Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
May 31, 2020
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.
37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
— John 6:35-59, ESV
As we have progressed through this lengthy sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, the longest chapter in the fourth Gospel and fourth largest in all four Gospels, I have been hinting to you that the unfortunate ending will be unbelief on an unbelievable scale. After drawing His biggest crowd ever and miraculously feeding them all, after walking on water to get away from their earthly entanglements to make Him king, and after preaching to them again on the other side of the sea in Capernaum, everyone in this crowd of thousands will walk away from Jesus, except for twelve.
Here then, in this largest part of the long chapter, is an autopsy of unbelief. From the aftermath of the fourth and fifth of seven “signs,” to the giving of the gospel in the first of seven “I Am” statements, to this worldly crowd’s response, lies seven reasons why people do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Unbelievers do not believe because they have not been chosen by God.
In the Old Covenant, the people who believed in the true and living God were the chosen remnant from among the chosen people of Israel. God passed over all the other nations of the world and made people from one small nation His elect, His chosen people. Is God a racist, discriminating against all other races but the Jews? Is God unfair, denying equal access and opportunity to all people? No, God is Almighty, Sovereign, Omnipotent. He has the power and He has the right to pick the people He wants for Himself.
In the New Covenant, the people who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ are called the church, the bride of Christ. Does God not have the right to choose His own bride? Yes, He does and He does, through the ordo salutis of election, predestination, effectual calling, and regeneration (ref. Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:4; Titus 3:5, etc.). God chooses, members of the church are brought in and saved, and together with the redeemed of Israel will live with the Lord forever.
God is the Whosoever Who wills (ref. Romans 9:14-18). Mankind is the whosoever who won’t, apart from the grace of God. Grace by biblical definition is not a human right, not a human ability, not a human condition. Grace pours into people the faith to come to Jesus (vs. 37). Grace draws and enables people to follow Jesus (vs. 44). Grace is not given to everyone, or else it would not be grace.
The mystery of grace is great, especially since both God and man have certain freedoms. God uses His freedom to bring people into His kingdom. Man, on the other hand, uses his freedom to reject God, as exemplified by this crowd of unbelievers.
Unbelievers do not believe because they refuse to repent.
Believing and repenting go hand in hand, and the depraved man has neither in either hand. He refuses to believe and he refuses to repent. Saving faith is for only those who turn away from their sin and self-centeredness and come to Jesus (vs. 37). Unbelievers are unrepentant.
Faith is easy but repentance is hard. Faith can be faked but repentance must be real. Faith can be manipulated to make God do for you, but repentance reorients your life to where you give everything to God.
Repentance requires you to give up your pride, surrender your control, and place all your worldly goods in the hands of God. In this era of the modern gospel, people seem glad to superficially believe but reluctant to spiritually repent. But without repentance, Jesus said, people will perish in unbelief (ref. Luke 13:3,5).
Unbelievers do not believe because they cherish their will above God’s will.
Jesus, being God, was completely consumed with the will of God. Jesus, being fully human yet not bound by human sinfulness, was completely free to do His own will. It became clear by the time Jesus arrived in the Garden of Gethsemane that there was more than a mild conflict between the two wills of two persons of the Godhead, Father and Son. Yet what did the Son do?
The Son’s surrender to the will of the Father should be of supreme interest to us. It also should have supreme implications for us. Salvation, accomplished and applied, requires total submission to the will of God.
I did not say salvation requires total perfection with the will of God, for only Jesus Christ accomplished this perfect righteousness. But faith is accepting this righteousness, and faithfulness is the deep desire to do the will of God. True believers live in pursuit of the will of God. Unbelievers never will.
Unbelievers do not believe because they underestimate the end of time.
“The last day” is an expression in the New Testament used only in the Gospel of John. How many times? Why seven times, of course. It speaks of the second coming of Christ, when time as we now know it will be now more. It speaks of Judgment Day, when believers are collected with Christ and the wrath of God is poured out upon all unbelief.
Do you believe this day is coming? Believers do, and are prepared for it. Unbelievers, however, either do not care or have the wrong idea about the end of time.
Unbelievers live for the here and now. They are concerned with comforts and freedoms. They accumulate money and material goods. They either do not believe in Heaven or wrongly believe Heaven is a place where everybody goes in the end. Wrong belief is unbelief.
Unbelievers do not believe because they deny the deity of Christ.
People who don’t believe in Judgment Day are going to be really surprised when they see the Judge. He is Almighty God, the Creator, the Alpha and Omega, and He is the Lord Jesus Christ.
The people in Jesus’ day, although they had witnessed Him feed the five thousand and walk on water, did not believe in Him as Lord and God. They called Him “the son of Joseph,” but He is the Son of God.
People inside and outside the church make the same mistake today. Jesus is doubted and dismissed as merely a good man, a wise teacher, or a benevolent monk. Scholars in the name of Jesus blaspheme His holy name by teaching the Gospels are mythological accounts of an unlucky religious leader from ancient Palestine.
Jesus’ repeated claims and proofs of deity and lordship are eagerly believed by genuine Christians. Scoffers and doubters are unbelievers. A Jesus who is not Lord is a Jesus who cannot save.
Unbelievers do not believe because they ignore the Bible.
The Father and the Son are one, along with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit inspired the Holy Scriptures, so those born of the Spirit are inspired to search the Scriptures regularly and hear and heed the word of God.
But most people are not interested in coming to Christ and learning the Bible. The Bible is the best selling and least studied book of all time. It is a treasure of salvation and assurance, of serious and joyful living, and a comfort in time of sorrow and death. Belief craves the Bible, the word of God. Unbelief does not have a healthy appetite for Holy Scripture.
Unbelievers do not believe because they do not understand the cross.
Christ’s last teaching to the crowd was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and kept him from passing through the eye of the needle into the kingdom of God. Jesus offered Himself to them as the broken bread and the slain lamb. People should have believed Him then, people should believe Him now, but somehow they just won’t.
While all of the Bible is literally true, all of the Bible is not to be taken literally. Excellent literature, especially from the eastern hemisphere, is rich in metaphor, parable, and symbolism, such as Jesus’ reference here to eating His flesh and drinking His blood. The Jews dropped the ball by thinking He was taking about cannibalism. The Roman Catholic Church confused the issue a thousand years ago by creating the false doctrine of transubstantiation. Jesus was plainly talking about the cross, then embarked on a one-year mission to get there.
Upon the cross of Calvary, the bread of life was nailed to a tree. The blood of the lamb of God flowed freely to the ground. Whoever believes in the reality of Jesus and the centrality of the gospel, “Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever” (vs. 58). Faith saves, while unbelief is doomed to die.
The indictment against unbelief in this passage can be placed in reverse and serve as a roadmap to saving grace. Only God knows who the elect are, but you can know you are one of the chosen if you repent, desire God’s will, believe in Heaven, trust in Christ, honor His word, and come to Jesus through the cross. The whosoever will travel this narrow road, while the broad road of unbelief remains for whosever won’t.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org