Why did they not come to faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ? Listen to his words in Romans 9:6,
It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. (Romans 9:6, NIV)
He continues in the next chapter, and now he quotes the verse John took from Isaiah 53:
But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” (Romans 10:16, NIV)
In the face of all God’s promises who became reality in Jesus Christ, they saw but they didn’t see. Let’s go to Romans 1 to see if we can understand this. In 1:18 we read that the godless suppress the truth. What truth? The truth about God’s greatness and majesty displayed in creation. He says,
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20, NIV)
The result is that their hearts are darkened; they claim to we wise, although they are fools, because only a fool says in his heart their is no God (Psalm 14:1). But man is created for worship, so they worship what God has made instead of worshipping Him. What is the result? Verse 24:
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. (Romans 1:24, NIV)
Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 2,
They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. (2 Thessalonians 2:10–12, NIV)
Their unbelief can not be ascribed to God. But it is true that the unbelieving man cannot believe. As we read about it in Isaiah 29 this morning,
The ruthless will vanish, the mockers will disappear, and all who have an eye for evil will be cut down— (Isaiah 29:20)
I agree with the man who said one needs a lot of faith to be an atheist. At the end of Christ’s ministry some were stuck with a faith in reverse: it was not that they did not know – who can taste wine which was first nothing but water, who can to to someone who was blind, someone who could not walk, or someone whose body was a rotten corpse in a grave, and still not believe?
There are not many people like this in evangelic, Bible-believing churches today, but let’s not be too complacent. Therefore the Word comes to us: What sort of faith is yours? Does your faith see, or is it blind? What then, will make you see, believe and have eternal life?
Faith that cannot be seen
Faith that cannot see may not be in abundance amongst those who call themselves Christians, but the majority of Christians falls in the next group. Let’s hear about this group:
Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God. (John 12:42-43, NIV)
In more than one way this part in the Scriptures corresponds with the parable our Lord told about the sower and the one about the light and the lamp stand, as well as the one about the salt which lost its saltiness. Such Christians are like the church described in Revelation 3,
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:15–16, NIV)
This group of people believe, they attend church, they outwardly do all the right things, they write on the census form that they are Christians, they’re baptised and might even take communion. But that’s it! When they move outside of the church doors their faith cannot be seen, or their testimony is voiceless and without any proof that they are indeed Christians.
Show me your deeds and I will know what you believe! Faith without works is dead. In Isaiah 29:13 says the Lord says:
“These people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of Me is based on merely human rules they have been taught. (Isaiah 29:13, NIV)
This is a faith without Christ; it’s hopeless and dead. So, in essence there’s not much difference between a faith that cannot not see and a faith that cannot be seen.
Faith that sees God and passes judgement into eternity
Jesus said in our chapter from John:
“Whoever believes in me does not believe in Me only, but in the One who sent Me. The one who looks at Me is seeing the One who sent Me. (John 12:44–45, NIV)
This is true saving faith. It’s looking at Christ with eyes that can see, truely see. John uses “to see” as a synonym for believe, for having moved out of darkness in the light, for having receive sight after spiritual blindness, for having received Christ instead of rejecting Him, for having knowledge and understanding instead of living in blind ignorance which leads to death.
The woman at the well saw the Messiah, and her life changed. The man at the pool witnessed about Jesus who healed him. The blind man saved from his blindness said, “I was blind, but now I see.”
It might be one thing to call yourself a Christian and not bow before the mighty hand of God. It might be that you call yourself a Christian because you believe God, but have not accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. But the Bible has none of it: when it comes to salvation it’s both the Father and the Son – without the Son no one can go to the Father; without the Father we would have no Saviour. As as we will see in the rest of this series, it surely also means to acknowledge the Holy Spirit as God – so, Father, Son and Holy Spirit: Three in one, eternal God.
What sort of faith is yours? One which made you bow in submission to the Father and the Son? One which makes you see and say, “I was blind, but now I see.”?
Our Lord said:
There is a judge for the one who rejects Me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” (John 12:48, 50, NIV)
Faith which took our Lord seriously does not reject Him, but cling to every word as a command which leads to eternal life.
There comes a dreadful day for those who cannot see faith, as well as for those whose faith cannot be seen: the words of Christ which now comes as an invitation to eternal life, will echo like thunder on the last day – not as words of comfort, but as words of condemnation. They will be words that pierces the heart, and they will reverberate for eternity into hell.
Let’s conclude and ask ourself, as we stand before God, hearing the invitation to come and receive eternal life, free, all because Christ exchanged his righteousness for our unrighteousness, his sinlessness for our sinfulness. What sort of faith is my faith? One that cannot see? If you yet don’t see Him as Lord, pray that the words of Isaiah 29:18 come true in your life:
In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll, and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see. (Isaiah 29:18, NIV)
If your faith cannot be seen, today is the day you can ask God to change your heart, give you courage and strengthen you resolve to stand up in public in his Name and for his glory when you become salt and your light shine in this dark world to the glory go God.
If your faith sees God and Christ, and you have bowed before Him as your Lord and Saviour, press forward because his command leads forward to eternal life.
Sermon preached by Rev. D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 29 January 2017