For this reason they could not believe

by Mike Ratliff

35 So Jesus said to them, “For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. 36 While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.”
These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them. 37 But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them.” John 12:35-40 (NASB) 

God does control all things. If you doubt it, read the following passage from Isaiah.

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” 9 He said, “Go, and tell this people:
‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive;
Keep on looking, but do not understand.’
10 “Render the hearts of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull,
And their eyes dim,
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed.” Isaiah 6:8-10 (NASB) 

This is the passage that John quoted in John 12:40, which is in context at the top of this post. Notice v39, “For this reason they could not believe…” This is the NASB rendering. The NA28 Greek text for this part of v39 is, “διὰ τοῦτο οὐκ ἠδύναντο πιστεύειν.” Here is my rendering, “Through this they were not able to believe.” The word translated here as “not” is οὐκ or ouk, which is an absolute negative. Therefore what it is defining is absolutely negated and that verb is ἠδύναντο, which is the 3rd person, imperfect tense, indicative mood, middle voice form of δύναμαι or dunamai, which means “to be able, either intrinsically and absolutely, which the ordinary signification; or, for specific reasons.” The third part of this is the word “believe” which is a translation of the verb πιστεύειν the present tense, infinitive mood, active voice form of πιστεύω or pisteuō, “to have faith.” The way this is structured my brethren it is plainly a work of God that these people were not able “to have faith.”

I know some people in churches I have belonged to in the past who would probably be calling for my excommunication if I had said something like that to them back then, but that is exactly what the Word of God says my brethren. What this tells us is two things. No one comes to faith in Christ unless God allows it and gives them the ability to have faith. I believe the Lord Jesus succinctly said that in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” The second thing we learn is that when God’s judgment on the visible church starts it will be just like that which fell upon the Jews. No matter how much Biblical truth we preach and teach, those whose hearts are set upon that which is false, will be judged and God will give them over to what they really love and they will no longer be able to believe the truth. They will believe whatever pleases them, but God’s truth will be seen as too narrow and those who hold to it as divisive. They may include bits and pieces of religiosity from Churchianity in their religion, but they have their own theology, which is separate from historic orthodox Biblically based Christianity. This theology has its roots in human philosophy not in the doctrines of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The EC or Emergent Church or whatever it is called today is really just a post-modern form of Christian liberalism which decimated the visible church during the 19th Century into the 20th Century. This current iteration has many forms to be sure, but syncretism is across the board. If you think about it, if you oppose the narrowness of Orthodox Christianity then you would naturally not be opposed to including Buddhism, Islam, Wicca, mysticism, Word-of-Faith, et cetera under the Big Tent, which is what the ecumenicists like to use to refer to the “visible church.” In fact, that is exactly what they are doing. They are actually teaching that people who practice any religion can be right with God, it doesn’t have to be Christianity. No one has to have faith in Jesus and Him crucified to be saved. No, just be sincere in your beliefs that you have and God will let you in… Yeah, that’s Big Tent Christianity. I suppose it should be obvious to everyone, but has it ever occurred to anyone to look under that tent flap to see if John MacArthur is there? What about someone like James White? What about me? No, you see, those of us who are narrowly focused and divisive because we hold to Sola Scriptura and within that, the doctrine of Separation from false teachers, et cetera, are not welcome there nor do we want to be there. No, we point to the Big Tent and warn our brethren to run away from it because it is the way to Hell. Once a person is captured by it, spiritual blindness sets in and they are no longer able “to have faith.”

Let us rejoice in this though. I am 100% convinced that the Holy Spirit guards those who truly belong to the Lord and He loses none. Those who are in Christ will not go into that darkness to be swallowed up into that blindness.

Soli Deo Gloria!

10 thoughts on “For this reason they could not believe

  1. The Bible cannot be read correctly from beginning to end without recognizing that God exercises His control and will over everything and everybody for all time and eternity – no exceptions.

    Another passage that speaks strongly of God not allowing people to believe is 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 – “…they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved…God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned…” Those who “receive not the love of the truth” do not have the love of the truth given to them by God. Then God determinately participates in “sending them a strong delusion,” thereby, they have no choice but to “believe a lie.” God purposefully directs the delusion for their damnation. Man’s beloved doctrine of ‘free will’ surely cannot be extracted from those verses. Therefore, they’re not an appropriate sermon topic for today’s celebrity preachers who take pleasure in scratching itching ears.

    The “Big Tent” crowd are the many who will be saying on Judgment Day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” Matthew 7:22

    Yes, God will surely bring His sheep out from the wolves, away from the Big Tent and into the safety of the sheepfold.


  2. Hasn’t he explained what he meant by that? I don’t remember the details. In any case, I don’t listen to him in regards to his Dispensationalism since I moved on from that over a decade ago.


  3. Mike, My concern about such an influential teacher as John MacArthur, is that he has crossed the line, and violated the Lord’s injunction in Rev 22 : 18 – 19. By his ignoring the clear statements in Rev 14 : 9 – 11, and Rev 20 : 4 , he has given many unsuspecting beleivers a false belief in eternal security, no matter what they do. He needs to repent of this gross error quickly, and publicly, before it is too late!


  4. Regarding MacArthur’s saying one can take the mark of the beast and still be forgiven: MacArthur was asked in a Q&A session if taking the mark of the beast was the unpardonable sin, and he answered no. And biblically, he is correct. There is only one unpardonable sin (Matthew 12;31), and that is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Scripture says that any unrepented of sin is enough to send the unbeliever to hell whether it is adultery, thievery, lying, or taking the mark. And those who refuse and reject Christ will have their hearts hardened as Mike’s article here states. But Scripture also says those who take the mark do so because they are deceived. Does this mean their hearts are automatically hardened? I am not aware of any Scripture that says this happens. Therefore, I think MacArthur is correct. Taking the mark is not the unpardonable sin, and therefore forgivable if, and only if, one repents of it and turns to Christ for salvation; which is possible if the Lord softens their heart and grants them the faith necessary for salvation.


  5. Thanks Bob. Yes, we have to remain fixed on The Word alone for direction and wisdom, etc. In one of my devotionals this morning it was about how to make godly decisions and it was very clear that to do that we must be in the Word. Also, I did a Greek word study this morning on the word that is translated as “Tempted” or “Temptation.” Is it a sin to be tempted? No it isn’t. It is a sin to give in to the temptation. God allows the temptations in order to test our genuiness. He already knows, we need to know. In any case, taken together these two things tell us that to make good decisions and to thwart our flesh’s desire to sin, we must be in the Word. I think that also applies in answering questions like this one and I thank you again.


  6. Let us reason together over this extremely important issue.
    In Rev 14:9, ” If ANYONE worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forhead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of Gods wrath….”
    This is why verse Rev 14:12 is so important.
    “Hear is a call for the ENDURANCE of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their FAITH in Jesus. ( emphasis mine )


  7. Doug and Bob, as you know I am a Calvinist, but primarily I am so because I know from the Word of God that He is Sovereign. The Word is our source of truth given to us by Him and we must use it with Wisdom and Discernment. I know from my many years of Bible study and teaching and writing that passages like Revelation 14:9 actually does mean what it says, however, is it the cause of one being cast into Hell or is it that those who do this are the Non-Elect while the Elect will not do it. I must reiterate that to get the Bible correct it must all be taken in context and if we do that then this passage makes sense within the context of the elect not doing it and non elect doing so. We must also remember that our individual sins are not what condemns us or our righteous deeds what saves us. We are saved by Grace through Faith as God’s gift. Within that context, the act of taking the Mark and all those that do so are condemned means that the non-elect are the ones doing that, but the elect will never do so.


  8. Mike, This is the problem that John MacArthur and other Calvinists as yourself have to deal with. When the Scriptures make a absolute statement as in Rev 14:9, ” If anyone worships the beast and its image “, that very act is an affront to God, ( spiritual adultery ) . Taking the mark represents a complete aand total rejection of God ! This is the ultimate Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. This is the culmination of the great apostasy mentioned in 2 Thes 2:3, resulting in God causing a strong delusion to come on ALL those who love not the truth. Today false teachers are setting the ground work for this deception , by directly contradicting God’s Word, by saying , ” You can worship satan and God’s rightious anger will not be aroused ” This is foolishness at its highest level. God will not be mocked.


  9. I have no problem. Calvinists have absolutely no problem with this at all. What are you talking about? How is it a problem that the Bible is true from beginning to end and does not contradict itself anywhere in any way? That being true you HAVE to look at this passage as those being deluded and going after the beast as non-elect. Oh, yes, many of them will be professing Christians. We see them all around right now don’t we? I do believe that you are not listening to what I am saying. This is the last comment I am taking from you on this.


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