Studies in John's Gospel -- Part 24
The Religion of Thomas
By: A.J. Higgins, M.D.
Passage: John 20
Don’t allow the title of this brief article to scare you away. We are not about to delve into the depths of theology to discover the religion that the disciple Thomas held. His view was by today’s standards very up to date. It is the reasoning espoused by most who consider themselves objective and enlightened. It is the conviction that abounds in our society and that is quoted in every quarter. His theology briefly stated was: "Except I see, I will not believe".
Since Christianity as expounded by Paul and echoed by many such as Luther is summarized in Rom. 1:17 " The just shall live by faith", Thomas’ theology and the Bible’s are on a collision course. Now please do not misunderstand. The Bible does not speak of "blind" faith. It demands neither the leap in the dark of the existentialist nor the groundless hope of the mystic. It provides a solid basis upon which faith is built.
Consider the chapter before us from which the incident concerning Thomas is drawn. In John 20, the Lord has risen from the tomb. Prior to this the Lord Jesus had on at least four distinct occasions clearly told His disciples of His approaching death and resurrection. His every word had proved reliable and trustworthy. This particular Sunday morning found Peter and John peering into an empty tomb. John, examining carefully all the evidence quickly came to the conclusion that the Lord had been raised from the dead. Later that day the Lord Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene; later still to the disciples in the upper room.
Thomas had been absent from it all. When he returned he was confronted by the evidence of a vacant tomb, the eyewitness accounts and testimonies of those he knew and trusted, and by the Word of his Lord Who had never proved unfaithful to His word. It was in light of all this that Thomas exclaimed, "Except I see...".
It is fashionable today to deny spiritual realities. We have become accustomed to "hard" facts and "experiential" truth. It is readily owned that there is a danger involved in accepting personal testimonies. There are a myriad of voices clamoring for our attention and allegiance; voices that are as contrary to each other as possible. They come across the radio, the news media, at our doorsteps, and through the mail. The personal testimony of the disciples would have meant little had it been inconsistent with the promise of the Lord Jesus.
Despite our sophistication and education, all will admit that we move and function each day with confidence in things that we do not see.
God in His word has told us of sin and its consequences; of heaven and hell and man’s destiny; of the blood of Christ and His satisfaction; of the assurance of eternal life through faith in His Son. But someone replies that God is demanding that we believe all this without seeing it. God is not however asking us to believe all this without giving us proof of His veracity. The resurrection of Christ is the grand apologetic that confirms the remainder of scripture.
The Lord Jesus confronted Thomas a week later and proclaimed "Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed". When Thomas realized the folly of his religion he quickly abandoned it and proclaimed, "My Lord and My God." When Thomas saw the evidence of the wounds which he requested to see he owned his error and submitted unreservedly to Christ, owning His deity and Lordship.
Each of our lives begins by nature in unbelief. The Word of God reveals to us our place as sinners, pointing us away from ourselves to the sacrificial death of Christ upon Calvary as the ransom for our sins. All who submit to Him, owning him as Lord and Savior are among those upon whom He pronounced His blessing.
As another year draws to completion and the eternal realities that are unseen to sight loom closer, it is our desire that you would search the Scriptures and examine these truths for yourselves.