Who Will Not Believe?
Last week, we considered the challenge of teaching God’s word to those of this world, knowing some will believe and others will not, and noted that we cannot be the judge of which is which, since we cannot look into the hearts of men, as God can and does. 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). We do so knowing that not all will believe and, in fact, some will not believe because their hearts are not open to the truth, and are affected by both internal and external factors.
Last week, we considered those who would believe, and why, because even 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 those who will not believe — and why. This is not for us to learn and then start making judgments on others before we speak God’s word to them; this is for us to learn and see which one is us! We will be in today’s group, or among those we considered last week.
Those Who Will Not Believe
As we noted last week, 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 believe they alone are the standard and authority. Once, when Jesus was in Jerusalem and caused quite the stir because of His teachings (John 7:14, 15), and some began to question if the Christ had truly come (John 7:26, 31), the religious leaders sent officers to take Jesus (John 7:32). Later, when “the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees” without Jesus, the rulers asked them, “Why have you not brought Him?” (John 7:45). The officers simply replied, “No man ever spoke like this Man!” (John 7:46), which angered the rulers, and they said to them, “Are you also deceived? Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him?” (John 7:47, 48). In these words we find a factor in the rulers’ unwillingness to believe in Jesus, despite the evidence: they believed they were the standard by which all matters of right and wrong, and truth and error, would be judged.
From what these men said, the Old Testament Scriptures, which they lived under, were not to be consulted when there were questions; they were to be consulted. From the words of these men, God’s word was not the final word; their words would be the final word.
Today, there are still men [and women] who demonstrate the same arrogance towards the authority of the Scriptures, believing they alone are the deciding factor of what is, or is not, to be believed. We have men who have been exalted to be ‘head’ of their church, a position God established as Christ’s alone (cf. Col. 1:18); and on a lower level, we have many people who will read the Scriptures with their own eyes but, if they find it does not agree with what they have been taught or with what they then believe, they will simply respond, “But my pastor said…,” transferring the authority to another man. Some will claim the authority as their own, saying, “But the God I know wouldn’t teach that!”
Friends and brethren, either we accept the word of God as the sole authority, or we just need to admit it isn’t really God’s word we are following, but rather our own will, the doctrine of men, or false religions.
Those who care more about what men think than what God has said. On another occasion, when Jesus was going about teaching and showing great power through miracles, signs, and wonders, many would still not believe (John 12:17). In spite of this, we find “even among the rulers many believed in Him, but” — BUT — “because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42, 43). In this passage, we find some will go so far as believing in Jesus, but they will never let it be known for fear of what other men might think, or will think. These men knew they would be put out of the synagogue if they confessed Jesus as the Christ, so they lived a life in denial because they cared more about what men would do than what God is going to say in the final Judgment, and what Christ will do.
Let us not forget that Jesus Himself once said, “whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8, 9). Every so often, we may come across one who, like these rulers, believe the evidence God has provided to convince us Jesus was indeed the Christ and Son of God, but because they know they will be ostracized or cut off completely from their friends and/or family, they will never let it be known. They will believe, but it will do them no good.
And beyond this, there are many millions who listen eagerly to the words and arguments and philosophies of men who deny there is even such thing as God, sin, a Savior, heaven, or hell. They put great stock in the education and the wisdom of these men, even as they argue the Bible cannot be believed because it was “written by men.” The reality of those who make such arguments is that they simply care more for what men say than what God, their Creator and Judge, thinks. They will not believe, no matter what evidence is provided.
Those who are unwilling to give up their position. On another occasion, right after Jesus has raised Lazarus from the dead, we find that “many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him” (John 11:45). But [there’s that word again], “some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did” (John 11:46). We probably know that the Pharisees, for the most part, had rejected Jesus, so it is no surprise that they gathered with the chief priests and formed a council and began to discuss this among themselves (John 11:47).
One might hope that the religious leaders of Israel might come together to finally admit Jesus was who He claimed to be, but that was not the center of their discussion. No, they said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation” (John 11:47, 48). Nowhere in their words is any indication of any interest in what the evidence had shown and proved; their main interest was keeping their positions!
Unfortunately, such is still the case today where men refuse to believe because they fear losing their positions. Some in scientific circles simply fall in line with the atheistic evolution position, despite a lack of evidence for it and plenty that refutes it, knowing they would lose their positions and prestige if they should say evidence points to a supremely intelligent Designer and Creator. Others have no literal position, such as the religious leader or the scientist, but hold a theological or philosophical position they desire to hold onto, regardless of the evidence against it. Foolish stubbornness is not a desirable personality trait, especially in matters that will affect our eternal destination.
But how about you? If you still have not believed what God’s word teaches, what is it that prevents such? Be honest, because God knows the reason.
Believe on the Lord Jesus! — Steven Harper