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What do we learn from ‘doubting’ Thomas?

It is recorded in the Bible, “And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the middle, and said, Peace be to you. Then said he to Thomas, Reach here your finger, and behold my hands; and reach here your hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said to him, My LORD and my God. Jesus said to him, Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:26–29).

doubting Thomas

Each time I saw these verses I would think: Why did the Lord Jesus not commend Thomas’ faith? Was it merely because he didn’t believe the Lord Jesus’ resurrection? If so, then didn’t Thomas have any doubts toward God before that? Or was it because the Lord Jesus hadn’t seen through his doubts before? I felt very puzzled about these questions.

Until one day, I saw this passage of words that said, “Before the Lord Jesus was nailed to the cross, Thomas always doubted that He was Christ, and was incapable of belief. His faith in God was established only on the basis of what he could see with his own eyes, what he could touch with his own hands. The Lord Jesus had a good understanding of the faith of this type of person. They only believed in God in heaven, and did not believe at all in the One sent by God, or the Christ in the flesh, and nor would they accept Him. In order for Thomas to acknowledge and believe in the existence of the Lord Jesus and that He truly was God incarnate, He allowed Thomas to reach out his hand and touch His rib. Was Thomas’ doubting any different before and after the Lord Jesus’ resurrection? He was always doubting, and except by the Lord Jesus’ spiritual body personally appearing to him and allowing him to touch the nail marks on His body, there was no way that anyone could resolve his doubts and make him let go of them. So, from the time the Lord Jesus allowed Thomas to touch His rib and let him really feel the existence of the nail marks, Thomas’ doubt disappeared, and he truly knew that the Lord Jesus had been resurrected, and he acknowledged and believed that the Lord Jesus was the true Christ and God incarnate. Although at this time Thomas no longer doubted, he had lost forever the chance to meet with Christ. He had lost forever the chance to be together with Him, to follow Him, to know Him. He had lost the chance for Christ to perfect him. The Lord Jesus’ appearance and His words provided a conclusion and a verdict on the faith of those who were full of doubts. He used His actual words and actions to tell the doubters, to tell those who only believed in God in heaven but did not believe in Christ: God did not commend their belief, nor did He commend them for following Him while doubting Him. The day when they fully believed in God and Christ could only be the day that God completed His great work. Of course, that day was also the day that a verdict was made upon their doubt. Their attitude toward Christ determined their fate, and their stubborn doubt meant that their faith bore them no fruit, and their hardness meant that their hopes were in vain. Because their belief in God in heaven was fed on illusions, and their doubt toward Christ was actually their true attitude toward God, even though they touched the nail marks on the Lord Jesus’ body, their faith was still useless and their outcome could only be described as drawing water with a bamboo basket—all in vain. … The Lord Jesus also wanted to use the case of Thomas as a warning for future people: Although you can neither see nor touch the Lord Jesus in your faith in Him, you are blessed because of your true faith, and you can see the Lord Jesus because of your true faith, and this kind of person is blessed.

Having read this passage, my heart suddenly brightened. From these words I saw that Thomas’ doubts not only referred to his disbelief that the Lord Jesus had already been resurrected, but to the fact that, during his following the Lord Jesus, he was always doubting and not convinced of the Lord. While following the Lord, he heard the Lord Jesus’ words with his own ears and saw some of His deeds with his own eyes, yet he didn’t try to know the Lord’s substance or God’s sovereignty and power from the Lord Jesus’ words and work. He didn’t in the least believe that the Lord Jesus was Christ, or that He was God incarnate; he only believed in God up in heaven. Thomas’ faith in God was based on what he could see with his own eyes and what he could touch with his own hands—he was believing in the God of his own conceptions, instead of believing in the practical God. Since God is almighty, and God looks into the bottom of people’s hearts, He had already been thoroughly familiar with Thomas’ doubts in his heart. Therefore, when the Lord Jesus appeared to Thomas after His resurrection, He allowed him to touch His rib and the nail marks on His hands, letting him to see that the Lord Jesus had already been resurrected, that the Lord Jesus truly was Christ, and was the incarnate God. After Thomas touched the marks, the Lord Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” Using this case, the Lord Jesus was telling those like Thomas: God does not commend such a faith as Thomas’, does not acknowledge this kind of people as His followers; if they continue with such a manner of faith, they would only end up being abandoned and eliminated by God.

I couldn’t help but think of the Canaanite woman’s story recorded in the Bible. As she just heard of some of the Lord Jesus’ actions, she implored the Lord Jesus by faith to cure her daughter’s disease. No matter what the Lord Jesus’ attitude toward her was, whether ignoring her or regarding her as a dog, she never doubted in the slightest that the Lord Jesus was God; she could affirm the Lord Jesus as her Lord, and her God from the bottom of her heart. Therefore, she had no complaints and appeared to be very reasonable, and this was a rare and precious thing she had. Because of her faith the Lord Jesus saved her daughter, giving her grace and blessings.

With regard to faith in and attitude toward the Lord Jesus, Thomas was entirely different from the Canaanite woman, so the Lord Jesus determined different outcomes for them: The one who didn’t have true faith couldn’t be blessed by God; the one who had true faith gained God’s blessings. Because God is faithful and God’s substance is holy and pure, God likes honest people who don’t have any doubts toward Him. Then how should we treat the incarnate God? Should we be like Thomas, only believing the vague God in heaven, but not paying attention to knowing the practical work of God incarnate, not believing in Christ on earth? Or should we follow the Canaanite woman to believe that the incarnate God is Christ, to treat Christ as God, and to have true faith in God? All of these questions are worthy of our deep reflection!

You may be interested in reading more on our Bible Devotions page about True Faith, or in the articles below.

Lessons on Doubting Thomas: Those Who Believe When They Have Not Seen Are True Believers

Believe in God by Faith, Not by Sight—A Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:7

Significance of the Lord Jesus’ Appearance to Thomas

Are You Thomas or Peter?

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