Unbelief and the Example of Thomas
"This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity for looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist. This conclusion was strong in my mind about the time, as far as I can remember, when I wrote the Origin of Species; and it is since that time that it has very gradually, with many fluctuations, become weaker. But then arises the doubt, can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animals, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions?" (as quoted in Francis Darwin, 1898, 1:282).
John 20:19ff - On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. " Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (from the Message version)
Our Unbelief is a Decision - "Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came."
For some reason Thomas was not with the Twelve. But why? Did he have a doctor's appointment or another urgent meeting? Exactly what would take precedent over banding together with the Apostles of Jesus Christ after His crucifixion? What takes priority over meeting with believers on the Lord's Day to worship? It was his decision that he not be with them. It was within his own power to be there or not. In this case it was Thomas's decision revealing his unbelief, since there had already been reports by the women and at least Peter and John. When we distrust the Lord it is a decision. It is a conscious action. To stop doubting is also decision as Jesus said, "Stop doubting and believe."
We can all engage in various kinds of unbelief - Unbelief in the benefits of Christ: forgiveness, justification, adoption,
Unbelief in the Promises of God.
Unbelief in the Providence of God.
Unbelief in the Provisions of God.
Unbelief in the identity Christ confers upon us in the Lord’s Supper.
Unbelief in the identity Christ confers upon us in baptism.
Charles Spurgeon, the great English Baptist preacher said, “The sin of unbelief will appear to be extremely heinous when we remember that it is the parent of every other iniquity. There is no crime which unbelief will not beget.”
Alexander McClaren said, "Disobedience is the root of unbelief. Unbelief is the mother of further disobedience. Faith is voluntary submission within a person’s own power. If faith is not exercised, the true cause lies deeper than all intellectual reasons. It lies in the moral aversion of human will and in the pride of independence, which says, “who is Lord over us?
Our Unbelief Sets Up False Standards - "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." But he said to them, “Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” 20:26 And after e
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more