Lesson 3 – Why Do Some Not Believe?
- Text: Jn. 7:16-17.
- It is an obvious fact that not everyone today who is confronted with the testimony of Jesus Christ accepts it as believable. Some do, but many do not.
- It is worthwhile to ask: why do some not believe?
I. DIFFERENT RESPONSES TO JESUS’ MESSAGE
- If many today do not believe, it is equally obvious that the same situation existed in Jesus’ day among those who heard Him with their own ears – Jn. 7:12,40-43.
- Not only was there a division concerning Jesus, it was an impassioned, vehement division. The reactions to Jesus ranged from the deepest love that humans can experience to the most intense hatred of which they are capable – Jn. 6:63-64; 7:5.
- How are we to explain the fact that although Jesus’ message was identical, it met with such radically different responses from the various individuals who heard it?
II. SUBJECTIVE FACTORS IN FAITH
- The objective credibility of Jesus’ message itself was the same for all — the different responses were produced by subjective factors within the listeners themselves that caused them to “hear” Jesus differently.
- In the Gospel of John, we have numerous statements from Jesus indicating that only those with a certain kind of character, or “heart,” would find His words credible – Jn. 10:2-4,27.
- Others, with a different predisposition, would find His words not only unconvincing, but ludicrous – Jn. 5:37-44. Cf. 8:42-48.
- The gospel does not “automatically” or “mechanically” produce faith in the heart of every hearer!
III. REJECTING TRUE TESTIMONY AND ACCEPTING FALSE
- In the reception of the gospel, more is involved than simply the strength of the message.
- When human beings are listening to testimony that purports to come from God, there is always the possibility that some will reject the testimony even though it truly does come from God – Jn. 10:22-26. Cf. Jn. 8:45.
- Not only that, there is the corresponding possibility that testimony from some other source will be accepted even though it is NOT from God – Jn. 5:41-44.
- In each case, the hearts of the hearers influence the outcome as well as the message itself.
- In the Scriptures, therefore, we are frequently urged to be careful in drawing our conclusions – 1 Jn. 4:1.
IV. MUST WE BE DOUBTFUL ABOUT EVERY IDEA THAT IS DISPUTED?
- Some worry about the fact that the gospel of Christ does not compel universal assent. If the evidence for the gospel is so strong, how can there be those who fail to see it?
But there is no such thing as a proposition so evident that no one can reject it.
- The human mind has never held a thought on any subject that is not disputable in some kind of way.
- There are, after all, some who still seriously maintain that the earth is flat, and if we must remain tentative about any proposition that does not compel universal assent, then we shall have to avoid being dogmatic about the rotundity of the earth.
- And if we have to put a question mark over anything that is not unanimously agreed upon, then we can hardly be sure even that we ourselves exist, since there are serious philosophers who deny that.
- The truth of a proposition can’t be determined by majority vote, and it would be foolish to question Jesus’ testimony to God simply because there are many who reject it.
- The evidence for the gospel does not overwhelm the will of those who don’t wish to believe it – Mt. 23:37.
- Instead, the gospel invites acceptance by those who are seeking God – Mt. 11:28-30.
V. THE DIFFERENCE IS IN THE HEART OF THE HEARER
- Those who are not seeking and whose hearts are not inclined toward God will see little sense in the words that Jesus said He brought from God.
- Strong language is used in the Gospel of John to describe the heart that is closed to the truth of Jesus’ testimony – Jn. 12:37-41.
- Jesus described those who were honestly seeking God as being “of” God – Jn. 8:42-47; 10:25-27.
- Ultimately, our attitude toward obeying God is the thing that determines whether we find Jesus’ testimony credible. It is the honestintent to obey God that opens our eyes to see the truth of the gospel – Jn. 7:16-17. Cf. Lk. 8:15; Jn. 5:44.
- And perhaps we can be even more specific: it comes down to our attitude toward repentance – Jn. 3:19-21. Cf. 2 Thess. 2:11-12.
In applying this principle to other people, however, there is a need for extreme caution.
- It would be arrogant to dismiss anyone who disagrees with us as not loving the truth.
- The fact is, the attitude of our neighbor may be better than our own.
- Have we honestly considered that our neighbor may be right and we wrong!
- But even if we are right and our neighbor wrong, the “lead” we have in understanding the truth may be the result not of our having a better attitude, but of our having had a “head start” in being exposed to the truth earlier in life.
- Rather than dismissing our neighbors as having poor attitudes, we need to keep asking ourselves, “Have we made the case for the gospel as strong as it can be made?”
But attitude does affect our “hearing,” so we each need to ask ourselves whether we are:
- Honestly seeking God.
- Willing to be obedient to God.
- Willing to repent.
- The honesty of our intent to obey God is measured not by our words, but by the promptness with which we have obeyed the truths of God that we have already encountered.
- God’s testimony produces saving faith only in the hearts of those willing to repent and obey Him – Jn. 7:17.
- The gospel of Christ is the great “watershed” of humanity: our destiny is determined by our response to it – Jn. 12:47-48.
Next lesson: Faith in the Goodness of God