Did Jesus demand that people believe on Him by faith only, or did He present proofs and reasons to believe? Let’s start off with this incident:
Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?”
Jesus answered and said unto them, “Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matthew 11:2-5).
Here, John the Baptist, thrown into jail earlier, was possibly wondering if Jesus was the Messiah. How did Jesus answer this question? Did He insist, “Just believe – that’s all you gotta do. Just believe!” No; Jesus gave him proofs to ponder. The Jews knew that when the kingdom of God would come, then the lame will walk again, the blind will see, and the deaf will hear. Jesus not only told the people, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand,” He provided proofs by the miracles that He performed that the kingdom was indeed at the very door.
When He sent His disciples to preach the same message, He gave them the same signs to perform to validate their message. “And as ye go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:7-8).
The Bible does not demand blind faith for salvation. When the Jews were wondering whether Jesus was the Christ, the one God promised to send them to save them; they were not encouraging each other to simply believe, but used their reason to consider the proofs:”And many of the people believed on him, and said, ‘When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?’ ” (John 7:31). They did not just believe, but considered His works to see if they matched up with the Scriptures.
Paul the apostle approved of the Bereans, who searched the scriptures to check out whether his ministry of the Word was accurate (Acts 17:10-12). Unfortunately, too many church-goers believe everything they hear without checking the source. God wants us to check our facts. How many people are suffering in cults because of blind faith? How many others are living half-lives because they trust the messenger with blind faith?
Matthew’s readership was comprised of the Jews who knew the scriptures. So over and over in the book of Matthew we find the phrase, “It is written.” When we read that phrase, Matthew is telling us, “that’s how we know this is the Messiah – because He fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies just as God had foretold.” Do we need proof that Jesus was God’s chosen one sent to save? Then we need to review the many passages that point irrefutably to Jesus in a Book that was already in print by the time Jesus came on the scene.
Read again the stirring speech given by Peter in Acts 2:14-41, where he exhorted the Jews to believe on Jesus — but only after presenting them with proofs from prophetic passages. Faith on Jesus was the outcome of proofs. As a result of his proof texts, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added [unto them] about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). Reason came first, then faith.
Luke relates a story in which Jesus is amazed at the faith of a centurion who calmly expected much from Jesus. How did he arrive at his faith?
Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, ‘Go,’ and he goeth; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he cometh; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he doeth it.”
When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, “I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel” (Luke 7:6-9).
Now consider this man’s faith. Where did he get it from? He had observed or heard of the ability of Jesus to command diseases to depart with a word, and it clicked with his own experience. It made sense to the centurion soldier that Jesus would work this way. As the soldier could command those under him to obey, even so it was reasonable that Jesus could command the illnesses to obey. This was faith – with reason based on personal experience. Thus he could relate to Jesus and trust Him.
This is one of the reasons many come to faith in Christ after hearing preaching that convicts them of sin. Some have used The Ten Commandments specifically to point out how we have fallen from God (by breaking these laws) and therefore have a terrible penalty to pay. This message resonates with many because we know that when we break a civil or criminal law, there are penalties to pay. Through messages like these, the Holy Spirit draws us faith in Christ for forgiveness.
With the Old Testament, God laid the foundation for faith in Christ. The OT gave us the prophecies of the Messiah Jesus Christ, and the stories of God interacting with men to lead us to trust in Him.
When we Christians find ourselves doubting God, we need to head back to the Scriptures; to read again the stories of Jesus, read of the integrity of a God who cannot lie, and remind ourselves afresh of the ironclad promises of our Heavenly Father. If all we have to go on is that God is faithful, then that is reason enough, a solid foundation, to believe. With the Bible, God gives us everything we need for faith and godliness.