Spurious vs. Saving Faith

“Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man” (John 2:23–25).


After the Passover, Jesus remained in Jerusalem for the Feast of Unleavened Bread. During His stay He performed a number of miracles not recorded in Scripture. As a result of those miracles, John says, “Many believed in His name.”

But this faith was shallow, superficial, and disingenuous. It was not true saving faith, as John’s play on words indicates. “Believed” in verse 23 and “entrusting” in verse 24 both come from the same Greek verb. Though they believed in Jesus, Jesus did not believe in them; He had no faith in their faith.

Although many claimed to believe, Jesus knew that mere intellectual assent proves nothing; even the demons have such faith (James 2:19). Jesus did not embrace the false faith manifested by those who witnessed His signs, because “He knew all men,” and therefore “did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” He knows the true state of every heart. He saw in Nathanael the heart of an honest, true seeker (1:47); He saw in these people a superficial façade—a mere outward attraction to spectacular signs (cf. 6:2). Genuine saving faith goes far beyond that. It demands wholehearted commitment to Jesus as the Lord of one’s life (Matt. 16:24–26; Rom. 10:9). Is that the state of your heart?

Ask Yourself
It’s certainly fine to admire godly people and aspire to be like them. But if you haven’t noticed already, these same ones will eventually do or say something to spoil your image of them. We will too, if others look up to us. When you see Jesus in someone, don’t strive to be like them but to be like Him.

From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610

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