A Great Benediction
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
It is a remarkable characteristic of the Word of God that it is filled far more with blessings than with curses. There are curses, to be sure. There are warnings of judgment. But when all is put together, the blessings are far more numerous and more wonderful than any of these more somber elements.
The Bible begins with a blessing, for we are told that after each day of creation God commented upon the work, saying, “It is good.” The Bible ends with a blessing, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen” (Rev. 22:21). In between are such verses as: “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it’ ” (Gen 1:28); “I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2); “After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him” (Gen 35:9); “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Num 6:24–26); “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked” (Ps. 1:1); “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Ps. 33:12); “Blessed are they whose ways are blameless” (Ps. 119:1); “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him” (Rom. 4:7–8; cf. Ps. 32:1–2); “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord” (Rev. 14:13). In my concordance I find 375 Old Testament passages that deal with God’s blessing. I find 108 separate passages in the New Testament.
It is not surprising in view of this wonderful characteristic of our God and of his revelation to find that the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate God, also had many words of blessing during the days of his ministry. We think of the beatitudes of Matthew 5, an obvious example (vv. 3–11). There are blessings pronounced upon children (Mark 10:16), upon one or more of the disciples (Matt. 13:16; 16:17), upon faithful servants of God (Matt. 24:46), upon those who hear the Word of God and keep it (Luke 11:28). There is the benediction at the close of John’s Gospel, which is our text: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
This blessing, the fifth of Christ’s “last” words in John’s Gospel, is great for several reasons, among them that it is the last of Christ’s blessings spoken while on earth. Appropriately, it is one that concerns not just a single person or a limited group of people but rather all who should believe on him as Savior.
What Does Christ Mean?
What does Jesus mean when he says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”? Does he mean that a subjective faith is better than an objective faith, that a faith that has no relation to evidence is better than a faith that has? Does he mean that only a faith like that is blessed? It is hard to think that this is his meaning, because he has just provided tangible evidence of his resurrection for Thomas by appearing to him and inviting him to put his finger into the holes of his hands and thrust his hand into Christ’s side. Again, it is clear that John did not interpret Christ’s words in this way, because immediately after this John says that he has written certain things in his Gospel in order that those who read might believe.
So we may grant that Jesus is not advocating a faith entirely without evidence. But that still does not answer the question. What does Jesus mean? I believe he is speaking, not of a subjective faith, but of a satisfied faith. He is speaking of faith that is satisfied with what God provides and is therefore not yearning for visions, miracles, esoteric experiences, or various forms of success as evidence of God’s favor. More than that, he is saying that a faith without these things is not inferior to but is actually superior to a faith based upon them.
Take these things one at a time and see why this is so. Take visions, first of all. If you are a normal Christian, I am sure there have been times when you have been discouraged, perhaps overcome with doubt, and you have said, “Oh, if God would only reveal himself to me in some special way so that my sight, touch, or hearing could assist my faith.” We remember that there were people in the Bible who had such evidence. Abraham saw visions; he spoke with the three angelic visitors; he heard the voice of God from heaven on Mount Moriah. Moses met God on the mountain; on one occasion Moses was hidden in a cleft of the rock and witnessed the fire, wind, and earthquake as Jehovah passed by. Isaiah had a vision of God high and lifted up. The disciples saw Christ in the days of his flesh. Paul was caught up to the third heaven. John himself had the magnificent visions recorded for us in the Book of Revelation. “Why can’t we have something similar?” we argue. “Surely we could believe much better and be far more effective in our Christian walk and witness if we did.”
But that is not true, even though we like to tell ourselves that it is. For one thing, we usually want such experiences for the wrong reason—vanity. We would have a far higher opinion of ourselves if we should be granted an experience which most do not have. For another thing, visions do not necessarily lead to greater faith. In the opening pages of Miracles by C. S. Lewis, the well-known Oxford professor and author tells of a friend of his who once saw a ghost. Before the vision, she disbelieved in an immortal soul. After it, she still disbelieved. Obviously, faith gives meaning to experience rather than the other way around.
Second, there are miracles or other special acts of God’s providence. Do you pray for miracles? Do you think you could believe God better if you saw some? The opposite is the case. If you are looking for miracles (which God sometimes does provide, but seldom), you will gradually become insensitive to the thousands of normal evidences of God’s mercy which you receive constantly.
Third, there are people who think they would be stronger in faith and be better able to live the Christian life were they to have some special esoteric experience. We read a passage like 1 Corinthians 12:9–10, where Paul speaks of God granting to some “gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues,” and we think that if we could only do or experience something like that, we would be stronger and happier as Christians. But that is not true either. God sometimes grants such experiences for the good of his church; the very fact that Paul lists these gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 is evidence that he does. But surely anyone who reads these chapters carefully will note that Paul does not encourage us to seek these experiences. If anything, he seems to warn against them, and he certainly does not pronounce any special blessing upon their exercise. Why? Because the blessings of the gospel are for those who live by faith and not by sight, who live by their faith in the character and benevolence of God and not in the evidence of visions, miracles, or other such experiences.
There is one other item which must not be left out, if only because it is so common in our day. It is the supposed evidence of success, measured by the number of people converted, church growth, income for Christian institutions and other such things. Does this mean that we are not to work to see as many people converted as possible? Does it mean that we are not to be concerned with church growth? Does it mean that we should not be concerned with the level of income necessary to run Christian schools, missions, churches, and other institutions? Not at all. But it does mean that we are not to tie our faith in God to such circumstances. We are to pray and believe and go on working even when we do not see this kind of numerical blessing.
What is faith? Faith is believing God on the basis of his Word and then acting upon it. This is true faith. It is this that God blesses. God promises a blessing upon those who have faith. We cannot repeat that enough. God blesses faith, and not the living out of some unusual experience.
How could it be otherwise if (1) God is to be fair in his dealings with his people and (2) the blessings of which he speaks are to be for all? Suppose it to be the other way. Suppose God’s blessing were linked to the unusual. In that case, either his blessing would be for a small and select company only, or else the things we consider unusual would have to become commonplace, in which case they would cease to have the character of “special evidences.” They would be like those other countless evidences of God’s providence which we enjoy daily but do not regard so highly, simply because they are common. No, the blessings of God are for all; and they are based, not upon the unusual in Christian experience, but upon faith which by its very nature and definition is common to all who call upon the name of Christ as God and Savior. This is why the Gospel of John ends on this note. It ends here because John wants to encourage everyone to believe on Jesus and enjoy God’s blessings.
What are those blessings? There are many ways to answer that question, because faith is discussed again and again throughout the Bible. But we may answer it at this point just from John’s Gospel, remembering that John’s Gospel is the Gospel of faith preeminently. In John the Greek word for faith (pistis) always occurs in its verbal form (pisteuō) and is therefore translated “believe.” But in that form it occurs more often in John than in any other biblical book, even Romans (which has much to say about faith) or books that are longer. We find the word 101 times in John’s Gospel, compared with a combined use of “faith” and “believe” 64 times in Romans and only 22 times in Mark. So John is obviously concerned with faith and considers it of prime importance. What does he say of the blessings that flow from it? The following ten items are prominent.
- It is by faith that we become children of God and thus enter into the privileges of being in God’s spiritual family. John indicates this at several points but especially in the first chapter, where he says, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (1:12). Certainly this is a great blessing and the source of many others that follow.
- It is through faith that we have eternal life. This is the teaching of the best-known verse in the Gospel, John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Death is an “enemy” (1 Cor. 15:26). But death shall be conquered by faith, which unites us to Christ who conquered it.
- By faith we are delivered from judgment. John quotes Jesus as saying, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (5:24).
- John 6:35 teaches that faith ushers us into the blessings of spiritual satisfaction now: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” To come to Christ is to believe on Christ; that is what the parallelism suggests. So belief in Christ is set forth as the key to having all spiritual longings fulfilled.
- Jesus also calls faith the means for entering into the final resurrection: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (11:25–26). The blessings of the resurrection are for those who believe on Jesus.
- Faith in Jesus is also said to be the way in which we become blessings to others, as the Holy Spirit who communicates all God’s blessings works through us. This is taught in John 7:38–39: “ ‘Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.” The image is of a broad river flowing through a desert land, giving life and joy to all who come upon it.
- Through faith we see the glory of God. “Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ ” (11:40). Without faith we will be like the heathen, who are surrounded by the glory of God in nature, yet either do not see it or else attribute it to that which is not God by a worship of idols. It is only as we look to God that our eyes are increasingly opened to see what he is doing.
- Faith is the secret of a holy life. Jesus said, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness” (12:46). In biblical language, darkness is the darkness of sin (cf. 1 John 1:5–10). So walking in the light means walking in holiness by means of the spiritual and moral life which God gives.
- The blessing of a fruitful and effective life comes by faith. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (14:12). This does not necessarily refer to what we would call miracles, though taken together the disciples may well have performed more miracles than Jesus did. It refers rather to the many works of witnessing, preaching, and Christlike service performed by Christian people. They are performed by those who take God at his word and go out boldly to do his bidding.
- Finally, it is through faith that we receive the benefits of Jesus’ prayers on our behalf. He said, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message” (17:20). If, as we are told in James, “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (5:16), how much more shall the prayers of the Lord Jesus Christ avail for us! If we lacked all other promises of blessing through faith, this alone should be enough.
What I have written here applies most directly to those who are Christians, to those who have believed on Jesus and to whom these blessings are therefore given. But it applies to non-Christians too in that you are challenged to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior.
Do not say, as many do, “I think I could believe in Jesus if he would just appear to me in some special way. I could believe if I had some miraculous vision.” That is not true, though you may think so. Pharaoh did not believe though he witnessed the greatest collection of signs and wonders ever granted to one man at one period of history. Those things are of no use to you. The problem is not miracles or the lack of them. The problem is sin. You are a sinner, and Jesus is the answer to your sin. He died for you, bearing your punishment. Now you must come to him in simple faith. You cannot see him. But you can find him if you seek him with your whole heart.
29 The first clause of v. 29 may be a statement (so KJV, NIV) or a question (so NET, RSV). The latter is perhaps better: “Because you have seen me, have you believed?” Then comes the contrast: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” The entire Christian church from the ascension onward is comprised of those who have believed without seeing. If physical seeing were necessary to convince people of the reality of the resurrection, the church would have faltered within the first year of its life.
29 Jesus addresses to Thomas a word of approval, but one that goes far beyond Thomas to those who had not required so much before believing. Thomas believed on the basis of sight: he saw Jesus and believed.84 Some commentators think that Jesus is administering a rebuke to his hard-headed follower. This may be so, but if so it is a very gentle rebuke. We must bear in mind that if it is true that Thomas believed on the basis of what he himself saw, this is also the case with all the others John has so far mentioned. While some may well have believed on the basis of the testimony of Mary Magdalene and others John has not said so. There is possibly significance also in the fact that when Jesus goes on to speak of those who believed without seeing he says they are “blessed” (cf. 13:17), not “more blessed.” This does not look like a comparison, with Thomas worse off than the others. But Jesus does pronounce a blessing on those who have believed without seeing. At the time the words were spoken this would not have been a large number, but perhaps not all the first Christians were as skeptical as Thomas. Some had believed Peter and the others (Luke 24:34). These are now said to be blessed. And, of course, the words will refer as well to all those who in the future would follow in the same way. There is a special blessing for those possessed of a faith that can trust absolutely and that does not need to “see” at every turn.
29 As a rule, Jesus does not respond with enthusiasm to confessions of faith in him in any of the Gospels. The exception is Peter’s confession in Matthew, to which Jesus replies with a beatitude, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father in the heavens” (Mt 16:17). Here too is a beatitude, but not for Thomas: “Jesus says to him that ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who did not see, and believed’ ” (v. 29). Yet it should not be read as a rebuke to Thomas either. He believed because he saw, just as John did (1:34), just as the anonymous witness to the spear thrust did (19:35), just as the beloved disciple did (v. 8), just as Mary Magdalene did (v. 18), and just as the other disciples did (v. 20). The only real exception within the narrative is the royal official who “believed” simply on the basis of Jesus’ word that his son would live (4:50), and even he had his faith eventually verified by sight (4:53). As we have seen, his faith stands as the paradigm for the faith Jesus commends here, on the part of those who “did not see, and believed.”
To whom is Jesus referring? Quite clearly to the readers of the Gospel, and others of their generation, whether Jews or Gentiles, who now believe in Jesus without having lived through the events of his ministry. Yet the aorist participles are surprising: “Blessed are those who did not see, and believed.” We might have expected, “Blessed are those who will believe—or even just ‘believe,’ as in 17:20—without having seen.” How seriously are we to take the past tenses? The only past example of such faith is, as we have noted, the royal official at Cana (4:50). It is as if Jesus is speaking here not in narrative time—a week after his resurrection—but in the reader’s time, looking back on his ministry from the reader’s perspective long after the fact. The reader knows of “those who did not see, and believed,” because the reader is, almost by definition, one of them. The beatitude is for the reader’s benefit. In that sense, the pronouncement parallels Revelation 1:3: “Blessed is he who reads [aloud], and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things written in it, for the time is near.” And yet, the aorists also have a certain credibility within the narrative as well, for Jesus has said, “other sheep I have, which are not from this courtyard” (10:16), and the Gospel writer has spoken of “the children of God who are scattered,” and yet to be “gathered into one” (11:52). Here Jesus speaks of these “other sheep” or “children of God” as if they have already believed, knowing that when they do believe, it will in fact be without seeing, at least in the way Thomas and his fellow disciples have seen. The beatitude is one of just two in the Gospel of John, the first for those who “do” (see 13:17), the second for those who “believe.”
20:29 / Because you have seen me, you have believed. There is no question either about Thomas’ belief or about the basis of it. Jesus does not say that Thomas touched him, and there is no evidence in the text that his skepticism went so far as actually to accept the challenge laid down in v. 27. He believed because he saw, just as the rest of the disciples did (vv. 20, 25; cf. v. 8).
Ver. 29.—Jesus saith to him, Because thou hast seen me thou hast believed. Our Lord does not bid him rise, nor say, as the angel did to John in the Apocalypse, “Worship God;” nor did he reject the homage which is here so grandly paid; but he describes this very state of mind which induced the disciple to say, “My Lord and my God!” as that high, holy acquisition which throughout his ministry he had treated as the main, prime condition of all spiritual blessings. “Thou hast believed,” said he, “and because thou hast seen me; thou hast become a believer in all that I am, because thou hast received this crowning proof of the reality of my victory over death.” There are critics or scholars (Lachmann, Meyer, Ewald, etc.), who treat the expression as an interrogative: Because thou hast seen me, hast thou believed (art thou now a believing man?); and the Revisers have placed this punctuation in their margin. A few cursives thus point the words, but it is improbable, for it would seem, even still, to have suggested a doubt or question in the mind of the Lord touching the reality of the apostle’s faith. Moreover, the obvious contrast between those who have seen and those who saw not would be obscured by the punctuation. Observe that Christ did not say, “Because thou hast touched me, thou hast believed.” The vision alone brought the apostle back to that high tension of faith which he, with others, had reached on the night of the Passion (see ch. 16:30–32, and notes). All the tide of overmastering love surged up within him. But the condition of multitudes was even then less privileged than that of Thomas. It could not be a part of the conduct of the kingdom of God that each separate soul should have all the elements of conviction which the apostles had enjoyed, all the vision and all the inspiration of the chosen prophets of the Lord. There may and will come a time when “every eye shall see him” as Thomas saw him, when all shall have the function and powers, equal faculties and opportunity, of seeing him. In the Apocalypse the evangelist, at the very commencement of his visions, saw for himself all the mystery and the certainty of this crowning victory. Meanwhile faith upon testimony, faith in reality through the power of truth, is declared to be the law of the kingdom, and the great beatitude which Christ left as his latest legacy is, Blessed (are) they who saw not, and believed. Of whom is he speaking? Clearly not of those who had already received the same advantage which Thomas had now enjoyed so tardily! The apostles, at first, did not accept the testimony of the women, nor the voices and messages of angels, nor the objective fact of the deserted grave. John rebuked himself for not knowing that the Christ must rise from the dead, whether he should have personal ocular evidence of it or not; and he blamed himself for not believing throughout the earthly ministry of Christ that “the Holy One could not see corruption.” Still, the fact was patent, that not until the disciples saw the Lord were they glad. Even in their gladness there was the mingling of surprise and incredulousness. To whom, then, did the blessedness apply? Surely, first of all to the multitudes of loving, waiting souls, who were prepared by their reverence and the new life given to them, and by the bewildering rumours of the Easter week, to believe in the Divine necessity of the Resurrection. Christ told the disciples, on their way to Emmaus, that they were foolish and dull of heart in not accepting all that the prophets bad spoken. Before the final assurance given by their identification of his Person, he persuaded them to accept his statements, and believe in all that he was, including the fact of his resurrection. Whether they should ever have more convincing evidence or not, they were bound to believe that the suffering Messiah was, in the very nature of things, and by Divine necessity, Victor of death, and must see the travail of his soul. This does but repeat the same ides, “Blessed are they who saw not as Thomas and the other disciples were at this moment doing, and yet believed.” But the beatitude includes the whole future of the Church. “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” So said St. Peter to the widely scattered Church. The Lord does not sever the link between external facts and spiritual principles, and thus propound a group of subjective conceptions for a series of objective realities (as Baur and others have urged); but he does pronounce a great benediction on those who can rise to faith in himself through the word which he has spoken, and which his apostles would continue to proclaim without intervention of physical contact or visible manifestation. “If Christ be not risen, then is your faith vain; ye are yet in your sins.” These words are charged with the grounds of conviction for others. Instead of the first disciples being disposed to transform hallucinations of spiritual manifestation into tangible and visible objective facts, they appear to have been more prone and tempted to transform some utterly indisputable facts into spiritual phenomena. There were objective facts, but every attempt which has been made to discredit the Resurrection while admitting these facts has utterly broken down. Even if the narratives of the four Gospels, with their divergent representation, be left out of sight, nothing can be more certain than that, in the space of a quarter of a century, the Churches of Christ in Antioch, Corinth, Philippi, Rome, Ephesus, and Ancyra were existing, and held, without doubt or question, the objective fact. Paul (1 Cor. 15:1–11) simply recounts, not for the first time, but as a resumé of long-since-delivered instruction, the indubitable fact of the Resurrection. It was not an incredible thing, even to Agrippa, that God should raise the dead; nor need it be so now to any one who accepts as true Christ’s account of the Father. The creation of the Church unquestionably turns on the settled conviction of the first disciples that Jesus rose from the dead. That conviction cannot be accounted for independently of the fact. Every attempt to explain it apart from the fact itself has hitherto been wrecked.
Vers. 30, 31.—(6) The conclusion of the argument of the Gospel. Controversy has prevailed from the days of Chrysostom to our own, as to whether these verses are the summary and conclusion of the Gospel as a whole, or have special reference to the record only of the appearances of Jesus after his resurrection. It cannot be doubted that as St. John sums up in ch. 12. the general teaching of Christ and its effect upon the people, to the termination of his public ministry, so at the close of this chapter, before recording the special bearing of the resurrection-life and spiritual power of Christ on the subsequent condition of the Church—a narrative of peculiar interest in itself corresponding with the prologue of the entire narrative—he gathers up the general significance of his Gospel and its relation to other books.
29. Because thou hast seen me, Thomas. Christ blames nothing in Thomas, but that he was so slow to believe, that he needed to be violently drawn to faith by the experience of the senses; which is altogether at variance with the nature of faith. If it be objected, that nothing is more unsuitable than to say that faith is a conviction obtained from touching and seeing, the answer may be easily obtained from what I have already said; for it was not by mere touching or seeing that Thomas was brought to believe that Christ is God, but, being awakened from sleep, he recalled to remembrance the doctrine which formerly he had almost forgotten. Faith cannot flow from a merely experimental knowledge of events, but must draw its origin from the word of God. Christ, therefore, blames Thomas for rendering less honour to the word of God than he ought to have done, and for having regarded faith—which springs from hearing, and ought to be wholly fixed on the word—as bound to the other senses.
Blessed are they who have not seen, and have believed. Here Christ commends faith on this ground, that it acquiesces in the bare word, and does not depend on carnal views or human reason. He therefore includes, in a short definition, the power and nature of faith; namely, that it does not rest satisfied with the immediate exercise of sight, but penetrates even to heaven, so as to believe those things which are hidden from the human senses. And, indeed, we ought to give to God this honour, that we should view His truth as (αὐτόπιστος3) beyond all doubt without any other proof. Faith has, indeed, its own sight, but one which does not confine its view to the world, and to earthly objects. For this reason it is called a demonstration of things invisible or not seen, (Heb. 11:1;) and Paul contrasts it with sight, (2 Cor. 5:7,) meaning, that it does not rest satisfied with looking at the condition of present objects, and does not cast its eye in all directions to those things which are visible in the world, but depends on the mouth of God, and, relying on His word, rises above the whole world, so as to fix its anchor in heaven. It amounts to this, that faith is not of a right kind, unless it be founded on the word of God, and rise to the invisible kingdom of God, so as to go beyond all human capacity.
If it be objected, that this saying of Christ is inconsistent with another of his sayings, in which he declares that the eyes which behold him present are blessed, (Matth. 13:16,) I answer, Christ does not there speak merely of bodily sight, as he does in this passage, but of revelation, which is common to all believers, since he appeared to the world as a Redeemer. He draws a comparison between the Apostles and the holy kings and prophets, (Matth. 13:17,) who had been kept under the dark shadows of the Mosaic Law. He says, that now the condition of believers is much more desirable, because a brighter light shines around them, or rather, because the substance and truth of the figures was made known to them. There were many unbelievers who, at that time, beheld Christ with the eyes of flesh, and yet were not more blessed on that account; but we, who have never beheld Christ with the eyes, enjoy that blessedness of which Christ speaks with commendation. Hence it follows, that he calls those eyes blessed which spiritually behold in him what is heavenly and divine; for we now behold Christ in the Gospel in the same manner as if he visibly stood before us. In this sense Paul says to the Galatians, (3:1,) that Christ was crucified before their eyes; and, therefore, if we desire to see in Christ what may render us happy and blessed, let us learn to believe, when we do not see. To these words of Christ corresponds what is stated in another passage, in which the Apostle commends believers, who love Christ whom they have not seen, and rejoice with unspeakable joy, though they do not behold him, (1 Pet. 1:8.)
The manner in which the Papists torture these words, to prove their doctrine of transubstantiation, is exceedingly absurd. That we may be blessed, they bid us believe that Christ is present under the appearance of bread. But we know that nothing was farther from Christ’s intention than to subject faith to the inventions of men; and as soon as it passes, in the smallest degree, beyond the limits of the word, it ceases to be faith. If we must believe without reserve all that we do not see, then every monster which men may be pleased to form, every fable which they may contrive, will hold our faith in bondage. That this saying of Christ may apply to the case in hand, we must first prove from the word of God the very point in question. They bring forward the word of God, indeed, in support of their doctrine of transubstantiation; but when the word is properly expounded, it gives no countenance to their foolish notion.
30 Many other signs also Jesus did in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that, believing, you may have life through his name.
29. In response, Jesus told Thomas, Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. Thomas came to believe because he saw the risen Lord, but Jesus did not praise Thomas’ pathway to faith; rather, he pronounced a blessing upon those who have not seen the risen Jesus yet have believed in him nevertheless. These are those who hear or read the witness to Jesus borne by the disciples and confirmed by the Spirit (15:26–27). This is the second pronunciation of blessing by Jesus in the form of a beatitude in the Fourth Gospel (cf. 13:17: ‘Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them’).
Ver. 29. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen Me thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen yet have believed.—
Who is blessed?:—Thomas’s conduct was strange but honest. How much better to be doubting Thomas than the believing priests! They believed the resurrection, or they would never have given to the soldiers the price of a lie. They believed, but they would not believe. Thomas doubted, but would gladly have believed. In the matter of faith and unbelief men may be divided into four classes.
- Those who will not believe even what they see. Such were the men who apprehended our Lord. Not one of them in his past life had fallen, or seen another fall, at a word. But now they all fall. Yet they apprehend the mysterious Man, just as if nothing special had occurred. Such was Pharaoh. What evidence will ever convince him that he had better let Israel go? But nothing less than ruin will convince him. Such was Ahaziah (2 Kings 1). More sad and shocking still, perhaps, is the case of Stephen’s judges. Whether the accused be like an angel or a fiend, matters little or nothing to the Sanhedrim. Yes; there is a class of men like Solomon’s fools, whose folly will not leave them, though they be brayed in a mortar; men who can hear nothing softer than thunder, who can feel nothing lighter than vengeance.
- Those who believe only when they see. To this class Thomas for a time belongs, and Abraham and the apostles Our Lord, in the plainest words, and more than once, had said that He should rise on the third day. Who believed it? To this class, of course, belong the men of the world. One can hardly draw a line between saint and worldling so strong and so clear as this. The worldling trusts in himself, or his friends, or his wealth, or his stars; the saint trusts in God.
III. Those who have not seen, and yet have believed. Without this faith it is impossible to please God. Without faith a man may be a logician, a mathematician, a general, a man of business; but by what possibility can he be a child of God? Take faith from the earth; let everything be done by sight; let the consequence of every action be immediate and irresistibly evident; and what is left but calculation and business, time-tables and statistics? Life has become a counting-house, in which all we want is a sharp eye and a strong hand. With faith has gone every high and holy feeling—all patience, courage, largeness of heart. The believer is every way blessed. 1. He has the best moral education which even the All-wise can give him. What better exercise than to rise from the seen to the unseen? Who can be more noble than he who, in the very sunshine of prosperity, refuses to trust flattering appearances, or even flattering facts? And of all brave men is not he the bravest who, in the darkest and saddest hours, maintains an unflinching trust in the God who hides Himself? 2. He wins an infinite prize. Eternal life is the goal of faith. Do we want an example of steady faith? See it in Noah, who for one hundred and twenty years built the ark. How the faith shines through the long, slow years!
- Those who believe not only without but against appearances—as Abraham when commanded to offer Isaac, and Job when he said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him,” and the three Hebrew children. (W. J. Frankland.)
The blessedness of faith:—
- Religious privilege now under the common grace of the gospel is greater than that possessed by those who companied with Christ in the flesh. This is the case as regards—1. The evidences of Christ’s Godhead and Divine Apostlate. At first sight it would seem impossible that any evidences should transcend that accorded to Christ’s contemporaries. Yet against this was the constant presence of the Lord’s manhood, which must have been fruitful in misgivings. But this wellspring of incredulity is now sealed. We know not Christ after the flesh. When we connect this with the moral effects of Christianity, the testimony of millions to Christ’s power to bless and save, it is clear that a return to the Apostle’s position would be a loss. 2. The substance of Christian truth. The multitudes to whom Christ spake in parables had no pre-eminence over ourselves; for they were left in ignorance of much that Christ taught His disciples. But these disciples were left in ignorance of many things they were not able to hear until the descent of the Spirit, and all the fruits of their subsequent inspiration we enjoy. 3. The prime grace of the gospel, the knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins. Here, perhaps, more than anywhere, we are apt to draw unfavourable contrasts. Could we but bring our spiritual pollution to where the leper knelt! The music of that word “forgiven,” uttered by Christ’s own lips—did that but fall upon our ears! But are we sure that if Christ were upon earth we should be inclined to seek Him? That the same hindrances of shame, worldliness, &c., would not still operate? And then why should the utterance of Christ’s own lips be more satisfactory than the inward witness of the Holy Spirit? But in two respects one privilege is immeasurably higher. (1) We understand better than they did the way of salvation by Christ. (2) Christ is accessible to us, as He was not to the bulk of mankind then. 4. The comparative means for obtaining a perfect preparation for eternal life. (1) The aids incentive to holiness with which Christ’s attendants were privileged were transcendently great. Think of His teaching on the character of God, the evil of sin, the excellence of religion; His miracles; the moral force of His example. (2) Yet we may easily over-estimate this privilege. It was not of itself, and as a matter of course, an instrument of salvation, as the case of Judas makes only too clear. (3) Besides, the disciples had no such opportunity of securing holiness as we have, for the Holy Spirit was not given till Jesus was glorified.
- In accordance with the general principles upon which God governs His creatures, it is better that we are called to live for a while by faith and not by sight. 1. Inward satisfaction in the service of God is in proportion to the difficulties of the service. Were it not for the renunciation of the world, the crucifixion of self, the wrestling with evil, which go hand in hand with the return of a sinful spirit to God, there would be little of that joy which come so often with the first revelation of Christ. If evangelical truth in its sublimer mysteries were accessible to every vagrant aspiration, how poor a harvest of Divine delight would they furnish compared with that now yielded to the toilsome husbandry of thought and devotion! And when we pray, and labour, find peace, thereby we owe it to the spiritual hindrances which block our approach to God and to outward pressure and trial. 2. A life of faith is fitted to produce a symmetry and perfection of Christian character such as could scarcely come by a less trying process. Those Christians are the wisest, and meekest, and most spiritual to whom the largest share of providential trouble has fallen, and the perfecting of the Church for the duties of time and for the felicity and services of heaven is only to be secured under the operation of faith in the unseen Saviour. Were the presence which faith imposes lifted off the Church, pride would take the place of humility, and self-worship consecration to Christ, and hardness charity. 3. The ultimate rewards of creatures like ourselves are determined by the severity of the ordeal which constitutes moral probation. If there be creatures whose final estate is determined apart from probation, we can hardly imagine them possessors of a blessedness comparable to those who have suffered and so are perfected. There is not a good, even of this world, the fruits of pains and trouble, which is not the sweeter from the price we pay for it.
III. The text has other significant aspects. 1. Towards Christian belief. It shows a strong shadow on millinarianism. Whatever advantage such a state of things might be supposed to confer on the Church, on the principle of the text it would be a diminution, not a heightening, of its present privilege. 2. Towards Christian sentiment and observance. It distinctly frowns upon all interposition of the material and human between God in Christ and our souls. The entire genius of Christianity is hostile to religious symbolism, and the history of the Church utters a strong caution against the use of sense as a helpmate to faith. Faith needs it not. It is impious to set up Moses’ candlestick again now that the Sun has risen. 3. Towards Christian character and life. (1) It rebukes the spirit of religious discontent and envy. (2) It suggests the greatness of our religious obligation as Christians. (3) It opens a glorious prospect of blessing from God as the recompense of faith. (J. D. Geden, D.D.)
A simple faith:—A peasant of singular piety, being on a particular occasion admitted to the presence of the King of Sweden, was asked by him what he considered to be the nature of true faith. The peasant entered fully into the subject much to the King’s comfort and satisfaction. When the king was on his death-bed he had a return of his fears as to the safety of his soul, and still the same question was perpetually put to those around him, “What is real faith?” The Archbishop of Upsal, who had been sent for, commenced in a learned and logical manner a scholastic definition of faith, which lasted an hour. When he had finished, the king said, with much energy, “All this is ingenious, but it is not comfortable; it is not what I want. Nothing but the farmer’s faith will do for me.” (J. Everett.)
Faith and sight:—
- Sight without faith—sin. 1. Ancient—the sin of the Jewish people. 2. Common—the sin of many now. 3. Great—since that which in Christ is presented to the eye of faith and reason ought to lead to heart acceptance of Christ.
- Faith after sight—salvation. Exemplified—1. In the disciples (except perhaps John) (ver. 8), who believed in Christ risen after they had seen Him. 2. In those who to-day believe in Christ only after their intellectual difficulties as to Christ have been solved.
III. Faith without sight—blessedness. 1. It implies a larger measure of Divine grace. 2. It exhibits a higher degree of Christian virtue. 3. It secures a richer experience of inward felicity. 4. It wins a readier commendation from the lips of Christ. (T. Whitelaw, D.D.)
The Bible a help to the sight of faith:—You may have stood on the sea coast while a friend has been looking out to sea through a telescope, perhaps it was when you were at Douglas waiting the arrival of a steamer from Liverpool, on which you were expecting a beloved relative. While you are standing on the rock, your friend is looking through the glass, and saying, “Yes; I see him!” You reply, “Let me have the glass! I cannot believe it, unless I see too.” You lift the glass, and in a little while, you say, “Ah, I see him; now, he sees us, and is waving his handkerchief to us!” Here is a telescope which God has provided for every man. We can see, through it, that the record of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, are facts, as plainly as if we had seen Him with our eyes and touched Him with our hands. We also see that He is our Saviour, who died in our room and stead; and that we are saved from the penalty of eternal death, because our iniquities were laid on Him instead of on us. We see through this Divine telescope, that when Jesus was nailed to the cross, He died, not for His own sins, but for ours! Through this glass we see the water of life, and notice to our joy that any thirsty soul may drink thereof, without money and without price. Through this blessed glass, we see the hand of the Lord directing our paths, and holding us up in slippery ways. It is the most wonderful telescope in the world. It shows us our departed friends and children in a beautiful land, where they wear white robes and have neither any sorrow nor sin; and it shows that we have a mansion in paradise on which our names are written; but, best of all, it reveals that we—we!—shall actually enjoy the blessedness of heaven! (W. Birch.)
Meditation a help to the sight of faith:—Meditation and contemplation are often like windows of agate, and gates of carbuncle, through which we see the Redeemer. Meditation puts the telescope to the eye, and enables us to see Jesus after a better sort than we could have seen Him if we had lived in the days of His flesh; for now we see not only Jesus in the flesh, but the spiritual Jesus; we see the spirit of Jesus, the core and essence of Jesus, the very soul of the Saviour. O happy you, that spend much time in contemplations! I wish that we had less to do, that we might do more of this heavenly work. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Sight and faith:—Walking by sight is just this—“I believe in myself;” whereas walking by faith is—“I believe in God.” If I walk by sight I walk by myself; if I walk by faith, then there are two of us, and the second one—ah! how great, how glorious, how mighty is He—the Great All-in-all—God-all-sufficient! Sight goes a warfare at its own charges, and becomes a bankrupt, and is defeated. Faith goes a warfare at the charges of the King’s Exchequer, and there is no fear that Faith’s bank shall ever be broken. Sight builds the house from its own quarry, and on its own foundation but it begins to build and is never able to finish, and what it does build rests on the sand and falls. But faith builds on the foundation laid in eternity, in the fair colours of the Saviour’s blood, in the covenant of grace. It goes to God for every stone to be used in the building, and brings forth the top-stone with shoutings of “Grace, grace unto it!” (Ibid.)
Sight of faith:—Sight is the noblest sense; it is quick; we can look from earth to heaven in a moment: it is large; we can see the hemisphere of the heavens at one view: it is sure and certain; in hearing we may be deceived; and, lastly, it is the most affecting sense. Even so, faith is the quickest, the largest, the most certain, the most affecting grace: like an eagle in the clouds, at one view, it sees Christ in heaven, and looks down upon the world; it looks backwards and forwards; it sees things past, present, and to come. (R. Sibbes, D.D.)
Faith, not sight:—By constant sight, the effect of objects seen grows less; by constant faith, the effect of objects believed in grows greater. The probable reason of this is, that personal observation does not admit of the influence of the imagination in impressing the fact; while unseen objects, realized by faith, have the auxiliary aid of the imagination, not to exaggerate them, but to clothe them with living colours, and impress them upon the heart. Whether this be the reason or not, the fact is true, that, the more frequently we see, the less we feel, the power of an object; while, the more frequently we dwell upon an object by faith, the more we feel its power. (J. B. Walker, M. D.)
Faith without sight:—1. Those who saw and believed not were far from being blessed. 2. Those who saw him, and believed, were undoubtedly blessed. 3. Those who have not seen, and yet have believed, are emphatically blessed. 4. There remains the superlative degree of blessedness in seeing Jesus face to face without need of believing in the same sense as now. 5. But for the present this is our blessedness, this is our place in the gospel history—we have not seen, and yet have believed. What a comfort that so high a degree of blessedness is open to us!
- Do not let us diminish this blessedness—1. By wishing to see. (1) By pining for some imaginary voice, or vision, or revelation. (2) By craving marvellous providences, and singular dispensations. (3) By hungering for despairs or transports. (4) By perpetually demanding arguments and logical demonstrations. (5) By clamouring for conspicuous success in connection with the preaching of the Word, and the missionary operations of the Church. (6) By being anxious to believe with the majority. Truth has usually been with the minority. 2. By failing to believe. Believe—(1) Practically, so as to act upon our faith. (2) Intensely, so as to laugh at contradictions. (3) Livingly, so as to be simple as a child. (4) Continually, so as to be evenly confident. (5) Personally, so as to be assured alone, even if all others give the lie to the doctrines of the Lord. (6) Thoroughly, so as to find the rest of faith.
- do not let us think this blessedness unattainable. 1. This blessedness is linked for ever with the faith which our Lord accepts: in fact, it is the appointed reward of it. 2. God deserves such faith of us. He is so true that His unsupported word is quite enough for faith to build upon. Can we only believe Him as far as we can see Him? 3. Thousands of saints have rendered, and are rendering, such faith, and are enjoying such blessedness at this moment, We are bound to have fellowship with them in like precious faith. 4. Hitherto our own experience has warranted such faith. Has it not? 5. Those of us who are now enjoying the blessed peace of faith can speak with great confidence upon the matter. Why, then, are so many cast down? Why will they not believe?
III. Do not let any of us miss it. The faith which our Lord described is exceedingly precious, and we ought to seek after it, for—1. It is the only true and saving faith. Faith which demands sight is not faith at all, and cannot save the soul. 2. It is in itself most acceptable with God. Nothing is acceptable without it (Heb. 11:6). It is the evidence of the acceptance of the man and his works. 3. It is a proof of grace within: of a spiritual mind, a renewed nature, a reconciled heart, a new-born spirit. 4. It is the root-principle of a glorious character. 5. It is exceedingly useful to others: in comforting the despondent, in impressing unbelievers, in cheering seekers, &c. 6. It enriches its possessor to the utmost, giving power in prayer, strength of mind, decision of character, firmness under temptation, boldness in enterprise, joy of soul, realization of heaven, &c. Conclusion: 1. Know you this faith? 2. Blessedness lies that way. Seek it! (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Faith with and without sight:—
- What were some of the advantages enjoyed by those who lived and served God in the times of miracle? 1. To a considerable extent the pious Jews and the first Christians believed because they saw. Not that they walked wholly by sight. Noah was “warned of God of things not seen as yet.” Abraham went out of his old home, “not knowing whither he went.” And those worthies mentioned in Heb. 11 acted without assistance from the objects of time and sense, in the instances that are specified. But taking into the account the whole course of their lives, they were much more aided by sight than we are. (1) For it was a dispensation of supernaturalism. Who could be an atheist as he stood under Mount Sinai. Who could query the possibility of miracles, when he saw the waters of the Red Sea rising up; when he saw the shadow go back upon the sun-dial: when he heard Christ call up Lazarus from the tomb. (2) Now there was something in this, unquestionably, that rendered faith in God’s power comparatively easy. Jacob, e.g., must have found it no difficult thing to trust in a Being who was directing him, watching over him, and delivering him. 2. How differently the modern believer is situated! Generation after generation has come and gone, but no celestial sign has been given. Christians have believed that God is, but they have never seen His shape nor heard His voice. They have had faith in immortality, but no soul has ever returned to make their assurance doubly sure. In some instances, this reticence has produced an almost painful uncertainty, and wakened the craving for some palpable evidence of unseen realities. And all the attempts of Spiritualism are another testimony to the craving natural to man for miraculous signs. Sceptics contend that the miracle is irrational. But, certainly, nothing is irrational for which there is a steady and constant demand upon the part of human nature.
- Some of the advantages which the Church of God experiences in these latter days, when there is no miracle to assist faith. Believing without seeing—1. Is a stronger faith; and the stronger the faith, the greater the blessedness. (1) If Thomas had put credit in the affirmation of the other disciples, it is evident that his faith in Christ would have been greater. For Christ had foretold that He was to be crucified and to rise. Thomas had witnessed the crucifixion, and knew that this part of his Lord’s prophecy was fulfilled. If, now, he had believed the remainder, he would have believed the disciples’ report. But his demand evinced that his faith needed to be helped out by sight. (2) If we examine the Scriptures, we shall find that that faith is of the best quality which leans least upon the creature and most upon the Creator. Take the case of Abraham. He was the subject of miraculous impressions; but there were some critical points in which His experience resembled more that of the modern believers, and it is with references to them that he is styled the “father of the faithful.” Consider the trial of his faith when commanded to sacrifice Isaac. (3) It is to this high degree of faith that the modern believer is invited. We have never seen a miracle. We have only read the record of what God did, in this way, thousands of years ago. Our faith must therefore rest more upon the simple authority of God, and be more spiritual. The inward powers of the soul are nobler than the five senses; and their acts have more worth and dignity than the operations of the senses. There is no very great merit in following the notices of the five senses. An animal does this continually. But when I believe that God is great and good, when phenomena seemingly teach the contrary; when my faith runs back to the nature and attributes of God Himself, and is not staggered by anything that I see, then I give God great honour. All that this kind of faith requires is, to be certain that the Divine promise has been given; and then it leaves all to Him. 2. Honours God more. We cannot show greater respect for any one than to take his bare word. There are comparatively few men of this first class and standing. And just as far as we withhold our confidence in God until we can see the wisdom of His ways, we dishonour Him. Suppose a sudden and inexplicable sorrow—a missionary is cut down in the midst of great usefulness; a wise and kind father is taken away from a family that leans entirely upon him: if in these instances no doubts are felt, what an honour do they render to God by such absolute confidence. For the faith in such cases terminates upon the very personality and nature of God. It passes by all secondary causes and reposes upon the First Cause. Oftentimes our faith is of such a mixed character, that it honours the creature as much as the Creator. For example, if we expect that the whole world will be Christianized, partly because of the Divine promises and partly because the wealth and civilization and military power of the earth are in the possession of Christian nations, we honour the creature in conjunction with the Creator; and this is to dishonour Him, for He says, “My glory will I not give to another.” The faith of the Church is of the purest, highest kind only when she trusts solely and simply in God, and looks upon all favouring circumstances as results, not as supports, of His promise. Take away the promises and agency of God, and where would be the wealth, &c., of Protestant Europe and America? “Sufficient is Thine arm alone, and our defence is sure.” The early Church, with the civilization of the Greek and Roman world arrayed against them, could not lean upon it in conjunction with God, if they would. They were shut up to the mere power and promise of the Most High. And what honour did they give Him in this: and how did He honour them in return? Conclusion: From this subject it is evident—1. That God is the sole object of faith. There is a difference between belief and faith. We may believe a man; but we may believe in and on God alone. Faith is the resting of the mind; and the mind can find no rest in a creature. 2. If God is the sole object of faith, then we must beware of a mixed or partial faith. We must not trust partly in God, and partly in His creatures. He will receive no divided honours. As in our justification we cannot trust partly in the blood of Christ, and partly in our own good works, so in our more general relation to God, our confidence must not rest upon any combination or union between Him and the works of His hands. 3. We know these things, happy are we if we do them. (Prof. Shedd.)
Faith of Thomas:—Faith, resting upon the word of promise, upon a Divine testimony, is more noble, spiritual, and ingenuous; displays more candour and humility, and brings more glory to God, than that which is the result of sensible manifestation. In illustrating these words, let us—
- Examine the nature of that faith which is here commended by our saviour. Faith, in its most general sense, is the strong persuasion of any truth, the firm assent of the mind to it. This persuasion may be founded on the evidence of our senses: thus Thomas believed that Jesus was risen, because he saw, felt, and heard Him; thus I believe there is a sun, because I behold it, and am warmed by its beams. Sometimes this persuasion is founded on the deductions of reason: thus, because I discover in the universe so many effects, to produce which there must have been an intelligent First Cause, I believe there is a God (chap. 10:37.) But though the word faith is thus used, both in common language and in the Scriptures, to signify that persuasion which is founded on the evidence of the senses or the deductions of reason, yet, in its more strict and proper reason, it denotes that assent of the mind which is founded on testimony. It is in this manner we believe, although we do not see. Thus I am told that there is such a city as Rome, such a river as the Nile; and though I have never seen them, I am persuaded of their existence, because it is confirmed to me by witnesses who had opportunities of knowing, and who had no interest in deceiving me. Their testimony fully supplies the place of the evidence of the senses or the deductions of reason. If the testimony be that of man, there results from it human faith; if the testimony be that of God, there results from it Divine faith; if it be of God through Jesus Christ and His apostles, there results Christian faith. But that we may more fully understand the nature of this faith, let us consider a few of its properties—1. It is enlightened. To believe without seeing is very different from believing without evidence or proof. The believer is not a weak being, receiving every thing without examination; nor any enthusiast, assenting without motive or light. 2. This faith is humble. A thousand objects connected with the being, attributes, and purposes of God, with the schemes of providence, or the plan of redemption, necessarily present to him abysses which no finite mind can fathom; but, filled with veneration and wonder before the Infinite, the incomprehensible, he submits his understanding; he strives not to break through those barriers which the Eternal has placed around His throne. 3. This faith is firm. The foundation of his belief is more stable than the heavens and the earth. It is not a mere probability, a wavering hope, an uncertain guess; but the declaration of God, on which he rests his assured belief and his everlasting interests. 4. This faith is universal in its object: receiving as true the whole of the sacred volume, its histories, its predictions, its doctrines, its precepts, its threatenings, its promises. 5. Finally, this faith is active, efficacious, purifying. It is not confined to a barren admiration of the truths and facts that are revealed; it descends into the heart, and sanctifies all its powers; it receives the precepts and commands of God as well as His promises; it requires the sacrifice of corrupt passions as well as the submission of our reason. Let us not deceive ourselves; the conviction of the understanding must pass to the heart, and then be manifested in all the actions of a holy life.
- Inquire why those who thus believe, although they do not see, are blessed. 1. They are so because they display true wisdom, both in the choice of objects to occupy their mind, and in the rules they follow in giving their assent to them. They select for their belief, and contemplation, the most important truths. Place by their side the most sublime human sciences; and in comparison these sciences, to Him who judges without prejudice, and with a reference to the eternal duration of man, will appear only a vain and pompous ignorance. How trifling in reality are the pursuits of the greatest earthly philosopher, if he is ignorant of the science of salvation! More happy and more wise are they who are contented to behold with the eyes of God what they cannot behold with their own; who submit to be directed by the infallible Father of lights; who, “though they see not, yet believe.” 2. Happy also because they act not only in the wisest, but also in the most advantageous manner, since they thus avoid misery and secure felicity. Without this faith, what overwhelming doubts, what cruel uncertainties, what multiplied fears surround us! Without it, what hope has the penitent? Can God forgive the rebel, in consistence with His holiness? In what mode can the remission of our sins be secured? These and a thousand other questions are unanswerable. Without it, what adequate consolation is there to the persecuted and oppressed? What relief to the bereaved? What comfort to the dying? (H. Kollock, D.D.)
Faith in an unseen Christ:—Here is another “beatitude” in addition to what Matthew gives. Christ was Himself the “Blessed One”; and well knew who were “blessed,” and what made them so. But how and why are believers so specially “blessed?”
- They throw themselves upon the bare word of God. So that their faith rests on no divided evidence; and the foundation they build on is not partly strong and partly weak, partly iron and partly clay, partly rock and partly sand, but wholly rock, iron, strong. Sight may change; to-day bright, to-morrow dim; but God’s testimony changes not.
- They come directly into contact with God Himself. No medium comes between them and God. The soul touches Him who is a Spirit, needing no interpreter nor introducer.
III. They get more into the heart and reality of the things of God. Sight often crusts over spiritual things, or builds a wall. Simple faith goes in at once to the heart and core of things. Instead of cruising along the rocky sea-board, it strikes inland, and pitches its tent amid the gardens and by the streams of a richer and more glorious country. It is in itself simpler, purer, and more direct; and hence it finds its way into regions into which faith of a grosser kind could never penetrate: it rises up, with a buoyancy all its own, into a higher atmosphere, disentangled from the things of earth. Like a being without a body to clog it, it moves more at will, and rejoices in a liberty to which faith of a more material kind is a stranger.
- They take fewer false steps, and make fewer mistakes. Simple faith sees, as it were, everything with God’s eyes, and hears everything with God’s ears; and thus comes to no false conclusions, and is kept from the continual mistakes into which sense is falling. It not only sets the right estimate on the evidence of sense and feeling, but it puts the true interpretation upon all the facts and phenomena coming under the eye or sense. Exercising simple faith on the bare word of Him who has given me the record respecting His crucified, dead, buried, risen Son, I see myself crucified, dead, buried, risen with Him. Though seeing in myself the chief of sinners, I know and believe that there is no condemnation for me. Thus I believe not only without, but against seeing; and put the right construction upon things seen and temporal, looking at everything with the eyes of God.
- They are thus subjected to discipline of the best and most effectual kind. This life of believing keeps the body under, while it lifts up the soul; it loosens us from the earthly, and fastens us to the heavenly. It calms us, too, in a stormy world. It awakes us and keeps us awake, amid scenes fitted to lull us asleep. It makes us more truly “children too of the light and of the day,” by transporting us beyond this world of night and darkness, into the kingdom of the unsetting sun. (H. Bonar, D.D.)
Dr. Arnold’s death:—When Dr. Arnold was suddenly stricken with his mortal agony, he was seen, we are told, lying still, with his hands clasped, his lips moving, and his eyes raised upwards as if in prayer; when all at once he repeated, firmly and earnestly: “And Jesus said unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen,” &c. (Bp. Westcott.)
29. Jesus said to him, Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are they who, though not seeing, are yet believing. There was nothing wrong with the words of the confession which Thomas uttered. There was something wrong with the manner in which he reached this level of faith. He should have believed even apart from sight. For the benefit of those who would come to believe in him in the years that were to follow, Jesus now says, “Blessed are they who, though not seeing, are yet believing.” Faith which results from seeing is good; but faith which results from hearing is more excellent. This is the clear lesson of Scripture throughout; see, for example, Matt. 8:5–10; John 4:48; Rom. 10:14; and 1 Peter 1:8.
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