The Expository Files

“They could Not Believe”: Why?

John 12:39

(Jn. 12:39): "Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again,"

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; Acts 28:25?28).

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 Christ."

"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 to Christ.

“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 more.

Let’s do it, beloved.

By William C. ”Bill” Sexton
From Expository Files 12.2; February 2005