The Salvation of a Skeptic
Published April 9, 2023
We are living in a time when nothing is true and when everything is true.
Our current cultural mindset says that nothing is ultimately true. There is no absolute truth or objective reality. There is nothing to be known as it is because there is no such thing as knowledge. There are only perspectives, interpretations, experiences, feelings, and opinions. To claim that something is objectively true is in one sense the greatest heresy of our society’s preferred religion, which places self at the center of the universe.
But on the other hand, because nothing is objectively true, everything is true. Truth has been detached from objective reality, from what is, and now it simply is an expression of what one feels. And so whatever you feel is defined as your truth. This worldview has made its way into every form of media, into our educational institutions, into politics, into religion, into sports, and literally into every corner of our society. People can make the most outlandish claims, and regardless of how objectively false those claims might be, they must be regarded as true for the person who made the claim.
This is the current war on truth being waged in our society today.
Because we live in a society that has essentially jettisoned the truth, I am always fascinated to find out how people come to faith in Christ. To believe in Christ for salvation means that you believe there is truth, and that it is only found in Jesus Christ, and that everything else is a lie. It is an exclusive call and a narrow road. You can’t be a Christian in any meaningful sense of the term simply by believing that Jesus is true for you. To be a Christian demands that you believe the truth of Christ is true for every person who has ever lived, whether they acknowledge it or not.
And so to meet people who have rejected the cultural definition of truth as nothing and everything – and have come to be convinced that the truth is found only in Christ is most intriguing. It stands out in stark contrast to what the prevailing view is today, and it always prompts the question, “What was it that convinced you that truth is not a matter of opinion or perspective, but that truth is an objective reality revealed in the Word of God?”
In John 20:24-29, we find an account of such a person who came to believe in the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This passage tells the account of Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples, and how he came to believe in Christ. And what makes this passage so intriguing is that Thomas was not an indifferent bystander uncertain of what he believed who then was convinced to believe in Christ. Thomas was a skeptic; he flatly and unequivocally rejected the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And in these verses, we see the transformation of Thomas – the salvation of a skeptic, how he went from unbelief to belief in Christ.
This account is here, not just because it is interesting, but it is here to convince us that the truth is found in Jesus Christ. This passage is here to strengthen the conviction of believers that what we believe is not merely true for us, but that is it true objectively and absolutely, and we can confidently put our hope for all of our eternity in this resurrected Christ. And it is here to convince even the hardest skeptic to believe and receive eternal life in Jesus Christ.
As we look at this passage, it unfolds in four parts. First, we meet a resolved skeptic. Right here, we have the first moment in John’s Gospel of someone being called to believe in Jesus’ resurrection – sight unseen and based solely on apostolic eyewitness. The apostles were the ones who were chosen to be His witnesses, witnesses of His death and resurrection, and now the question arises, “Will their testimony be believed?”
Thomas was absolutely resolved not to believe in Jesus’ resurrection unless his conditions and demands were met, and he didn’t appreciate the disciples calling him to faith. Thomas might have been stuck in such resolute skepticism about the resurrection because he experienced massive disappointment when Jesus died or because he was out of fellowship with the other disciples. There are many other reasons people don’t believe in Christ, many excuses that they give, but these are two of the most common: disappointment and disillusionment, and a lack of exposure to the Word of God.
This resolved skeptic, though, was about to encounter personally a resurrected Savior. When Jesus appeared to Thomas and the disciples, He displayed tenderness and compassion for Thomas. He does not scold Thomas for his unbelief, nor does he chastise him for it. Then Jesus calls Thomas to faith, exhorting him to turn away from his skepticism, disappointments, and doubts – and look at the One who was crucified and now is raised from the dead.
When a resolute skeptic encounters a resurrected Savior, he becomes a rescued sinner. We see what happens when a sinner is rescued by the resurrected Savior in Thomas’ confession of faith, which is one of the most glorious and lofty in the Bible. The rescued sinner, first of all, recognizes that Jesus is his Lord. He also recognizes that Jesus is God. To believe in Jesus and be a rescued sinner by His grace is not merely to intellectually acknowledge that He rose from the dead – even the demons know Jesus rose from the dead. The rescued sinner, not only believes what Thomas believed about the resurrection, but confesses what Thomas confessed about the one who was resurrected: He is my Lord and my God.
Finally, we see a royal summons. Jesus address, not just Thomas, but everyone who would come after Thomas and believe what he believed without seeing what he saw. How would we believe in Jesus when we have not seen Him? The answer goes back to where this passage started: we believe based on the eyewitness testimony of the apostles.
In one way, we are called to be like Thomas, confessing that Jesus is our Lord and our God. But in another way, we are called not to be like Thomas because we are summoned by the King to believe in Him based on what His apostles proclaimed rather than based on our own personal experience of Jesus Christ. And Jesus is clear that we who believe based on the Word of God are blessed with the blessing of eternal life.
Those who are not followers of Christ must ask God to show them the truth of Jesus’ resurrection and to give them a heart to believe. They can look for Jesus everywhere in the world, but they will never find Him until they begin to seek Him in His Word. But for those who are followers of Christ, they are blessed because they have eternal life in His name. And that makes it such a joy to worship our Lord and our God this Easter – to know that He is risen indeed.