In reading John’s Gospel I have been seeing some interesting verses about faith; that there are, at least, two levels of faith. In describing both of these faiths John often just uses the regular word, PISTIS. Yet only the second level proves to have been real and saving faith. The first faith is one that is common to all believers (but which they graduate through) but also to others who prove later to be obvious unbelievers.
Here are some verses from John that seem to imply the two forms, or phases, of faith. Some are admittedly implicit, but others are quite clear.
John 8:30- 33
Verse 30 states explicitly that “many believed in Him” as he spoke to them. But what did Jesus tell these “believers”? (30- 31)
“If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” These “believers” still needed to be free. They still had to know the truth. How did they respond to this statement of Jesus? (31) They refuted Him. Later in the chapter they grossly insult Christ (41, 48) and try to stone Him (59). These “believers” became reprobate, and were the worse off for having heard Jesus.
John 6:61- 64
Nothing like a good meal to stimulate discussion. And this was a miraculous one! The 5000 were fed miraculously by the Bread of Life – and (v. 15) they wanted to make the Breadmaker king! But the important detail here is that they had made a confession about Christ (14) and expressed a desire to “work the works of God” (28). They showed a certain amount of belief – though this chapter never calls them believers. But Jesus tells them that the true work of God is true belief (29). But within this group of 5000 (those who go from being well-fed to “fed up”) there is a second smaller group, called “disciples” (60). When Christ spoke pointedly about our need to “eat His flesh” and “drink His blood”, or else we have no life in us (53) and that he is the living Bread (58) they no longer walked with Him (6:66 – an easily memorized verse number!). They had walked with Christ, listened to Him, probably even spoke approvingly to others about Him – and now they desert Him when He discloses the very foundation of their professed new life!
John 4:50, 53
Here is a happier example. The nobleman come to Jesus and asks for Christ to heal his son. Jesus tells Hm to go, and that his son lives (50). The man “believed the word”. But when he went home and actually saw the healing, and the exact timing of it (precisely at the moment of Christ’s speaking) he “believed” – again (33), “and his whole household”. The first belief was somewhat akin to the well-fed 5000 to their “Wonder bread”, but this second one has all the marks of true faith.
John 16:30- 33
Jesus speaks here to His own eleven disciples. After a tenuous confession from them (30) Jesus probes them (31), “Do you now believe?” and adds “The hour is coming …in which… you will leave me alone…”. So their faith here needs work. They assumed more confidence than they had, as events proved. We may confess the sweetest allegiance with lips but Jesus, the Heart-knower (KARDIAGNOSTES) knows what is in us to a fault. We are better off confessing than impressing.
Here are some other verses worth looking into:
John 4:42: The Samaritans believed first on the mere account of a woman who seemed to them decidedly untrustworthy. The second belief came from an encounter with Christ Himself.
John 12:42- 43 is about the rulers who believed in Christ, but never confessed Him out of fear of the Pharisees. This level of faith can’t be saving (see 43).
See also John 20:31.