Who Will Believe?
That’s a good question! Who will believe that Jesus is the Christ? If we knew that ahead of time, we could spend more time teaching the gospel to those who will believe, and less time with those who will not. But we cannot know that. Our task is not to judge the hearts of men [which is beyond our ability], but to follow the pattern of the apostles, who were sent out to “preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Since we cannot look into the hearts of men to know who will believe and who will not, we must “not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality” (Jas. 2:1) when we think we know who will or will not believe. The gospel is for all, so we must take it to all. With that said, the reality is that not all will believe.
What we can know, though, are the reasons why some will believe and some will not, as shown by the examples found within Scripture. Though we are 2000 years removed from the time Christ walked this Earth, and though we are located half a world away from where He walked and taught, man is essentially the same in all places and all time, and the reasons why he will or will not believe are much the same. That being true, let us consider for today who will believe — and why. This is not for us to learn and then start making judgments on others; this is for us to learn and see which one is us! We will be in today’s group, or next week’s.
Those Who Will Believe
It would be best if we considered every example found within the New Testament, but space does not permit; so, let us consider just a few examples from the gospel of John.
Those who listen to the prophets. John the Baptist readily admitted he was not the Christ, but pointed others to Him at every opportunity. On one occasion, John was with “two of his disciples,” and when he saw Jesus, he said to them, “Behold the Lamb of God!” And what did those two disciples do? “The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus” (John 1:35-37).
One of those disciples was Andrew, and he was so convinced of what John told him that he “found his own brother Simon, and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus” (John 1:41, 42). He was convinced enough to lead his own brother to come and see, and that brother was none other than the one we know as Simon Peter, the one who would be one of the most vocal supporters and proclaimers of Jesus as the Christ! And all this because two disciples believed what the prophet said!
Today, we have the written record of the prophets of the Old Testament and New who spoke prophetically of the Christ who was to come, and we can read of their fulfilled prophecies in the person of Jesus. Those who are willing to listen to the prophets of old and examine the evidence will believe!
Those who examine the evidence and the proof God has provided. Nicodemus was one of the Jewish leaders (cf. John 3:1; John 7:45-51), part of the Sanhedrin council who were responsible for the spiritual and religious leadership of the Israelites during the first century. Though the council quite often opposed Jesus at every turn [we will see more later], Nicodemus was a notable exception. We may remember how Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, and it was on that occasion that Nicodemus told Him, “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 3:2). By his own words, we can know that Nicodemus had seen the testimony of God in the signs Jesus demonstrated (cf. Acts 2:22), and was honest enough to admit Jesus had to have come from God.
We obviously have the written record of some of those signs, wonders, and miracles, with many others omitted, but as John would later note, what is recorded is “written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30, 31). To say there is no proof or no evidence is simply not true. Those who see the evidence and the proof God has given are those who will believe — and that is exactly why those things were recorded. Obviously, this will not be enough for some — and for them, there will never be ‘enough’ evidence — but the one who is honest in heart will believe. On such an occasion as the resurrection of Lazarus from the grave after being dead four days, “many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him” (John 11:45). It was nigh impossible to deny this great miracle with the once-dead man standing before them, so they had no choice but to believe!
Those who listen to the words of Jesus. We may also remember of the occasion where Jesus was traveling with His disciples through Samaria on their way to Galilee from Judea (John 4:3, 4), and on the way they stopped in a city of Samaria named Sychar (John 4:5), and at Jacob’s well met a Samaritan woman and began a conversation with her that eventually led her to understand this was no mere man with whom she was conversing (John 4:25-29). When she went back into the city to tell others, some believed because of what she told them (John 4:39), but others went to go see and hear for themselves, “And many more believed because of His own word” (John 4:41). Note well that these who heard Jesus said, “we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world” (John 4:42). In simple terms, they listened to Jesus, and they believed in Him because they listened to Him and were convinced.
This scene shows the simple truth of what Paul taught when he wrote, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17, ESV). These people heard Jesus, and the words He spoke were convincing, and those with honest hearts could not deny the truth, but willingly believed. This is all it takes for one to believe, but let us make the point that one cannot believe in Jesus without first hearing or reading the words of Jesus. There is no faith without hearing; it does not come by a miraculous intervention of the Holy Spirit on men predestined to salvation. As this example showed and as Scriptures teach plainly, faith comes by hearing the words of Christ.
So, now it comes to where we must each stop and take a long, hard, honest look at ourselves and see if we are among these who believed. Have we listened to what the Old and New Testament prophets said about Jesus? Have we examined the Scriptures to discover that each and every one of the 300+ prophecies written about the Christ were fulfilled in Jesus? It was not by chance He fulfilled them all, but by the Divine plan and will of God.
Have we examined the evidence provided for us by God? Again, we cannot deny the evidence or say there is either none or ‘not enough,’ for as Paul wrote long ago, “since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20) — we are without excuse. There is evidence and enough evidence to believe.
And, finally, have you listened to Jesus? Have you actually read what He has said, or are you relying on secondhand words and opinions, usually from those predisposed to disbelief? I find it ironic that more than a few deniers of Jesus do so without ever having personally read His words. Why is that?
Next week, Lord willing, we will consider why some will not believe. With which group will you find yourself? — Steven Harper