That Ye Might Believe
March 18th, 1979 @ 7:30 PM
THAT YE MIGHT BELIEVE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-18-79 7:30 p.m.
And once again, a thousandfold welcome to the thousands uncounted of you who are listening to this hour with us in the First Baptist Church of Dallas on radio. This is the pastor bringing the message, one chosen by our teenagers, entitled That They Might Believe. We invite you to turn to the Gospel of John, the twentieth chapter, and let us all read out loud together verses 26 through 31. And wherever you are, listening on radio, if you have opportunity to turn in your Bible to this passage, where you are read it also out loud with us; John, chapter 20, verses 26 through 31. This is the climax of the Gospel of John. The twenty-first chapter is an addendum, it is an appendix; it was added many years after the main part of the Gospel had been written. And John’s Gospel ends in a glorious appeal for faith. So let us read it out loud together, John 20, beginning at verse 26, together:
And after eight days again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
Then saith He to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing.
And Thomas answered and said unto Him, My Lord and my God.
Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book:
But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name.
It is a fine thing that the King James Version translates semeion, "signs": "And many other signs truly did Jesus. . .not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life in His name" [John 20:30-31]. John never uses the word "miracle," never uses the word "miracle." Always he uses the word semeion, plural semeion, "signs." Whatever Jesus did John saw in it a profound spiritual meaning. And a miracle was but a message of God that was acted out through His gracious omnipotent hands. All that Jesus did were semeion, signs.
Now, he says that he has written these, he has chosen these for a purpose: in order that we might believe He is the Son of God, and that believing we might have everlasting life [John 20:31]. All of the books of the Bible are written for a definite purpose, and especially is that true with regard to the four Gospels. Each one of them has been written with a definite end in view. Matthew’s Gospel is written to present Jesus as the fulfillment of all of the Old Testament prophecies. It is written with the Jew in mind. He is the promised Messiah and Savior of the world. So when Matthew writes his Gospel, he sees in Jesus the fulfillment of all of those prophecies in the Old Covenant. Mark writes his Gospel with the Roman in mind. He is doubtless writing from Rome. And Jesus is presented there as straightway, doing this, doing that; Jesus is a man of action, He is a man of tremendous thrust, and march, and energy, and power, and doer. And a Roman who conquered the world would be impressed with that kind of a Lord Christ. It is written with the Gentile in mind. Doctor Luke wrote his Gospel from the perspective of a great humanitarian and beloved physician, as Paul called him [Colossians 4:14]. He writes of the intimacies from the remembrance of Mary in the birth of John the Baptist [Luke 1:5-25, 57-66], and of Jesus the Christ [Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-20]. And all of the beautiful things that rise in brotherhood and human kindness are found in the Gospel of Luke. If you were looking, for example, for the story of the Good Samaritan, you would find it in Luke [Luke 10:25-37]. And he writes with that end in view: Jesus is a great lover of our souls, a beautiful humanitarian.
John writes his Gospel for a very definite purpose also. He presents Jesus as the Savior of the world, the Son of God. He begins with the deity of our Lord: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" [John 1:1]. And all through his great, beautiful, marvelous, incomparable Gospel he is presenting Jesus as the Son of God, the Savior of the world. He is presenting the deity of our Lord. And he avows that: "These signs are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name" [John 20:31]. Now we’re going to take three things that John presents in the life of our Lord, that believing we might have life in His name.
First he says: "These semeion, these signs I have chosen out of all that Jesus did, and I have written them in this book, that you might believe that He is the Son of God" [John 20:30-31]. So first, that we might believe He is the Son of God, John has chosen seven signs. Now the way John’s Gospel is put together is very simple: he chooses seven signs that the Lord did, and in each time a sign is followed by an extensive discussion, and then finally leading up to the crucifixion and the resurrection [John 19:1-20:18]. Now the seven signs that John has chosen are these. First: in chapter 2, the turning of the water into wine. Not a miracle, as he would call it, but a sign. What is the sign of the turning of the water into wine? [John 2:1-11]. The sign is Jesus fulfilled the law, full, not a jot or a tittle remaining in it unfulfilled; Jesus fulfilled the law, all of it. And now we have a new life, and a new faith, and a new hope, and a new commitment, glorious, marvelous, everlasting, abounding. What happened was, as John looked upon it, there were six basins there, stone basins that the Jews used for the washing of feet when they came in, the ceremonial washing of the guests’ feet [John 2:6]. And He said to the servants, "Fill up those basins" [John 2:7]. And each one held about fifty gallons of water. So they filled up those six basins with about each one with fifty gallons of water. Then the Lord said, "Draw out now and bear to the governor of the feast" [John 2:8]. And when the governor tasted that wine, he said, "I have never tasted wine like that" [John 2:9-10]. It was a different kind of wine. It wouldn’t make you drunk or dizzy-headed. It’s the kind of wine we shall drink when we sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb [Revelation 19:6-9]. The Lord said, "I will drink henceforth not of this fruit of the vine, until I drink it new with My Father which is in heaven" [Matthew 26:29]. And the sign of that is Jesus fulfilled all of the old law. "Fill it full," He said; fifty gallons, each one of those stone basins, "Fill it full. Now bear to the governor of the feast" [John 2:7-8]. That was a sign: Jesus fulfills all the old law, what we could never do; and now we have a new faith, and a new way, and a new religion, and a new glorious commitment in the Lord God. That’s the first sign [John 2:1-11].
Now the second sign is in the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John: the healing of the nobleman’s son [John 4:46-54]. Over there in Capernaum, the boy is sick, and Jesus is there in Cana. And this man has such faith that believing he went on his way trusting God that what Jesus has said was true [John 4:50]. And that is a theme that you will find in the life of our Lord as John presents it: not seeing, yet believing. That’s what He said just now in the passage we read about Thomas. "Thomas, you have seen, and because you see you believe: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" [John 20:29]. And this is a sign confirming that glorious beatitude: "Blessed are they, though having not seen, yet believed." This nobleman, his son lived in Capernaum, miles away; but when Jesus said, "Your boy is healed," he believed it, and went on his way, trusting in the Lord [John 4:50-53].
The third sign is in the fifth chapter of the Gospel of John: the healing of the lame man at Bethesda [John 5:1-15]. That’s the sign of overcoming the works of Satan. He came into the world to destroy him who had the power of death and affliction [Hebrews 2:14].
The fourth sign is in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John: the feeding of the five thousand [John 6:1-14]. Then follows the most remarkable discussion you’ll read in the Bible: Jesus, the Bread of Life [John 6:30-58].
The fifth sign is in the sixth chapter, in the middle of the chapter: Jesus walking on the water; Jesus presented as the Lord of creation and the God of nature. The wind and the water and the wave all are subject to His omnipotent word [John 6:15-21].
The sixth sign is in the ninth chapter: opening the eyes of the blind man [John 9:1-7]. Then the discussion, "Jesus is the light of the world" [John 9:5].
And the seventh sign is in the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of John: the story of the raising of Lazarus [John 11:17-44]; and the most remarkably meaningful verse in the Bible, "I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never, ever die"[John 11:25-26] – Jesus, the resurrection, and the life.
This is the Gospel of John; and these seven semeia, signs, that we might believe He is God, deity, and that believing we might have life in His name [John 20:31].
Now the second thing in this wonderful verse; not only the signs that we might believe in the deity of our Lord, the marvelous things that only omnipotence could achieve, but second: we are to see in Christ the propitiation, the atonement for our sins [John 20:31; 1 John 2:2, 4:10; Romans 5:11]. In the passage just before the one you read out loud, He said, "Receive you," labete, take, take, "the Holy Spirit: And the sins you remit, they are remitted unto them; the sins you retain, they are retained unto them" [John 20:22-23]. Preaching the gospel of Christ, we have in this message we deliver the avenue, the approach, the way, such as in the Old Testament into the Holy of Holies [Hebrews 10:19-20], the propitiation, the expiation, the taking away, the atonement for our sins. The same apostle wrote of it like this in his first letter:
The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. These things I write unto you that you sin not; but if you do sin, if any man does sin, we have an Advocate, an Intercessor, a Mediator with the Father, Jesus Christ. And He is the propitiation, He is the expiation, He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
[1 John 1:7-2:2]
And that is a theme in the writings of the apostle John. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" [1 John 4:10].
The word "propitiate" means "to make favorable." In sin a man is under the judgment of God. The Lord welded those two things together: "The wages of sin is death [Romans 6:23]…The soul that sins shall die" [Ezekiel 18:4, 20]. If I didn’t sin, I wouldn’t die. It’s because I sin that I am a dying man. And I die two ways: my body dies, it turns to corruption and is buried out of sight; but my soul also dies, it also is separated from God. And the Bible calls that "the second death" [Revelation 20:13-15], or hell. Hell has come to be such a curse word that it has lost its spiritual meaning; but it is an awesome thing for a man in sin, unforgiven, to be shut out from God. He dies in his physical frame, and he dies in his spiritual life. There must be some reconciliation, there must be some expiation of sin, there must be something by which God can favorably receive us. How does a sinful man stand in the presence of a Holy God? How can we enter heaven sinners, and heaven still be pure and holy? If all of us were in heaven as we are, it’d be up there just as it is down here: full of darkness and evil and iniquity and sin. God has to do something to cleanse us and to remake us. That cleansing is in the sacrifice of our Lord. He made atonement, propitiation, expiation [1 John 2:2, 4:10; Romans 5:11]; He paid the price for our cleansing [1 Peter 1:18-19]. And in His blood, in His grace and mercy, in His death on the cross, we are acceptable in the Beloved [Ephesians 1:6], and we stand before God clean and pure and washed. "Who are these that stand in the presence of God? Who are they?" And John said, "I do not know. I do not know." And the elder replied, "These are they who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" [Revelation 7:13-14].
What can wash away my sins?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
["Nothing but the Blood"; Robert Lowry, 1876]
These are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ [John 20:31], and in His propitiation, expiation, atonement, sacrifice, death on the cross, we might have forgiveness of sins [Romans 5:11; Colossians 1:14; 1 John 2:2, 4:10].
Last: "These are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: and believing you might have life in His name" [John 20:31]; that we might believe He is our living Lord who brings to us a beautiful, and abounding, and overflowing, and a glorious present life. Our life with God does not begin in death or our entrance into heaven; but our life with God, glorious, beautiful, wonderful, triumphant, victorious begins the moment that I believe He is my Lord and Savior. When I receive Him, that moment my eternal everlasting life begins. The Lord said that. He said in the tenth chapter and the tenth verse of this Gospel of John, "I am come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly" [John 10:10]. Life is not found out there in the world. Life is not found in sin and compromise. That is of all descriptive words beyond what a man could say of darkness and unhappiness and misery and failure. All things bad are found out there in the world away from God; just the opposite of what the world whispers in your heart. But abounding life, life abundant is found in our blessed Lord.
Jesus said to the woman in Samaria, a harlot, a woman of disrepute, He said to her, "Whosoever drinks of this water shall thirst again; but the water that I give him, he that drinks of the water that I give him shall never thirst; but the water that I give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" [John 4:13-14]. There is no final happiness in drinking in the water of the world, never. For a while there is titillation of the flesh that brings you a momentary ephemeral pleasure; but it is soon passed. The man who drinks, for example, he has to drink more and more and more to get a kick out of it. The man who takes drugs, he has to take more and more and more in order for him to get high on it. And any man who lives in any kind of sin, he gambles, or he’s promiscuous, he’s just living out there in the world, whatever it is, the pleasure lasts for just a moment then it is gone. And finally it carries with it the ruin of his soul and of his life. But in Christ, but in Christ, all of the abounding fullness of life is in Him. "That ye might believe; and believing that you might have life through His name" [John 20:31].
One of the most remarkable things that I read in literature is the reply, the response, of men who have given themselves to the carnal sensuous pleasures of the world. Lord Byron was the hero of the whole literary world. He was the spoiled child of aristocracy, of affluence, of wealth, of culture, of society; he was the epitome of the man you would love to have come to your house or to be at your club or to be in your group, Lord Byron. Do you remember that first stanza?
My days are in the yellow leaf, the flower and fruits of love are gone
The worm, the canker and the grief, are mine alone.
Do you remember the title of that poem? "On Reaching My Thirty-sixth Birthday." Thirty-six years of age, "My days are in the yellow leaf"; and he died soon after. All of the emoluments and stipends and rewards of life were canker and worm to his soul, Lord Byron.
Bobby Burns, the beloved poet of Scotland, lived a dissolute life. Do you remember what he said?
Pleasures are like poppies spread
You seize the flower, the bloom is shed
Or as the snow falls on the river
A moment white, then gone forever
Or like the borealis race
That flit e’er you can point their place
Or like the rainbow’s lovely form
Evanishing amid the storm
["Tam o’ Shanter," Robert Burns]
Look: if pleasure is my life, to be satiated is to be miserable. If popularity is my life, to be ignored is to be miserable. If success is my life, to fail is to be miserable. If fame is my life, to be unknown is to be miserable. If money is my life, to be poor is to be miserable. If health is my life, to be sick is to be miserable. If power is my life, to be weak is to be miserable. Even if liberty is my life, to be incarcerated and in prison is to be miserable. But if Christ is my life, whether I am poor, or unknown, or sick, or in prison, I am happy in Him.
I am come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly [John 10:10]…He that drinks of the water of this world shall thirst again; but he that drinks of the water that I give him shall never thirst; but the water that I give him shall spring up as a well in his soul unto everlasting life [John 4:13-14]…These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Son of God: and that believing ye might have life through His name [John 20:31].
This is life everlasting. This is life abounding and abundant. This is life forever. It is life for the child, life for the teenager, life for the young man and the young woman, life for the young married couple building their home, life for the man in the strength of his manhood, life for the woman in the glory of her womanhood, it is life to those who come down to old age, it is life beyond the grave, it is life in heaven everlasting. It never ends. It is overflowing. It is abounding and abundant. And it comes to us in Jesus our Lord. "These are written," John says, "that ye might believe, that ye might trust; and believing and trusting and receiving, that you might have life in Him" [John 20:31].
And that is our appeal to your heart this night; to make that decision for Christ, "Tonight, I open my heart heavenward and God-ward and Christ-ward. I ask the Lord Jesus to come into my life, to live in my heart, to forgive my sins [1 John 1:9], to give me strength for the pilgrim way, to bless me as the days multiply into the years, to be my friend and Savior to old age and to death, and someday in the presence of God to be my propitiation, and my expiation [1 John 2:2], and my atonement for my sins [Romans 5:11], that I might be welcome in the company of God’s redeemed," all of it through Christ our Lord. And He is ours for the receiving. That is our appeal in the preaching of the Gospel of John, in the writing of his Gospel, to your life and your heart tonight. Receive Him and live [John 11:25-26]. Believe in Him and be saved [Acts 16:30-31]. Trust Him and our sins are washed away [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5]. Follow Him and His footsteps lead to glory and to heaven.
In a moment we stand to sing our hymn of appeal. And as we sing it, in the balcony round, a family, a couple, a one somebody you, on this lower floor, down one of these aisles; "Here, pastor, I have decided for God, and I am making my way before men and angels that I might testify of my faith in Him tonight. I’m coming. I’m on the way." And in a moment when you stand up, stand up stepping down, walking down that stairway, coming down that aisle. It will be the first great wonderful step of your life. Do it. Make the decision now in your heart. And when you stand up, stand up responding, answering, with your life. "Here I am, pastor, I’m on the way." To put your life with us in the church, to be baptized as God says upon a confession of your faith [Acts 8:35-38], as the Lord shall make the appeal to your heart, answer with your life. Come now. Do it now. Make it now. And may angels from heaven attend you and encourage you and strengthen you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
I. Purpose in each Gospel
– fulfilling Old Testament prophecy; the Messiah of the Jews (Matthew 1:22)
– Presents Jesus as a Man of movement, action, strategy; for the Romans
– Jesus the great humanitarian
– The deity of Christ (John 1:1, 20:31)
II. That we believe He is the Son of God
A. Seven signs
water into wine in Cana (John 2:1-11, Matthew
heals the nobleman’s son (John 4:46, 20:29)
heals the lame man (John 5:1)
the five thousand (John 6:35)
Jesus walks on water (John 6:16)
heals a man blind from birth (John 9:5)
raises Lazarus from the dead (John 11:25-26)
III. That we believe in His atoning work
is the propitiation for our sins (John 20:22-23,
1 John 1:7-2:2, 4:10)
paid the price for our cleansing (Romans 6:23,
Ezekiel 1:20, Revelation 21:13-15, 7:13-14)
IV. That we might find everlasting life in Him
A. Everlasting life
begins now (John 4:13-14, 10:10)