From Unbelieving to Believing, Part 2
5-31-15 John 20:24-29 Lesson 125
Good morning everybody. If we could take our Bibles and open them to John, this time I’m serious, you had to be here for the meeting to understand that one, John 20, taking a look this morning at verses 27, 28 and 29. The title of our message this morning is From Unbelieving to Believing, Part 2. If you’ve been tracking with us in John’s Gospel, we find ourselves in that closing section which really revolves around not just Christ’s death but the section that we are in involves His resurrection. And that section began with the empty tomb, verses 1-10, and then what follows in this chapter, and in the rest of the book, is Christ’s resurrection appearances, first to Mary, then to the ten disciples, Thomas not present, and then finally to the eleven eight days later with Thomas present. So the character that’s being highlighted in these verses is this man, Thomas, a man that we sometimes, I think flippantly, refer to him as “doubting Thomas.”
Here is some of the ground that we covered last week. We had Thomas’ reluctance; he’s reluctant to believe the testimony that the disciples kept saying that Jesus has risen from the dead. Jesus had been out of the grave for eight days; Thomas is slow to believe. Why? He wasn’t there when the Lord appeared to the ten, and consequently Thomas tells the rest of them I’ve got some criteria, if you will, I’ve got some standards. I’ve actually got to see and touch Him in His body and His wounds, and if that doesn’t happen then I will not believe.
So what begins to dawn on Thomas, after these requirements are laid out, is a growing recognition, in fact a miraculous recognition who Jesus is. Jesus, as we saw last time actually manifested Himself, just like He had done to the ten eight days earlier. They are in the same room and He reappears to them and now He’s with the eleven, Thomas present. And consequently verse 27, Jesus gives an invitation to Thomas. How would you like it if the Lord just showed up in your house one day, in your room, in your place of study, and He said yeah, those questions you’ve been asking Me, well, here’s an answer.
And you’ll notice verse 27, as we pick this up, it says, “Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here with your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” One of the things that’s sort of interesting about this is when Thomas had laid out his test of faith, back in verse 25, Jesus was not in the room. Jesus enters the room in verse 26 and then Jesus responds to Thomas’s request. So one question that comes up is how did Jesus know Thomas’s request when Jesus was not in the room to hear Thomas state his request?
The answer to that, of course, is Jesus is omniscient; Jesus knows everything! And this actually, when you study it, is one of the great proofs that is brought out in John’s purpose, to identify Jesus as the Son of God. This is not the first time we have seen Jesus’ omniscience or all-knowing nature on display. Remember what He said regarding Nathanael; “Nathanael said to Him,” in John 1:48, “‘How do You know Me?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’” Nathanael is astonished that this man, Jesus, knows all about him, having never met him. And that is brought out by John, I believe, to show exactly who we are dealing with in this man, Jesus Christ. We are dealing with God in human flesh, and God has attributes that nobody else can share in; one of those is omniscience, or knowing everything.
A lot of people have this mistaken idea, based on Philippians 2:7, where it says Jesus “emptied Himself,” they believe that Jesus somehow gave up either His deity or His attributes of deity when He took on human flesh. And that could not be more incorrect. Jesus never gave up deity nor did He give up the attributes of deity, nor did He give up the ability to perform miracles. He retained those all the way through in His incarnation. What He surrendered was the independent exercise of those attributes. He completely submitted them, or surrendered them to God the Father. This is standard Christology, which deals with the doctrine of Christ.
Walvoord, in his very good book on Christology, if you’re interested in Christology or what the Bible reveals about Jesus I would recommend to you his book, Jesus Christ Our Lord.” He writes this: “The act of kenosis,” now” kenosis” means emptying, it’s the word that’s used there in Philippians 2:7 where it says Jesus “emptied Himself.” So how He became a man, kenosis, emptying, takes on that title, “kenosis” from that Greek word. “The act of kenosis as stated in Philippians 2 may therefore be properly understood to mean that Christ surrendered no attribute of deity, but that He did voluntarily restrict their independent use in keeping with His purpose of living among men and their limitations.”
What is the incarnation? The incarnation simply means the enfleshment of God. Jesus Christ, the Second Member of the Trinity, stepped out of eternity into time and took on human flesh; in fact, that is the whole subject of John’s Gospel. You remember all the way back in John 1:14 it says, “And the Word,” that would be Jesus, “became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory….” The incarnation or the enfleshment of God was not a subtraction. Many people falsely assume that something got taken away; Jesus surrendered deity or attributes of deity, or miracle-working powers. And the fact of the matter is nothing could be further from the truth. The incarnation was not a subtraction; the incarnation was an addition. Humanity was added to eternally existent deity at the point of Jesus’s miraculous conception, born of a virgin.
And so we need to look at Jesus the way the Bible reveals Him. And Jesus in His incarnation gives this statement to Thomas. Now Jesus in His incarnation, still omniscient, knew exactly what was on Thomas’s mind. You know, the Bible, in Psalm 139 it talks about how before we speak the Lord knows what we’re going to say. Well, God just doesn’t understand what’s on my mind… YES He does, He understands it before you do; before you articulate it He knows exactly what you are going to say. That’s the intimate knowledge He has, just not of humanity in general but specifically you; specifically Thomas, specifically what was on his mind.
Jesus then, in this manifestation says to Thomas, go ahead then, touch, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here with your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Jesus had no interesting in tantalizing Thomas’s curiosity. What Jesus was interested in is inculcating faith, creating an environment where faith or trust in Christ could be exercised.
God has no interest in tantalizing our curiosity. What He is interested in is us believing in Him. In fact, it couldn’t be clearer, could it, when you look at verse 27, be not “unbelieving, but believing.” This is why Jesus condescended to Thomas’ level, because Jesus is all about faith, creating an environment whereby human beings can exercise faith in Him and consequently have the gift of life. And whatever it takes to bring that about I believe God will do, and we call that the condescending of God; not condescending in a negative sense but coming down to our level.
I like the way J. Vernon McGee puts it: “Put the cookies on the bottom shelf for all the kids to get.” That’s what God is about. The incarnation is the ultimate putting the cookies on the bottom shelf. It is the ultimate condescension of God to our level whereby we can see, hear, understand, relate to Him, because after all, He is one of us.
And so He tells Thomas here, be not “unbelieving, but believing.” That’s the goal. That is His goal for every single human being on planet earth, not that all will accept, sadly, but the heart of God is for all too accept. 1 Timothy 2:4 says this: “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 2 Peter 3:9, it says, “…not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” That, of course, is what John’s Gospel is about; we’ll be getting to those verses that we’ve already covered many times next week.
John reveals to us his purpose in writing, why this book came together—it’s a revelation of Jesus, who He is in terms of His correct identity, not to give us a theology lessons for theology’s sake. Not to communicate knowledge for knowledge’s sake but to create an environment and a testimony whereby faith can be exercised because the most important decision you have to make in your life is not what kind of career you’re going to have, not how much money you’re going to have saved up for retirement, not what neighborhood to live in. It is are you going to trust in Christ or not, because that decision has eternal ramifications, eternity with God or an eternity separated from Him. Eternity hangs in the balance with this decision.
And this is why Christ condescends and comes down to Thomas’s level and our level, because of the significance of this decision. That’s why the whole testimony here of Thomas’s growing faith is included, because John includes it because that’s his theme, that’s his point, that’s what he wants to produce in us as readers.
And we move away from the invitation to now the adoration where Thomas recognizes who Jesus is and finally exercises faith in Him, notice the adoration of Thomas there in verse 28, “Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” A couple of interesting words here, the first one is “God,” Theos, who is Jesus Christ; simply put Jesus Christ is God. The second word that is interesting here, in addition to God, actually it’s used first, is the word “Lord.” The Greek word for Lord is Kurios; “Lord” is a revelation of who Jesus is; it’s His title. It reveals His identity as many things, Creator, Sustainer, Ruler; He is God and He is Lord. Lord, therefore, should be confined to an understanding of who God is in terms of His identity, His title, exactly who it is we’re dealing with here when we talk about this man, Jesus Christ.
And I want to camp just for a moment on this word “Lord,” because of widespread confusion that has been brought into the body of Christ, largely through this title, “Lord.” There is something today, and those that promote this are drawing from Puritan writers and they have brought it back to life and into many churches. It is something called Lordship salvation. Robert Lightner, my professor, who was not an advocate of Lordship salvation in his book defines Lordship salvation as follows: Lordship salvation refers to the belief which says that the sinner who wants to be saved must not only trust Christ as his substitute for sin, but also must surrender every area of his life to the complete control of Christ.
And what you find in Lordship salvation is not just faith by itself justifies us before God, but there has to be a second step, the Texas Two Step as we might call this; you must surrender every area of your life to the complete control of Jesus Christ. Generally they’re talking about commitment, perseverance, surrender and things of that nature. Now that statement, as Robert Lightner summarizes it, should make you nervous because thus far in John we’ve taught over and over again that we are saved before God by faith by itself. And when someone says not only and also then are they not adding to the requirement of God to justify the lost sinner. This is what we call Lordship salvation.
And people are confused about this because you see these titles of God, like the word “Lord,” but let me tell you something about this word Lord, just for a moment, if I can; it is a description of His title. It is not a description of the response that fallen human beings must undergo to enter into a right relationship with God. For example, over in Acts 16:30-31, this deals with the Philippian jailor, who asked Paul life’s most important questions,  “and after he brought them out he said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’  They said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’”
You’ll notice I’ve got two words underlined there, “Sirs,” and “Lord” because in Greek it’s the exact same word; it’s the word Kyrios. So when he says, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved,” he is asking them, based out of reverent respect, Paul and Silas, based on their title. And then Paul turns around and gives a title of Jesus Christ, “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” You can see, by the way, this word is used two times, it’s speaking of the title; first the title of Paul and Silas and second Paul uses it as the title for Jesus Christ.
What then is the problem with Lordship salvation? It confuses the title with the response of people. That’s the confusion. By that logic we can say well, since God is the Creator then for me to enter into a relationship with Him I’ve got to be the creator. These are not talking about here what we as human beings do to enter into a relationship with God, it is merely a revelation of the title of Jesus Christ.
Well then you say, if that’s His title what are we supposed to do? Well, beloved, it couldn’t be clearer, if we just put aside our preconceived ideas and look at what this passage says. Is the word “believe” not used here five times? When you look at verse 25 you’ll see the word “believe” used once; you look at verse 27 you see the word “believe” used there twice. And then you look at versed 29, of course verse 27 says “believing” and “unbelieving,” when you look at verse 29 it uses the word “believe” here two more times.
There is absolutely nothing in this passage about commitment, perseverance, and surrender. If it becomes commitment, perseverance and surrender, then the focus is on you and myself and what we do rather than simply receiving as a free gift what Jesus has done in our place through simple childlike faith. And in Acts 16:30-31, even though the word “Lord” is used twice, when it gets to the condition that the Philippian jailor must satisfy to enter into a relationship with God the focus is not on commitment, perseverance and surrender, it is on “believe,” and believe alone, what the Protestant Reformers called sola fide, Latin for sola—alone, fide—faith, faith by itself. And anybody that wants to add anything to that very simple formula of God is, number 1, subtracted from what Jesus has done. What Jesus has done for us is so awesome that the only thing we can do is receive it as a free gift by faith.
And number 2, they have added things to the response of people to enter into a relationship with God, they have added verbs that don’t belong, and in the process, unknowingly and well-intentioned in some cases, taught the wrong gospel. The gospel is not what we do to climb up into the presence of God through commitment and perseverance and surrender and sorrow, it is God reaching down to us in the condescension of God, in the person of Jesus Christ and we respond to it. The only appropriate way a lost person can respond to it is to receive it as a gift—free! And the only way to receive a gift from God is to have faith, which means to trust or to believe in the message.
Now some of you are saying I cannot believe what I’m hearing, I mean, I’m at a church here that does not value the Lordship of Jesus Christ. What’s wrong with making Jesus Christ Lord of every area of our life? What’s wrong with commitment? What’s wrong with perseverance? What’s wrong with surrender? And my answer to it is there is nothing wrong with it, if you apply it not to the first tense of your salvation but the second tense of your salvation.
Let’s review the three tenses of salvation: justification, salvation in the past tense; sanctification, salvation in the present tense; glorification, salvation in the future tense. In justification, the past tense of salvation, I am saved from sin’s penalty at the point of faith in Christ. God loves me as I am but He loves me too much to leave me as I am, so He says grow up. He never tells me to grow up in the first tense of my salvation, He tells me to grow up in the middle tense of my salvation. That’s what we call progressive sanctification where we… and this is not something that happens instantaneously, unlike justification which is instantaneous, it happens in a nanosecond. In sanctification we are gradually being delivered from sin’s power as we learn to walk by faith and appropriate the divine resources that He has given us. And that’s a process that we’re all in, some make great strides in it, others don’t. But God calls us all to move into sanctification.
So when you want to throw terms around, like commitment, and surrender and sorrow and these kinds of things, they are wholly inapplicable, wholly inapplicable to the first tense of our salvation but they have everything to do with the middle tense of our salvation. People say well, you’re against Lordship salvation. No I’m not! I’m in favor of Lordship salvation if salvation means sanctification. I’m against Lordship salvation if you’re teaching that somehow my personal surrender to Christ is necessary to gain my right standing before God. If I’m teaching that I believe it’s heretical because you’re mixing works and faith together for justification.
And then finally in glorification, that’s easy, all you’ve got to do is die, or be raptured, whichever comes first. And at that point you’re delivered from sins very presence.
You watch how the Lord deals with these characters in the Bible. When they first come to Jesus, investigating who He is He never talks about commitment, perseverance, surrender and sorrow. The whole focus is to believe. And then after they’ve been in the faith awhile then the Lord starts working on Lordship, discipleship, cost, surrender, under the divine powers.
You watch what He does with this man, Peter. Did you know that in your study Bible, and I’m using the Ryrie Study Bible, which is the Bible of choice of all Spirit-led believers [laughter]. But in those study Bibles what you’ll discover is an order or a chronology in Christ’s ministry. It lays out every single thing that happens from beginning to end, using all four Gospels in chronological order. You look at how Jesus deals with this man, Peter. Peter was justified before God in John 1:40-42. [John 1:40, “One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.  He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which translated means Christ).  He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas’ which is translated Peter).]
That is when he was brought by his brother to Jesus Christ. And then Jesus, in Matthew 4 says this to Peter, “Follow Me.” Verses 18-22, “‘I will make you fishers of men.’  Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.” Did you know that John 1 and the original calling of Peter unto justification is event 20 in the chronology of Christ? Well, what about all this stuff about following Him and I’ll make you fishers of men? That’s event 35 in the chronology of Christ.
Do you see the order? First you become a believer, and then God begins to, as we grow, put us under the requirements of discipleship where we don’t work it out through human power but we must mature. And maturity is a process. Look at the whole process you went through in this world just to grow up and get out of that crib and start walking and start talking and then become economically independent where you could even move out of your parent’s house and before that you got your driver’s license, and on and on it goes, steps of maturity.
What we are called to do in Jesus Christ as newborn babes is to grow and to mature and to develop. That’s where Lordship, perseverance, surrender, obedience, all of these things apply. They do not apply; they have never applied in the plan of God to the first tense of our salvation. And yet it is so difficult today to find theologians and pastors and preachers and teachers who articulate this clear, basic distinction, yet it is so obvious in the plan and the program of God.
And whether I make Jesus Lord at all in my life never detracts from His status as Lord. The issue is not my subjective response; the issue is who He is. He IS Lord, He always will be Lord, He has always been Lord, whether a person acknowledges that or not is immaterial. The Lordship of Jesus Christ is not in any dispute at all; the dispute is what must I do to get into the front end of it? And John has told us a hundred times. Do you think a hundred is enough? To believe! Five times in this paragraph to believe.
And so Thomas, verse 28, now comes into an understanding of the full deity of Jesus Christ. What do the false religions of this world do with the full identity of Jesus Christ? They always subtract from it. They add requirements to what you must do to obtain salvation initially, but in the end they will subtract from who Jesus is. For example, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, not if, when they come to your house, but when, if you really get them into a conversation they will tell you that Jesus is a created being. It’s a recycling of an ancient heresy known as Arianism, which the church responded to all the way back in 325 A.D. through the Creed of Nicaea which says that Jesus is begotten and not made. It’s a response to Arianism which the Jehovah’s Witnesses are recycling today.
Jesus is NOT a created being, He is the uncaused cause; He always was and He will always be. There NEVER was a time in which He was not. We don’t follow this idea that there was God the Father, the master Creator who created God the Son and then God the Son created everything else. NO! That’s ancient Arianism. Jesus IS Lord and fully God; that has never changed and it never will change.
Or we are all talking today about the rise of Islam all around us. You know, Muslims use the word Jesus too; they pronounce it as Isa, but what they mean by it and what the Jehovah’s Witnesses mean by it is quite different than what the Bible says. You see, you can use the same word but the problem is not the use of the word, it’s the meaning. And what we are living in is a society where people are tossing around the name Jesus all the time. The issue is not the name; the issue is what do you mean when you use the vernacular, the terminology, the term, the word Jesus Christ?
Jehovah’s Witnesses mean something different by it. Islam means something different by it. Eric Barger summarizes Islamic faith this way: “Isa in no way represents the Jesus of the Bible, but is instead the false Jesus of the Quran and the Muslim Hadith. Isa is the Islamic Jesus, who was but a prophet, who certainly did not experience a sacrificial death on the cross let alone resurrected from the dead. In fact, in Islam the prophet Isa is actually the destroyer of Christianity and not its Savior.” Obviously this is simply not the same Jesus as is the Jesus of the Bible, sometimes known through the Hebrew word Yeshua.
You look at what Thomas says here and it’s very clear that he has the proper understanding of Jesus Christ, not as some created being but as both Lord and God, full deity. Now Thomas, people like to dog pile on Thomas because he’s known as Doubting Thomas. But let me just say to you one thing (I’ll say something else later but right now just one thing): For him even to acknowledge this publicly risked him of being stoned to death. Now being stoned, I’m not talking about what they do in Colorado; I’m talking about rocks thrown at you until you’re dead.
Leviticus 24:16 says this: “Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death;  all the congregation shall certainly stone him.” Jesus claimed to be God in John 10:30, it says this; “I and the Father are one.”  The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him.” He asked them, why are stoning Me?’”  “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.’”
John 8:58-59, Jesus claimed a divine title for Himself, the great I am. [58, “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.’”] “Therefore,” John 8:59, “they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.” You see, to even utter this idea that Yahweh is a man, which is the recognition that Thomas is coming to here, even that coming out of your mouth ran him the risk of capital punishment under Old Testament Israel.
And yet this statement here, “My Lord and My God,” [verse 26] I believe is inserted at the end of John’s Gospel as the climax of the gospel, because what is the point of this book? To identify who Jesus is so people might exercise faith in Jesus, so as to be saved. Thomas is not the first to articulate this. As you move gradually through John’s Gospel you’ll see many, many people coming to a proper identification of who Jesus is.
John 1:34, John the Baptist calls Him “the Son of God.” John 1:49, Nathanael, remember Jesus said I saw you under the fig tree; Nathanael, as a result, calls Jesus the Son of God, John 1:49. Jesus Himself even claimed to be the Son of God, John 5:25; John 10:36. Peter figured it out and he called Jesus the Holy One of God, John 6:69. The man born blind that was healed calls Him the Son of Man, John 9:35. Martha, John 11:27 calls Him the Son of God. And of course, like we next week will see, John, the apostle, writing it down, referring to Jesus Christ in John 20:31 as the Son of God.
[John 1:34, “‘I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.’”
John 1:49, “Nathanael answered Him, ‘Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.’”
John 5:25, “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the
voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.”
John 10:36, “do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are
blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God?’”
John 6:69, “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”
John 9:35, “Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, ‘Do you believe in the
Son of Man?”
Martha, John 11:27, “She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son
of God, even He who comes into the world.”
John 20:31, “but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of
God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”]
And so this doctrine is being unfolded to us, and now we come to the climax of the whole thing where we clearly know that He is not just God but He is Lord and everything that that title conveys, that’s who Jesus Christ is. And if Jesus is that, then certainly He has the power to have custody over your soul, doesn’t He? Certainly He can do what He has promised to do, which is to do what? It is to keep your soul safe the moment you trust in Him; to keep your soul secure the moment you trust in Him.
And it’s not just titles, in other ways John has communicated this point. He has referred to, throughout this book, as Jesus using names that belong only to God. Jesus claimed to be the great I AM in John 8:58, the Jews didn’t like that one bit and they picked up stones to kill Him. They knew exactly what he was saying when he used that title. [John 8:58, “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”]
And then the attributes of God are ascribed to Jesus, things that only belong to God, things that only God can do or be are ascribed to this man, Jesus Christ. Jesus makes a statement about His own holiness in John 8:46, He says, “Which one of you convicts me of sin?” Can you imagine any of our politicians today standing up in front of a hostile crowd and say “which of you accuse me of sin?” As a matter of fact, Gary Hart, sometime back tried that; the results weren’t too good for him.
But Jesus stands in front of a hostile crowd and says, “Which of you convicts me of sin.” He is claiming holiness, which is an attribute that belongs completely and totally and perfectly to God. He is claiming omniscience when He saw under the fig tree Nathanael. Jesus even says in John 11:14, Lazarus will rise again. How could He know that, because Lazarus was in the grave? Omniscience! [John 11:14, “So Jesus then said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead,’”]
And then there are certain prerogatives of deity which Jesus claims for Himself; the ability to raise the dead, John 5:28-30; Jesus says this, “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice,  and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.  I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”
John 11:43, Jesus says, “Lazarus, come forth.” Who do you think you are, Jesus? God or something? How can you claim the authority to raise the dead? How can you speak into a grave and somebody is going to come out? What audacity… unless, He was exactly who He said He was.
He claims in John 5:22 that He will judge all men. It says, “…but He has given all judgment to the Son.” John 5:27, “He gave Him authority to execute judgment,” how could He claim the authority to judge all unless He Himself is God. See, beloved, there is no doubt who Jesus is, no doubt at all, if we have been following along with John’s presentation. John has skillfully, under the Spirit of God’s influence, weaved all of these things together to reveal that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, so that people might believe in this message, trust in this message and have the gift of life.
You’ll notice here Thomas says, “My Lord and My God,” [John 20:28, Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and My God!”] He repeats the personal pronoun, the possessive personal pronoun, twice he says, “My.” In fact, it says that two times as I just indicated, “My Lord and My God.” Again, this is not a condition for salvation, submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, it is to believe. That’s why Jesus commends him for believing in verse 29. [John 20:29, “Jesus said to him, ‘Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”]
But rather when He says “My” it’s a personal relationship. Jesus is something more to me than words on a page in Encyclopedia Britannica. He’s more to me than data. He’s more to me than facts. He’s more to me than information. He is MY Lord and MY God. My soul rests in His hand, I know Him personally. He speaks to me, I speak to Him. And how tragic it is that many people believe that they’re saved, or Christians, because they have an information level about Jesus. They rattle off facts and figures about Jesus. You know what? I know atheists that can do that; they can give you all sorts of information about the birth of Christ, how He died, the historicity of Christ, who His disciples were. But see, that’s not the issue; the issue is: Is He YOUR Lord and God? Are you in a personal relationship with Him, which becomes available to you completely and totally on the basis of faith alone.
Many people feel that if they go to church that makes them a Christian. That doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in McDonalds makes you a quarter pounder. The location has nothing to do with it. What it all relates to is a personal relationship between you and God. You see, the moment I got saved everything was different. I was no longer talking about Jesus, I was talking to Jesus. Has that happened to you? Do you understand that the God of the universe wants to be your friend, personally, and that you can grow and develop in that personal relationship with Him.
I fear sometimes we present Christianity as some kind of generic classification, “God so loved the world,” which is sort of an impersonal classification. Yes, God loves the world but let me tell you something else, He loves you as a person. He loves me as an individual. In fact, in John 20:16 it says this, “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’” He knew her, He knew her name, He knew her tempera¬ments, He knew her likes and dislikes and strengths and weaknesses, and shortcomings. It’s not just a generic “for God so loved the world,” it’s Jesus loves Mary. This is a personal relationship that we are talking about. We are not simply talking about the accumulation of data. I’m not against data, I teach it at the college for crying out loud, I dump more data on people than what they care to accept most of the time. But the fact of the matter is at the end of the day we’re not talking about data, we’re not talking about information. Information is great but it’s just step one; it’s a vibrant personal relationship with the maker of the universe. That’s what Christianity is.
The Greek word “know” is used constantly to describe our relationship to the Lord. “Know” means intimate knowledge of somebody, God knows you; you know Him. And Thomas is coming to this realization of who Jesus is. Jesus condescends to Thomas’ level, satisfies his tests, in fact, Jesus knows exactly what’s on Thomas’ mind because of omniscience. And Thomas sees the evidence and responds with the proper title of Jesus, Lord and God. [20:28, “Thomas answered and said to Him, My Lord and my God!’”] He fulfills the only condition God has ever asked lost people to fulfill, which is to believe. And he is in a personal relationship with Him because of this repetition of the personal pronoun, “My.”
This is vintage Christianity here. As I said before there’s a reason why this is put at the end of the book; this is the climax, this is the apex, this is the zenith. This is where everything is moving towards. And it’s not just in this book; it’s what everything is moving towards in your life. How sad is it to go through life and not understand why you exist? You exist to love God and enjoy Him forever; to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever. That’s the purpose of your existence.
That’s why Jesus, as the unique God-man, who in His incarnation did not subtract anything but added to eternally existent deity, came to bridge that gap between fallen human beings and the God that made them. And coming to that awareness of who He is and exercising faith in Him brings something into your life that nothing else can fulfill. You can’t find this in your career; you can’t find this in your savings account. You can’t find this in your status in the world; you can’t find it in pleasure. You can only find it in a relationship with Him. As saints of the past have said, our souls are in a state of restlessness until we find satisfaction in Him.
And trying to fill this void with something else always seems to bring us up empty, doesn’t it? That’s the problem with the woman at the well, you recall in John 4. She was seeking to fill this ache or this void in her life through promiscuity and pleasure. She had had five husbands and the one she was with currently she wasn’t even married to. And Jesus says if you drink from that well you’ll thirst again, but if you drink from the living water which I will provide you’ll never be thirsty. Why is that? Because she’ll be living for the purpose for which she was created. You cannot find any lasting fulfillment or significance in life until you press into the reason for your existence. Why do you exist? To have a relationship with God, to know Him, to come to Him on His terms, not our own, based on His ability to give us these things because of His title and who He is as Lord and God. Thomas has arrived. Have you?
Verse 29, and with this we’ll finish. Thomas’ adoration leads to an observation. Jesus makes a statement here in verse 29, “Jesus said to him, ‘Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.’” Thomas believed with the evidence that he had. In fact, Thomas’ conversion in John’s Gospel is the last recorded personal faith encounter in John’s Gospel. That’s why it’s at the end, to leave us on a very high note of faith and what faith in God looks like, what faith in God results in.
But Jesus makes this statement here that’s very interesting, He said, “Blessed,” the Greek word for “Blessed” is the word makarios, which simply means beatitude. In fact, when you study the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:3-12 you’ll find Jesus using that word quite frequently, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” and those sorts of things. In fact, this word, makarios, has been used earlier in John’s Gospel; you might remember it from the Upper Room. John 13:17 where Jesus said, “If you know these things, you ae blessed,” makarios, “if you do them.” The blessing in the Christian life does not come simply from acquiring the data; it comes from living out the principles of God in progressive sanctification after we have come to know Him by faith alone.
Makarios, or blessed, does not mean happy. What it means is acceptable before God; we have favor before God. What gives a person acceptability and favor before God? It is responding, by faith, to the claims of Christ. That’s what gives you the blessing of God; that’s what gives you His acceptance. That’s what gives you His favor. That’s what gives you a relationship with Him. That’s what gives you the purpose for your very existence. I don’t really care how famous you are and how rich you are and how powerful are. The fact of the matter is if you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ you are poor. You are empty. You are unfulfilled and you are going to spend your waning days on this earth trying to fill that void with something that only God can satisfy.
Consequently, Jesus says in verse 29, “Jesus said to him, ‘Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” Thomas had evidence right there staring at him in the face and he responded to it. But the fact of the matter is, most people believe without this evidence. The vast majority of people that have come to Christ in the last 2,000 years of the age of the church have never had evidence like this, have never had Jesus in His resurrected state show up exactly where they are, inviting them to see and to touch Him and look at His wounds.
In fact, John, the author of this book, came to Christ just seeing the empty tomb. He came to believe in who Jesus was simply seeing the empty tomb. He hadn’t even seen Jesus in His resurrected body yet. John 20:8 says, “So the other disciple,” now that’s always John, he likes to be anonymous, “So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and he believed.” Most people that come to Christ by way of faith will never have the evidence that Thomas had.
1 Peter 1:8-9, Peter, about three decades later, writes these words to his flock. He says, “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him,” he acknowledges thirty years after Jesus’s ascension that there were those who never saw Jesus but they loved Him; they believed in Him.
I came to Christ not having any of the evidence, Thomas said. You came to Christ in the age of the church not having any of the evidence Thomas had. When Jesus makes this statement, “Blessed,” acceptable in other words, “are they who did not see and yet believed,” that’s the crowd he’s talking to. He is not bashing Thomas’s faith and his request for evidence. He simply says that there are going to be many people, John included, who won’t come into a right relationship with God without this evidence; they will come into a relationship with Him under far less than Thomas was given.
And Jesus simply promises a blessing to those that will. It’s not taking away from Thomas, it’s just an added blessing to those of us that never saw exactly the evidence that Thomas saw because at the end of the day what pleases God? Doesn’t the Bible say, Hebrews 11:6, “and without” what? “faith it is” what? “impossible to please Him. Wow! Impossible means you can’t please Him without faith. So what is faith exactly? Hebrews 11:1 answers that, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for,” why is it hope? Because the hope hasn’t been realized yet. Once a hope is realized it’s no longer a hope is it? Gee, I hope I get that promotion. Well, you just got it; you don’t have to hope any longer. Once a hope materializes it’s no longer hope. Once you see Christ face to face it really is no longer faith is it?
But what pleases God? Faith, “and without faith it is impossible to please Him.” Jesus, because of the nature of faith, because of how faith makes us acceptable unto God, and faith, because of the way it pleases the heart of God, simply without detracting from Thomas and his faith which is very real, promises a blessing on everyone that will come to Christ throughout the ages by faith alone without the same evidence that Thomas was presented with here in these verses.
Is it not interesting that Jesus says, “Blessed are they who do not see and yet believe.” Well, what about commitment? What about obedience? What about perseverance? What about surrender? Jesus says yeah, what about it? I’m not talking about that. What the text simply says is “Blessed are those who did not see and yet believed.” Now once you’re My child, God says, well then we’ll talk a little bit about commitment, obedience and perseverance. As a matter of fact, there’s a lot of stuff in the Bible about that, but let’s wait till later for that one.
If you want the acceptable blessing and favor of God you have to come to God through God’s term and people today have a Frank Sinatra approach to spirituality, “I did it my way.” You know, it’s a funny thing about the world of Christianity and the word of spirituality. You can walk into a medical doctor’s office and because of his degrees people will recognize him as an authority in the field and submit to him. You walk into a lawyer’s office because of the degrees and training that’s hanging on his wall, people will recognize him as an authority and submit (generally speaking) to his direction.
But you know what it is when it comes to the Bible, and spirituality, and Christianity? Everybody is their own expert because there is so much pride in us where we think we can just do it our own way. God’s Word says you can’t. There are laws that are in effect that govern the spiritual world just like there are laws in effect that govern the physical world. Objects will fall at 32 feet per second, whether I agree with the law or not, it’s a law. “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” is a spiritual law. If a person will not honor that spiritual law, beloved, it’s very simple, you don’t come to God.
Now this problem started in Genesis 4, didn’t it? Abel came to God the way God ordained it, through a blood sacrifice he offered through faith alone. Cain, his brother, used the Frank Sinatra approach, I’m not going to come through a blood sacrifice and I’m not going to come through faith. Abel’s sacrifice is accepted; Cain’s is rejected. Didn’t God love both equally? Yeah, but it’s a law. This is not open for negotiation, nor is it open for discussion, nor is it open for a debate, nor is it open to majority rule. It’s a law! It’s a spiritual law, God ordained it. We do not come to God how we want to come to God. We come to God through His terms of very simply put we do not come at all. God’s terms are very clear…FAITH!
You take this man, Abram, who became Abraham, the father of our faith the Bible says. How did he gain the righteousness of God? Well, God made Him a promise, through your body is going to come seeds (plural) and a seed, when you look at Galatians 3:16, (singular) who will bless the world. [Galatians 3:16, “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your seed,’ that is, Christ.”]
And it probably just seemed absurd, that promise, because of Abraham and Sarah (Sarai), their advanced age. And God simply took Abraham outside and He said look at the stars and their innumerable nature; can you count these stars? No, I can’t count them. As the stars are innumerable, so shall your offspring be, coming from your own body. [Genesis 15:5, “And He took him outside and said, ‘Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’  Then he believed in the LORD….”]
What does the Bible say? Abraham believed God, he put aside logic; he put aside common sense, because the promise made no logical sense. He simply trusted in what God said He would do. He trusted in God’s character, which cannot lie, and he trusted in God’s power to pull it off. I don’t know how you are going to do it Lord, but if You said it, I believe it, and that settles it. And the moment he exercised that simple childlike faith is the moment the righteousness of God was transferred to Abraham’s account. In fact, some of your versions say it was “credited to him for righteousness.” Why “credited to him”? Because it hadn’t been paid for yet, that’s why.
Anybody here use credit cards? Lying is a sin, let me see those hands; all right, three-quarters of you are still lying right through your teeth. That’s right, you’re not saved by works. We love credit cards because they give us a goodie, without payment. What did Abraham receive 2,000 years before Christ died? He received a goodie, he received the imputed, transferred righteousness of God and he received it totally on the basis of believing what God said, period, end of story!
And you look at Abraham’s faith as he began to grow; there’s ups and downs. This guy was not saved by what he did after because he lied about Sarah being his sister, things of that nature. He had high points and low points, like the rest of us, but he was brought into a relationship with God because completely of faith. What does Jesus say? “Blessed,” accepted, “are they who did not see and yet believed.” Nothing here about commitment, obedience, perseverance, surrender, but simple child-like faith; if you have that you have the favor and the blessing of God. If you don’t have that you have nothing.
People like to dog pile on Thomas, oh gosh, look at this, he demanded evidence and he only believed after he saw the evidence; other people have believed without the evidence. If I were in Thomas’s shoes I would have believed right then and there. You hear this sort of mindset. Before you adopt that way of thinking let me just make you aware of something—the Spirit of God, which convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment, had not yet been dispatched into the world to fulfill this unique ministry of convicting us of our need to believe in Jesus.
Jesus said in the Upper Room, John 16:8, “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin,” sin, as we have said before, is the Greek noun, hamartia, which is singular, a noun, “concerning sin,” what’s the sin? “because they do not believe in Me.” Believing or not believing is the sole criterion by which we enjoy that relationship with God. We either believe it or we don’t, and the Spirit of God convicts us of our need for that.
Thomas didn’t have that, so in a certain sense it’s easier in this age, given the Spirit’s activity, to respond by faith to this person of Jesus Christ. And before we dog pile on Thomas too much let’s remember something about this man. Thomas labored for the gospel in southern India, Indian Christians. We were talking about missions and missiology, and missions programs during our congregational meeting. Indian Christians from the west coast of Corolla, I’m not sure if I’m pronouncing that right, the Corolla area, claim they were evangelized by Thomas. Thomas became a missionary for God, taking this precious gospel into India. And what did he get for his efforts? Fanfare? No, he was later speared to death, near Madras on the east coast. Mount Saint Thomas, close to Madras is associated with his name.
Before we dog pile on Thomas too much, let’s look at the whole man and have respect for him as a servant of God. And yet God loved Thomas and went right down to his level to give him an opportunity to believe, with full disclosure of who Jesus is. And beloved, that’s the same offer that you have right now as I’m speaking. This is what we call the gospel; the gospel is Jesus Christ stepped out of eternity into time to live a life in our place, which we could never live, to pay a sin debt for our sins which we in an eternity of lifetimes could never pay back. And we may not have all of the answers but He says you know enough about My identity; as Lord and God you know that I have the integrity, the truthfulness, and the power to fulfill My promises if you fulfill your condition, which is to believe.
Believing is not an emotion, it’s not a euphoria, it’s not sorrow, it isn’t commitment, it isn’t obedience, it isn’t perseverance, it isn’t surrender, what it is, is it’s trust, or confidence, of reliance. You trust exclusively in the promises of Jesus Christ. You don’t understand every detail of it but you trust in the character and the power and the identity of the One who made the promise. And I pray, even as I am talking, you’ll respond to that as that determines whether you have the makarios, the favor of God, the blessing of God, or not.
If it’s something you need more explanation on, I’m available after the service to talk, but it’s something you can do right now in the privacy of your own mind, the quietness of your own heart as the Spirit of God places you under conviction, respond the best you know how, without raising a hand, walking an aisle, joining a church, trying to work harder, trying to do better, without giving money, it has nothing to do with any of those things. It comes from a heart-felt response of faith that’s pleasing to God. Do that now, even as I am talking, if you are unclear about your eternal destiny. If it’s something you need more explanation on I’m available after the service to talk.
Shall we pray. Father, we are so grateful for Your work with Thomas and Your blessing upon him and how You loved him as an individual and seemingly moved heaven and earth to usher him into a right relationship with You. We’re thankful, Father, that You are that sort of God and help us Lord this week to grow in our understanding of these truths; we’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said….