Sermon_ Saving Faith Vs. Just Belief.

Authored by Bill Burks, presented with permission by Brian Amerson 10/08/16

Principle Idea

Saving belief requires action


Based on John 12:37-43

I.         Introduction

Jesus has just gone through a review of the events that would be happening in the next few days; His suffering, His humiliation; His death.

He now turns to the overall effect of His ministry on the Jewish nation. It is a dismal record. John in the opening verse of this passage notes that even though He has done many miracles in their presence they don’t believe.

John further notes that this lack of belief was the fulfillment of prophecy.

He further points out that those few who believed would not confess Him openly – because they loved the praise of men more than God.

Turn with me to John 12:37-43

  • But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him:
  • That the saying of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?
  • Therefore they could not believe, because that Isaiah said again,
  • He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.
  • These things said Isaiah, when he saw his glory, and spake of
  • Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; 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

A.   I believe in miracles theology is lacking. (37)

  1. I remember as a youth a ministry whose tag line was “I believe in ” The “preacher” on those black and white TV shows spent his time on the program – talking about faith healing and spent a lot of the time – having a word of knowledge – and telling people to “throw down” their crutches and things like that. Of course it was less a show about miracles and more about pastor enrichment – “miracles” often do not lead to belief in God but become a side show, and the results of the miracle becomes the goal and not the miracle giver.
  2. Jesus had told His followers that shortly after the miracle of the feeding of the 5000. When people found Him shortly after the event, Christ told them – “John 6:26 …, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were ” The people sought the physical benefit of the miracle in the long run – not the miracle itself nor did they come to Christ for the miracle – so much as they came for the food.
  3. Paul said when speaking of what motivated the Jews said: “ Corinthians 1:22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:”
  4. Jesus in the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man shows that for long term belief only the Scriptures were effective – “Luke 16:27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: 28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”

B.   Traditions are not enough in regards to saving faith. (38-41)


  1. God knew in advance that the Jews of Jesus day would reject Him. God’s ultimate plan was to build for Himself a people like Abraham who would come to Him because of faith. During His first Advent the fact that the Jews did not accept Him played directly into God’s plan. This allow God to call people based on faith – not restricted to national boundaries. This is not to say the Jews aren’t God’s people, we aren’t a replacement people we are grafted on to the vine of faith – and God has a plan for the salvation of both Jew and Gentile.
  2. In this passage however John quotes two passages from Isaiah to show that the Jews of Christ’s day would reject Him as
    1. Isaiah 53:1 – “Who hath believed our message? and to whom hath the arm of Jehovah been revealed?” (38)
    2. Isaiah 6:10 “Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn again, and be ”
    3. John also reflects on the fact that the last of these quotes came from a passage where Isaiah had seen the Lord in Isaiah had begun chapter 6 with the statement – “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple.”

C.   Belief is not enough by itself. (42-43)

Personal insert… 35 years ago I was part of the Church School protests… I heard an Attorney ask “Conviction or convenience? Are you willing to be imprisoned for your beliefs?”


  1. One of the curses of modern theology is the teaching – “just believe that’s all you have to ” It really comes from a lack of understanding of what Christ meant when He used the Greek word we translate “believe” and the same noun that comes from the same Greek work we translate “faith.” The Greek as I have told you all 100s of times – indicates and active belief – the word assumes that you believe enough to act upon the belief you have. Belief should lead to works – Belief, true belief is enough for salvation – but belief to be true belief leads to action upon that belief.
  2. Here in verse 42-43 we see that some believed but they didn’t have enough faith to act upon that They were intimidated by the unbelievers. They would not “confess” Christ. They would not publicly express their belief.
    1. Romans 10:9 states that you must act on belief through confession – “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be ” It is not “just believe” but “believe enough to act on that belief”
  1. homolego according to BDAG – means “1. to commit oneself to do something for someone, promise, assure; 2. to share a common view or be of common mind about a matter, agree; 3. to concede that something is factual or true, grant, admit, confess; and 4. to acknowledge something, ordinarily in public, acknowledge, claim, profess, praise
  2. The person who has real faith – will claim the “gift” of God – He will admit the factual nature of the Gospel – and he will do so publicly – unlike these leaders of the Jews – they will do it even when its not politically correct – even when it might cost
  1. As James the Lord’s brother said – “James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead ” Luther and others do not understand James – having called this the “Epistle of Straw” – but James did not contradict Paul’s speaking of “faith apart from works” being the criteria for salvation – He merely reflects on that fact that believing faith will by its nature lead to works – and that the demonstration of faith will be works, otherwise it is not living faith – it is dead non-saving faith.
  2. Here we see those that “believe” being lost because they don’t have saving

II.      Conclusion

As we look at chapter 12 we have been in those six days before the last Passover – we have seen –

  1. Jesus being prepared for burial – along with the revelation of the
  2. The initial acceptance of the Jews based on the mistaken view that He would be the conquering Messiah during His first
  3. The audience requested by the Greek believers – that gave Christ encouragement – knowing what the future of His teaching would lead
  4. A reflection and commitment to the task before Him by Christ.

In today’s passage we have seen the ultimate rejection of Christ by the Jews of His day. We have looked at and broken down the concept of belief. Belief has been the theme of the Gospel of John – we have now seen that true faith/belief is more complex than we conceive it in today’s world.

Things we can learn and apply.

  1. What is the source of our belief – is shallow things – are we like the Jews who sought a sign or the Greeks who sought wisdom? Are we really seeking the relief from the burden of sin, for redemption and reconciliation.
  2. Is there something in our lives that is blinding us, preventing us from true belief – have our hears become “fat” causing us to depend on tradition – false self-assurance in our salvation. Maybe a little soul searching of personal views, and sins that are preventing us from seeing and acting on the message of Christ – and removing them out of the way to true belief is in
  3. Is political correctness, a sense of personal danger, a love of the acceptance of men rather than God preventing us from being a proper witness for Christ? We need to know that true belief requires public confession, claiming the gift of God, and the proclamation of that belief before men is necessary for saving

Title: Saving Belief.

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