The Peril of Unbelief
Unbelief might be the most dangerous thing there is. Hebrews 3, verses 12 and 13 speak of the peril of unbelief. Here’s what it says; “Take care brethren, lest there should be in any one of you, an evil unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is called today, lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
Unbelief is truly dangerous. That verse says that it’s caused by an evil heart, and it’s likened to a hardened heart. The word “unbelief”, is only used 16 times, but it’s at the root of all sin. Almost an entire generation of Israel, died in the wilderness, because of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:19)
Jesus criticized the people of His home town of Nazareth, for their unbelief, and He refused to heal very many people there, because of their unbelief. It says in Mathew 13:57 & 58; And they took offense at Him! But Jesus said to them; A prophet is not without honor, except in his home town, and in his household.” And He did not do many works of power (or miracles) there, because of their unbelief.”
I think you’d have to admit that the vast majority of the miracles that Jesus did, was either to feed people, or to heal them. And that’s pretty bad when Jesus Christ, refused to perform these miracles in His home town, because the people were so steeped in unbelief. That shows how bad unbelief is, but it also shows something else. It reaffirms the fact that it’s not about this physical life, but it’s about spiritual life. If it was about this life, Jesus would have healed the people despite their unbelief! He would have done it simply out of compassion!
There’s no doubt that Jesus was as compassionate as anyone could ever be, but the reason for His miracles was not primarily to supply people with their physical needs. The purpose for miracles was to create faith. John 20, verse 31 puts it this way; “But these things have been written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, you may have life in His name.” That’s why the miracles were done, and that’s why they were recorded for us.
But even the closest disciples of Jesus, were guilty of unbelief. It says in Mark 16:14; “..And He reproached them for their unbelief, and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen.” It’s a good thing they repented! Or they would have ended up like so many of the Jews.
Paul talks about how so much of Israel was cut off from what he called, God’s “cultivated olive tree”. (Romans 11:24) They were “broken off as branches”, it says in verse 17. And it says in verse 20; “Quite right, they were broken off because of unbelief..” And if the disciples of Jesus, had continued in their unbelief, concerning His resurrection, they would have been cut off also.
A lot of bad things, stem from unbelief. Disobedience to God’s commands is unbelief. Hebrews 3:18 & 19 says; “And to whom did He swear that they should not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient. And so we see that they were not able to enter, because of unbelief!” And in chapter 4, verse 11, God warns us with these words; “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through the same example of disobedience.”
Think of all the ways you can be disobedient.. And then realize, that they all stem from unbelief. For example, Colossians 3, verse 5 says that “covetousness is idolatry”. Certainly idolatry is unbelief in the one true God.
It says in Ephesians 5, verses 5 & 6; “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person, or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things.. (because of immorality, impurity, covetousness, idolatry) ..because of these things, the wrath of God, comes upon the sons of disobedience.”
All those things are examples of disobedience to God. And all disobedience, stems from unbelief. Unbelief is at the core, of all disobedience and of all sin. Unbelief.. It can keep one from ever coming to God, and it can cause one to fall away, even after they have believed!
It says in Luke 7, verse 30; “But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.” They didn’t believe that John was sent from God. And they didn’t believe that Jesus was sent from God either. Jesus said, in verses 30 & 31; “For John the Baptist has come, eating no bread, and drinking no wine, and you say, he has a demon. The Son of Man has come, eating and drinking, and you say, Behold a gluttonous man and a drunkard. A friend of tax-gatherers and sinners.” Unbelief. That was their problem, plain and simple!
Jesus said in Luke 13:34; “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that kills the prophets, and stones those sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children, like a hen her brood, under her wings, and you would not.” They not what? They would not believe! They wouldn’t believe that Jesus was the Christ, sent from God! “But you would not” Jesus said. Verse 35 says; “Behold your house is left to you, (it’s left empty, and it’s left desolate) and I say to you; You shall not see Me.. (that means, you’re not going to “perceive Me”. You’re not going to understand Me. You’re not going to understand what I’m telling you) ..until the time comes, when you say, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” In other words; Until you come to accept and BELIEVE, the fact that I am the Christ, you’re not even going to perceive your condition!
They were not in fellowship with God! Jesus had just told them that He wanted to comfort them, by gathering them like a hen gathers her brood. And He wanted to bless them, and to save them, but they wouldn’t believe in Him. And He told them, that their house was going to be left to them.. empty, and desolate. That means that God would no longer be their God, and they would no longer be His children, because they refused to believe in Jesus Christ, the very Son of God.
Because of their unbelief, they were going to be cut off as branches, from God’s cultivated olive tree. They would be unseen, unrecognized, and unacknowledged. Isaiah 59:2 says; “And your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear!”
You see, the bible says the same thing, over and over again, but in slightly different words. But the message is the same. Unbelief will cause you to lose your salvation. If you don’t continue faithful, but allow unbelief to enter your heart, your house will be left vacant. God won’t be there, and God won’t recognize YOU any longer, because you are no longer one of His own.
God knows His own. Jesus made this analogy in John 10:14 thru 16; “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own, and My own know Me. Even as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father, and I lay down My life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold. I must bring them also. And they shall hear My voice, and they shall become one flock, with one shepherd.” Jesus was referring to the fact that the Gentiles were going to be added to the original “flock of God”. The gentiles would be accepted by God, and comforted by God, and that they would be “grafted in” to the olive tree, so to speak.
Paul wrote to the Gentiles, and he said in Ephesians 2:12 & 13; “Remember that you were at that time, separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. But now, in Christ Jesus, you who formerly were far off, have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” And why would the Gentiles be brought near by the blood of Christ? Because of their faith. Verse 8 says; For grace you have been saved, through faith..”
And the Jews were warned over and over again, that they were going to be cut off from God, because of their unbelief, but they wouldn’t “listen” to the warnings. They wouldn’t “hear”, God’s word. Faith comes from hearing the word of God, right? Well, in Luke 16, verse 29, we read these words; “They have Moses and the prophets, let them HEAR them.” And then in verse 31, it says; “If they do not LISTEN to Moses and the prophets, neither will they BE PERSUADED, if someone rises from the dead.” What do you think the phrase, “be persuaded” means? I can tell you exactly what it means. It means.. “to have confidence, and to have faith”. In other words, it means to come to believe. “Neither will they come to believe, if someone rises from the dead!”
In those two verses, Jesus was telling a parable about Jews, who lived under the old covenant law of Moses, and were lost because of unbelief. And He said that if they refuse to HEAR, and to LISTEN to the word of God, the word given through Moses and the prophets, then neither would they BE PERSUADED, in other words, neither would they BELIEVE, even if someone were to be raised from the dead. No matter what covenant a person might have lived under, the fact remains that “faith comes by hearing the word of God”, and from nowhere else.
But if you reject the word of God, then you’re hopelessly lost, in unbelief. And the majority of the Jews, not only rejected the written word of God, but they rejected Jesus, the very Word of God who became flesh!
Jesus wanted to save the Jews. That’s what He said in Luke 13:34; “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I wanted to gather your children together.. but you would not.” And since they would not believe in Jesus, they remained hopelessly separated from God. As we know, many Jews did end up believing. About three thousand on the day of Pentecost alone! And thousands more after that. But for those who remained in their unbelief, they remained hopelessly separated from the blessings in Christ. Even Jesus Himself, couldn’t cross.. that “gulf” of unbelief, that separates the saved, from the lost.. It separates those blessed by God, from those cut off from God.
Aren’t there people who you would love, to bring into fellowship with God? But you can’t, because they’re separated, by their unbelief. You can have physical fellowship with them, and you can teach them, and you can plead with them; But if they’re trapped in unbelief, you can’t reach them, and you can’t bring them ANY spiritual fellowship.
And I’m sure that there’s lots of people who want to be saved, and who want to be in fellowship with God, and they want to enjoy God’s promises, but they can’t. They’re stuck where they are, in unbelief. They want to be saved, and many of them might even think they ARE saved, but they’re not. They’re separated from God, by their own unbelief. Maybe not unbelief that Jesus is the Christ, but unbelief in the way of salvation. And their unbelief, is demonstrated by their disobedience.
Everyone who has ever lived, is in one, of two possible conditions. They are either in a saved condition, or they’re in a lost condition. And although there is physical fellowship between those two groups of people, there is no spiritual fellowship. 1 John 1, verse 3 says; “What we have seen and heard, we proclaim to you also. That you also may have fellowship with us. And indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
And it says in verses 6 & 7; “If we say we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His son cleanses us from all sin.”
As I said, there’s no doubt a lot of people who might want fellowship with God, but they want it on their own terms. They don’t believe in God’s terms, and so they don’t obey God’s terms, and so they remain separated from fellowship with God. It matters not, whether it’s someone who thinks they want to come to God, or if it’s us who wants to bring someone to God, neither group can cross the gulf of unbelief. The unbelief must be done away with, before anyone can come to God.
Even after Jesus was resurrected, there was still unbelief in His disciples. And that’s why Jesus said to “doubting” Thomas, in John 20:19-20; “..Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; And reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
Listen to this passage from Mark 9, verses 17 thru 24; “And someone from the crowd answered him; Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.”
“O unbelieving generation! Jesus replied. How long must I remain with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to Me. And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father; How long has this been happening to him? And he said; From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But IF you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” (IF you can do anything)
“And Jesus said to him; IF you can! All things are possible, for one who believes. Immediately the father of the child cried out and said; I believe! Help my unbelief!”
Even among we who DO believe, there’s still a certain amount of unbelief, in all of us. Maybe our prayer should sometimes be.. Lord, help me with my unbelief.