Religiosity and Unbelief

by Mike Ratliff

εἶπεν οὖν ὁ Ἰησοῦς πρὸς αὐτόν· ἐὰν μὴ σημεῖα καὶ τέρατα ἴδητε, οὐ μὴ πιστεύσητε. (John 4:48 NA27)

48 Therefore, Jesus said to him, “Except you see signs and wonders you never believe!” (John 4:48 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)

In this stage of my life, God has me residing in the Kansas City area. In our city is a “church” that calls itself “World Revival Church.” It is closely associated with another “church” that was recently sued by the corporation International House of Pancakes because it used the same logo, i.e. IHOP. In any case, the people behind these “churches” advertise heavily on our local television during the evening news hour. The focus of their ads is not to come there to see God glorified or to come and learn about Jesus our Lord and Saviour. Nope, it is all about “feelings” and “being blessed” and “experiences.” I have written about them before. There are some very disturbing videos portraying “signs and wonders” on Youtube about them as well. In any case, what they promote is attending their church for the experience, to get something for self, all subjectively. Contrast that with our Lord’s own words from John 4:48 (above). 

Μετὰ δὲ τὰς δύο ἡμέρας ἐξῆλθεν ἐκεῖθεν εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν· αὐτὸς γὰρ Ἰησοῦς ἐμαρτύρησεν ὅτι προφήτης ἐν τῇ ἰδίᾳ πατρίδι τιμὴν οὐκ ἔχει. ὅτε οὖν ἦλθεν εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν, ἐδέξαντο αὐτὸν οἱ Γαλιλαῖοι πάντα ἑωρακότες ὅσα ἐποίησεν ἐν Ἱεροσολύμοις ἐν τῇ ἑορτῇ, καὶ αὐτοὶ γὰρ ἦλθον εἰς τὴν ἑορτήν. (John 4:43-45 NA27)

43 And after the two days, He went from there into Galilee 44 (for Jesus Himself testified that a prophet in His own country does not have honor.)  45 Therefore, when He came into Galilee, The Galileans received Him having seen all things that He did in Jerusalem during the Feast for they also went to the Feast.  (John 4:43-45 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)

The “after the two days” refers to the two days Jesus and His disciples spent in Sychar of Samaria ministering to the people there as we saw in our last post Living Water. The statement by our Lord about a prophet not having honor in his own country contrasts the believing response of the Samaritans with the unbelief of our Lord’s own people in Galilee and Judea. The Jews reticent faith depended on our Lord’s performance of miracles much as they did in John 6 after he fed the 5,000 from five barley loaves and two fish. This, of course, led to his hard preaching in John 6:22-65 leading to “many of his disciples turning back an no longer walking with him.” In contrast, all He did in Samaria was preach the truth. The Samaritans responded, but the Jews were not open to Him, but more often than not, exhibited reluctance and hardness. In my translation, the verb “received” from v45 is ἐδέξαντο the 3rd person, Aorist tense, Indicative mood, Middle voice case of δέχομαι or dechomai, “essentially means to receive something, but it can also mean to welcome someone.” As v45 is in context with v44 and v48, this reception was likely one of curiosity seekers whose appetite centered more on seeing miracles than believing in Jesus as Messiah, therefore, John probably meant these words as irony.

Ἦλθεν οὖν πάλιν εἰς τὴν Κανὰ τῆς Γαλιλαίας, ὅπου ἐποίησεν τὸ ὕδωρ οἶνον. Καὶ ἦν τις βασιλικὸς οὗ ὁ υἱὸς ἠσθένει ἐν Καφαρναούμ. οὗτος ἀκούσας ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἥκει ἐκ τῆς Ἰουδαίας εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν ἀπῆλθεν πρὸς αὐτὸν καὶ ἠρώτα ἵνα καταβῇ καὶ ἰάσηται αὐτοῦ τὸν υἱόν, ἤμελλεν γὰρ ἀποθνῄσκειν. εἶπεν οὖν ὁ Ἰησοῦς πρὸς αὐτόν· ἐὰν μὴ σημεῖα καὶ τέρατα ἴδητε, οὐ μὴ πιστεύσητε. λέγει πρὸς αὐτὸν ὁ βασιλικός· κύριε, κατάβηθι πρὶν ἀποθανεῖν τὸ παιδίον μου. (John 4:46-49 NA27)

46 Therefore, He came again into Cana of Galilee, where He made the water wine and there was a certain Royal Official whose son was ill in Capernaum. 47 He, having heard that Jesus came from Judea into Galilee, went to Him and was asking that He would come down and cure his son for he was about to die. 48 Therefore, Jesus said to him, “Except you see signs and wonders you never believe!”  49 The Royal Official said to Him, “Lord, come down before my child dies!”  (John 46-49 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)

Jesus’ miracle of making the water wine was well known in Cana. Their response and welcome of Jesus was one rooted in the hardness of unbelief. They wanted to see more miracles. The “Royal Official” was probably attached to the service of King Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Galilee from 4 B.C. to A.D. 39. Capernaum was about 16 miles northeast of Cana. The man begged our Lord to come heal his son repeatedly, but showed little appreciation of who Jesus was. He was after a miracle worker not the Messiah.  In the statement our Lord made in v48, the verb “you see” translates ἴδητε the plural, 2nd person, Aorist tense, Subjunctive mood, Active voice case of ὁράω or horaō, “to discern clearly.” Notice that  it is plural. Jesus is talking to the Galileans as a whole not just this nobleman. Our Lord’s statement in v48 was in response to the Galilean’s fundamentally flawed response to the person of Christ and centered in the need for a constant display of miraculous signs. This attitude represents the deepest state of unbelief. Think of those who demand such from their “church” in our time and those who say they are providing it for them.

λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· πορεύου, ὁ υἱός σου ζῇ. ἐπίστευσεν ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῷ λόγῳ ὃν εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ ἐπορεύετο. ἤδη δὲ αὐτοῦ καταβαίνοντος οἱ δοῦλοι αὐτοῦ ὑπήντησαν αὐτῷ λέγοντες ὅτι ὁ παῖς αὐτοῦ ζῇ. ἐπύθετο οὖν τὴν ὥραν παρ᾽ αὐτῶν ἐν ᾗ κομψότερον ἔσχεν· εἶπαν οὖν αὐτῷ ὅτι ἐχθὲς ὥραν ἑβδόμην ἀφῆκεν αὐτὸν ὁ πυρετός. ἔγνω οὖν ὁ πατὴρ ὅτι [ἐν] ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὥρᾳ ἐν ᾗ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ὁ υἱός σου ζῇ, καὶ ἐπίστευσεν αὐτὸς καὶ ἡ οἰκία αὐτοῦ ὅλη. Τοῦτο [δὲ] πάλιν δεύτερον σημεῖον ἐποίησεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐλθὼν ἐκ τῆς Ἰουδαίας εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν. (John 4:50-54 NA27)

50 Jesus said to him, “Go, your son lives.” The man believed the word that Jesus said to him and went. 51 While he was going down, his slaves met him saying that his child lives. 52 Therefore, he inquired the time from them in which he became better. Then they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.”  53 Therefore, the father knew that it was the same hour in which Jesus said to him, ‘Your son lives,’ and he and his entire household believed. 54 And this is a second sign Jesus did having come from Judea into Galilee.  (John 4:50-54 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)

Our Lord met the demands of Galilean unbelief by healing the official’s son. This revealed not only His sympathy, but His marvelous graciousness in spite of such a faithless demand for miracles. However, notice the gift of faith given to this man and his entire household just as that which was given to the Samaritans at Sychar. Why did this man and his whole household believe? Their hearts were opened and they saw the truth of who Jesus was, the Messiah. This is no different than when people come to saving faith in Christ in our time. One day we are in our sins, blind to the truth, thinking that all this Christian stuff is just religiosity. Then God has mercy on us and we see the truth. We see our selves in great need of a Saviour and that is Christ who never turns away anyone who comes to Him in belief. Saving faith is a wonderful gift from God.

Do you have friends and family who are not in Christ? I am sure we all do. Never stop praying that God will have mercy on them as He did us and just as He did this nobleman and his family and as He did those Samaritans at Sychar.

Soli Deo Gloria!

4 thoughts on “Religiosity and Unbelief

  1. Goes to show that miracles never save people. The pharisees saw many miracles and STILL would not believe.

    If God has to perform an act for people in order for them to believe in Him because they simply cannot take Him at his word-faith, then it’s not worth it because they would be following him for the wrong reasons other than sincerity and love. And what would be the next thing God would have to perform for a person in order for them to continue to follow Him? It’s wrong. God doesn’t need us. We need Him. Some people must think God is a circus act~how sad. That’s why we have all the aficionado’s following a Jesus whenever there’s some kind of “move of the Holy Spirit”

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