Calvary Road Baptist Church

“I WILL NOT BELIEVE”

John 20.25

My plan for this morning is to bring to you a very simple gospel message contained in six compartments for the sake of simplicity. Of course, the gospel is the good news that the Lord Jesus Christ left heaven’s glory to be born of a virgin, to live a sinless life, to die a sacrificial death on Calvary’s cross as a substitute for sinners, after which He rose from the dead and ascended to His Father’s right hand where He is presently enthroned.[1] It is because of what the Lord Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the holy Trinity, the eternal Son of the living God, did for those chosen in Him before the foundation of the world that the ground for salvation full and free is available to sinners by means of faith in Jesus Christ.[2] What usually happens is that a sinner comes under the preaching of the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation.[3] During the course of the preaching, or afterwards as the Word of God that has been declared takes effect upon the sinner, faith is given to the sinner by the Holy Spirit to believe in Jesus Christ to saving of his eternal and undying soul from sins.[4]

Therefore, understanding that “the soul that sinneth, it shall die,” meaning you will surely die because of your sins, I will set before you six compartments for your consideration.[5] Think well upon these things, because your response to them will affect your eternal destiny. You don’t want to get this wrong, because eternity is a long time to be wrong about something as important as the salvation of your soul from sins and your deliverance from the wrath of God. These are not abstractions I am referring to. They are not hypotheticals. They are not imaginations. These are realities. To help you fix your mind upon these certainties, we will consider these six compartments that apply to everyone as they pointedly apply to one man, so that you will see how they apply to you.

Turn to the gospel of John, chapter 20. When you find John’s gospel, chapter 20, stand for the reading of God’s Word:

1      The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

2      Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.

3      Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.

4      So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.

5      And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.

6      Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie,

7      And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.

8      Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.

9      For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.

10     Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.

11     But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,

12     And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

13     And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.

14     And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

15     Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.

16     Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

17     Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

18     Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

19     Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

20     And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.

21     Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

22     And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

23     Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

24     But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

25     The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

 

First, CONSIDER AS A COMPARTMENT THE CONTEXT OF THOMAS

The apostles in company with other believers had secured themselves behind barred doors because of fear of the Jews (John 20:19). But such security measures did not prevent the appearance of Christ in their midst, for He materialized before them. As He had so often done before when the apostles were distressed, He spoke peace to them (Luke 24:36). His appearance terrified them. They had no concept of the nature of a resurrection body and supposed that they were seeing a ghost. Christ reassured them by demonstrating that He possessed a material body and that it was in fact to be identified with the body which He had possessed before His death, although it was now a glorified body. He showed them the wounds in His hands and feet. The presence of the wounds showed that He did not have another body but the same body. The fact that He invited the disciples to touch Him shows that His resurrection body was a material body. Further, He asked for food in order to demonstrate that He was not a disembodied spirit appearing in human form. They gave Him a piece of broiled fish that He took and ate in their presence (Luke 24:42). Thomas was absent from the room when Christ appeared to the Ten. On his return, he was greeted with the glad tidings that Christ had appeared to them there. Thomas refused to believe, saying, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it” (John 20:25). In this Thomas was not unlike the other apostles before they saw the resurrected Christ. They, like Thomas, had disbelieved.[6]

Thus, on the day of Christ’s resurrection Thomas was not with the others. For three years he had witnessed Christ’s teachings, Christ’s healings, Christ walking on water and feeding thousands with a few loaves and fishes. However, through it all he remained unpersuaded. And on the day the Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, three days after the crucifixion . . . he went missing. At the worst possible time for him to be absent, he was absent.

Next, CONSIDER AS A COMPARTMENT THE CONDITION OF THOMAS

Like every other human being born before or since, with the exception of the virgin born Son of God, Thomas was born dead in trespasses and sins, a product of the physical union of two sinners, his mother and his father. Like King David wrote a thousand years earlier, Thomas could truthfully say, “I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.”[7]

As a practical matter, Thomas’ condition was perfectly reflected in his upbringing and conduct.

He was a native of Galilee and by trade, a fisherman. The few Biblical references which single him out from among the Twelve for special attention seem to indicate that he was a questioner or doubter. Even to this day he is known as “doubting Thomas.” Thomas possessed a nature which contained within it certain conflicting elements exceedingly difficult of reconciliation, possessed little natural buoyancy of spirit, and was inclined to look often at life with icy coolness or despondency . . . He is referred to in detail by the Gospel of John alone. . . .

John records that when Jesus, despite imminent danger at the hands of hostile Jews, declared his intention of going to Bethany to help Lazarus, Thomas alone opposed the other disciples who sought to dissuade him, and protested, “Let us also go: that we may die with him.” (John 11:16) Was this courage or a fatalistic pessimism? Perhaps, in a strange way, it was both.

On the eve of the Passion, Thomas put the question, “Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” (John 14:5) In this he revealed an insensitivity to what Jesus had taught which came from an unwillingness to believe.

After the Crucifixion, [as I pointed out before] Thomas was not present when the Risen Christ first appeared to the disciples. Later he arrived and upon hearing of the resurrection was stubbornly unconvinced. Said Thomas, “Except I shall see the print of the nails . . . I will not believe.” (John 20:25)[8]

What was the condition of Thomas, spiritually? Though he had a unique opportunity to observe and follow the Lord Jesus Christ throughout His earthly ministry, Thomas was just another lost man. I am sure his world centered around himself. I am sure he turned most conversations he was involved in around to himself in a New York minute. I am sure he developed people skills as a fishermen working with other fishermen, but that when boiled down to its essence his concerns were always and forevermore for and about himself. Sure, he had been curious and responsive to Christ’s call. Sure, he had served as a disciple of Christ. Sure, he had been faithful throughout that period of life that had been rugged for three and a half years, but he was used to a tough life, and he got to see and hear so much. It is amazing how spiritual people will convince themselves and others they are so long as doing so makes it possible to get what you want anyway. However, the truth usually comes out when everything heads south and there is no longer any practical personal benefit to be seen. What do we learn about this man Thomas that shows his lost condition? Two things are most prominent, really. First, there was his stubborn refusal to believe in Christ, as if he had a right to decide whether or not to believe in Christ. Second, there was his insistence upon establishing the criteria for his faith, as though he is God. In these respects, Thomas sounds a great deal like many of you, does he not? Are you one who thinks you have a right to believe or not believe in Christ? And are you one who thinks that you have the right to decide when the threshold for credible faith has been achieved?

Third, CONSIDER AS A COMPARTMENT THE COMMAND TO THOMAS . . . AND TO EVERYONE

It is clear from Thomas’ conduct that he felt perfectly entitled to decide for himself whether or not he should believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. However, the question is if Thomas did have that right, or if you have that right, or if anyone has that right. Consider: Since all men are God’s created subjects, He has the right to impose upon them any law or command He wishes, which command they are duty-bound to obey. Above all, when God in the gospel issues a command, then those He addresses - whether believers or unbelievers - are obliged to obey that command. And God in the gospel does issue commands, scores of them.[9] Consider but a few of the gospel commands with me:

Isaiah 45.22: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.”

The verb is an imperative, meaning this is a command.[10]

Matthew 11.28-29:  28     Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

29     Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

These two verses contain two commands.

Acts 17.30:   “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.”

Second Thessalonians 1.8:   “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

First Peter 4.17:  “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?”

We see no requests in these verses, no options to be contemplated, but directives to be complied with, commands to be obeyed.

Thus, when Thomas clearly stated that for whatever reason and contingent upon whatever conditions “I will not believe,” he was in the wrong. God is good, righteous, and holy. God is the Creator. Further, God is God! Therefore, it is incumbent upon all His creatures to obey Him, and it is wickedness for any of His intelligent creatures to not only refuse to believe in Jesus Christ, but also to think they have the right to refuse to believe in Jesus Christ. To be sure, every sinner has the ability to be wrong, the ability to disobey as he chooses, and the ability to refuse Jesus Christ and reject the gospel command. However, no sinner has the right to be wrong. Not Thomas, and not you.

Fourth Compartment, REFLECT WITH ME ON THOMAS’ CONSIDERATION

Thomas is a man who considered himself competent. He actually imagined himself capable of surveying the landscape of life, of taking in the invisible spiritual realities, and of deciding for himself what he should and should not do, whether he should and should not believe, and who he should and should not trust. And this after 3˝ years of seeing evidence to the contrary.

Think of it if you will. Here is a man who is expert in one field, fishing, and whose eternal and undying soul is at risk. Yet after more than three years of witnessing close at hand the Lord Jesus Christ showing the most diligent students of God’s Word and of spiritual matters their absolute incompetence about such issues, he still thinks he, a fisherman, has the ability to render a good decision about his own spiritual well-being.

Nicodemus was the preeminent Bible scholar and teacher of his day, yet in just a few moments of nighttime conversation the Lord Jesus Christ exposed that man’s spiritual deadness to the simple truth that he needed to be born again.[11] And that was near the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry. Few days went by that Thomas did not observe with his own eyes or hear recounted numerous repetitions of this same type unfolding as scribes, Pharisees, priests, and who knows who else were exposed as being profoundly incompetent with respect to their supposed expertise.

Yet after all those experiences, all those lessons, all those days and weeks and months and years, Thomas still felt that it was his right and that he was competent to decide that he did not need to gather with the others. They had been told to stay together. They had been shown to stay together. They had been trained to stay together. However, no one tells Thomas what to do. He does what he good and well chooses to do. Sound familiar?

In Thomas’ considered opinion, he did not need to remain with the others. Therefore, on the very day of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, that first Sunday following the crucifixion, when the Lord Jesus Christ showed Himself to the women and then to the Ten, Thomas was not only not present to witness the glorious reality of Christ’s resurrection, but he decided that he would not accept the testimony of ten good and honest men he had lived with day and night for the last 3˝ years!

God’s Word shows that truth is established by the mouths of two or three witnesses, and Thomas had the testimony of ten men. Yet he refused to believe. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” Hebrews 11.1. And whatsoever is not of faith is sin.[12] Thomas didn’t care. He marched to the beat of his own drummer. He was his own final authority of right and wrong, of do or not do. The result of his high-mindedness? For one solid week the men he had followed Christ with rejoiced about Christ’s resurrection, while he stubbornly stood in the darkness.

Fifth, CONSIDER THE COMPARTMENT OF THOMAS’ CONVERSION

Turn to John 20.26-28:

26     And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

27     Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

28     And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

Notice how verse 26 begins: “And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them.” Clearly, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, John’s gospel account segregates Thomas from the Ten, who are described as “his disciples.” At this point Thomas is no longer one of Christ’s disciples, for Christ distinguished him from them because of his previous separation from them, because of his stubbornness unlike them, and because of his refusal to accept their testimony about Christ’s resurrection.

Notice how verse 26 continues: “then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst.” John here describes the Lord Jesus Christ being in the room without entering the room, or perhaps by passing through a wall or the door. He was not there, and then He was there, something only possible with a glorified resurrection body.

The end of verse 26 and the beginning of verse 27 read, “Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas.” The implication is that the Lord spoke peace to the Ten, as He had the Sunday before, then He said to Thomas. Thus, Thomas is not a disciple, is not a part of the disciple band at this point, because to this point Thomas has been his own god, deciding things that only God has the right to decide, such as whether a creature should believe when God has commanded him to believe, and also deciding for himself if the basis for credible faith has been established, though he has heard from ten first hand eye witnesses.

Despite such arrogance, despite such stubbornness, despite such refusal to accept that the Lord Jesus Christ had done precisely what He said He would do (Would Thomas’ ten friends lie about such a thing? Could they be collectively wrong? Ten rational eyewitnesses?), our great and glorious Savior graciously appeared to him, and invited him to examine His wounds. Of course, that was when doubting Thomas doubted no more, believed in Jesus Christ to the saving of his sinful soul, “and said unto him, My Lord and my God.”

Finally, THE COMPARTMENT OF THOUGHT WHERE I URGE YOUR CAUTION

The Lord Jesus Christ gave sight to blind Bartimaeus, but that is no guarantee He will give sight to you. He healed a man’s withered hand, but that is no promise He will do that should your hand ever wither. He appeared in a blinding light of glory on the road to Damascus to Saul of Tarsus, but that is no template for how He has to deal with any other sworn enemy of the gospel.

The point that I urge upon you is that Thomas had opportunity to see the risen Savior on the day He was raised up, but he opted to do what he could do and what he had no right to do, which was to absent himself from the disciples. That obstinate act of personal autonomy deprived him of proof that Christ had risen from the dead. I also urge upon you consideration that though Thomas had evidence sufficient for any court of law, the eye witness testimonies of ten credible eyewitnesses, he arbitrarily decided that evidence sufficient in the eyes of God for faith was not evidence sufficient for him for faith, resulting in eight days of unbelief despite sufficient ground for belief existing.

Please be very cautious to recognize that the lengths to which the Savior went to apprehend Thomas is no indication of the lengths He will go to with you. That Jesus Christ took such a step to overcome the stubborn self-will of Thomas does not mean He will not insist that you accept the testimony of others to come to your own settled conclusion and trust Christ for the salvation of your eternal and undying soul.

Oh, my friend, let me plead with you to trust Christ. Let me prevail upon you to abandon your delusion of autonomy and this notion that you have the right to do wrong in the face of God’s command to the contrary. God created Adam and Eve for a life of dependence and devotion to Him. The notion that man has the right to autonomy and has no need of God is the result of sin’s effect on the heart, and has no support in any man’s life experience.

It was to Thomas that the Lord Jesus Christ said, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”[13] Understand that you will not see the Lord Jesus Christ in this life, therefore I urge you to believe in Him and through faith be blessed. If you insist on seeing Him before you will believe in Him, you will next see Him at the Great White Throne judgment of all who are unsaved. I promise that on that occasion when you see Him you will not be blessed, but cursed.

Reflect on Thomas. Yes, he ended up a child of God, forgiven of all his sins, and a faithful apostle of Jesus Christ. But that was not until he had cast aside the preposterous notion that he had a right as one of God’s creatures to decide for himself whether to trust God’s Son, and that he had the right to decide for himself that he had enough on which to base his faith in Christ. Do not follow the example of Thomas on resurrection Sunday by refusing to believe in Christ. Follow the example of Thomas the following Sunday, by believing in Him and then confessing “My Lord and my God.”



[1] Psalm 16.11; 110.1; Matthew 26.64; Mark 12.36; 14.62; 16.19; Luke 20.42; 22.69; John 3.13; 14.2-4; Acts 2.33, 34-35; 7.56; Romans 8.34; Ephesians 1.20; Colossians 3.1; Second Thessalonians 1.7; Hebrews 1.3, 13; 8.1; 9.24; 10.12-13; 12.2; 1 Peter 3.22; Revelation 19.11

[2] Ephesians 1.4

[3] Romans 1.16; 1 Corinthians 1.18, 21

[4] Romans 10.13-17; 2 Corinthians 4.13

[5] Ezekiel 18.4, 20; Romans 6.23

[6] J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works Of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), pages 504-505.

[7] Psalm 51.5

[8] William Steuart McBirnie, The Search For The Twelve Apostles, (Wheaton, IL: Living Books, 1973), pages 142-143.

[9] David H. J. Gay, The Gospel Offer is Free, (Biggleswade, UK: Brachus, 2004), pages 3-4.

[10] John Joseph Owens, Analytical Key to the Old Testament, Volume 4, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1989), page 144.

[11] John 3.1-10

[12] Romans 14.23

[13] John 20.29



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org