The Effect of Unbelief

“Then He went out from there and came to His own country…Now He could do no mighty work there…And He marveled because of their unbelief”.

from Mark 6:1-6

What answer do we give to the question, “What does unbelief cause?” What answer do you think modern theologians would give? It is actually not difficult to find the right answer. We only need to think of the needs and conditions of our time. What does God’s Word tell us in response to this question? Following are a few Bible quotations that will make it clear.

The apostle Paul, a much-feared persecutor of Christians before his conversion, wrote in 1 Timothy 1:13: “…although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.”  Here we see how unbelief influenced this man.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul compares the high privileges of believing, converted people to a picture in nature. He compares these people, in a spiritual sense, to the branches grafted into the “olive tree,” into Christ. At the same time, he also speaks of those who were broken off of this “olive tree” because of their unbelief (see Romans 11). Their unbelief would not allow them to find Christ, nor to remain in Christ. 

In Hebrews 3, the writer goes back to the people of God in the Old Testament. Of these people, the Lord writes: “…Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with this generation and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.’ So I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest’…so we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (verses 9-11, 19). Hope and a wonderful entitlement were destroyed because of unbelief!

A warning is given to us: “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God: but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12-13). 

These examples make it clear how valuable faith is and what eternal disadvantages and losses come from unbelief! Paul substantiates this with the words: “…the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). Further, he says: “…whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

In Mark 6, we read that Jesus returned to His hometown of Nazareth. On the Sabbath, He began to teach in the synagogue, and many who listened to Him were astonished at His teachings. Others, however, were offended by His teachings and rejected Him. Jesus was deeply astonished at the hardness of their hearts. This unbelief blocked what Jesus could have accomplished among them, and we read: “He could do no mighty work there” (verse 5).

In Mark 9, we are told of a father who knelt before Jesus and earnestly asked for the healing of his only, seriously ill child. Jesus first appealed to his faith, saying, “If you can believe!” And the father pleaded for mercy, saying, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (verses 23-24). What did this mean? This father openly confessed his own need. It was unbelief. The father’s faith was not yet true faith, for he was not free from unbelief. What should he do? He realized that his broken faith prevented the expected help. Therefore, he cried out with tears, “Lord, I am suffering from unbelief; please, create faith for me!” Once the father found help, Jesus was also able to help his son. Unbelief stood directly in the way of Jesus’ ministry. This is largely still the case today. Someone said, “Saving faith often comes in the ‘quiet time’ with Jesus!” One does not have to remain in unbelief.

What is the effect of unbelief today? It is the greatest obstacle to a revival that is so urgently needed. It prevents the redemptive work of the Holy Spirit, who wants to awaken the necessary faith in all the world. Unbelief works directly against the will of God. According to Jeremiah 2:13, the Lord is called “the fountain of living waters.” He is the source of light, healing, hope, comfort, peace, joy, and all blessings!

Unbelief separates from God. It closes all healing sources and brings us to a state of being “without God in the world” (see Ephesians 2:12). Unbelief leads to inner impoverishment and eternal damnation. It closes every person’s way to God, to salvation, to freedom, and to the only Savior, Jesus Christ. This is the deplorable condition of our time. 

We see the increasing unrest in the world and the increasing animosity among people. We know of the disintegration of many families, of the distress among our young people, and of the many empty churches. These are the results of unbelief! Unbelief has also brought Christ, the blameless Savior of the world, to the cross and the persecution of His faithful followers even unto death. Nevertheless, salvation is still open to all people. May all of us still maintain a great faith today! 

Friedrich Krebs
Edmonton, Alberta

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