Turn to John 4 where we’re going to talk about unbelief and faith. This is a vital subject in the gospel of John. We learned in John 3 that salvation is a work of God. You are born from above. Our Lord said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” You made no contribution to your human birth and you can make no contribution to your spiritual birth, it is a divine work of God.
But there is also a human side of salvation. That work of God is through the sinner’s faith. And so while the gospel of John emphasizes the divine sovereign work of God in salvation, it also rightly emphasizes the necessity of the sinner’s faith and believing. One could say that John is primarily about believing. So the idea of faith and believing is spread throughout this entire gospel.
We are now familiar with the purpose of the gospel in John 20:31, “These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and that believing you may have life in His name.” So the gospel of John is the gospel of believing. There is ample evidence to believe in Christ, by His works, by His words, His signs and by His wonders.
This is not only about the theme of the gospel of John, but this is the heart of the Christian faith. All false religions whether they are non-Christian or quasi-Christian, offer salvation through some work, some human behavior, some religious ceremony, and some moral accomplishments. It is Satan’s plan is to convince people that they can escape judgment, and live forever in heaven by something they do.
“Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness.” And then since Christ has come, it is by faith in God revealed in Christ. This is the Christian message. And the message is reiterated throughout the New Testament. “There is no salvation in any other name.” “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life,” Jesus said in John 14:6, “no man comes to the Father but by Me.”
In John 12:44, Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me does not only believe in Me, but in Him who sent Me.” John 14:1 says, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” And in John 14:12, “Truly, truly I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also and greater works than these he will do.” That means we will be empowered for service.
The gospel of John reveals that all aspects of salvation are connected to believing. For example, John 1:12 says, “As many as received Him,” meaning the Lord Jesus Christ, “to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” And that is reiterated in John 12:36, “Believe in the light, meaning Christ, so that you may become children of light.”
By believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, sinners obtain eternal life. That message is familiar to all of us in John 3:16. Down in verse 36 it is reiterated again, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life. He who does not obey the Son will not see life but the wrath of God abides on him.” Jesus said in John 6:40, “This is the will of My Father that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life.”
By believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, sinners escape divine judgment. Romans 2:3, “And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?” John 5:24, “Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears My Word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and doesn’t come into judgment but has passed out of death into life.”
And by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, sinners partake in the resurrection. John 5:28-29 says, “the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life.” When Jesus came to the grave of Lazarus, He said in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.”
By believing in the Lord Jesus Christ we also possess the Holy Spirit. In John 7:38-39, our Lord says, “He who believes in Me as the Scripture said, from his innermost being will flow rivers of living water. This He spoke of the Spirit whom those who believed in Him who were to receive.” The Holy Spirit lives in your heart to begin the regeneration of sanctification and glorification in the one who believes.
John 3:19 says, “The light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” But in John 8:12 Jesus says, “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” And John 12:46 says, “Everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.” So sinners who believe are delivered from spiritual darkness.
Now what is the evidence that causes us to believe in Him? Well the four gospels were written to gather up the evidence and demonstrate that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God so that you might believe and have life in His name. The gospel accounts of His words and His works demonstrate that Jesus Christ is God. His signs and miracles are ample proof.
Listen to John 5:37-40, “And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. 38 But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. 39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”
The universal problem is unbelief. The whole point of evangelism is not to do some kind of study on the desires of the sinner, but to reveal the reality of who Christ is. The question is not would you like somebody, whoever he is, to fix you? But that’s the way so much contemporary evangelism goes. It’s so much about what you want and what you feel and what you don’t feel and what you don’t have.
There is no such illustration of evangelism anywhere in Scripture. That is so far from what the gospel is all about and that’s so far from what evangelism is. The approach in evangelism is this. You’re headed to eternal hell. Why? Because you’re a sinner. Do all sinners go to eternal hell? No, only the ones that aren’t forgiven. How do I become forgiven? By believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.
You need to confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart the full story of Christ which is ultimately validated by the resurrection. And if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be saved forever, from your sin and all its consequences. It’s not about, “Well wouldn’t you like purpose and happiness? Wouldn’t you like peace?” That’s not going to help if they don’t believe in Christ.
So the goal of evangelism is to present Christ. That’s why there are four gospels and not four books on psychology. Now there are levels of unbelief. There is that unbelief that only needs fulfillment. There is the first kind of unbelief that is anticipatory, that is expectant and is right on the edge. That would be the kind of faith that Zacharias and Elizabeth had, waiting for the Messiah.
That also would be Anna and Simeon in the Temple. They’re waiting for the Messiah and one day Joseph and Mary show up and the Messiah is there and all they need is to see who He is. That would be the early disciples like Peter and Andrew in John 1, right? They meet Jesus and they say, “We found the Messiah.” And John the Baptist said to those two disciples of his, “Behold the Lamb of God, follow Him.” And they did.
Then in John 4 we meet a second kind of unbelief. It’s the unbelief that needs more information and that would be illustrated by the Samaritan woman and the people in the village of Sychar. They accepted the Pentateuch and they had some Messianic theology passed down from generation. And the woman at the well says, “We know that when Messiah comes, He will teach us everything.”
So they connected Messiah with knowledge, that the Messiah will come and He’ll have full knowledge of everything. Jesus talks to the woman. How does He demonstrate to her that He’s the Messiah? Because of His knowledge about her. So she goes to the village and she says, “Look, I just met a man who told me everything, everything He could never have known. Is this the Messiah?”
And the whole village comes and are converted. That is the harvest that Jesus talks about. And this is His delight. He says, “I just want to do the will of the Father and finish the work He gave Me to do, the work of salvation.” It’s the only time in all four gospels when a whole village repents and comes to faith in Christ and they aren’t even Jews. All they needed was more truth.
But there’s a third kind of unbelief and it’s the deepest kind of unbelief. It’s such a deep kind of unbelief that it has no real confidence at all in the Messiah, or even the idea of Messiah. This is what our Lord faces in the text of John 4:48, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.” These are the people for whom Scripture is not enough. They need proof.
Jesus graciously met those people where they were. John 10:37-38, “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and [f]believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” Why did Jesus heal and cast out demons and raise dead people? He was reaching out to that lowest level of obstinate unbelief.
They believed He was a teacher from God. Not more, not less. But their unbelief is so profound in Galilee and in Judea that it demands signs and wonders. And Jesus gave them those. Did they have any affect? There were some who came to faith in Christ. Did they convince the entire nation? No, they attributed His miracles to Satan. They wanted to execute Him and they succeeded.
When Jesus comes to Galilee, we now have to contemplate this matter of unbelief. John 4:43 -45, “Now after the two days He departed from there and went to Galilee. 44 For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country. 45 So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they also had gone to the feast.”
Look at John’s comment in verse 44, “For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country.” Why does John put that there? But even more specifically, see the phrase, “His own country?” Now it doesn’t mean that no one was converted in Galilea because there were some converted. In 1 Corinthians 15:6 after His resurrection, when He went to Galilee there were five hundred brethren gathered there.
But Jesus was prophetic. He was not welcomed into His own town and while there were some who believed, the vast majority rejected Him. And this was in the face of many miracles that Jesus did daily. Now John only gives us two miracles in sixteen months in Galilee. John gives us this one about the nobleman’s son and the feeding of the five thousand men plus wives and children in John 6.
John is very selective. But there were many other miracles that we read in Matthew, Mark and Luke which also record His Galilean ministry. There were miracles day after day and they basically were met with unbelief. That is why we read in Matthew 11:20-21, “He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done because they didn’t repent. 21 Woe to you Chorazin, woe to you Bethsaida.”
So Jesus goes into Galilee and He received no honor, respect or faith. But the initial reception was welcoming, verse 45, “So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they also had gone to the feast.” Everybody went to Jerusalem and that’s where they saw these miracles. It turns out to be superficial faith.
But occasionally there is a story like the healing of the nobleman’s son. That story’s in verses 46 - 54. And what marks that story is verse 50,” the man believed the Word that Jesus spoke.” Verse 53, “He himself believed and his whole household.” In the middle of the unbelief there is the story of a man and his family and household who believed. The only way that they will ever be forgiven is by believing in Him.
In Acts 16, the jailor in Philippi is about to kill himself because he’s lost his prisoners because of an earthquake comes and he hears from Paul and Silas, “Don’t harm yourself, we’re all here.” He calls for lights, rushes in, falls down before Paul and Silas and he asked the right question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your household will be saved.”
How is one saved? By believing in the Lord Jesus, in His person, in His work, His death, His resurrection, all that the gospel record affirms to be true about Him. And they spoke the word concerning the Lord to the jailor together with all those who were in his house. They took them that very hour of the night, washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. Let us pray.