Vol. 11 No. 7 July 2009
By Marilyn LaStrape
In a conversation with a sister in the faith, she expressed her frustration in trying to get people to see, understand and obey the truth of the Gospel. She said this is especially difficult when the religious convictions that they hold are so strong, even though those convictions cannot be validated in Scripture. She talked about how people can be shown Scripture after Scripture; they can read Scripture after Scripture; they can hear Scripture after Scripture, yet they remain in unbelief! Then she said, “It’s just like trying to pull a tooth that’s not loose!” I had never heard it put quite that way, but it started me to thinking about what God’s Word has to say about such an attitude. There are at least three R’s in unbelief – resistance, rejection and rebellion.
The tragedy of unbelief appears time after time in the Bible. This was especially true of God’s chosen people. In spite of everything God had done for the Israelites and promised them, they refused to believe the truth He presented right before their eyes! Speaking of their unbelief, disobedience and ultimate rebellion, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:5, “But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.” Hebrews 3:17-19 says, “Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”
Jesus encountered the same hearts of unbelief on numerous occasions among the Jews when He presented truth to them. The Book of John, chapters 9—12, details some of those occasions. John Chapter 9 gives us the account of the man who was born blind receiving his sight. The Jews questioned him over and over about how that happened and who did it; they even questioned his parents. They answered the question repeatedly, but the Jews believed neither him nor his parents. From verses 10-26, he was asked the same question six different ways: (1) “How were your eyes opened?” (2) “Then the Pharisees also asked him again, how he had received his sight.” (3) “They said to the blind man again, ‘What do you say about Him because He opened your eyes?’” (4) “But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and received his sight, until they called the parents of him who had received his sight.” (5) “So they again called the man who was blind…” (6) “Then they said to him again, ‘What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?’” Verse 27 is priceless. “He answered them, ‘I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?’”
That statement marked the beginning of the end of the Jews’ conversation with this man. They stopped questioning him and began attacking him. The man told them if Jesus were not from God, He could do nothing. John 9:34 shows their utter disdain for what he said. “They answered and said to him, ‘You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?’ And they cast him out.” Human nature has not changed when truth is presented and is resisted, rejected, and rebelled against through unbelief!
There always seemed to be division among the Jews over what Jesus said and did. In the first half of John Chapter 10, Jesus used the illustration of a doorkeeper and sheep. He told them He was the Good Shepherd; He knew His sheep, and they were known by Him. However, their doubts, suspensions and unbelief remained. Such an instance is recorded in verses 24-27. “Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, ‘How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Notice the response of our Lord. “Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” Sadly, their unbelief in what Jesus was saying was insurmountable!
This unbelief among the prominent members of Jewish society is vividly apparent in the resurrection of Lazarus after his sickness and death. Jesus had told His disciples plainly that Lazarus was dead. Then, He said in John 11:15a, “And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe.”
What could be worse than being in the presence of Jesus the Christ, hearing and seeing a miracle performed, and still wallowing in a coma of unbelief? That is exactly what happened after Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. John 11:47-48 says, “Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and 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.” To say they were misguided in their unbelief doesn’t touch the hem of the garment! They just did not seem to be able to understand that belief in Jesus the Christ was the only way that would not only save them and their nation, but also the whole world! Just how misguided they were in their unbelief is recorded in John 11:53. “Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death.”
This resistance, rejection and rebellion against Jesus continued among the Jews because He had raised Lazarus from the dead. John 12:1-8 records Jesus going to Bethany and Lazarus was one who sat at the table with Him for supper. John 12:9-11 says, “Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there, and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.”
Conviction that results in belief is not dependent on the number of times the truth is heard. It’s dependent on the condition of one’s heart. People are perverse in the many beliefs that they hold. So many times their stubborn will cannot be penetrated by the truth of God’s Word. If their heart is hardened in unbelief to revealed truth, trying to dislodge that mindset can be as difficult as trying to pull a tooth that’s not loose!