The Apostle John’s Gospel makes it clear that the God of the Old Testament became Flesh and lived among His creatures (John 1:1-3,14). That is extraordinary! God loved the world so much that He sent His only begotten Son to earth to pay the penalty for our sins, and whoever “believes” in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. This Gospel is something we have to believe to have. If we don’t believe it, we don’t have it.
The Gospel of John addresses the issue of belief more than any other Gospel account – almost three times as often as the other Gospels combined! It begins with John the Baptist and God’s purpose for sending him as a herald of Jesus.
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own,and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:6-13
John the Baptist was a witness of Jesus “that all through him might believe.” What did people have to believe? “… in His name.” These people who believed in the Name of Jesus were born “of God.” So, what does it mean to believe in the Name of Jesus? Let’s look further into John’s Gospel to see.
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.’ And John bore witness, saying, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.” John 1:29-34
The first to believe in Jesus was John the Baptist. God had told him how he would recognize Jesus – “Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him.” The next people to believe in the Name of Jesus were some of John the Baptist’s disciples. Those men quickly became Jesus’ disciples.
The root Greek verb for “believe” used in John’s Gospel is pisteuo. It means “to believe, to believe to be true and worthy of trust, be firmly persuaded of, trust completely, place full confidence in.” The word carries the idea of relying on something, not just acknowledging it. That is “key” to understanding the Gospel few people know.
Just as the God of the Old Testament proved Himself to people through signs and wonders, God in the Flesh also proved Himself to people through signs and wonders. The first sign that Jesus performed was turning water into wine; appropriate since Jesus came to transform lives. Many people claim that Jesus simply used slight of hand and misdirection to trick the simple minded people of the town of Cana into thinking he changed water into wine. Look at the facts – this was no trick.
“Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the waterpots with water.’And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, ‘Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.’ And they took it. When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. And he said to him, ‘Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” John 2:6-10
Jesus performed this sign – this miracle – at a public wedding. He did not meet secretly behind a barn. He did not take a few specially chosen people into the hills to show His abilities just to them. Jesus did this at a public wedding. He told servants at the wedding to fill six stone waterpots. Each one held 20 to 30 gallons of water. That means Jesus was working with 120 to 180 gallons of water. As soon as the servants filled the pots to the brim, Jesus told them to “draw some out now, and take it to the master of feast.” Jesus did not pull out a science kit and try some experiment on the water. He did not tell His disciples to run to the vineyards and bring back some grapes so He could squeeze the juice of the grapes into the waterpots and try to fool the people into believing He had turned water into wine. Jesus told the servants to draw some of the liquid out of the waterpots as soon as the water they were pouring in reached the brim of the pot. Pour in – draw out. Pour in – draw out. No tricks.
The master of the feast tasted the wine Jesus had transformed from water and immediately called the bridegroom. The master of the feast wanted to know why the bridegroom had kept the good wine until the end of the feast. The best wine was supposed to be served first, then after the guests had drunk plenty of that, out came the inferior wine. Jesus had transformed water into the kind of wine that was always served first at feasts. That’s what Jesus does when He transforms a life. He takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary.
“This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.” John 2:11
Turning water into wine at the public wedding in Cana was the beginning of many miraculous signs Jesus would perform during His earthly ministry. The signs “manifested” (ephanerosen – make visible, make clear, uncover, lay bare, reveal) His “glory” (doxan – the honor resulting from a good opinion, renown, splendor). Jesus “covered” His Glory during most of His earthly Ministry, but the signs He performed “uncovered” them to those who had eyes to believe. Jesus’ disciples saw the miracle in Cana and “believed in Him.”
“Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” John 2:23-24
These two verses seem odd at first reading. Many people believed in the Name of Jesus when they saw the signs which He did, but Jesus “did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men.” You might think that Jesus would be thrilled that people were believing in His Name, but John wrote that Jesus “did not commit Himself” to those people. What does that mean?
The Apostle John knew the Greek language well by the time he wrote his Gospel account and used a kind of word play with “believe” in verse 23 and “commit” in verse 24. They are the same Greek word, with a slight ending variation. “Believe” is episteusan. “Commit” is episteuen. Jesus did not “believe” in the people’s “belief” in Him, so He did not “trust” Himself to them. Why? Because He knew all men; He knew what was in man.
People today are extremely self-centered and self-absorbed. They think that what they believe is usually, if not always, right. If you don’t think that’s true, just ask them. Whatever they believe is what’s true. Some people believe God is a big santa claus in the sky – eagerly waiting for the opportunity to give them presents. Some people believe God is always angry and has to be appeased continually. Some people believe God just wants attention and by giving Him a little attention from time to time (e.g. go to church on Easter and Christmas, toss a dollar into the offering plate, say a prayer at meals from time to time) gives Him what He wants and makes everything okay. Some believe all you have to do is mumble a few words, say a little prayer, and God won’t send you to hell. Some people believe God just wants everybody to be nice and get along and as long as they do that God will welcome them into Heaven – where all the good people go. Some people believe God doesn’t care what they believe and will open up Heaven for everyone at the end. Some believe that God sits on top of a big spiritual mountain and everyone who takes a spiritual journey up the mountain will eventually reach Him and find favor with Him.
That’s the gospel(s) most people know. The Gospel few people know is that the only belief that counts eternally is what God believes about what we believe. People believed in Jesus because of the signs He did, not because they trusted Him for anything. To so many people then, and now, Jesus was just another show that came to town. What will He do for me? Will He make me laugh? Will He do what I want? Will He make me feel better about myself? Will He feed me? Will He heal my body? That’s how most people see Jesus today. He’s just another show in town. What will He do for me?
Jesus did not believe in that kind of belief back then and He does not believe in that kind of belief today. How do I know? Because Jesus said so.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” Matthew 7:21-23
Jesus is not kidding! There will come a day when many people who think they’re saved and going to Heaven will ask Jesus, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” They’re serious! They did prophesy in Jesus Name. They did cast out demons in Jesus Name. They did many wonders in His Name. And Jesus will say to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” That should stop everyone in their tracks when they hear it. Jesus is not kidding. Many, many people who think they’re saved will not go to Heaven. Why? Because Jesus does not have faith in their faith. He knows what is in the heart of every person.
You many being thinking that this is out of context; that Jesus couldn’t possibly mean that He would tell people who believe in His Name to depart from Him. Here’s the context. Look at it closely. Everything in it leads up to the clear conclusion that Jesus is not kidding about faith. This is a life and death situation for all people.
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. ‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”
Next key – Jesus is the Authority. We are not. If we do not believe “exactly” what Jesus says we are to believe, we are doomed. We’ll look closely at that in the next part of our study.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”