NOT SEEING - YET BELIEVING - IN THE RISEN CHRIST!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, June 6, 2010

“Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

I heard several sermons on this verse before I was converted, but they only confused me. The sermons I heard made it seem like I had to believe a superstition about Christ’s resurrection, and that somehow believing that superstition was better than seeing the risen Christ, as Thomas did. I remember thinking, “It doesn’t seem to me that I am more blest by not seeing Jesus! I would rather see Him, like Thomas did! I would rather see the nail prints in His hands and the wound in His side. I don’t feel more blest at all!” To my unconverted mind, the resurrection seemed very improbable, like a myth. I wanted tangible proof – something I could see with my own eyes! “After all,” I thought, “Mother always said, ‘Seeing is believing.’” If I didn’t see the risen Christ with my own eyes, I simply couldn’t make myself believe it!

Don’t get me wrong. I was trying to be a Christian. If any teenager ever tried to be a Christian, it was me! I tried as hard as I could to live the “Christian life.” I was going to church. I was reading and memorizing the Bible. I had a very distinct experience of the reality of God, and was convicted of sin. I “surrendered” to the ministry, and was licensed to preach the Gospel. I even went to Bible school to prepare to be a missionary in Hong Kong or Taiwan. But, with all that, I still had trouble believing in the bodily resurrection of Christ. I heard a few sermons on our text,

“Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

But I was not convinced. The physical resurrection of Christ’s body still seemed unreal to me. I wished that I could “see” the risen Christ, as Thomas did. I thought that was what I needed to help me believe that Christ had risen from the dead. I now know that I was religious but lost – that I was not yet born again, for the Bible plainly says,

“That if thou shalt…believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9).

I did not believe this in my heart. It was unreal to me. So I was still lost. I wanted to see Jesus with my own eyes. I thought if I could see Him it would be easy to believe that He had risen from the dead. But I did not know the Scriptures well enough to see that there were those who saw Jesus after His resurrection who still doubted!

I. First, some of those who saw the risen Christ before He ascended still doubted His resurrection.

Please turn to Matthew 28:17. Stand and read it aloud.

“And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17).

You may be seated. The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown commentary (Eerdmans, 1976 reprint, volume three, p. 134; note on Matthew 28:17) says that the “five hundred brethren at once” of I Corinthians 15:6 is the group referred to here, that this “is now the opinion of the ablest students of the Evangelical history.” This commentary says that “some of them” (the 500) are the ones that doubted.

“And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17).

Dr. J. Vernon McGee said, “Some worshipped and some doubted – that is how it has been for over nineteen hundred years! And, my friend, you are in one category or the other” (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume IV, p. 154; note on Matthew 28:17).

Well, there it is on the page of Scripture! Of that great crowd which saw the resurrected Christ, it is said, “but some doubted.” I therefore conclude that there were people that day who actually looked at the risen body of Jesus and still doubted, still were in the dark, still were not sure that Christ had risen! It wasn’t that big a crowd – only a little more than five hundred people. They weren’t very far away from Him, not any farther away than from where I’m standing to the back of the auditorium. They saw His risen body that close. They heard His voice as He preached the words of “The Great Commission” (Matthew 28:18-20). They saw Him and they heard His voice, and yet, “some doubted.” Therefore, I conclude that seeing the risen Christ with one’s own eyes is not enough to convince an unsaved person,

“That if thou shalt…believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9).

It appears from I Corinthians 15:6 that this small group of doubters later became “brethren,” but it does not appear that they were saved when they first saw the risen Christ, for “some doubted.”

II. Second, the ten Disciples did not believe that Christ had risen, even though He showed them the wounds in His hands and feet.

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Please turn to Luke 24:40-41. I want you to notice these two verses. Please stand and read them aloud.

“And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?” (Luke 24:40-41).

You may be seated. Look at verse forty-one, “they yet believed not for joy, and wondered.” Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (Hendrickson Publishers, 1996 reprint, volume 5, p. 679; note on Luke 24:41) says, “They thought it too good news to be true…They wondered; they thought it not only too good, but too great, to be true, forgetting both the Scriptures and the power of God…Yet they believed not, eti apistountōn autōn – they as yet being unbelievers.” Yes, I think Matthew Henry was right, “they were as yet unbelievers.” Two things had to happen before they could properly be called “believers.” First, Christ “opened…their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:45). Christ had to open their “understanding” by illuminating their hearts.

“But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ” (II Corinthians 3:14).

Second, in that same meeting with the Disciples, the Apostle John tells us,

“And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22).

Commenting on John 20:22, J. C. Ryle said, “My own belief is that the true explanation is to be found in the account of man’s creation in Genesis. There we read, ‘The Lord God…breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul’ (Gen. 2:7)” (J. C. Ryle, D.D., Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: John, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1987 edition, volume 3, p. 444). Dr. J. Vernon McGee made the point again when he said, “I personally believe that at the moment our Lord breathed on them, and said, ‘Receive ye the Holy Ghost,’ these men were regenerated [born again]. Before this, they had not been indwelt by the Spirit of God” (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume IV, p. 498; note on John 20:22). Dr. John R. Rice said, “On the day of the resurrection He came into their bodies…and from this time on…every Christian in the world, from the time of conversion, has the Holy Spirit abiding in his body” (John R. Rice., D.D., The Son of God, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1976, p. 396).

So, even though Jesus stood in front of them in His resurrected flesh and bone body (Luke 24:39), “they yet believed not” (Luke 24:41). As Matthew Henry put it, “They believed not…they as yet being unbelievers” (ibid.). It was then that Christ opened their understanding (Luke 24:45), and said “Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22). And Dr. McGee said that then, “these men were regenerated [born again].”

But Thomas had not been there when the other Disciples were regenerated. When he was told by the others that they had seen the risen Christ, Thomas said, “I will not believe” (John 20:25). Though the others were now believers, Thomas was still an unbeliever. Then, a week later, Jesus came to all the Disciples, including Thomas. Thomas saw Him. Thomas said, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). It was then that Jesus gave the words of our text,

“Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

Some of the 500 who saw the risen Christ still doubted. The 10 Disciples themselves “believed not,” even when they saw Him. So, I conclude that, even in Thomas’ case, it was not merely seeing Christ alive that convinced him. It was the work of the Holy Spirit in his heart. Concerning the Holy Spirit, Jesus said,

“He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:14).

It is the Holy Spirit that glorifies Christ and causes us to know that He has risen from the dead.

I came under the awakening influence of the Holy Spirit the day my grandmother was buried. The Holy Spirit showed me the vastness of eternity, the horror of eternal damnation, and the greatness of my sin. Yet I worked on and on, trying to please God, trying to earn my salvation. I am convinced that the Disciples were not converted until Easter because my own experience was so much like theirs. I tried every way to be a Christian. All of my efforts failed. I was as much a failure as Peter when he denied Christ and ran away. I was as blind as Thomas who said, “I will not believe.”

The more I think about it the more I am convinced that I would have died and gone to Hell if the Holy Spirit had not convinced me of my sin and drawn me to Christ. After more than six years of struggling and striving – there was the risen Saviour! I did not see Him with my physical eyes, but there He was – and I came to Him instantly, and was washed clean by His everlasting Blood! All in an instant! Dr. W. G. T. Shedd perfectly described my own salvation experience when he said,

Man gains spiritual life in an instant, though he may have had days and months of a foregoing experience of conviction and sense of spiritual death. This is the ordinary divine method (W. G. T. Shedd, Ph.D., Dogmatic Theology, P and R Publishing, 2003 edition, p. 773).

I hope that you will read and re-read these sermons – that you will pray for God to convict you and show you the sin of your innermost heart – that you will pray for the Spirit of God to weigh you down more and more under the weight of your sin – that He will show you more and more that you deserve eternal punishment – that He will drive out your self-confidence – and that He will, at last, draw you “in an instant” to the once crucified now risen Saviour, for there is no salvation apart from the living Christ, no pardon except through His sin-cleansing Blood. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: John 20:19-29.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“The Strife Is O’er” (translated by Francis Pott, 1832-1909).

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THE OUTLINE OF

NOT SEEING – YET BELIEVING – IN THE RISEN CHRIST!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

(Romans 10:9)

I.  First, some of those who saw the risen Christ before He
ascended still doubted His resurrection, Matthew 28:17;
I Corinthians 15:6; Matthew 28:18-20; Romans 10:9.

II. Second, the ten Disciples did not believe that Christ had risen,
even though He showed them the wounds in His hands
and feet, Luke 24:40-41, 45; II Corinthians 3:14;
John 20:22; Genesis 2:7; John 20:25, 28, 29; 16:14.