Do We Have to Do In Order to Believe? Commit Before We Understand?
John 5: 39 You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have lasting life in the Scriptures, yet the Scriptures testify about Me. 40 And you are not willing to come to Me
John 1:38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.
I am told that this means that we have to come before we see, that we have to commit before we can understand, that we will never know until we first repent and commit. But this is not what this text says. “Come and see” is not giving some kind of order for salvation, in which implicit faith is endorsed, or where our “obedience” is more important then learning who Christ is. It is a mistake to take the information about unique redemptive history and turn the facts into some kind of existentialist suggestion about what we do here and now.
The gospel of John does not describe the water baptism of Jesus. The gospel of John does not even use the word “repent”, let alone make working the condition of faith.
John 7: So the brothers of Jesus said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. 4 For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For not even his brothers believed in him.
Most of us are very invested in works, our writing, our visible witness to the world. Some of us even think we will show the world what the gospel is without words, simply by what we do and by not being sinners like other people are. And even those of us with lots of words tend to think we make Christ more visible to the world by becoming ourselves more visible to the world.
Matthew 5:16 let your light shine before others, so that they see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Our light is the gospel of grace (not works). Only by the light of the gospel can others l see that our faith is NOT in our works to prove our faith and that our “assurance” is NOT in “living the gospel.
John 7:15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.
John 7:15 is not teaching us that learning is not important. That would be ironic indeed–learning that learning is not important…would not be important. Nor is John 7:15 teaching that learning depends on us doing God’s will, or on “wanting to” do God’s will. There is no such thing as doing God’s will before we know what God’s will is. But there is such a thing as “dead works” in which our doing is an abomination to God. Any doing done in order to get God to bless us is doing that God hates. Such doing always despises knowledge about Christ and His work. Such doing is self-righteousness, and that is sin, something of which to be ashamed (Romans 6).
We can’t do stuff in order to start believing, because we need to repent of our doing. Not only do we need to repent of doing what God never commanded us to do, but also we need to repent of any doing which displaces faith in what Christ has already done by His death and resurrection. This is why we should not turn the historical events of the gospels into existential imperatives for us to be doing stuff here and now. Christ then (at the cross) and there (not in heaven but on earth) satisfied the law so that the elect must be saved if God is just.
We can’t just do stuff, because some doing is evil in God’s sight. Some do what is true, some do what is not true. Good workers do good works, evil trees cannot bring forth good fruit but will only and always bring forth fruit unto death. The dead do dead stuff and it all leads on to death. Only those given justification, forgiveness, and the life of the age to come can or will bring forth fruit which is acceptable and pleasing to God.
John 3:19 And this is the “judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever DOES WHAT IS TRUE comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
I John 3: 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? BECAUSE HIS OWN DEEDS WERE EVIL and his brother’s righteous.
John 3 is about the difference between a religious Nicodemus and a sinner praying to the God of mercy who forgives what we have done. . I John 3 is about the difference between the doing Cain and the doing of Abel. There is no reason to doubt that Cain CAME in sincere worship. But Cain did not know God, and was not known by God. The doing of Cain was dead works.
Killing Abel was not Cain’s first evil deed. Cain killed Abel because God judged that Abel’s deeds were evil. Cain refused to put to death (not count) his deeds (Rom 8:13). When Cain killed Abel, he still wanted to worship a god who would accept Cain’s religious doing. Cain was not asking God to accept his sins. Cain was assuming that his own religious doing could not be evil. Cain would not accept knowledge revealed by God. Cain would not accept God’s judgment. Cain wanted to act without knowledge. Cain wanted the true God to like Cain’s idolatry. Cain wanted the true God to be pleased when Cain came to a false god, who does not exist.
Hebrews 6:1– “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God”
Hebrews 9:14–”How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
Romans 6:17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,
Romans 6:20,21–”when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed. The end of those thing is death”
I Samuel 16: 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
Matthew 9:4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?
Matthew 12:34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
Matthew 15:8 “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;
Matthew 15:18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.
Luke 16:15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.