John 4:46-54 - The Stages of Faith

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The Stages of Faith

     (4:46-54) Introduction: this nobleman was a government official, probably holding some high position in Herod’s court. His experience reveals the various stages of faith, the kind of growing faith that every man should experience.

     1.  A beginning faith (v.46-47).

     2.  A persistent faith (v.48-49).

     3.  A trusting, obedient, and working faith (v.50).

     4.  A confirmed faith (v.51-53).

     5.  A witnessing faith (v.53-54).

A.     (4:46-47) The First Stage is a Beginning Faith: When Jesus entered the city of Cana, a nobleman (basilixos), an official of the King’s royal court, approached Jesus. The actions of the man demonstrated exactly what is involved in a beginning faith.

1.       There was A Desperate Need.  The Man’s Son Was At the Point of Death.

a)        Needs Confront Every Human Being.

Unfortunately it usually takes “a desperate need” for many to come to the Lord.  Eventually the severe needs arising from accident, illness, disease, suffering, and death strike everyone (Heb.9:27) even children. No one is exempt. One may be an official in government or even the King himself—it does not matter. The day eventually comes when every man needs help. The severe disasters of life are beyond any man’s control.

1)        How will we react to such events when they come to us?

2)        What will we do, will we be beaten down by them?  Or will we triumph over them in complete victory?

2.       There Was a Hearing About Jesus.

               The report that Jesus had healed people in Jerusalem must have reached this man's ears. Learning that Jesus had returned to Galilee, the man immediately sought Jesus out and urged him to heal his son, who was dangerously ill.

               The imperfect tense of the verb "begged" (erota, from erotao, to "ask" or "request") implies repeated or persistent action. The request was not casual but insistent.

3.       There Was A Coming To Jesus.

               This man was facing a severe disaster in life, & he came to the only person who can help—Jesus.  Note: he did not go to Herod.  Note what this man had to do in order to come to Jesus.

a)        The Man Had to Leave the Side of His Dying Son.

The man knew he Would Be Gone for Many Hours. Imagine the anxiety and fear that his son might die while he was away. The man would literally have to tear himself away from his son. Such an act shows how strongly he believed that Jesus could help him.

b)        The Man Had to Travel Almost a Day’s Journey to Reach Jesus.

Capernaum was about twenty miles from Cana. Imagine the concern and apprehension gripping the father’s heart every foot of the way, wondering if he should have left his son’s side. The fact that he persevered and kept his eyes on the hope of Jesus shows the faith of his heart.

Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the LORD (Psalms 31:24; 33:18 )

c)        The Man Did Not Let His High Position Keep Him From Jesus.

He did not wrap himself in pride nor did he allow what others might say keep him from Jesus. He swallowed his pride and confessed his need in the face of all who ridiculed, and he went to Jesus.

1)        Is there anything keeping you from coming to Jesus?

B.      (4:48-49) The Second Stage Was a Persistent Faith:

1.       A Lesson in Faith.

a)        The Reply of Jesus Seems Like a Heartless Rejection.

       We must understand that a circus atmosphere was developing around Christ.  He was fast becoming a traveling sideshow—“Hurry, hurry, don’t miss the latest miracle!  Get your popcorn!

1)        Jesus seemed to insinuate that the official, like the rest of the Galileans, was only giving an excuse to see a miracle from Him (Herod Luke 23:8).  On the other hand, Jesus' words may express his hope more than his exasperation. He desired a belief characterized by dedication rather than amazement, a genuine commitment rather than merely to perform a cure.  Jesus wanted this mans faith to advance to a higher level.

2)        Jesus had to teach the man that His Word alone was enough. Belief in His Word was what was going to assure the request (God has magnified His Word above His Name Ps.138:2).  His power was at the nobleman’s disposal if he would just believe Him. Belief is to precede signs and wonders. 

(a)      Note that “you” is plural.  Jesus was addressing both the man and the crowd. He wanted the crowd to get the message as well.

(b)      “Seeing is believing” is not the Christian approach (John 11:40; 20:29).  First we believe then we see.

(c)      Miracles can only lead us to the Word (John 5:36-38) and the Word generates saving faith (Romans 10:17)

(d)      It is one thing to believe in miracles but something else to commit oneself to Jesus Christ & to continue in   His word (John 8:30-31)

b)        There are four words used in the Bible for miracles or signs. These words are used to describe the works of God and they show why people believed in Jesus.

1)        Teras means the spectacular, staggering, amazing, dazzling.

                   Many believed in Jesus because of the spectacular signs He performed. However, such belief made a person only a spectator, not a participant in His life. The word teras also means the sensational; that is, it appeals to the sensations of men. Many believed and followed Jesus because it made them feel good and comfortable and secure. Such belief is weak and often fails. This word is never used by itself to initiate faith in the Lord Jesus. If a person is to have genuine faith in the Lord Jesus, he must have some basis other than the spectacular sign (teras).

Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture… But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. (Luke 8:6, 13 NKJV)

But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62 NKJV)

Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him." (Hebrews 10:38 )

2)        Dunamis means power—extraordinary power; effective, explosive power.

                   There were those who were attracted to Jesus because of the unusual power (dunamis) they witnessed. They believed because of the power. Such is a legitimate belief and leads to salvation for everyone who believes.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16 NKJV)

3)        Ergon means distinctive works, deeds, and miracles.

               Such works come from God (John 14:10) and bear witness to Christ. They point men to Christ (John 5:36; John 10:25). Some men look at the very special works of Christ and believe because of the works (ergon).

If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me;   "but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him." (John 10:37-38 NKJV)

Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves. (John 14:11 NKJV)

4)        Semeion means a sign that characterizes the person, his nature and character.

               A few throughout Jesus’ ministry did believe because they saw in the miracles exactly who He was, the very Son of God.

This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him. (John 2:11 NKJV)

And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:30-31 NKJV)

However, the word semeion is also used of those who believed the signs, but did not have the highest or right kind of faith. Their faith was not a faith that committed itself (John 2:24).

a.  It was a faith that arose only from...

·    a mental conviction, a head knowledge, an intellectual belief.

·    a surface acceptance of the fact that Jesus was the Savior.

  “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself to them, because he knew all men” (John 2:23-24; believe and commit are the same words).

b.  It was also a faith...

·    that only sought Jesus for what a person could get out of Him.

·    that never gave any thought to what a person might do for Christ.

·    that was unaware of the cost of discipleship, unaware that a person had to sacrifice himself and give all he was and had to Christ in order to become a follower of His ( Luke 9:23).

Jesus answered them and said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. (John 6:26)

2.       A Desperate Persistence.

               The man was in no position to argue, not even to think through what Jesus had just said. He was desperate. A severe disaster had stricken his life. He believed Jesus was the only One who could help him, and he was determined to secure Jesus’ help. He cried out, “Lord [Kurie] come down ere my child die.”


Note two significant points. (1) The man did not allow Jesus’ rebuke to deter him, and (2) he kept after Jesus.

Thought 1. Note the crucial lessons.

1)   Signs and wonders (the boy’s healing) were not as important as believing Jesus. A man’s eternal salvation was at stake, and the man had to believe to be saved.

2)      The man was helped because he persisted. Persistence was absolutely necessary in securing the Lord’s help. Persistence shows that one really recognizes and acknowledges his need and really believes God can and will help.

       Note: if a man ceases to ask, he shows that he does not believe God will answer. He gives up on God, disbelieving Him. This man did not allow the Lord’s hesitation to stop him.

      The Persistence of the Gentile Woman for Jesus to Heal Her Daughter (Matt.15:21-28)

           > This woman did not take no for an answer

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.   "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8 NKJV)

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6 NKJV)

The LORD redeems the soul of His servants, And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned. (Psalms 34:22 NKJV)

Trust in the LORD forever, For in YAH, the LORD, is everlasting strength. (Isaiah 26:4 NKJV)

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

C.     (4:50) The Third Stage was a Trusting, Obedient, Working Faith.

1.       Jesus' Response Still Seems Somewhat Impersonal and Casual.

a)        Jesus Was Attempting To Elevate His Faith to a Higher Level.

1)        Jesus Granted His Healing but Refused To Go Down. 

If the father refused to return to Capernaum without taking Jesus with him, he would show that he did not believe Jesus' word.

If he followed Jesus' order, he would be returning to the dying boy with no outward assurance that the lad would recover (he didn’t see no sign or wonder).     

He was forced to make the difficult choice between insisting on evidence or exercising faith without any tangible proof to encourage him—he "took Jesus at his word" (ASV "believed the word") and set out on his return journey.

b)        He “believed the word that Jesus had spoken” and “he went his way.”

1)        The idea is that of instantaneous faith and action:

               He believed immediately and he turned immediately, heading home to his son. He acted on his faith—Faith sees the unseen (Hebrews 11:1)!  Believing is seeing. 

               Lets see the difference between this mans faith and the faith of the centurion in (Matt.8: 5-13 cf. Psalm 107:20).   

2.       Both faith and obedience were necessary to receive the promise and help of Jesus.

There is no real faith apart from obedience and work (Hebrews 5:9). 

Eternal salvation is given to all those who obey Christ. In the Bible, to obey Christ means to believe Christ, and to believe Christ means to obey Christ.

q      No person will obey Christ unless he believes Christ, truly believes Him. A person is going to live like he wants, not like Christ says, unless he truly believes in Christ. Therefore, the person who obeys Christ is the person who believes Christ.

q      No person believes in Christ unless he obeys Christ. The person who truly believes in Christ will obey Christ. If he truly believes that Christ is the Savior of the world, then he will follow Christ. He does what Christ says: he obeys Christ.

The point is this: believing Christ and obeying Christ mean the same thing.

To obey and to believe are the same act. Therefore, Scripture emphatically declares that Christ is the Author of eternal salvation to all those who obey Him.

D.     (4:51-53) The Fourth Stage Was A Confirmed Faith.

Note the words “as he was now going.” He was in the act of obeying Christ when he received the news that his prayer was answered. Both belief and obedience were essential.

       Note also that the man confirmed the supernatural vs. the natural. He asked the exact hour the boy recovered (1 in the afternoon) He wanted to be certain; he wanted absolute confirmation. He was reaching out for stronger faith in Jesus.

E.      (4:53-54) The Fifth Stage Was A Witnessing Faith: Note two things.

1.       The man witnessed to “his whole house.”

He told them about the experience he had with Jesus, the Word of promise and instructions Jesus had given him, and they all believed. They committed themselves fully to Jesus as the Messiah.

2.       Witnessing for Jesus was not easy for this man.

He was a high official, who would definitely be facing ridicule and persecution, and perhaps loss of position and even loss of life. But note: his faith was a witnessing faith. He loved Jesus for what Jesus had done for him, and he wanted others to know Jesus’ glorious salvation.

a)        We Must Start Witnessing In Our Own Household

1)        Luke 8:26-40 The Demon Possessed Man is Healed

2)        Acts 16:25-34 Philippian Jailer is Converted

3)        1 Peter 3:15 always be ready to give an answer to the hope that is in you.

F.      Application

1.       Needs confront every human being, including you.

       How are you going to react when severe times come your way (Matt.13)?

               You cant tell what is in a sponge until it is squeezed

       Who are you going to go to and put your trust in?

2.       Are you going to believe the Word of God?

                      Do you need to see signs and wonders or do you believe what God say (1 John 1:1-4; 5:13)?

                      Are you going to continue in His Word (John 8:30-31)

3.       Do you give up in prayer or do you persist in prayer?

                      We ought always to pray and not lose heart (Luke 18:1-5)

4.       Are you growing in the area of faith?

                      The maturing of our faith is more precious than gold to our Lord (1 Pet.1:3-9)

                      We are being changed from glory to glory (2Cor.3:18).


5.       Does your faith lead to obedience?

                      Believe God, be obedient to Him, and leave the results in His to Him (Genesis 22:1-19 cf.Heb.11:7-19 ).

6.       Does your faith lead to an evangelizing faith?

                      We must preach Christ (Col.1:28)

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