Religion & Spirituality:Christianity
JOHN 12:37-43 FOR THEY LOVED THE PRAISE OF MEN MORE THAN THE PRAISE OF GOD
John 12:37 But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, 38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: "Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?" 39 Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: 40 "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them." 41 These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him. 42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
We will hear in this message that Jesus had done many signs (miracles with a message) yet they would not believe in Him. The theme of the whole book John 20:30-31 is that Jesus is God in human flesh because He is God over time, over death, over distance, over nature, over demons, over all creation. It also says all this was done that it might fulfill the prophecies of Isaiah, who said they would hear, but not believe, so God hardens their heart to the point that they cannot believe. This prophecy was given when He saw Jesus (God) high and lifted up on the throne in chapter 6. Many believe in Jesus, but are not truly saved because they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. Who are you seeking to please? Jesus said in Mt 10:32 "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. Mt 10:33 "But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. So whose praise are you looking for; Men’s or God’s?
37 But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him,
They had rejected the evidence (v. 37). The light had been shining, but they refused to believe and follow the light. Note the terrible results of repeatedly rejecting Christ’s Word (vv. 37–41):
(1) They would not believe (v. 37) though they had seen the evidence for His divine Sonship.
(2) They could not believe (v. 39) because their hearts became hard and their eyes blind.
(3) Therefore, God said, “They should not believe” (v. 39) because they had spurned His grace!
Now He pulls on two verses from that prophesy of Isaiah and they form two questions. Who has believed our report? That’s the first question. This is a lament. This is a complaint on the part of the writer. He’s saying, “Why haven’t they believed, for goodness sakes?” It also tells us that the prophet, perhaps seven hundred years prior to Christ walking on this globe, the prophet foresaw something. He foretold something. They wouldn’t believe. We’re going to take this report, we’re going to clear it out to our own people and they aren’t going to embrace it.
38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: "Lord, who has believed our report? And to
Whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?"
The second question is, “To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Now this has to do with His power. The arm of the Lord, the right hand usually, is always the power center of God and I’ve often been reminded His left hand isn’t too bad either. But His right hand is the arm of power. And it says, “to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?" In other words, “Who has seen His power?”
Well, certainly Israel saw His power again and again, didn’t they? And in our context here, didn’t they see the power of Jesus Christ to raise people from the dead, to cure the ill, to give eyes to a blind man, to turn water into wine? Didn’t they see the power of God? Who’s heard our report? Why aren’t they believing? They’ve seen the power of God, why do they persist in unbelief? In spite of clear prophesy, people will not believe.
39 Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again:
Now, the nation is unable to believe because they constantly rejected God. They constantly rejected His prophets, they constantly rejected His power, even though they saw those signs and saw the power. So the consequence we might call a judicial blindness. They are blind because they persist. Their hearts become hardened. They are close minded toward God even though they see these things and hear these things, they don’t believe. So, verse thirty-nine, in spite of clear prophesy, they would not believe. Look at verse thirty-nine, “Because they could not believe.”
The reason they can no longer believe is they persist in unbelief and there comes a point when they cannot believe. Now, Acts 7:52 corroborates the teaching. Many places do, this is one good verse. “Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become”
Again, Acts 28:26:'GO TO THIS PEOPLE AND SAY,"YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND;
AND YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE;”’
When Isaiah was commissioned, he was told, “Look, they’re not going to embrace your message. They’re going to disregard you, Isaiah.”
And he laments and he wrestles with all this issue. Was the message of Isaiah to condemn? The purpose of Isaiah was to draw them to turn and be healed, but the effect of his message was to condemn. Hear it clearly. The purpose was to call them to come back to Yahweh. To return to their God whom they’d broken covenant with. That was the purpose of his message, but the effect was they didn’t believe, so they’re condemned. Again and again the Jews revered the prophet’s writing, they read the prophet’s writing, but they rejected the meaning of the prophets.
Now think of any prophet in the Old Testament who was embraced by the people of God and followed well. None. The only one who got a good reception was Jonah and that was not to the nation of Israel, that was to Nineveh
All men, are destined to hell. Every one of us is without plea. We are all sinful. We all disbelieved until we trusted Christ. There is no one innocent. Not one. So in our depraved, fallen state, we only do what’s natural. We persist in sin. Okay? If a man continues to pursue that evil, if a woman continues to choose willfully to sin, to disbelieve, there comes a time - and I like the way Paul puts it in Romans one, where God gives them over. Romans 1:24, 1:26, 1:28. There comes a point in a person’s stubborn unbelief that they’re given over to their nature.
40 "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them."
Isa. 6:10, states that God blinds the eyes and hardens the hearts of those who persist in rejecting Christ! This verse is found seven times in the Bible, and each time it speaks of judgment: Isa. 6:10; Matt. 13:14; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; John 12:40; Acts 28:26; and Rom. 11:8. It is a repeated warning that reminds the unsaved not to take their spiritual opportunities lightly. “While you have light, believe in the light!” (v. 36) “Seek the Lord while He may be found” (Isa. 55:6, NIV).
John presents the conflict between light and darkness. Light symbolizes salvation, holiness, life; darkness stands for condemnation, sin, death. John speaks of four different kinds of darkness:
(1) Mental darkness (John 1:5–8, 26). The minds of sinners are blinded by Satan (2 Cor. 4:3–6), and they cannot see spiritual truths.
(2) Moral darkness (John 3:18–21). The unsaved love sin and hate the light.
(3) Judicial darkness (John 12:35–36). If men don’t obey the light, God sends the darkness and Christ hides from them.
(4) Eternal darkness (John 12:46). To “abide” in darkness means to live in hell forever.
The problem is that people take that idea and say that it is true from the beginning, that God chooses some to save and others whom he will not save, and that it doesn't matter what they do, God will not let them hear -- he hardens their hearts and blinds their eyes so they cannot see and believe. But that fails to see that this is referring to the law of the spirit that declares that what you persist in doing is what you will become.
You can demonstrate this in your own life if you care to. Tie your arm to your body and leave it tied, unmovable, for a week. When you untie it you will find that you can hardly move it; it will have lost its ability to function, not because God wants people to lose their arm function. No, but God determined the law that says, "Use it or lose it." That is what this means. It is also true of moral life. If you don't exercise faith when you have the opportunity you will gradually lose the ability to do so, until there will come a day when you cannot exercise faith. By the law of nature, then, God has hardened your heart and blinded your eyes. Having chosen that, that is what you become. If you refuse to act on truth, you will finally lose the ability to recognize it. It has been said,
There is a line by us unseen, that crosses every path,
The hidden boundary between God's patience and his wrath.
The divine order demands that those who willfully hardened themselves shall be hardened. Pharaoh, for example, hardened his heart. You know what God did? God hardened it for him after that. In the seventh chapter of Exodus in verse 3 the prophecy goes like this, "God said, 'I will harden Pharaoh's heart.'"
Now you say, "Well that's ridiculous, God's going to go over there, make a bunch of plagues and then hardened Pharaoh's heart?"
So it's a purpose clause. God says I am going to do it and He did it. But in between God's two sovereign acts, the prophecy of hardening, the act of God hardening, was the choice of Israel to refuse Christ. And He knew they'd do it. So ignorantly and blindly while they thought they were frustrating Jesus' plan,
They were fulfilling prophecy to the very letter and, in fact, bringing about the salvation of the church because if Jesus hadn't died, we wouldn't be saved, right? God knew they would reject and God fit it into His master plan.
The rejection of Israel provided two things. Number one, the death of Christ brought salvation. And number two, that salvation brought the church into existence. Blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. Israel's partially blind in order that Gentiles might be saved.
In Acts 28 it tells us they didn't believe, they couldn't believe in order that God might redeem His church. And so, Israel was in the plan of God, even in their rejection. They didn't understand the significance of what Jesus did but it didn't frustrate God's plan because God had designed His plan with that in mind.
Now in verse 39, "Therefore...this is strong language, friends...Therefore they could not believe." Why? "Because Isaiah said so." In other words, they were victims of God's sovereign plan and prophecy. They could not believe, now notice in verse 40 who's doing it. Satan's not blinding them here, no. Satan blinded them first, now God is judicially blinding them. "He hath blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts that they should not see with their eyes nor understand with their hearts and be converted and I shall heal them." Do you know that God did not allow the conversion of Israel? Shocking thought. That's a shocking thought.
God actually hardened Israel's heart. Now that's a quote right out of Isaiah chapter 6 verses 9 and 10. That's a prophecy clear back in the sixth chapter of Isaiah hundreds and hundreds of years before this ever happened, God prophesied Israel's hardness.
The terrible consequence of hardening ourselves against the warning of God is that God may someday stop His grace and judicially harden us. You say, "Boy, is God some kind of a monster." No. God is a God of love. He warns. He proclaims the good news of the gospel. He repeatedly states to men the consequence of their unbelief. He constantly cries out to men in love. He provides a sacrifice of sin. He urges them to walk in the light. Remember it, verse 35 Jesus begged them to walk in the light. But when men by their own decision and by refusing repeated warning reject Christ, then and only then God hardens them and those who are not willing to believe are not able to believe. They would not, so they could not. That's a tragedy. The harvest was past, the summer was ended, the sun had set and it was over. Mark it, my friend, it is an inviolable law of God that personal rejection becomes judicial hardening on the part of God. And Isaiah foretold every detail of it word for word.
Unbelief is because of glory. Unbelief isn’t just because they persist in sin. Unbelief isn’t just because they the persist in disbelief. Unbelief is because of glory. Look at verses forty-one to forty-three:
41 These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.
John explains why Isaiah wrote what he did: “Isaiah said these things because he saw Christ’s glory, and spoke about him.” This is a most striking and important statement. Isaiah saw Christ’s glory, in a way that is not all that different from the way Jesus claimed that Abraham “saw His day and rejoiced” (John 8:56). The “glory” Isaiah saw was not just the Father’s glory, but also the glory of the Son. The “glory” which Isaiah saw was not just the glory of our Lord as He triumphed over His foes, but His “glory” in suffering, as depicted in the “suffering Servant” passage in Isaiah 52 and 53. The Jews of Jesus’ day may not have been able to reconcile the Messiah’s triumph and the tragedy of the cross, but Isaiah did. The Jews of Jesus’ day may not have been able to see how Messiah could both die and live forever, but Isaiah could. And the reason was because Isaiah could see the glory of God in suffering.
But Israel loved the glory of man — and this man in Isaiah 53 was not glorious by their standards. And Israel did not love the glory of God — and this God in Isaiah was infinitely glorious. So when Jesus comes as a suffering Messiah, that’s not what they want. And when he makes claims to be one with the very God of Isaiah 6 that’s not what they want. And so they don’t believe on him. They reject him.
Then in verse 41, "These things said Isaiah when he saw His glory and spoke of Him." Why did he say that? Why did John throw that in there? Because he wanted the people to know that that prophecy belonged attached to Jesus. The people might have thought...we might have thought, "Well, that didn't refer to Christ." So John throws in verse 41, "Oh yes it does, these things said Isaiah when he saw His glory." Who's? Christ's in Isaiah 6. "And spoke of Him." That prophecy does relate to what a man does with Jesus Christ.
So they had refused the light. Rejected the truth that God judicially hardened them. Boy, it's a solemn thing to remember what God did to Israel here. They're still hardened today, two thousand years later. But what God did to Israel there wasn't anything new for God, He did it in history before, didn't He? He did it to the pre-flood civilization, He did it in Sodom and Gomorrah, He did it again, and again, and again and He's going to do it another time in the great holocaust that comes at His return in the great flaming judgment of the Second Coming. And he may be doing it in your own life individually. God may judicially abandon you as an individual because of repeated refusals to receive His grace.
You see, that's what Isaiah meant in chapter 55 verse 6 when he said this, "Seek ye the Lord while He may be found. Call ye upon Him while He's near." It's one of God's laws that a man who will not believe may reach a point where he cannot believe. And that's a tragedy.
John in his divine pen, pulls on Isaiah’s understanding of glory and suffering with his own understanding of the cross as the ultimate glorification for Jesus Christ. Isaiah in that passage looked at the suffering servant as Yahweh’s coming. John in the New Testament looks at that suffering servant as Jesus Christ. And both the prophesies fold in beautifully with the suffering servant, “My Son who would come,“ and Jesus in the New Testament all colliding and merging in that passage.
42 ¶ Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him,
Lest they should be put out of the synagogue;
Public confession of faith in Jesus is the normal expression of belief in Him (Rom. 10:9-10
Now many of the rulers, verse forty-two (the first part), believe. It’s not all lost. It’s not as though the message was entirely rejected. Many rulers do believe, but not the majority. Not the preponderance, just a large number, we’re not told how. But there’s a huge fly in the ointment. Verse forty-two, the second stanza, “because of the Pharisees.” They were not going to talk about it for fear of being expelled from the synagogue. That would be the center of community life to them. “They loved the approval of man rather that the approval of God.”
Now, some versions of your Bible said, “They love the praise of man, rather than the praise of God.” Some said they love the “approval.” Now, there’s a very important textual note. I want you to look at your Bible for me - with me - for a moment. Verse forty-one, “Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory.” The word glory there is doxan. The root is doxa where we get the English equivalent doxology, right? A doxology is a praise and honoring and lauding of glory to God. Doxa is the Greek word that means glory.
Now, if you drop down with me to verse forty-three, whether your Bible says “approval” or “praise,” it’s the exact same letter for letter word doxan. In other words, it says, “they loved the glory of man rather than the glory of God.” That’s what the text says.
Isaiah saw the glory of God and he spoke out loud in spite of them not believing, in spite of them not seeing the power of God and not believing the power of God. He spoke out about the glory of God. These Jewish leaders will not speak out because of the fear of man. They love the approval rating. We might look at Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus as two who fell in that category. Jewish leaders who, for whatever reason, for fear of the Jews, for fear of being expelled, wouldn’t confess Christ publicly.
Nevertheless," what does that word mean? That means "Even in spite of the sovereignty of God..." Did you get that? Even though God had sovereignly blinded and hardened the nation Israel, nevertheless they were individuals.
Here is free will on the part of man, choice, operating within the sovereignty of God. God's sovereignty over national Israel, yet individual choice. "Nevertheless, among the chief rulers also many believed on Him." You say, "Hey, terrific, a revival!" No. "But because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him lest they be put out of the synagogue for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God."
They weren't saved. They believed the facts but they refused it because they desired the praise of men. Now that's personal choice, my friend. That's the second reason why men don't believe. That's the second cause of unbelief, personal choice. Not only God's plan, but personal choice. And how those two go together, as I say, that's in the mind of God, not in my mind. But they didn't want to lose their prestigious position. They didn't want to lose their place in the synagogue. And after all, they had made the rules themselves back in chapter 9 verse 22, they said, "If anybody follows Christ, we'll put them out of the synagogue." He loses all religious privileges. And so they were stuck with their own rules. They didn't want to do that and they loved the praise of men. They were in a popularity drive.
43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
Some reject Christ because of the fear of man (vv. 42–43). Rev. 21:8 lists the kind of people who will go to hell, and at the head of the list are the fearful. Re 21:8 "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
Christ will someday hide Himself from those who have no concern for His salvation or His Word. Proverbs 1:20–33 is a good warning to heed.
I think you ought to trade in your popularity with the world for popularity with God. I don't think it's really too important whether the world thinks you're somebody. Jesus said, "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" What's a man going to give in exchange for his soul? See, a man who seeks the world's honor is a living tragedy. James 4 and verse 4, listen to this, "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?" Here's the statement, listen, "Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." Want to be the enemy of God? Want to happen in your life what God did in Israel of old when He fought against them?
And so, two causes for unbelief...sovereign plan of God and personal choice
And when it comes right down to it, if they were to believe, it would mean that they would have to humble themselves, surrender their own power, surrender their own desires and that‘s the fundamental issue for all of us isn‘t it?
The core is if I acknowledge there may be a God, then I have to change the way I live. That someone out there is bigger than me, more important than me, and I should submit my will.
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. Have you trusted Him as your Savior? He can Save you if You ask Him based on His death, burial, and resurrection for your sins. Believe in Him for forgiveness of your sins today.
The world is trying to solve earthly problems that can only be solved with heavenly solutions.
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