The Meaning of Life - Part 2 (John 20:30-31)
Good morning everybody; if we could take our Bibles and open them to John 20, taking a look at verses 30-31 today. Actually we’re just taking a look at verse 31 today and maybe we won’t even finish verse 31. Let’s remind ourselves of what these verses say. It says, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;  but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”
Last time we finished all of this except for that phrase at the end, “and that believing you may have life in His name.” So that’s where we’re focused on this morning, taking a specific look at the word “believing,” and then the word “life,” what does that mean, and then this phrase at the end, “in His name,” what exactly does that mean? This might turn into a three parts series if we’re not carful here.
But you will recall that Thomas has touched the body with its wounds of Jesus Christ. Thomas has called Jesus his Lord and his God and you might recall that Jesus, in verse 29 makes the statement that “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believed.” So Thomas, in essence, believed with some great evidence, but Jesus says “Blessed,” which means accepted, or acceptable before God, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.”
And that flows very nicely into verses 30-31, which is the purpose statement of the book. What is this book all about? It is written to people who never saw the evidence that Thomas had. I mean, here we are in the year 2015, we have never physically seen Jesus, we have never touched His body, touched His wounds and that kind of thing. And yet John’s Gospel is written to people just like us; it’s written to essentially any person in the history of the human race, post apostolic age; we don’t see the body of Jesus Christ but we have the historical record which reveals to us who this man, Jesus Christ is. And within this historical record is the data that we need to express faith in Jesus Christ. And so that becomes the purpose statement of John’s Gospel.
Now notice this expression here towards the end, “and that believing you may have life in His name.” You might remember earlier in the verse, verse 31, it says, “but these things have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,” there the focus is on “believe.” But then you get towards the end of verse 31 and it shifts into not just a verb but what we call a present participle, “believing.” So then what is the difference between to “believe” and “believing?” What exactly does that mean? What I would like to do is focus on this word “believing” today and I would like to tell you, number 1, what I think it means. And then number 2, I’ll share with you what I don’t think it means.
Let’s go ahead and start with “believing.” What does that exactly mean? John doesn’t simply say we are to believe but we are to experience the life of Christ in its maximum sense; we are to continue believing. What John is calling us to do is to continue to trust Jesus. We hear the gospel, we exercise faith in this man, Jesus Christ, we receive immediately the gift of life, and then life happens, doesn’t it? Family members die, financial hardships come, you get a negative report from the doctor. And what is to be the posture of the newborn child of God as life hits them in their new found spiritual state. What are they to do? They are to continue to trust in this man, Jesus Christ, who gave them the gift of life, as they travel through life’s exigencies, emergencies, difficulties, adversities and hard circumstances of life.
And there are so many times where we can become, what I like to call unbelieving believers. In other words, yes, Lord, you are enough to give me the gift of life but you know, I’ve got a mortgage payment I’ve got to meet this month and You’re just not sufficient for that. I can trust You with my soul, I can trust You with my eternity, I can trust You with my destiny, but this mortgage payment that’s coming up, this car payment that’s coming up, this is just too much.
And so we seek to handle life’s problems through our own human power rather than continuing to trust in the One who gave us the gift of life to begin with. I believe John is saying that we ought not to be this way; we ought to continue to trust God to help us with life’s circumstances, and He is sufficient for the task because if He is sufficient to give you the gift of life, which is the greatest gift you can have, certainly He can help you with mortgage payments, doctor’s visits. Certainly He will give you the strength to endure those things as well.
And what happens to us is we trust Christ for salvation but we don’t trust Him for the lesser things and the lesser problems. And the moment we become like that we move off into a posture that I like to call an unbelieving believer. And when we become unbelieving believers, trusting in Christ for salvation but not life’s problems, we think we’re cheating God when in reality we are cheating ourselves, and essentially what happens to us is we miss out, not on salvation, that’s secure, but we miss out on blessings which we could have had that flow from our justification.
The textbook example of some people that had become unbelieving believers are that generation that came out of Egypt. You remember the nation of Israel was in Egypt for 400 years just prior to the time of Moses. And these people saw the plagues of God that He brought upon Egypt; in fact, they were given specific instructions that if you want to be exempted from plague number 10, the death of the firstborn, you must put the blood of the Passover lamb on your doorpost. And guess what? That generation of Jews believed and they did exactly as they were told. And consequently I believe that they were in faith.
And then God, as you know the story of the book of Exodus, parted the Red Sea and they trusted God and walked through that narrow strip that God had created for them, with a wall of water on one side and a wall of water on the other side. And consequently, their names, because of this are in what we call the hall of faith, Hebrews 11, which is a record of all of those who trusted in God despite overwhelming odds in the Old Testament time period. Of that generation, Hebrews 11:29 says this: “By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned.”
There is no doubt in my mind that these people, because of the blood on the doorpost and because they trusted God continuing through that Red Sea, were regenerated or believers in the Old Testament sense of the word. In fact, when they got to the other side of that Red Sea and God had closed those waters on the Egyptians, this is what the very last verse in the book of Exodus says, Exodus 14:31, it says, “…the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in His servant Moses.” One of my professors in seminary, Dr. Ronald Allen, who was an expert in Hebrew, pointed out one time in class that when it says “they believed in the LORD” there, that virtually is the same semantical construction, or linguistic construction that we find in Genesis 15:6.
You say well, what happened in Genesis 15:6; it’s a very famous verse; it says “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him for righteousness.” If you know your New Testament you know that that text is a big deal in the theology of the Apostle Paul, who was seeking to communicate that salvation is by faith alone. You have the same type of linguistic construction here in Exodus 14:31, it says, “the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in His servant Moses.”
And so what I have said thus far completely convinces me that we will see that generation one day in heaven. But you see, what happened to that generation? They got down to Sinai, they received the Law of God, they were provided for by God that whole time as they traveled from Egypt down to Sinai, Exodus 19:1 tell us it was a journey of about two months. [Exodus 19:1,”In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai.”] They received the Law and then all they had to do was keep trusting God to get into Canaan. Now how many days journey is it between Sinai and Canaan? The book of Deuteronomy, chapter 1, verse 2 tells us that the journey was eleven days. Deuteronomy 1:2, “It is eleven days journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea.”
Eleven days and you’re into the Promised Land. And certainly you can keep trusting the Lord, can’t you, you saw Him part the Red Sea, you saw Him bring the plagues down upon Egypt, you saw Him miraculously sustain you through manna and water throughout this journey. Certainly an eleven day journey could not be problematic for your faith, could it?
And we know the story, it’s recorded in the book of Numbers, chapters 13 and 14; what could have been an eleven day journey turned into forty year nightmare. What happened to these people? They got to a place called Kadesh-barnea, which is the southern border of the nation of Israel; as you know the story they looked into the land and they saw in the land giants. And the Bible says, and this is the key point, “they became grasshoppers in their own eyes.” [Numbers 13:33, “There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”]
When it says they became like grasshoppers in their own eyes what happened to them is they started to analyze their problems from the human viewpoint. They stopped trusting in God and His promise. The spies, as you know the story, came back and gave this negative report and the whole camp fell into unbelief. These are people that are saved; these are people that are in the hall of faith; these are people in the Old Testament sense of the word, we would call them regenerated, believers, people that we will see in heaven one day, and they got psyched out.
The only two that did not get psyched out were Joshua and Caleb, and what God did is He pulled the curtain, if you will, on that whole generation. He said fine, you won’t trust Me to enter the land and tackle these giants, even though I’ve done all of these miracles on your behalf, fine; every one of you is just going to wander around out here in the wilderness for forty years, and I’m going to wait for you to drop dead one by one by one by one by one and I’m going to start working with your kids.
Now Joshua and Caleb, who trusted Me, I’m going to allow them to enter with the kids as senior citizens or seasoned citizens. Joshua and Caleb wanted to enter that land around the age of 40 and that got pushed back; God allowed them to enter at age 80. But you see, this is a description of what we would call an unbelieving believer, people that trusted God for salvation but they would not trust the Lord to help them with a problem in life which was greater than they are.
Now many, many theologians will say will look, they didn’t enter, so we’re not going to see those people in heaven. And let me just tell you, you have a major problem if that’s your perspective on it, because one of the guys that did not enter was Moses himself, their leader. Moses, you recall, died on the plains of Moab, I think it was Mount Nebo, and he died having only seen the Promised Land from a distance. Moses himself was not allowed to enter and if you make Canaan heaven, as some of our songs even do, then you have to reach the conclusion that not only did these, somewhere around a million and a half people, not enter heaven but Moses himself didn’t enter heaven. And that, of course, is a major problem because Moses obviously went to heaven because in Matthew 17:1-8, on the Mount of Transfiguration, when Jesus transfigured Himself before Peter, James and John, one of those with Jesus was Moses.
[Matthew 17:1-8, “Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves.  And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light.  And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.  Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”  When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified.  And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, “Get up, and do not be afraid.”  And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone.”
So it looks like Moses made it into heaven, although he did not make it into Canaan. These people made it into heaven but they did not make it into Canaan. What did they miss? What did they forfeit, exactly? Not salvation, but a blessing they could have had flowing from their salvation or their justification. And you see, there are giants in your life as well; there are giants in my life. There are circumstances that come into our lives that, simply put, are far bigger than we are and we have a tendency to want to navigate those things through human power. We become like grasshoppers in our own eyes. And what is Jesus saying? Keep trusting Me; you believed, now continue on believing, and I will help you navigate the circumstances of life.
And to the extent that we do that we enter blessings. We enter our on Canaan, perhaps, of some sort. And to the extent we don’t we shut ourselves off from what I would call temporal blessings not related to heaven or hell but temporal blessings which we could have had flowing from our justification. We, in essence, become what I would call unbelieving believers.
A textbook example of it is this generation that came out of Egypt. Another textbook example of someone at a time in his life was an unbelieving believer is this man, Peter. I mean, is anybody going to question the salvation of Peter? Peter is the main man in Acts 1-10, that God uses to build His new church. Peter is that instrument, that pliable instrument in God’s hand. There is no doubt that Peter was saved. And yet what happened to Peter is many times in his life circumstances were bigger than him and he took his eyes off the Lord. One example is Matthew 14:28-31, it says this: “Peter said to Him, Lord, if it is You, command me to come to you on the water.”  And Jesus said ‘Come!’ And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” Now watch this, Matthew 14:30, “But seeing the wind, he became frightened,” what’s the problem? He became a grasshopper in his own eyes, his eyes at that point were not on Christ, his eyes at that point were on the wind, and you know how story ended; not well for Peter. “…he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ [31 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, ‘Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt.”
Peter, the victory was yours, you could have not sunk; you could have walked out with the Lord there on the water, He told you to come out to Him, and while Peter’s salvation is not in question what did Peter forfeit? He forfeited a blessing which he could have had, not related to heaven or hell but a temporal blessing of some sort flowing from his justification.
What is John teaching us here in John 20:31, through this use of the present participle, “believing,” because it’s a switch; first He says “believe,” to experience the gift of life and then He says “believing.” What is this teaching us? It’s teaching us that the same Lord that saved us is the same Lord that wants to help us now if we would just take our eyes off of our circumstances and continue to exercise faith in Him. And to the extent that we don’t is the extent we cheat ourselves.
What could have been an eleven days journey turns into a forty day nightmare. What could have been a victory of walking out on the water turns into an utter failure and we miss out on what God wanted to do in our lives. And I think that’s the proper understanding of interpreting the word “believing,” keep trusting Christ through the exigencies of life and its emergencies and enter into everything that God has for you. And to the extent that we don’t we cut ourselves off, not from heaven (Moses went to heaven) but from blessings we could have had.
Now let’s talk, just for a moment, about what this does not mean. I’ve explained to you what I think it means, what does it not mean, because as you survey different ministries and the literature on the subject what you discover is there is widespread confusion on this present participle here in verse 31, the word “believing.”
Here is the wrong interpretation. The wrong interpretation says this: you have to keep on believing to prove you’re a believer in the first place. In other words, the evidence that you truly are a child of God will be manifested in the fact that your faith will never fail under any circumstances. And people who promote this view camp on this present participle, “believing,” and they say it doesn’t just say “believe,” it says “believing.” So if I’ve really believed then my faith has to continue and woe is me if I move into a time of doubt in my life. If I move into a time of doubt in my life then even my faith itself can be questioned.
Here is a quote from Dr. Dan Wallace, a Greek Grammarian, he was one of my teachers, I’m not trying to pick on him, I have great respect for his knowledge of the Greek language, but you see, in his book, entitled Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics” he gives this interpretation of verse 31. He says, and there’s a lot of scholarly words here which I’ll try not to bore you with, but he says, “the force of the present participle believing seems to contrast with believe. The present was the tense of choice most likely because New Testament writers, by and large, saw continual belief as a necessary condition of salvation.”
Continual belief is not a condition of inheriting or moving into various blessings, not related to heaven or hell as we’ve talked about. Rather, in his mind “believing” is a condition to determine if you’ve ever believed in Jesus Christ in the first place. A lot of this view comes from the circles of what I would call Hyper Calvinism. In the Hyper Calvinist system faith is a gift bestowed to the elect of God. Now when you talk to Hyper Calvinist, people that are very strongly into the Calvinistic viewpoint, they are always focused on three doctrines. In fact, it’s difficult to get through a conversation with them without them mentioning these three doctrines.
They are: number 1, the depravity of man; number 2, the sovereignty of God; and number 3, the glory of God. Now as I’ll show you in a minute, my problem is not with those titles, it’s how they are being defined, because those are given a disproportionate influence in the Word of God to the extent that other concepts are damaged.
Let’s take this one by one: total depravity. When they use the word “total depravity” what are they saying? What they are saying is the lost sinner is so dead in his trespasses and sins that he does not even have the ability to believe in Christ. And because he does not have the ability to believe in Christ God has to grant him or her the gift of faith.
Here’s a statement from John McArthur, I like a lot of the things John McArthur says, however on this topic we are at a very different place. McArthur writes, in his book, The Gospel According to the Apostles this: “Because we were dead to God we were dead to truth, righteousness, peace, happiness of every good thing, no more capable to respond to God than a cadaver.” And I saw that word “cadaver” I had to look that up; what is a cadaver? A cadaver is a lifeless corpse. Just as a lifeless corpse cannot respond to God by way of faith, that is how the Hyper Calvinist looks at humanity. So if anybody is in faith at all, it has to be something that God gives a lost person.
McArthur further intensifies the severity of mankind’s condition by stating that unregenerate sinners are (quote) “spiritual zombies, death walkers, unable to understand the gravity of their situation, they are lifeless.” And so faith, if anybody has it at all it’s a gift. God gives it to some and not others, on the basis of His elective decrees towards them.
And the Hyper Calvinist believes that if you allow man any wriggle room to believe the gospel, then somehow you have taken away from God His sovereignty. God has to control everything at all times and so if man responds through an act of volition, then God’s sovereignty is damaged and if you damage God’s sovereignty you damage His glory because after all, man can take no credit, can he, in salvation. To let men exercise volition in any sense means that God’s glory is subtracted.
And much of this viewpoint, faith is a gift, is related to the idea that God cannot fail. Can God fail? Of course not! So if God gives you the gift of faith because you are one of the elect, then guess what? You cannot have seasons in your life related to doubt. Why can’t you have seasons in your life related to doubt? Because God gave you the gift of faith, and God, the giver of that gift cannot fail.
Well, what happens if I move into doubt in the Christian life? And I’ll just be completely honest with you, I’ve been a Christian since 1983, there have been extreme values in my life as I look back where I was really in doubt about a lot of things that I had initially thought. What happens if you go through one of those valleys? God forbid. What happens if you go through a time of apostasy or a departure from the things of God and you move off into other types of teachings that are not Bible based? Then your faith is in question because God cannot fail, and if He has truly given you the gift of faith, and God cannot fail, then there can’t be these prolonged seasons of doubt, there cannot be these long seasons of apostasy. Certainly you can’t die in that condition; if you die in that condition it proves you never had the gift of faith to begin with.
You see how this whole thing works and begins to unravel. So what you find in Hyper Calvinist literature is this concept of spurious faith, faith which is not authentic, in other words. In other words, what they say is there is a faith that saves and a faith that doesn’t save. There’s a faith that God gives and then a faith that man exercises; only the faith that God gives saves, anything else is spurious faith or inauthentic faith. You move into doubt, you move into apostasy and guess what? There is a moment of time to question whether your faith is really the gift of God. I’m just giving you the logical ramifications of their system.
So here is a quotation from William Hendricksen, a very well-known Calvinist and he writes: “Many trusted in His name because of the manner in which was displayed,” he’s commenting there on the end of John 2, “and they accepted Him as a great prophet, and perhaps even as the Messiah. This, however, is not saying that they surrendered their heart to Him.” What does he say? Not all faith is saving faith. And constantly what the body of Christ, particularly here in the west is being with is this idea that there is a faith that saves and a faith that doesn’t save.
Well, if you believe that, what are you going to spend your whole life as a Christian wondering? Do I have the right kind of faith? And you see, when you reach that point we’re no longer talking about a theological discussion, we are talking about a pastoral ministry problem because as a pastor my heart is to see people grow in Christ. And how difficult that is when 50%, let’s say, of your church or 50% of the body of Christ doesn’t even know if they’re saved. And so there are believers struggling, struggling constantly, am I really in the faith or am I not in the faith as well.
Now there are, once this doctrine takes hold in our minds and hearts, and in our churches, three problems follow. Number 1 is a lack of assurance; people that believe this way have absolutely no confidence in the assurance of their salvation. If you ask them, if you died tonight would you go to heaven and they would say I think so, maybe a 70% chance, kind of like the weather report, 70% chance of rain today. Uncertain, maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t, because I really don’t know until the end of my life if my faith has persevered because only as my faith has persevered will it demonstrate that my faith was authentic in the first place and a gift of God.
I want to read to you very quickly a quotation from Bob Wilkin, who is the head of The Grace Evangelical Society; he was an attendee at one of R. C. Sproul’s Ligonier Conferences and this is what he writes. Of course, R. C. Sproul, as you may know, or may not know, is very strongly in the Calvinistic “faith is a gift” camp.
It says this: “During the first message presented at Ligonier’s conference in Orlando last June, Dr. R. C. Sproul indicated that Dr. James Boyce, a scheduled speaker at the conference, was dying in the faith that very night. Then at the end of the message he,” that would be Sproul, “asked all 5,000 of us present to pray that Jim dies in the faith.” Wilkin writes, “That struck me as sad, here was a great pastor,” now Boyce was a long time pastor, a long time theologian, in fact if you Googled his name you would find all of his contributions to Christianity and yet in this system even Boyce and his salvation was in doubt because we just don’t know if he’s going to continue in the faith till the very end.
So Sproul asks everybody in the conference to pray for Boyce, James Boyce, so that he will die in the faith. Why? Because if he doesn’t die in the faith, maybe his faith wasn’t real. Maybe it wasn’t a gift of God. And if it wasn’t a gift of God maybe it’s what we call spurious faith, inauthentic faith. Here was a great pastor, teacher and author, yet Sproul was not sure that he was regenerate; Wilkin goes on and he says, Dr. Boyce died that very night.
Ideas, folks, have consequences. We look at theology as just a pie in the sky debate that academic eggheads engage in, but if you don’t think about this and what this means this will hit you right between the eyes. This will hit you at a level where you can spend your waning days in Christ wondering if you were ever in Christ at all.
Wilkin writes this: “I am reminded of R. T. Kendall’s remark that merely to a man the Puritans,” now the Puritans is where all of this hyper Calvinism is being imported from. “…the Puritans were good people; they are largely responsible for many of our Ivy League institutions today. They were instrumental in the foundation of America and yet this system of belief that faith must persevere to the end is dominant in their theology.” Wilkin writes, “I was reminded of R. T. Kendall’s remark that merely to a man the Puritan leaders died doubting whether they were saved, and fearing that they were going to hell.” You can imagine somebody on their deathbed having question marks in your mind, can’t you? And if they are an advocate of this system then the question marks themselves may indicate that their faith was not real to begin with.
Look at this quote from John Piper: “No Christian,” and this is astounding to me, “No Christian can be sure if he is a true believer, hence there is an ongoing need to be dedicated to the Lord, to deny ourselves so that we might make it.” Wow, I got to decide which John I’m going to believe in here; am I going to believe John Piper or am I going to believe the Apostle John, because you see, the Apostle John records the words of Christ in John 5:24 and he says this, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” You’ll notice the word “believes.” You’ll notice the word “eternal life;” how long is eternal life? It’s forever, isn’t it. And the moment you believe in Christ you’ll notice the word “has,” that’s in the present tense in the Greek, you have eternal life. It’s not a question maybe you have it, maybe you don’t, you’ve got it.
Now am I going to believe John Piper or am I going to believe R. C. Sproul; am I going to believe John McArthur, or am I going to build my house on the promises of God who cannot lie? That’s the choice we’re having to make here with this confusion that we’re all in. He “has eternal life” and Jesus says he “does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” “Has passed out of” is in the perfect tense in Greek, which essentially means a onetime action; it happened once with ongoing benefits or results.
What is this verse teaching? It is teaching the assurance of salvation. Whether your life goes the way you think it ought to go or it doesn’t go the way you think it ought to go, whether you’re a person of great courage throughout your life or not, if you have exercised faith in Jesus Christ you have that promise, and God cannot lie. Now people look at me teaching these things and they think I’m teaching some strange doctrine, because they never hear this side of the argument.
But may I just say to you that if you go back a few generations what I am saying was mainstream. In fact, Dallas Theological Seminary, my Alma Mater, in the 1920’s was founded on this very idea. Look at what Article XI says: “The assurance of salvation: We believe it is the privilege, not of some but of all by the Spirit through faith who are born again in Christ as revealed in the Scriptures to be” what? “assured of their salvation,” when during my life? No, “from the very day they take Him to be their Savior.” And this assurance is not founded upon some fancy discovery of their own worthiness or fitness, but is wholly upon the testimony of God in His written Word.
People will lie to you, folks; theologians will lie to you, pulpits will mislead you, God forbid I could come to a place in this church where I say something erroneous. This book won’t lie to you. Jesus, in this book gives us a crystal clear promise; you build your house on what Jesus said because it is impossible for God to lie. God has the character and the power to fulfill what He said He would do regarding your eternal destiny.
When this idea of faith is a gift begins to emanate, the first thing that suffers is the lack of assurance. The second thing that suffers is a harsh judgementalism and Pharisaism takes over where spiritual leaders get into the business of judging whether folks are saved or not. They even get into the business of judging whether each other are saved or not. They get into the business of judging themselves, whether they’re saved or not. Oh, Sister So and So missed Wednesday night prayer meeting, I wonder if they’re apostatizing. And if they’re apostatizing maybe they don’t have that true faith, maybe it’s a fake faith.
We had a Sunday School teacher here, this was when I first came to this church, I praise the Lord he’s gone on to other places, but he would stand up in front of his class and he would point to the softball players on the field across the street and he would just make a sweeping judgment about their souls. He would say how could those people across the street, playing softball, how could they even be saved; they’re not in the house of the God honoring God. And the first thing that went through my mind is well, maybe they went to Saturday night church. Now granted, playing softball on a Sunday morning compared to coming to church may not be the best decision but I’m not going to sit in judgment on a whole category of people because they are not persevering the way I think they should persevere.
The third thing that happens when this faith is a gift mentality takes over is it begins to corrupt the presentation of the gospel. The gospel itself becomes confused and garbled. Why is that? Because if the Hyper Calvinist viewpoint is correct, the lost person does not even have the ability to believe the gospel. And if they don’t have the ability to believe the gospel, why share the gospel with them. What you need to pray for them and what they need to pray for themselves is God, give me the gift of faith.
Again, here’s a statement from John MacArthur, it’s one of his sermons given at Grace Church and this is what it says: “Preface. John MacArthur holds to this idea that faith is a gift of God and he recommends that sinners pray to God in order to obtain it.” Here’s his quote: “Faith is a gift from God, it is permanent. The faith that God gives begets obedience. God gave it to you and He sustains it. May God grant you a true saving faith, a permanent faith that begins in humility and brokenness over sin and ends up in obedience unto righteousness? That’s the true faith and it’s a gift that only God can give, and if you desire it, pray and ask God to give it to you.”
I have gone thru the book of Acts multiple times; I would challenge anybody to find one statement in the book of Acts, a historical record of the evangelism of the church where the church went around telling people to pray for the gift of faith. What they said is they presented the gospel and they said believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. We don’t tell people to pray for the gift of faith; that is a concept which is foreign to the Scripture itself; lack of assurance, judgmental Pharisaism, and a garbled presentation of the gospel.
Well, how does this whole thing really work? You remember John 16:7-9, we’ve studied this in depth in the Upper Room, Jesus says this: “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.  And He, when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” Verse 9, “concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me.” It’s very interesting that the word “sin” here, the Greek word hamartia, is a singular noun. The Holy Spirit is not convicting the world of sins. He is not convicting the unsaved of gambling and pornography and spousal abuse.
What He is convicting them of is a sin, singular, which is defined as unbelief. “Concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me.” There is only one sin that will send you into a Christ-less eternity and that is dying, having never gone through your life, and dying in this state, having never trusted Christ. That’s the only sin that God won’t forgive.
So what is the Holy Spirit doing? He is convicting the world; He is not giving them the gift of faith. What He is convicting the world of is their need to believe. And as they come under the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit they, through their own volition, make a conscious decision to believe the gospel. The Holy Spirit will not believe for you.
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever” what? “believes in Him,” nothing here about God believing for you; nothing here about God giving you the gift of life. Now, I do believe very strongly in the doctrine of depravity; I believe that we, if left to our natural devices would not seek God. And that’s why the convicting ministry of the Spirit of God is so critical. But as that convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit comes upon people it is not a scenario whereby God overrides volition and gives people the gift of faith whether they want it or not. It has to do with conviction leading, hopefully, to faith as we respond.
It’s interesting to me that the relationship that we have with the Lord is analogized to a bride and a groom. Now when I first met Anne she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, and then I discovered her inner beauty and I said to myself, I’m going to marry her. Now I had it figured out way before she did, so I put on the full court press, and I did what I could do. But you see, maybe I was a great full court presser, ultimately she had to make a decision. I could put on the greatest full court press in the world, but the decision of whether she would respond to me was her choice; isn’t that an accurate rendition of it? And fortunately she made the right choice. [Laughter]
But there is no scenario in the Bible where you have husband, wife, bridegroom, or where the husband or the groom coerces the bride against her will. I mean, those are the type of teachings you don’t find in Christianity. Islam would have plenty of teachings like that, but that’s not the God of the Bible.
Now when we exercise faith in Christ that does not subtract one iota from God’s glory of His sovereignty. Why is that? Because of Romans 4:4-5, which says this, “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as to what is due.  But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him,” let me say that again, “But to the one who does NOT work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.”
In the mind of God faith is the one thing that lost people can do which is not a work. This is how God thinks about the issue. That’s why He has orchestrated the plan of salvation revolving around our faith in Him. And because that is the mind of God allowing people volition to believe in a theological system is not a subtraction of His glory, nor His sovereignty.
Then if all of that is true, what do we do with this statement by the hyper Calvinist continual belief is a necessary condition of salvation. What we do is we look at the other present tense participles in John. Here’s a long list of them, I don’t have time to go through all of them, but just a couple of them. What you start to discover is many of these present tense participles are not communicating something that is forever. They are not communicating something that is continuous. They are not communicating something that is uninterrupted. They are not communicating something is unbroken.
One example would be John 5:3, which says this, “In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, waiting for the moving of the waters,” now “were sick” translated there is a present tense participle. Their condition was not forever, these sick people, because first of all, Jesus went and healed one of them, didn’t He.
Or you take, for example, John 6:14, notice what it says: “Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, ‘This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” “…who has come into the world” is actually a present tense participle. Let me ask you a question: Was Jesus always coming into the world? No, there was a point in time in which He came into the world.
Or you take, for example, Mark 6:14, it’s speaking of John the Baptist and it says this: “And King Herod heard of it, for His name had become well known; and people were saying, ‘John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in Him.’” Now the expression, “the Baptist,” translated “the Baptist,” is actually a present tense participle; if you followed a very literal interpretation it would be John the baptizing one. Let me ask you a question: Did John ever stop baptizing? Yes he did because when this statement was made John was already dead. These are all present tense participles that do not communicate something continuous, uninterrupted, unbroken and forever.
So therefore when I look at John 20:31 I can’t interpret it the way the Hyper Calvinist interprets it which means I have to keep believing, and if I have a down period then suddenly I’m not saved anymore; suddenly my faith is spurious or inauthentic because that present tense participle doesn’t always communicate something is uninterrupted and forever and ever.
Let me sort of phrase it this way. If you have trusted in Christ as your Savior, even unbelief, doubt, and apostasy, now all of those things I’m not promoting those, I’m not saying yeah, unbelief, yeah doubt, yeah, apostasy, I’m not saying these are good things. What I’m saying is even unbelief, doubt and apostasy cannot undo the work of regeneration; that’s what I’m saying. Because I, in my Bible have examples of an awful lot of people that I know I will see in heaven one day that had down points with their faith. One example is Peter, who sunk as we saw earlier, he denied the Lord three times, and you get into the book of Galatians, around chapter 2 and he’s all wound up in legalism. And yet we will surely see Peter again, won’t we.
Luke 8:6 says this: “Other seeds fell on rocky soil, as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.” Jesus spoke of seed falling on soil that was rocky that sprang up, but then it withered away. Jesus gives the interpretation of what that means in Luke 8:13. He says, “Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.” The Calvinist looks at that verse and says there’s an example of people that never had the gift of faith, because if their faith was real it would have endured.
I would just direct you back to the text, Jesus specifically said they believed. He specifically said the crops sprang up. Doesn’t that communicate life of some kind? What did these people forfeit? Not heaven but blessings they could have had flowing from their salvation.
Or you take, for example, the book of James, James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” Is there any doubt that James is talking here to believers? He calls them “my brethren.” He tells them they have faith, which is being tested. But what does James open the door to in James 1:6, “But he must ask in faith without doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,  is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
What is he talking about here? He’s talking about believers who are doubting some of God’s promises. And consequently they have become unstable in all their ways. James never at all intimates that maybe your faith is not saving or authentic.
You take, for example, John, John who wrote five books in the New Testament canon; John who was a devout Jew and very well understood the first two commandments of God, “no other gods before Me,” and “no graven images.” Did you know John, at the end of his life, became an idolater? How do I know that? Because when the angel on the island of Patmos gives John the vision that we call the Book of Revelation, that ultimately came from the Father, John worships the angel. John doesn’t just do it once, chapter 19 verse 10; he does it a second time, John 22, verses 8-9, and both times the angel said hey John, knock it off. Even John Himself went into, even at the end of his life, a time of apostasy.
[Revelation 19:10, “Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God….” Revelation 22:8-9, But he said to me, ‘Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God.”]
What’s the bottom line to this folks? Here’s the bottom line. Our salvation does not depend on us, it depends on Him. If you learn nothing else from this church learn that: our salvation does not depend upon us, but it depends upon Him. Didn’t Paul say that in his final letter? In 2 Timothy 2:13. Did not Paul say, “If we,” notice Paul puts himself as a possible candidate in this category, “If we are faithless,” that would be a person filled with doubt, that would be a person moving into apostasy, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”
Bob Wilkins sums up the whole matter this way, and I can’t say it any better than he did in this article. He writes: “We are not born again because our faith is eternal; our faith may falter and even fail. However, Jesus remains faithful to His promise. We are born again because we at one time put our faith in the eternally faithful Savior. Once we believe in Him He is obligated to keep His promises to us to keep us secure. That is the will of the Father for him. If anyone who believed in Jesus and later fell away and failed to make it into the kingdom then Jesus would have failed to do the will of the Father. If you are a believer rejoice that you are eternally secure no matter what might happen in the future. Even apostasy itself cannot undo the work of regeneration.”
I can’t tell you how grateful I am God is this way, because like you I’ve had successes and I’ve had failures in the spiritual life. Thank God that at the end of the day I’m not looking at myself and my production for God, or lack thereof, as some sort of guarantee or lack of guarantee of my eternity, but it ultimately rests on trusting in this God, Jesus Christ, who cannot lie.
What does this word then, believing, mean in John 20:31? What he’s saying is as you go through problems in life keep trusting and to the extent that we don’t, we forfeit, not eternity, but we forfeit temporal blessings which we could have had, like Canaan.
What does this not mean? It does not mean that if you go through a season of doubt in your life then somehow your faith is not real. Somehow God’s promises to you don’t apply. That is what it does not mean and yet that interpretation is so prominent today.
Perhaps there are people here today that have never even exercised initial faith in Jesus. They’ve never received the gift of life; they don’t even know what we’re talking about when we speak of these things and we believe that the Spirit of God has come into the world to place such people under conviction of the sin that they are now committing against God as I speak, which is unbelief.
The gospel is Jesus Christ stepped out of eternity into time to pay a sin debt that we could never pay, to live a perfect life in our place which we could never live. He rose bodily from the dead, thereby validating and vindicating every promise that He has ever made and He says to us, trust Me. Believe in Me, which is another way of saying trust, confidence and reliance. Don’t trust yourself; don’t trust your own heart, your own heart is wicked. Trust in Me as an act of your free will as I place you under conviction and as you do that and have done that then on the authority of the Word of God, your whole eternal destiny is changed. Your destiny is so enshrined that it now cannot be altered because the promise comes from the one who has the power to keep His promises and cannot lie. And even as I speak you can just go right ahead, the best you know how, as I’m talking, to trust in Jesus. The best you know how exercise confidence in Him. It’s not a matter of joining a church, walking an aisle, giving money, raising a hand, praying a prayer, feeling bad about yourself. It’s just a simple condition that God has made which brings us into right standing before Him.
If you’re doing that, praise the Lord. If you haven’t done that yet we would challenge you right now to do it and if it’s something that you need more explanation on I’m available after the service to talk.
Shall we pray? Father, we’re grateful for, not just believe but believing and what it means when understood correctly. We ask, Lord, that You would tuck these things into our hearts and lives and guide us this week as we share Your truth with other people and as we continue to trust in You throughout the difficulties and the emergencies of life. We will be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus name. And God’s people said…