by Mike Ratliff
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? (John 5:39-44 ESV)
The sin of unbelief is amazing to behold. Those in its clutches deliberately refuse to believe the truth preferring instead to pursue untruths that are popular with men. What motivates so-called Christian leaders to do this? They do this because they love the esteem or praise of men more than the esteem or praise of God. This is no different than believers remaining silent because they fear that taking a stand as a Christian would lower their esteem in the eyes of their peers. However, when these preachers or pastors or writers who profess to be Christians teach or preach a form of the gospel that has all of the offense of sin, hell, and the sacrifice on the cross of our beloved Saviour removed or glossed over then they are just a guilty as those Jewish leaders who were secret followers of Christ out of fear of being excommunicated.
Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. (John 12:37-43 ESV)
These who believed in Jesus, but remained incognito from a motivation of fear were not genuine believers because they did not publicly confess Christ as Lord. They did this because they loved the esteem that they received as being scribes and Pharisees more than they loved the esteem of God for being a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 10:31-33 ESV)
Preaching and holding to a form of the gospel that has been over-contextualized to the point that the power of the cross of Christ has been nullified (1 Corinthians 1:17-25) is a form of unbelief. Those who do this do not believe that the work of God in the hearts of men is sufficient to bring people to Christ through the preaching of the whole Gospel. Instead, they attempt to help things along by adding the wisdom of men while removing all of the offense. In other words, their “gospel” offends no one and makes them popular with unbelievers. The genuine Gospel is not popular with the world. In fact, unbelievers hate it because it condemns all who refuse to believe and repent. It is exclusive. It makes it clear that there is only one way to justification before God and that is through the Son, belief, and obedience to His Gospel. Never forget my brethren, not all who profess Christ are genuine Christians.
Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. (John 2:23-25 ESV)
These would be the same ones our Lord mentioned in the Parable of the Soils who believed with Joy when they heard the Gospel, but who fell away as soon as pressure was put on them to stand or conform to the world.
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:1-9 ESV)
“Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matthew 13:18-23 ESV)
We also see these people in John 6.
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. (John 6:53-66 ESV)
In this passage we actually witness our Lord deliberately driving away many of His followers through hard preaching designed to show the reality of the cost of discipleship and the unbridgeable chasm between God and those in unbelief. Those who love the esteem of men more than the esteem of God are in unbelief. Many of them have created a form of godliness, but it is of the flesh and cannot justify anyone before God.
Soli Deo Gloria!