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.

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16 Comments on “Do We Have to Do In Order to Believe? Commit Before We Understand?”


    Romanism recommends “implicit faith” and “worship” unregulated by Scripture


    There are only two kinds of people in the world— -those whose works will be accepted because they were not working to get God’s blessing, and those whose works (and persons) will be condemned because their “good deeds” are wicked attempts to establish their own righteousness.

    Those who thought they could do God some service also thought that killing Christ was a “good deed”. John 16:1-3. If you think you can begin, help or complete your righteousness by your good deeds, then you are as guilty and corrupt as those who killed Christ.

    “Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law?” (Galatians 3:2)

    We receive the Spirit by the “hearing of faith”. We do not receive the Spirit by believing a lie. When Arminians give false information about God and about sin and about righteousness, the Spirit does not use “misunderstanding” to bring people to life. The Spirit uses the word of truth.

    Ephesians 1:12: “in Him, you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation…” (see also Romans 6:17, I Thess 2:12-13, II Thess 2:12-13; I Peter 1:22-23; James 1:18).


    Philippians 3:18-19 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is their shame-who set their minds on earthly things.”

    We who believe the true gospel should NOT be indifferent about those who are ignorant or unsubmitted to God’s gospel. We can’t say that “it makes no difference to me if you walk away…”

    Love does not mean agreeing up front that ones we love are saved. But it does mean doing everything possible to live in a way that agrees with the gospel. And this means talking about the gospel. This means being willing to be questioned about what we say and write.

    The reason I insist on talking about the gospel to the enemies of the cross is not only a macho thing to convince myself again that I believe the gospel or to persuade myself that I have courage. I must talk abut the gospel because the gospel is the only way that other people can be saved. Romans 1:16; I Cor 1:18. The doctrine of the gospel is itself the message with God’s power to save.

    According to Phil 3:18-19, those who remain enemies of the cross will perish, will be destroyed. Only God can save anybody, and God has not promised to save anybody without teaching that person the gospel. The promise of God is not to “all your children”, but to your children, as many as God will call”. Acts 2:39.

    God calls by the gospel. Not all who are externally called by the gospel are effectively called by God. But all who are effectually called by God are called by the gospel. (Romans 10:14-17).

    The only way we can tell if our works are good fruit (instead of fruit unto death) is to make our calling and election sure. (II Peter 1) By what gospel were you called? Did the gospel you claim be called by talk about election?

    Phil 3:18-19 is in contrast to 3:21. Their end is destruction; but our citizenship is already in heaven. Their end is destruction, but our end is immortality. When it says that they mind earthly things, this does not necessarily mean immoral things—- it may only mean non-gospel things. It may mean somebody who thinks he used to be in this legalistic “child-like” fundamentalism c but is now focused on being a more well adjusted member of the larger society. I

    The glutton is not the only person who worships his belly. The preacher who will not preach the gospel and expose the false gospel in order to “keep his ministry and still have influence” is also serving his belly. His flesh may not look like the flesh of the preacher who openly teaches freewill and losing your salvation. But it’s still flesh.

    There is a distinction between doctrine and life, between gospel and walk. But people who have gospel doctrine in their hears will talk and walk by that gospel. This does not mean that they are less sinful than those who teach universal atonement and salvation conditioned on the sinner. But it does mean that they will love those who love the gospel.

    Phil 3:16 Let us walk by the same rule. Let’s not practice the ungodly practice of judging only by outward appearance or by our own standard of saved and lost. Without the imputed righteousness revealed in the gospel, the person who commits less sin is no better off than the person who commits more sin.

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Al Gore –It is difficult to get a person to understand something when their salary and entire way of life depends on them not understanding it.

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Liberals like to scapegoat those who scapegoat. The liberals feel superior to fundamentalists who think they are on the outside because the liberals know for sure that the fundamentalists are also on the inside with them included and it’s not the liberals’ fault if the fundamentalists are so inferior that they don’t know yet they too have been put on the inside with those on the inside who know that there is no outside…..

  6. markmcculley Says:

    Many are the mistakes at present about religious matters; but none are more destructive than those which concern the law and the gospel. The generality of our people confound them, and put one in the place of the other. Some suppose they are to be accepted of God for their works, and that they can be justified by the law in the sight of God. Others make their keeping of the law the condition of their receiving the blessings of the gospel, as if these were to be the purchase and reward of their partial obedience. Some are persuaded they must do all they can, and keep the law with all their might, and wherein they come short of the perfect demands of the law, Christ will, out his his merits, atone for their failings. And others again think that that Christ has abated the rigor of the the law, and that the gospel is nothing more than a new law dispensation, in which the Lord has been pleased to declare that he will accept of sincere obedience instead of perfect.

    —William Romaine, “Twelve Discourses on the Law and the Gospel

  7. markmcculley Says:

    Is the gospel new birth or is the gospel justification by the atonement?


    We need to know that justification is not by our regeneration. So we need to know what regeneration is and that regeneration is not the atonement. The atonement (reconciliation) is what Christ did outside of us. We receive the atonement by imputation (Romans 5:11, 17) and then by faith (Romans 4, John 1:12-13, John 5:24-25) Regeneration is what God does in us so that we believe the gospel about justification and regeneration.

    So what do you ask yourself? Do you ask, am I regenerate? Or do you ask, am I justified?

    if you are one, you are both. If you are justified, you have been regenerated. If you are born again, you have been justified. But justification is not regeneration.

    As for the question about “was I then justified?”, who much cares, unless somehow you think it’s important that you know now what you were then. If so, why? Flush the past. It’s only history.

  8. markmcculley Says:

    why should people continue to believe the gospel, if they are already believed it once. We believe the gospel, not because our believing is the cause of salvation, but because believing the gospel (not once, but the rest of our lives) is the result of salvation. But is the difference between cause and result a significant difference, when the reality is that those who don’t continue to believe the gospel will be condemned, not justified?

  9. markmcculley Says:

    There is a big difference between growing in faith, and growing into faith. Some people are confused about this. They think there can be no growth of knowledge once faith is present. Certainly nobody grows INTO faith in God’s righteousness. The blind do not DEVELOP into sight. The deaf do not grow into hearing. But those who do see and hear do see and hear more than they saw and heard the day before.

    If faith requires knowledge of God’s righteousness – and it most certainly does – then how can one’s faith grow without their knowledge of God’s righteousness growing too?

  10. markmcculley Says:

    If we say that there was grace for Adam to keep the law (though he didn’t), we could end up saying that there was grace for Christ to keep the law. And that could end up teaching us that the gospel is about us having (enough) grace to have (enough faith) to keep the law (enough).

  11. markmcculley Says:

    knowledge is not important

    Luke 1: 76 And child, you will be called
    a prophet of the Most High,
    for you will go before the Lord
    to prepare His ways,
    77 to give His people knowledge of salvation
    through the forgiveness of their sins.

  12. markmcculley Says:

    dgh—“What about the average believer who lives life like a pilgrim, someone in exile, hardly in command of his affairs, but weak, frail, and in need of a reminder that God has saved him”

    According to the Gaffin wing of the OPC, your problem is that you have reduced salvation to justification and forget that you are “united to His resurrection”.

    David Garner– “A not-guilty verdict of an Almighty Judge does not make the criminal a son.”

    mcmark–And thus “justification” is reduced to forgiveness and not guilty. And the teaching of forensic co-death with Christ so that the justified elect are “justified from sin” (Romans 6:7) is rejected for the sake of saying that since Christ was transformed by death, we shall be transformed. No, it is not said that Christ became regenerated or that Christ became united to God, but is said that Christ’s death is NOT “merely” about “sin not having dominion because or noting being under law” (Romans 6:14) but instead about Christ being adopted and becoming the Holy Spirit in the redemptive economy.

    David Garner—“ The vital and intimate union between the sons and the Son remains unyieldingly robust….In Christ the forensic and the transformative are ONE. Justification, sanctification, and glorification are ONE. Declaratory, transformatory and consummatory COALESCE in this resurrection.”

    mcmark—That “believer who thinks he is weak and needy” needs to be given some information about “union with Christ’s resurrection” so that they will know that they are transformed and can transform. Instead of getting stuck on the cross and the death of Christ, that “average believer” of yours needs a theology of glory and resurrection. If they are taught the history of Israel (which equates to the history of redemptive transformation) , then they can forget any difference between DOING law and KNOWING gospel, because now that they are adopted, the definition of faith as “not works” has been eliminated, as has any other “narrow” focus on justification by grace and not by law.

  13. markmcculley Says:

    John 8: 43 Why don’t you understand what I say? Because you cannot listen to My word. 44 You are of your father the Devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. The devil was a murderer from the beginning and has not STOOD IN THE TRUTH, because there is NO TRUTH in him. When the Devil tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because the Devil is a liar and the father of liars. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. 46 Who among you can convict Me of sin? If I tell the truth, why don’t you believe Me? 47 The one who is from God listens to God’s words. This is why you don’t listen, because you are not from God.

    John 3: 19 “This, then, is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds will not be exposed. 21 But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works will be shown to be accomplished by God.

    do you live by the truth or by Fox News Facts ?

    We need to know what the gospel is. And we need to say that those who reject the gospel are condemned already. We “do the truth” only when we confess that salvation is not caused by our wills and/or actions.

    Ephesians 4: 18 They are darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the hardness of their hearts. 19 They became callous and gave themselves over to … the practice of every kind of impurity…. 20 But that is not how you learned about the Messiah, 21 assuming you heard about Him and were taught by Him, because the truth is in Jesus.22 You took off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires; 23 you are being renewed in the spirit of your minds; 24 you put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth

    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).

    Galatians 2: 14 I saw that they were not living in line with the truth of the gospel.

  14. markmcculley Says:


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