In John 6, we see Jesus feeding 5000 people with five barley loaves and two fish. Plainly this miracle demonstrated to those people (and to us) that He is God, capable of making something from practically nothing. This Jesus is the Son of God who spoke all creation into existence (Colossians 1:16). No doubt, He is omnipotent deity. He performed this sign of the loaves so that they would see His glory and be drawn to Him through it. It seems that from the account that the crowd did indeed see Him as a miracle worker, and maybe even as God. Their response was to call Him a prophet (v. 14). But Jesus perceived their intentions to make Him king and pulled away from them. He knew that in their heart was the mere craving of bread and the absence of seeking after His glory. These people wanted to make Him king because He could deliver the goods, were not drawn to Him because they wanted Him. They wanted His gifts—and they wanted them apart from the person of the gift. They did not see the sign, but only bread (v.26). The sign was intended to point to a greater reality, to a greater gift, a greater delight. The sign was to point to the glory of Christ, His infinite worth and beauty. He is the Bread of Life (v.35). It was Him they were to love, not the physical bread. They were content with the taste and temporary sustenance of barley loaves, when the Bread of Life was available to them. All they had to do was believe! (v.29).
But this is confusing. They believed, didn’t they? They sought Jesus out to make Him King. They saw His power and believed in Him. Right? What is absent in their believing that would cause Jesus to tell them that they still needed to believe in Him? They obviously believed He was capable to doing impossible things. So what is absent in their faith? What was absent in their believing that would constitute unbelief? And, from a practical standpoint, how does this set them up for temptation and sin? What do we learn here about faith that helps us battle sin?
Unquestionably, faith includes cognitive elements about who Jesus is and what He has done. We must possess right knowledge about the person and work of Christ. We must believe that He is God, the Son of God, the second Person in the Trinity; that He came to earth and became a man, and lived a perfectly sinless life and died on the Cross to pay the price for sin; that He rose on the third day and ascended to the right hand of the Father, where is intercedes on the behalf of those who are called. These biblical truths are essential, but does believing these facts constitute biblical, saving faith?
If we are to rightly battle sin with faith, we need to get a clearer understanding of this. The Bible teaches that real faith enlightens our eyes, so that we not only are capable of believing facts, but also in being changed of heart by that enlightening. The eyes of the heart being enlightened, we now see Jesus rightly. Not only is He powerful to do miracles, but He is gloriously beautiful, infinite in worth, and like no other, worthy of our deepest affections and the object of love and joy. True faith is more than just believing and relying, but it is also delighting and enjoying. It replaces lesser joys for greater. It enables spiritual sight that changes the affection of the heart. It makes idolaters into worshipers of God. Without that element, faith is dead and cannot produce change (James 2:14-26).
Notice Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church:
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might. (Ephesians 1:16-19)
Paul wants the church to know things as a result of their hearts being enlightened. He wants them to be ever-increasingly growing in the perception of the benefits of the salvation they’ve been given in Christ. And notice that this knowledge is rooted in the person of Christ, not independent of Him. He is their hope, their glorious inheritance, and the immeasurable power of God toward them. He is the gift of God, toward which our faith directs us in giving us sight to see.
In John 6, Christ’s public miracle of making bread was intended to give the crowd a taste (“sign”) of His glory and an appetite for more. Instead, they saw only the multiplication of physical bread. They did not develop a taste for the Giver of the bread, but rather grew even deeper in their idolatry for tangible, edible loaves. They believed Christ could make more bread, but that belief did not bring them to love Him as the Bread of Life. Therefore, they were still unbelieving.
In short, real, complete faith produces love for God. It gives us sight to see His glory. It is the gospel that enables faith. It is the finished work of our Savior Jesus that both makes faith possible and then makes it the means of greater sight of His glorious grace and ever-increasing love for Him.
How does faith—trusting in, hoping in, delighting in, and loving God—change us from idolaters to worshipers? I will look at the practical implications in the next installment of this blog. Till then, pray that the Lord gives you eyes of the heart to see and enjoy His fullness and glory!