“But John, having heard in the prison the works of the Christ, sent by his disciples, and said to him, Art thou the coming [one]? or are we to wait for another?” (Matthew 11:2-3)
This passage does not say one word in the direction that John the Baptist doubted the identity of Christ, as we will see in this article, just as John 7:6-10 does not say that Jesus lied… It is always very essential to study the context of the particular text and the whole context of the Bible, and never to conclude things from human assumptions. Sadly, many well-meaning Christians as well as enemies of the Gospel see in this passage a certain justification to the doubt of some believers concerning the identity of Christ. Some people are so eager to find examples that illustrate the works of our fallen nature that they forget to see the examples that illustrate the glory of God’s Grace in the believer. As soon as they read this passage, they see in it that John the Baptist doubted the identity of Christ, and they forget about the particular and the general contexts… One of them even said: “There was no mistaking the fact that John wanted to know for sure if Jesus was indeed the Expected One” (quoted from a devotional received by email)…
As we will see in this article, it is true that a true believer may have doubts, and even some strong ones! But these doubts will never be about the identity of Christ. He may doubt his personal Salvation when he walks in disobedience somewhere in his Christian walk; he may doubt about some facts of the Word of God because of a misunderstanding or ignorance or incomplete knowledge; but he may never doubt the identity of Christ, as in all those doubts he goes to JESUS to find rest of all those doubts! So those who are eager to find examples of a believer’s doubt can very easily find them in other passages of the Bible, and they don’t need to introduce that idea in places where that doubt is not the direct topic of the passage, as it is the case with Matthew 11:2-3.
By definition, living faith is the assurance in who Christ is
“I said therefore to you, that ye shall die in your sins; for unless ye shall believe that I am [he], ye shall die in your sins.” (John 8:24)
True faith is the assurance in who Christ is. Nothing less than this faith is a living faith, as nothing less than this is the new birth, as John explains:
“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.” (1 John 5:1)
“Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.” (1 John 2:22)
Our Salvation is clearly related to this truth: that Jesus is the Christ, the expected one, the coming one.
And the one who is born of God cannot sin and fall in unbelief or be “unborn” again:
“No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1 John 3:9)
This is the sin about which Jesus already talked in the following passage:
“But I say the truth to you, It is profitable for you that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I go I will send him to you. And having come, he will bring demonstration to the world, of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe on me; of righteousness, because I go away to [my] Father, and ye behold me no longer; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:7-11)
So a true believer will never fall in the sin of unbelief in Christ’s identity. He will never make God a liar:
“If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for the testimony of God is this, that He has testified concerning His Son.
The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son.
And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” (1 John 5:9-11)
And this is what Jesus said in His answer to John the Baptist: “and blessed is whosoever shall not be offended in me.” (Matthew 11:6) A true believer is the one who is blessed, who will not take offense at Christ’s identity. Jesus is the stone of stumbling that will not offend the true believer (cf. 1 Peter 2:6-9).
Even in the times of doubt and confusion and misunderstanding, the true believer will declare with Peter:
“Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast words of life eternal; and we have believed and known that thou art the holy one of God.” (John 6:68-69)
No doubt in the identity of Christ!!
And indeed, this is what John the Baptist did: in his time of doubt and confusion (and we will see about what he was confused), he went to ask Christ, as he relied on Him alone. Many passages of the Bible make it clear that John the Baptist was a true believer, so the general context of the Bible teaches us that John the Baptist would never doubt the identity of Christ and would never make God a liar by refusing the testimony that He gave about His Son and which John himself declared: “And I knew him not; but he who sent me to baptise with water, he said to me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and abiding on him, he it is who baptises with [the] Holy Spirit. And I have seen and borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:33-34)
So the first point that we should keep in mind is: John the Baptist would never doubt the identity of Christ, as he was a true believer. Or else Jesus would not say all those beautiful things about him in Matthew 11.
Matthew 11:2-3 does NOT say that John doubted the identity of Christ
The following are the main reasons why we are sure that Matthew 11:2-3 does NOT say that John doubted the identity of Christ:
I. As we have seen above, a true believer may have doubts, but he never doubts the identity of Christ. On the contrary, in all those doubts he goes to Christ to have rest. And this is what John the Baptist did! If John doubted the identity of Christ, he would not send to ask Him about the expected Christ. Would you send to a minister in whom you doubt to ask him whether he is genuine or not?? That would not be so wise… Is there any deceiver who tells you that he is a deceiver? As Jesus was all the time saying that He is the Christ, and as God gave John the Baptist that testimony about Jesus, then both Christ and God the Father would be liars if Jesus were not truly the expected one! Then how would John the Baptist expect to receive a true answer from a liar?? So the sole fact that he sent to ask Jesus proves that he had no doubt in the identity of Jesus. He was fully assured that Jesus is the Christ, the expected one, the one who would come to save us from our sins, and the one who could give him the answers he needed.
II. John sent his disciples when he heard about the works that Jesus was doing. As Jesus knew what was really bothering John (as He is God and knows all things), so we expect Him to have given John the answer that he needed. Now, as Jesus didn’t tell John something new as a proof concerning His identity but gave him an explanation about some facts concerning His Kingdom (as we will see), so the doubt or confusion of John was not turning around the identity of Jesus. Indeed, John heard about the works of Jesus, and the answer of Jesus was like “look at my works!”… Do you think this is an appropriate answer addressed to a believer like John concerning a doubt related to the identity of Christ? John already knew that Jesus is the Christ. In fact, he was the one who declared the beginning of His ministry to Israel (cf. John 1:31). John also knew very well the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the Christ, so as soon as he heard in prison about the works that Jesus was doing, he would remember the passage that Jesus wanted him to remember when he told him about the works that He was doing! So why would Jesus tell John about those works that he already knew before he sent to Jesus?? That was not a new information for John. We will see why Jesus answered in that way. But the sole fact that Jesus didn’t tell John anything about which he had not already heard in prison proves that a superficial reading of this passage will not help us see the reason of John’s question. John hears about the works of Jesus and sends to ask Him, and Jesus’ answer is like “look at my works“… But John already heard about the works!! He now needs an explanation for something else (as we will see). And indeed Jesus gave him an answer to that “something else”, as we will see…
III. Matthew 11:2-3 and all difficult passages of Scripture that cannot be easily understood from a superficial reading should be understood in the light of the whole Bible, as the Bible never contradicts itself. As we have seen, the whole Bible says that living faith never doubts the identity of Christ, so this passage will not come to contradict that truth.
IV. Keeping in mind the points I and III above, let’s remember some facts about John the Baptist: The prophets foretold about his coming (cf. Isaiah 40:3, Malachi 4:5-6, Matthew 11:14); he preached repentance and faith in Christ (cf. Matthew 3:1-2, Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3, Acts 19:4); he prepared the way before Christ and preached about Him (cf. Matthew 3:11-12, Mark 1:7-8); he was sent by God (cf. John 1:6); he knew the identity of Jesus (cf. John 1:15, John 1:23, John 1:26-27, John 1:29-34, John 1:36); he knew Jesus’ identity so well that he trembled at the idea that Jesus came to get baptized by him (cf. Matthew 3:14), and he obeyed and baptized Jesus when He asked him to do it (cf. Matthew 3:15); this knowledge of Christ’s identity made John say that he was not even worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals (cf. Mark 1:7); he was poor in spirit and said that Jesus must increase and he must decrease (cf. John 3:27-30); and according to Jesus, John is more than a prophet (cf. Matthew 11:9), and among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than him (cf. Matthew 11:11, Luke 7:28); he came in the way of righteousness, as Jesus said (cf. Matthew 21:32); the Bible says he was a righteous and holy man, and his enemies admitted it (cf. Mark 6:20); his walk in righteousness was so clear that people confused him with the Christ (cf. Matthew 16:14, Mark 8:28, Luke 9:19, Luke 3:15, John 1:20); he was great in the sight of God and he was filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb (cf. Luke 1:15), and he rejoiced because of Christ while still in the womb (cf. Luke 1:41-44); he was imprisoned and beheaded because he didn’t want to compromise the truth of God (cf. Matthew 14:1-11, Mark 6:17-28, Luke 3:19-20)… All these are the signs and the fruits of a person who is born of God. And as we have seen, the one who is born of God cannot sin and doubt about the identity of Christ, as the identity of Christ is the truth on which living faith is built.
The problem that many of John’s disciples had
One of the key truths that help us understand the question of John is the condition of his disciples. Indeed, before this event in which these disciples are commanded by John to go ask Jesus, anytime we meet the disciples of John we see them in disagreement and opposition with Jesus, unless they LISTEN (i.e. obey) to John and follow Christ… Let’s see this in the Bible.
“Then come to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees often fast, but thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said to them, Can the sons of the bridechamber mourn so long as the bridegroom is with them? But days will come when the bridegroom will have been taken away from them, and then they will fast. But no one puts a patch of new cloth on an old garment, for its filling up takes from the garment and a worse rent takes place. Nor do men put new wine into old skins, otherwise the skins burst and the wine is poured out, and the skins will be destroyed; but they put new wine into new skins, and both are preserved together.” (Matthew 9:14-17)
You see how the disciples of John in this passage put themselves in the same camp with the Pharisees and ask Jesus for an explanation concerning a “problem” in His disciples’ fasting… And we see how Jesus answers them: He clarifies to them that the New Covenant fasting is not like the Old Covenant fasting, and the real Bridegroom is Him, Jesus. This shows that the disciples of John were still insisting on following the Old Covenant way, when the Christ had already come. They wanted to put a patch of new cloth on an old garment…
The disciples of John once also had a strong debate with the Jews concerning purification: was it their master’s, John’s baptism that purified, or was it the Christ’s baptism? You see their misunderstanding about the baptism of John which was the baptism of repentance pointing to Christ whose blood alone can purify us (cf. Acts 19:4, 1 John 1:7). So the disciples of John missed the whole point, and concentrated on the sign of baptism rather than on the essence. Here is the text:
“There was therefore a reasoning of the disciples of John with a Jew about purification. And they came to John and said to him, Rabbi, he who was with thee beyond the Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, he baptises, and all come to him.” (John 3:25-26)
They were jealous about the fact that all were going to Jesus for baptism instead of coming to their master… And this jealousy was the result of their false understanding concerning the meaning of baptism. They thought that the baptism of Jesus contradicted the baptism of John, and so there was a real issue to be solved here which is: whose baptism is the right one and thus could purify?…
John the Baptist gave them a very wise answer. Let’s read it together:
“John answered and said, A man can receive nothing unless it be given him out of heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness that I said, I am not the Christ, but, that I am sent before him. He that has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices in heart because of the voice of the bridegroom: this my joy then is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all. He who has his origin in the earth is of the earth, and speaks [as] of the earth. He who comes out of heaven is above all, [and] what he has seen and has heard, this he testifies; and no one receives his testimony. He that has received his testimony has set to his seal that God is true; for he whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives not the Spirit by measure. The Father loves the Son, and has given all things [to be] in his hand. He that believes on the Son has life eternal, and he that is not subject to the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides upon him.” (John 3:27-36)
A really deep testimony!
So we see that John the Baptist had some difficulties in making his disciples accept these truths and follow Christ. Although some of them heard from him and followed Christ just as he wished (cf. John 1:35-40), and yet the majority of John’s disciples insisted that Jesus was just a disciple of John (“he who was with thee beyond the Jordan”, as those disciples said in John 3:26) and that He could not have any authority independently from John who baptized Him… John’s method of teaching those disciples the truth was not by putting himself in opposition with Christ and asking them to leave him and follow Christ, as he was in agreement with Christ. John chose to lead the steps of his disciples with compassion until they reach the right understanding. As we see in this answer of John, he explained to his disciples that the fact that all were going to Jesus was not something contrary to his own ministry and purpose! After all, was it not for this that he came to prepare the way of Christ? The ministry that John received was not from himself, for no man can receive something unless it be given him out of Heaven. John received from God the ministry of preparing the way for the Christ, but Christ is much higher than John the Baptist as John himself had previously witnessed. John insisted that he was not the Bridegroom, and he clarified that Jesus is that Bridegroom, just as we have seen that Jesus also said above. Jesus didn’t receive this from Himself, but from Heaven (from God the Father). John also clarified that he is not in opposition to Christ, but on the contrary he rejoices to see Him increase. He clarified that he should decrease; he should disappear from the scene, and Jesus should be at the center! Very soon, he will get in prison and then he will die. It is Jesus to whom his disciples should look. Whatever was the importance of John, he still was a man from the earth, and he spoke as of the earth, while Jesus came from Heaven and is above all. Thus John advised his disciples to listen to the testimony of Jesus, to follow Him and be His disciples, just as he previously wanted to be considered one of His disciples when he told Jesus that he needed to get baptized by Him.
Now, John was in this way of teaching his disciples to follow Christ NOT instead of following him, but because of what he (i.e. John the Baptist) said, when the latter was put in prison. Here, the disciples of John were before the greatest lesson of their life that not even John could give it to them were he not imprisoned! God turns the events with His sovereignty according to His Wisdom. Now, their master was in prison, unable to do any public ministry, and yet Jesus was still increasing! What should they think now?… What is the solution for this theological problem?!… For them, there was a real theological problem in what was happening: the one who should be the leader (John, according to them) was in prison, and Jesus was still working publicly, and yet never establishing a Kingdom as all the Jews (including John’s disciples) expected from the Messiah! Look what Jesus was doing: healing, raising the dead, preaching the Gospel to the poor! Was this the Messiah?!… So the disciples of John came to him and told him about what Jesus was doing. Here John saw in this a great opportunity to send his disciples to Jesus to see what was happening by themselves and listen to the testimony of Christ, and at the same time he himself had some clarification to receive from Christ. So he formulated his question in a way that would get from Jesus both an answer for his disciples and an answer for what he himself needed to know. Thus we got the question that we read at the beginning of this article:
“But John, having heard in the prison the works of the Christ, sent by his disciples, and said to him, Art thou the coming [one]? or are we to wait for another?” (Matthew 11:2-3)
Actually, John heard about the works of Christ from his disciples: “The disciples of John reported to him about all these things.” (Luke 7:18)
I guess after this general view of the general and the particular context of this question, you began to hear this question ringing in your ears with a different tone… Let’s see what Jesus answered, and then we will see how after this answer of Jesus the disciples of John (at least the majority of them) understood the lesson…
The answer of Jesus shows the meaning of John’s question
“But the men having come to him said, John the baptist has sent us to thee, saying, Art thou he that is coming, or are we to wait for another? In that hour he healed many of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and to many blind he granted sight. And Jesus answering said to them, Go, bring back word to John of what ye have seen and heard: that blind see, lame walk, lepers are cleansed, deaf hear, dead are raised, poor are evangelized; and blessed is whosoever shall not be offended in me.” (Luke 7:20-23)
Jesus very simply told John the same thing that the disciples of John had previously reported to John: the works that He was doing… So one would wonder: why didn’t Jesus give any new evidence about His identity?…
The answer is: John did not send his disciples to Jesus because of any doubt in himself concerning Jesus’ identity. That simple. The problem was with the disciples of John. Therefore, the passage of Luke makes it clear that Jesus didn’t simply answer the question of those disciples, but IN THAT HOUR, He made some miracles before them! And this was the purpose of John from sending his disciples to Jesus: that they may see His works by themselves and hear His testimony. They now received the testimony practically, and when they returned to John, he certainly explained to them how what Jesus told them was the fulfillment of the prophecies that talked about Christ, as we will see after a few lines. After this event, we see how the disciples of John later came to Jesus after the death of John, as they had understood the lesson: “His disciples came and took away the body and buried it; and they went and reported to Jesus.” (Matthew 14:12)
So the disciples had to finally understand that Jesus was the Messiah, the one who was to come, and they should cease to wait or look for another… And John reached his goal by sending his disciples to Jesus.
But John also was confused about a certain point, yet he didn’t want to confuse his weak disciples with it, therefore he didn’t tell them directly about it but formulated it in the form of the question that we read. This is how a mature Christian should deal with his confusions and misunderstandings: he should not use them to make the weak stumble, and yet he should know how to be honest about them and to present them before the Lord without making others stumble. We often see Christians treating their confusions publicly in a way that shows a mistrust in Christ, and others treat such confusions by making the weak stumble and doubt. This should not be the case with those who love the Lord and have reached some maturity in understanding and discernment in their love (cf. Philippians 1:9).
So what was the point about which John was confused? The way Jesus gave His answer shows us what was troubling John. In His answer, Jesus actually reminded John of the following prophecies:
“Say to them that are of a timid heart, Be strong, fear not; behold your God: vengeance cometh, the recompense of God! He will come himself, and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf be unstopped; then shall the lame [man] leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and torrents in the desert. And the mirage shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of wild dogs, where they lay down, shall be grass with reeds and rushes. And a highway shall be there and a way, and it shall be called, The way of holiness: the unclean shall not pass through it; but it shall be for these. Those that go [this] way — even fools, — shall not err [therein].” (Isaiah 35:4-8)
“The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me, because Jehovah hath anointed me to announce glad tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of Jehovah, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn” (Isaiah 61:1-2)
You notice that in His quotation, Jesus didn’t include the parts about the vengeance of God… There is a meaning behind this omission. Previously, Jesus had also omitted that part about the vengeance of God. That was in Luke 4:
“And [the] book of the prophet Esaias was given to him; and having unrolled the book he found the place where it was written, [The] Spirit of [the] Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach glad tidings to [the] poor; he has sent me to preach to captives deliverance, and to [the] blind sight, to send forth [the] crushed delivered, to preach [the] acceptable year of [the] Lord. And having rolled up the book, when he had delivered it up to the attendant, he sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon him.” (Luke 4:17-20)
He rolled up the Book of Isaiah after reading the part about the acceptable year of the Lord, and yet the verse had a completing part that Jesus didn’t read and which was:
“to proclaim the acceptable year of Jehovah, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn” (Isaiah 61:2)
This is meaningful! Jesus was indirectly proclaiming that His ministry in His first coming was not a ministry of judgment and vengeance of God, but the ministry of Grace and Salvation. He didn’t come to judge the world (that will happen in His second coming), but that the world may be saved through Him:
“For God has not sent his Son into the world that he may judge the world, but that the world may be saved through him.” (John 3:17)
During His earthly ministry, Jesus always wanted to make the Jews understand that the prophecies that concerned Him in the Old Testament included both the present Grace time (the acceptable year of Jehovah) and the future judgment and vengeance time (the day of vengeance of our God). He made it clear that God was giving the nations a time of Grace before the time of vengeance for their sins. The Jews could not understand this, as they couldn’t understand the loving Nature of God. They thought about a Messiah who would destroy all the nations, and establish the Kingdom of Israel… As if Israel were righteous before God… Wanting to defend their self-righteousness, they refused the Righteousness of God (cf. Romans 10:3). But the unbelieving Jews were not the only ones who couldn’t understand these things. True disciples of Christ also had their confusions about the details of the Plan of God, as they had some misunderstandings and incomplete knowledge about the truth. The difference between the unbelieving Jews and the true disciples was that those Jews refused to go to Christ to solve their confusions, while the true disciples went to Christ, just as John did. They were not self-righteous, but poor in spirit. And each one of us passes through times of confusion, not knowing how to think and how to understand God’s way of dealing with us. In such times of trouble, the genuineness of our faith is revealed if we go to the Lord to receive the answers. False believers will leave the Lord in such troubles, just as it happened to many of them in John 6 when Jesus told them that they had to eat His flesh and drink His blood (cf. John 6:60-66). It was in that occasion that the genuineness of the true disciples’ faith was revealed when Peter told Christ: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69) The disciples were sure concerning the identity of Christ, but often they were confused because of some misunderstandings or incomplete knowledge. For instance, after the Resurrection of Christ, the following happened:
“They therefore, being come together, asked him saying, Lord, is it at this time that thou restorest the kingdom to Israel? And he said to them, It is not yours to know times or seasons, which the Father has placed in his own authority; but ye will receive power, the Holy Spirit having come upon you, and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8)
They still couldn’t understand that there was now a Grace period in which nations should be saved, and that the Kingdom of Israel would not be established in the way and in the timing that the Jews expected, but as God wants. And you see how they asked Jesus, and accepted the answer, unlike many Christians who just ask Jesus to test Him and never accept the answer that He gives… Those prove by their fruits that they are false Christians…
And John the Baptist did like Peter and the genuine disciples: he went to Christ, because he believed He had words of eternal life and that He is the Holy One of God. During his ministry, John had preached: “I indeed baptise you with water to repentance, but he that comes after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not fit to bear; he shall baptise you with [the] Holy Spirit and fire; whose winnowing fan [is] in his hand, and he shall thoroughly purge his threshing-floor, and shall gather his wheat into the garner, but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.” (Matthew 3:11-12) John preached about the Salvation of Christ, but he also declared some truths that God revealed to him concerning the last Day when Christ would bring the judgment on those who disobey: “And already the axe is applied to the root of the trees; every tree therefore not producing good fruit is cut down and cast into the fire.” (Matthew 3:10) So John could not understand how Jesus was not applying a visible judgment and was only proclaiming Grace. He couldn’t see how the axe could already been applied to the root of the trees (which was the fact, by the way), and yet there could be a Grace period. He didn’t have a full knowledge about the details of the plan, just as no human could have a full knowledge. The full truth is in Christ, and not in any human. And Jesus answered the confusion of John by omitting the part about the vengeance of God from the prophecy that He quoted as an answer to John. So just like the disciples of Jesus, John was asking Jesus if He would not restore the Kingdom to Israel; he wanted to understand what Jesus was doing. And the answer of Jesus was like the one He gave to His disciples in Acts 1:6-8: that it is in God’s authority to decide about the times; now is the time of Grace.
In his Study Bible, John MacArthur gives an important insight in his note on Matthew 11:3:
John the Baptist had introduced Christ as One who would bring a fierce judgment and “burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (3:12). He was understandably confused by the turn of events: he was imprisoned, and Christ was carrying on a ministry of healing, not judgment, in Galilee, far from Jerusalem, the city of the king — and not finding a completely warm reception there (cf. 8:34). John wondered if he had misunderstood Jesus’ agenda. It would be wrong to interpret this as a wavering of his faith (v.7). [emphasis mine]
It is a sad fact that many Christians today want to defend the false teaching about “carnal Christians” (meaning, carnal by nature and by their general pattern)… They fight against the truth that no one can be a true disciple of Christ unless he denies himself, takes up his cross and submits to the Lordship of Christ. Those who compromise this truth of Christ’s Lordship misunderstand this question of John, and they use it as an occasion to encourage those “carnal” non-Christians to doubt the identity of Christ. It is really sad to read something like the following concerning John the Baptist: “So when believers are confused, they can take comfort that even John the Baptist was perplexed for a time even though he had announced, baptized and declared Jesus to be the Messiah. There was no mistaking the fact that John wanted to know for sure if Jesus was indeed the Expected One.” (Quoted from a devotional received by email). You see the hidden or confused effort to make the word “believer” sound like “true believer”, and to make it look like John the Baptist doubted the identity of Christ and therefore any true believer can take comfort that even John the Baptist was confused about the identity of Christ. And thus many are deceived into thinking they are truly saved Christians although they still doubt the identity of Christ, and then they will find out that Jesus never knew them… We should be seriously concerned about this matter.
As we have seen, the question of John the Baptist could not reflect a doubt in John concerning the identity of Christ. A true believer will never doubt the identity of Christ. He may have some questions to clarify, related to that identity or to what Jesus is doing, and those questions are normal as no one of us has a full knowledge and can understand all things. But in all the confusions and misunderstandings, the Christian never doubts that Jesus is the Expected One; he never doubts the identity of Christ, and so he goes to Christ to seek answers for his questions. We have seen that John wanted to lead his disciples to Christ, and at the same time he asked his question concerning the Grace period about which Jesus was preaching.
Those who want to write devotionals about the doubt of the true believer can go to passages that talk about this kind of doubt, and they don’t need to introduce that idea in a text where that doubt is not meant directly. Here are some passages that deal with the doubts of true believers that NEVER touch the identity of Christ: Peter walked on water to go to Christ, but he doubted and began to sink (cf. Matthew 14:24-31), and didn’t doubt the identity of Christ, but on the contrary he cried to Jesus for help; all the disciples doubted the resurrection of Christ when they heard about it, as they didn’t have full knowledge about what that should mean, and yet they didn’t doubt Christ’s identity; and all the places where it is said “You of little faith” are examples of passages where we read about a true believer’s doubts… We should learn the following lesson from all these passages: “And have mercy on some, who are doubting” (Jude 22), as we all may pass through times of doubt. In all those times, we should go to Christ and not away from Christ. Jesus Christ alone has the needed answers that He gives with love, according to His Grace revealed on the cross.
Grace be with you!
Disciple of Jesus Christ
Posted in Truth