(Jn. 12:39): "Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said
It is important that we study phrases and concepts presented in the
scripture to the point that we understand them in context. The above
statement may be pulled out of context, and offered in support of a false
idea. It's necessary to look carefully at the claim in it's context, in
light of what some teach, least we come up with the wrong view.
The statement is made that they "could not believe." Its inspired, being
written by an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. We want to see WHY such is
true; why they could not and thus did not believe. Was it because of some
external power or force, by God or some other, which made it impossible for
them to believe? Or, possibly, did they have something to do with it. Was it
because of what was to be believed, being too difficult, complicated, or
something of that nature? There are people today who say that they can’t
understand the New Testament scriptures as to how to became a Christian and
worship and serve God faithfully, live the God-approved life..
In looking at other passages, and understanding what the apostle is saying
by inspiration, we'll see that they could not believe because they had
placed themselves into this state of mind, their past behavior had brought
them to this condition.
Notice if you will what Jesus said leading up to this statement:
John 12:37?38 "But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they
believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be
fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom
hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?"
The saying of Isaiah is found in His Book, chapter 53, verse 1. It is quoted
by Paul in Rom. 10:16, to show that even though the word was presented, the
basis for faith provided (Rom. 10:17), some did not believe. That's a fact!
But it was NOT that God had MADE them that way, or that because the prophet
had looked down the stream of time and saw that conditions would be so
difficult they couldn’t possibly believe. God speaks a lot of things,
describing condition, that will be, but does not make them be that way. He
predicted a falling away ( 1 Tim. 4:1ff; 2 Thess. 2:1ff)), but He did NOT
MAKE IT HAPPEN. He tells us there will be those who will not endure sound
doctrine (2 Tim. 4:3), but that is for our good, not that He makes it
happen, but men so choose to act, and God knowing all things describes it
for us, so we’ll not be led astray by such. I found it hard once to see that
there were good people in various religious groups, and I wondered “Why”?
Then I see that the Lord foresaw, and warned us of such, telling us that
many will be disappointed at the last day (Matt. 7:21-23) because they were
not governed by the law of Christ, “workers of iniquity.”
Why did they not believe? Was it impossible due to what God had done to keep
them from believing? No! It was their own mind set. The Lord continues:
John 12:40?41 "He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that
they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be
converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his
glory, and spake of him." This is a quote from Isa 6:9?10, and it is
referred to a number of times in the New Testament ( Cf. Matt. 13:14?15;
These had conditioned themselves so that unbelief was natural for them:
"These laws are what men call the law of conditioning. Men would simply say
that the more a man does anything, the more he conditions himself to do that
thing. The more he does it, the more it becomes a habit. ( Cp. smoking,
eating or anything else.) Therefore, if a man hardens his mind and heart to
the truth, he becomes conditioned more and more against the truth. His
openness and sensitivity to Jesus Christ dwindles more and more, and it can
dwindle so much that it is gone forever. Therefore, the more a man rejects
Christ, the more he decreases his sensitivity and chance of ever accepting
"What the Scripture teaches can be summarized under what might be called the
law of judicial blindness and rejection. This simply means that the person
who rejects God's Son chooses to be blind and to harden his heart.
Therefore, he is given over to a just punishment. He is justly blinded and
hardened (conditioned) more and more. A man is led to a judicial blindness
and rejection by God through ??obstinate unbelief ??constant sin ??continued
rejection..." (The Preacher's Outline & Sermon Bible, Vol. 5, page 247).
Beloved let us be careful lest we condition ourselves to our own hurt and
destruction. God wants us to be saved. We can be. Will we? If we are not, it
will NOT be the Lord’s fault, nor that of other people, it will be our own
fault -- we will not have used what the Lord has provided us with in order
to prepare for eternity!
Jesus’ miracles didn’t result in the people of our text being enlightened
and moved to come to Christ so they could be saved.
A record of His mighty deed are given to us, that we might believe and come
“And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples,
which are not written in this book: 31 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.” (Jn. 20:30-31)
Beloved the evidence it adequate, if you and I have honest and good hearts,
we’ll receive it. We believe in Jesus (Jn. 8:21-24). We’ll repent of our
sins (Acts 17:30-31). We’ll confess our faith in Jesus, unto salvation (Rom.
10:9-10). We’ll be baptized in water for the remission of our sins (Acts
2:38) to have them washed away (Acts 22:16), to be IN Christ (Rom. 6:3-4)
where salvation is (2 Tim. 4:10). We’ll live faithful unto death come (Rev.
2:10), so that we can die in the Lord (Rev. 14:14) and rest from our labors,
and rest eternally (Rev. 21:4) where all the pain of this life will be no
Let’s do it, beloved.
By William C. ”Bill” Sexton
From Expository Files 12.2; February 2005