When it comes to believing in God, believing that the Bible is the Word of God or believing that Jesus is the Son of God, some people are under the mistaken impression that such convictions just magically arrive in one’s life. Or that God expects us “just to believe” in Him without any real proof. Yet is that true?
When God told Moses to go and tell the elders in Israel that God had appeared to him and the time of deliverance was at hand (Exodus 3:15-17), Moses asks a very important question. “What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say? For they may say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you’” (Exodus 4:1). That is a great question, because anyone can claim that God has appeared or spoken to them. In fact, the Bible frequently warns us concerning people who falsely claim that God has spoken to them (Deuteronomy 18:20-22; Jeremiah 23:25; Matthew 7:15; 2 Peter 2:1-3). At this juncture, God does not respond, “Well, they just have to believe you”, or, “I will just give them the faith”. Rather, God provides Moses with evidence or proof that he could offer to the Israelites (Exodus 4:3-9).
When Rahab the Harlot encountered the Israelite spies, she says to them, “I know that the Lord has given you the land” (Joshua 2:9). Now, how did she know this? Was it just a feeling? Actually, her faith was based on evidence, “For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea” (Joshua 2:10). She cites Israel’s amazing and miraculous deliverance from Egypt and their subsequent triumph over two powerful kings (2:10). Then she states the conclusion that must be drawn from those events, “For the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (Joshua 2:11).
“John 5 provides a good case study of how Jesus used evidence. Jesus had just healed a man on the Sabbath and was accused of breaking the Sabbath as a result. In the ensuing discussion, Jesus appeals to several witnesses in order to establish His identity as the Son of God. Based upon the Law, Jesus understood well the principle about witnesses and testimony. ‘If I along testify about Myself, My testimony is not true’ (John 5:31). The Law taught that ‘on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed’ (Deuteronomy 19:15). So what witnesses could Jesus point to on His own behalf?” (Mind Your Faith, Doy Moyer, p. 185).
- The testimony of John the Baptist: John 5:33-35
Later on various people will note, “While John performed no sign, yet everything John said about this man was true. Many believed in Him there” (John 10:41-42).
- The testimony of the miracles that He performed: John 5:36
The miracles that Jesus performed clearly caused a number of people to pause and reflect:
- “We know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2).
- “When the Christ comes, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?” (John 7:31).
- “Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing” (John 9:32-33).
- “Others were saying, ‘These are not the sayings of one demon-possessed. A demon cannot open the eyes of the blind, can he?” (John 10:21).
So with honest and good hearts, the miracles did what they were supposed to accomplish. To clearly point out to all observers that God was with Jesus and that everything that Jesus said, and said about Himself was true (Acts 2:22).
- The Father’s Testimony: John 5:37
“On at least three occasions the Father spoke from heaven concerning Jesus: first at His baptism (Matthew 3:13-17), second in the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8), and third when Jesus was troubled and asked, ‘Father, glorify Your name’ (John 12:28)… All of these events were attended by other witnesses” (Mind Your Faith, p. 186).
- The Testimony of Scripture: John 5:39-47
The entire Old Testament pointed to Jesus, not just once, but many times:
- Moses had spoke of another Law-Giver: Deuteronomy 18:15
- Isaiah had spoke of one who was to be born of a virgin: Isaiah 7:14
- Micah spoke of a ruler being born in Bethlehem, a ruler who had existed from eternity: Micah 5:2
- Isaiah had spoke of one who would be scourged, die for our sins, buried in a rich man’s tomb, and be resurrected: Isaiah 53
- God had promised David a descendant who would rule forever over God’s people: 2 Samuel 7:12
- David had also spoke of one whose hands and feet were pierced, and whose garments were divided: Psalm 22:16,18
“Obviously, Jesus was not afraid to point to evidence on His behalf” (Mind Your Faith, p. 186). Once again, observe that Jesus does not say, “I am the Son of God and you just have to take My word for it”. Yet this is not the only time that Jesus appealed to evidence:
John the Baptist is in prison and sends word through his disciples to Jesus and asks the specific question, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” Some have viewed this as a lack of faith on John’s part or that he is weakening in his convictions near the end of his life, yet Jesus does not interpret this question in that manner. Jesus will commend John, “Among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (11:11). He equally pictures John as an uncompromising and faithful messenger of God, just like Elijah the prophet (11:7-9, 14). Rather, I find that John is always and forever open to truth. Notice how Jesus answers John’s question. He does not say, “You just have to believe”. Rather, Jesus offers proof and then says, relay this evidence to John (11:4-5). In fact, Luke records that at this very moment Jesus performed a number of miracles (Luke 7:21-22). “Jesus immediately pointed them to the evidence, based upon what they could ‘see and hear’. They were not expected to merely take Jesus’ word for it without any evidence” (Mind Your Faith, pp. 186-187).
In this section of Scripture a paralyzed man is carried by four men and was let down through an opening in the roof in order that he could see Jesus. Upon seeing such a display of faith, Jesus pronounced the man’s sins forgiven. Immediately the Jewish scribes who were present were offended and said that only God could forgive sins. Jesus did not respond, “I can forgive sins and you just have to take My word for it”. Rather, He healed the lame man for the very purpose of proving that He is God and does have the authority to forgive sins, “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” (Mark 2:10).
Observe some important elements from the above verses:
- God was not going to provide miracles for every new generation. Rather, the only miracles or signs provided were the ones provided in the First Century. They were recorded so that all subsequent generations could believe.
- This means that we all have access to the same information, the same evidence.
- All the evidence that is necessary to believe will be found in what has been written by inspired men that did work miracles. God confirmed the authenticity of what was revealed through them (Hebrews 2:1-4; 2 Corinthians 12:12).
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017