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Sermon #1120

The Temporary Believer

A Sermon on John 2:23-25


John 2:23-25 ESV KJV
Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for …

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Sermon Description

What do Jesus’s miracles mean to the Christian? Did they bring the Christian to faith, or are they simply impressed by them? In this sermon on John 2:23–25 titled “The Temporary Believer,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones expresses the danger of believing in Christ solely based on spectacle. True believers come to Christ because of who He is, not merely for the miracles He performed. Many came to faith after seeing Christ’s miracles, but they did so in confession of sin because they realized their spiritual state in relation to God. Faith in the signs Christ performed did not lead people to salvation, but faith in the God who performed them did. Dr. Lloyd-Jones clarifies that God’s word, not wonders, leads people to faith. The distinction is important: wonders are phenomenal to behold, but God’s word articulates the truth of Christ to needful souls. This means that Christ’s teaching about His person and the good news was what brought people to Him, and miracles were further affirmation of His legitimacy. Dr. Lloyd-Jones also exhorts his listeners that they must believe “on” Jesus, not merely “in” Him. The difference, he explains, is that those who believe on Jesus are trusting Him with their souls; those who believe in Jesus merely trust Him to be a spectacle.

Sermon Breakdown

  1. The passage under consideration is John 2:23-25. Many believed in Jesus when they saw the miracles he performed, but Jesus did not commit himself to them because he knew what was in their hearts.

  2. There are two categories of people referred to in this passage: those who could not see the signs Jesus gave (the Jewish leaders) and those who believed because of the signs (the "many"). The "many" are the focus of this sermon.

  3. These "many" are referred to as temporary believers or false professors. They seem to believe but do not have true faith. Examples of similar people in Scripture include the five foolish virgins, those referred to in Hebrews 6, and those referred to in 1 John 2:18-19.

  4. These people were attracted to Jesus because of his miracles and teaching, but they did not truly understand who he was. They were interested in the new, novel, and spectacular. They craved authority and were credulous.

  5. These people believed in Jesus' name but not on him. Their belief was superficial and partial, focused on only certain aspects of Jesus like his miracles or teaching. True belief engages the whole person: head, heart, and will.

  6. These people completely misunderstood Jesus. They saw him as a miracle worker, king, or political figure but not as the Messiah and Savior. In contrast, Andrew, Philip, and Nathanael understood Jesus' true identity.

  7. These people never saw themselves as helpless sinners in need of a savior. They thought they were in control of their lives and chose to follow Jesus on their own terms. True believers have been humbled and convicted of their sin.

  8. These people honored Jesus with their lips but their hearts were far from him. We must examine ourselves to see if Jesus has truly committed himself to us, if we understand who he really is, and if we have been humbled in our sin.

The Book of John

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was a Welsh evangelical minister who preached and taught in the Reformed tradition. His principal ministry was at Westminster Chapel, in central London, from 1939-1968, where he delivered multi-year expositions on books of the bible such as Romans, Ephesians and the Gospel of John. In addition to the MLJ Trust’s collection of 1,600 of these sermons in audio format, most of these great sermon series are available in book form (including a 14 volume collection of the Romans sermons), as are other series such as "Spiritual Depression", "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount" and "Great Biblical Doctrines". He is considered by many evangelical leaders today to be an authority on biblical truth and the sufficiency of Scripture.