“Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto Heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you”
“And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, he departed thence. And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief”
I would direct your attention to the last verse above, Matthew 13:58: “And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” There is nobody in the world who has any judgment, any good sense, who wants to tell of his or her failures. No matter haw apathetic we may be, such a course is always discouraging, disappointing, disheartening. It is good for us to know, however, that there were times in the life of our blessed Lord and Saviour JESUS CHRIST when even He apparently failed. Perhaps it is because misery loves company, but I personally have failed so many times in my own life that I like to read about the times in the life and experience of our Master when He too seemed to be tossing His words against stone walls as far as results were concerned. Of course you must remember that it all depends on what you mean by failure, and also what you mean by success. You know it is sometimes claimed that the Gospel was intended to straighten out the world, that the Gospel was intended to stop wars, that the Gospel was intended to solve social questions, that the Gospel was sent into the world to help the capitalist get right with the laboring man and the laboring man with the capitalist. If that is the purpose of the Gospel, then I say to you as unqualifiedly as the beat of my heart that the Gospel has been an almost total failure. On the other hand, if you take from the Word of GOD that the Gospel was intended to call out a people for the Lord, then, bless the Lord, it certainly has been a great success. There have been millions upon untold millions who have come to claim the Lord JESUS CHRIST in the pardon of their sins.
Nevertheless, the fact still remains, whether the sound of it rings clear in your hearts or not, whether you like the taste of it on your souls or not, that time and time again JESUS CHRIST, the Son of GOD, seemed to preach, seemed to work without results. Take some of these instances. There is the case of this man Judas Iscariot. For three years, perhaps longer for all we know, he had been associated with the Son of GOD. He was one of the apostolic band. He knew the innermost secrets of the work of the kingdom. Yet when a testing time came, this same Judas who had sat under the ministry of CHRIST, who had watched His works, who had associated with the person of the Redeemer, fell by the wayside and unquestionably sank into the hell that is reserved for all those who die in unbelief. Take the time when the Lord JESUS CHRIST spake to the man whom we call the rich young ruler. What a chance was offered the young man! The Son of GOD Himself preached to him to begin with; the greatest opportunity ever offered a man was his. The message was plain and clear; there was no chance of misunderstanding it. Yet the young man turned away sorrowful, to die, for all we know, in his sins.
Take the case of Pilate, or of Herod, before whom JESUS CHRIST stood on trial for His life. He was facing them out with His claim as the Redeemer. There He was, the Son of GOD, just as much the Son of GOD, the Saviour of the world, then as He is today. Apparently He made absolutely no impact on the hearts and lives of His judges.
Consider the awful procession starting on its way to Calvary. When JESUS CHRIST sank under the weight of His Cross, the milling, murderous, maniacal mob could find nothing else to say to Him or about Him except, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” It is exactly the same way today. Think of all the efforts evangelists, pastors, teachers, missionaries put forth in order to get the unsaved to come to the services, let alone to reach them for the Lord JESUS CHRIST. Think of all the multiplied millions of dollars that are being spent in religious advertising. Think of all the tears that are being shed, of all the activity that is being engaged in, in order to reach a lost world with the message of salvation. I bid you to remember the fact that the Gospel, that preaching, that the Church, that evangelism are not beginning in any way to keep up with the growth of the population of the world. There are more unsaved people an earth today, numerically and perhaps by percentage, too, than there have been in the last hundred years. With all our multiplication of activity, it looks as though the Lord JESUS CHRIST, in a great many cases, is continuing to fail.
But WHY? Why is it that the mighty Son of GOD seemingly is stopped in so many cases without being able to help these particular souls, much as He wants to? He teaches us that He doesn’t want souls to be damned but desires that all might be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Why is it, then, that so many, upon hearing the Gospel and watching the mighty works of GOD, still go on in their sins to sink into a devil’s hell? The combination of texts at the beginning of this chapter explains the awful problem. From them we may draw this outline:
First, there are THE WORKS OF CHRIST.
Second, there is THE WICKEDNESS OF UNBELIEF.
Third, there is THE WARNING OF SCRIPTURE.
“And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.”
Let us consider first THE WORKS OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST
The New Testament bears witness to them. It is written of Him that He went about doing good, such good, such wonderful good, such extraordinary good, good that none else had ever been able to do.
– Think of the honey sweet words of counsel, of comfort, of conviction, of courage that fell from His lips!
– Think of the mighty miracles of His healing!
– Think of His unstopping the mouths of the dumb, opening the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf!
– Think of Him stopping and, as someone has said, breaking up every funeral He attended!
Surely the people of His day and time should have fallen at His feet, if for no other reason than because of His works, and cried out, as one did say, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Think further of the testimony not only of the New Testament but of history, of secular, non-religious history.
Listen! I come from a city in Russia named Maghiliev. It is on the Dnieper River. At the time I lived there, it had a population of between 150,000 to 200,000. That was just before 1914. The entire city of more than 150,000 people had one small hospital, one drug stare, two doctors, one assistant doctor. There were four schools – two grade schools, one high school, one junior college. In all the four schools there were not a thousand, certainly not fifteen hundred students. n all the four schools there were not one hundred girls. The majority of the students were boys. Girls were not supposed to get an education.
What was the difference between Russia and the Chicago to which I came? What is the difference between Moghiliev and any city of the United States? People have two feet in Russia, two hands, two eyes, two ears, one nose. They take baths. They sleep. They are married and given in marriage. When you prick them, they bleed. When you poison them, they die. When you hurt them, they weep. What is the difference between Russia and America? I shall tell you.
In America the Lord JESUS CHRIST has been given a chance. In Russia He had not been up to that time, and of course He is not being given a chance now. I read of a Mohammedan preacher, a follower of Mohammed who had become a Christian. He said that in his country, in Turkey, if he had a choice between being a woman or a donkey, he would be a donkey, because his master would take better care of him than any husband took of his wife.
You dear sisters who are reading this, why are you not in some purdah of the Arabians, of the Turks, of the Hindus? Why are you not circumscribed in your activities? Why can you associate with others, going here, there, and yonder, just as openly as the men? Why do you not wear the veil? What is the difference? Is a Mohammedan woman ugly? Not at all. Is she indecent? Not all. Do they have something so terribly wrong with them, something not found in American women? Of course not. It is simply because you American women have your lives built in the foundation of the Blood of the Lord JESUS CHRIST.
Listen, my friends. When the Anglos and the Saxons were eating each other in the forests of Germany, in cannibalistic orgies, the Chinese were already writing, printing, dressing in silks and satins. Compare England with China today. China, backward, poor China, benighted, forlorn! England, a paragon among the nations!
What made England? Was it its Shakespeares? Perish the thought! Was it its Miltons? Forget it! What made England? Was it its factories? What made England? Was it its dances, its armies, its navies? No!
Definitely, truly, wholly, entirely, it is the CHRIST of the living GOD! The Gospel was preached in that country while poor China did not have the same chance. May I digress a moment? Far as long as the world stands, England and America, especially America, will never cease paying for the fact that we had the opportunity at China and missed it. China will be a sword at our hearts, a dagger at our throats because of its being taken over by the communists instead of by the Lord JESUS CHRIST.
It is the same everywhere you turn. No one who has ever read that matchless story of Queen Victoria can ever forget it. One of her Zulu king subjects came with his mighty retinue from his kraal yonder in Africa to visit her. Taking him into her carriage, as one of her great subjects, she rode him around the city of London to show him the sights of that mighty metropolis. Returning to her palace, she sat down on her throne. The giant Zulu, the black warrior, stood in front of her, leaning on his terrible spear as he spake:
“White Mother, I shall never dare tell my people what you have showed me this day. They will not believe me! They would kill me for a liar. But, I want to ask you a question that has been bothering me all this day. My people are bigger than your people. My people are as numerous as your people. My people are as strong as your people. I can take any two of your soldiers and break them with these two hands. There is not a man in your kingdom that I have seen that would be a physical match for one of my warriors. Why is it that you are so great and we are so small?”
You recall the answer. GOD bless the memory of that saintly queen! Stepping down from the throne, taking her Bible from a table by the side of the dais, lifting it before the king, she said: “King, this is the secret of the greatness of my empire!” Oh, how I wish someone would tell that to the President of the United States, to the Cabinet in Washington! They all need to know that. They seem to have forgotten this lesson, this testimony of history.
There is a third testimony to the works of CHRIST, even that of experience, the experience of salvation that so many all about you are enjoying, the experiences of salvation that have brought about such wonderful changes in the lives of folks round about us, changes that you and I have witnessed.
Listen to me. I know a man who was arrested for pickpocketing and burglary and was thrown into the Ohio Penitentiary. There came into his cell a colored man, a Negro who was a Christian. I do not know what he was doing in jail. Perhaps he landed there through some false witness. Perhaps he had gotten into some trouble. Christians, unfortunately, get into trouble only too often.
This black man did not forget his religion. He did not forget his CHRIST. He did not forget his testimony. He witnessed to the pickpocket and burglar. The Lord JESUS CHRIST reached out His mighty hand and with His own Blood washed away the sins of this miscreant. Today this former pickpocket, this former burglar is winning multitudes to the Lord JESUS CHRIST.
When I was in school, I drove my car from the seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, to my little church in Geronimo, Oklahoma, 190 miles away. Sitting beside me in my small automobile was a young man from Brooksville, Mississippi. He told me the story of his conversion. He had attended college in Clinton, Mississippi. He began to run around with the wrong crowd and started to drink, to gamble. He was kicked out of school and sent back home. His people ran a chain of stores, some of which I have seen. Sin got such a hold of him that his people would have nothing to do with him. He obtained a job as a traveling salesman. He went from bad to
One night in Vicksburg, Mississippi, after a terrible drinking bout and a spell of delirium tremens, he decided to commit suicide. Leaving his hotel, he made his way to the Vicksburg Bridge and stood there looking down into the swirling, black, muddy waters of the Mississippi River. It was about seven-thirty or eight o’clock in the evening. He decided to smoke one last cigarette. Taking a cigarette from his package, he tremblingly put it in his mouth. Then he started hunting for a match but apparently could not find one. About that time, as he was almost ready to throwaway the cigarette, a man came toward him on the bridge. Stopping the stranger, the young man asked: “Mister, have you got a match? I want to light my cigarette.” “I sure have.” Reaching into his pocket, the stranger pulled out an old-fashioned box of matches and gave it to the young fellow.
Because his hands trembled, he could not successfully light a match. “Let me light it for you.” Lighting a match, the stranger held it to the young man’s cigarette. He noticed the pastiness, the swollen condition of the smoker’s face. He saw the trembling hand shakingly holding the cigarette.
“Bud, you’re in trouble, aren’t you? You are sick, aren’t you?”
“No. I’m all right. I’m all right.”
“Well anyway, Bud, let’s go get a cup of coffee. I was just starting out for one and I don’t like sitting alone in a restaurant. Come along with me.”
“Oh, let me alone, Mister. I’m all right.”
“Come on, Bud.” The stranger put his strong arm through the arm of the young fellow and the two walked downtown into Vicksburg. They entered a small restaurant and ordered sandwiches and coffee. Later, as they walked out of the restaurant, the young suicide subject said: “Well, I guess I had better be going.”
“Where are you going?”
“Oh – just nowhere. Back to the hotel, I guess.”
“How about coming with me?”
“Where are you going?”
“Come along and you’ll see.”
“Well, I might as well go with you as with anybody else.”
They walked farther down into town to a church where a revival meeting was in progress. They sat on a back seat of the auditorium and somehow the young drink addict managed to stay awake throughout the service. They parted after the service, the young man going to his hotel. The next day, after straightening out some affairs, he left for home.
When Sunday morning came, without saying a word to his people, he accompanied them to the church. The pastor preached an extraordinarily good sermon that Sunday morning. When the invitation was given, the young man responded, offering himself to the Lord JESUS CHRIST and as a candidate for baptism. Still he said nothing to his people and they said nothing to him beyond congratulating him on his stand for CHRIST. They were wary, watchful, not knowing what was going to happen.
The next Sunday morning when the invitation was given, the young man again came down the aisle. When the preacher questioned him as to his reason for coming forward, he said he felt the Lord wanted him to be a preacher of the Gospel. Of course the family was overjoyed. The church was overjoyed. They licensed him to preach the Gospel. In a few short weeks the young man went to the Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
A few years went by. He had only one year of school left when one day as he sat reading a book in the lobby of the Texas Hotel, the largest hotel in Fort Worth, there came a tap on his shoulder.
“Charlie, I haven’t seen you in a long while. Are you still in the same business?” “Yes.”
“Still traveling?” “Yes.”
“Still selling?” “Yes.”
“Big business?” “Yes.”
“Having a good time?” “Yes.”
“Before we talk any more, let’s go upstairs and have a drink.” Charlie accompanied the man to his room. Opening his valise, the other man took out a bottle of Scotch, brought out two glasses, one for himself and one for Charlie, poured in a certain amount of water, and then filled the glasses with the strong whisky.
“Charlie, here is mud in your eye. Bottoms up!”
“Before we drink,” said Charlie, “I want to tell you what business I am in.”
Right there in the hotel room, with the glasses of whisky in their hands, Charlie told the other man about the Lord JESUS CHRIST. He told him what salvation had brought and meant to him. Before he was through, the other traveling salesman broke the whisky bottle, emptied the contents down the drain, and gave his heart to the Lord JESUS CHRIST. This man Charlie has become one of the most famous Christian characters and soul-winners in the United States of America.
I know another man of an alien race, of alien people, trained all of his days against the Lord JESUS CHRIST, against Christianity, against the New Testament, without any thought of religion, of salvation, of GOD, of the hereafter. JESUS CHRIST met him in the parlor of a church in Denver, Colorado, in the testimony of a minister of the Gospel, broke his heart, saved him, and by the grace of GOD he is preaching today. His name is Hyman Appelman. You do not have to go any further than Hyman Appelman to know the works of the gracious CHRIST of GOD. I weigh a bit over two hundred pounds. I am just a two hundred pound exclamation point that JESUS CHRIST is the mighty Worker of miracles of grace.
We hasten on. What about THE WICKEDNESS, THE WILFULNESS OF UNBELIEF? “And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” You say, “Preacher, you have chosen a strange doctrine, “The Failures of JESUS.” No, it is not strange, beloved. As long as you and I, Christian and unsaved, continue in unbelief without GOD, without CHRIST, just so long is JESUS failing as far as we are concerned. Then what about this wickedness, this wilfulness of unbelief?
First of all, my friends, it is sin against light. Here is the Bible, the Word of GOD, the revelation of GOD. Its promises, its proclamations, its proffers, its truths, its revelations are so clear that a child is able to understand them, so simple that you do not need a college or seminary education to comprehend them. This wickedness, this unbelief is sin against light.
It is sin against love. GOD wrote this Bible for love of us. GOD sent His Son to the Cross to die for love of us. There was no merit in any of us. He could have gotten along without us just as easily, perhaps, as with us. The whole plan of salvation is based on the fact that GOD loved us and does love us. He gave for us all He was and all He had. For our sins, on that bitter, cruel Cross, He tore His heart loose from its moorings. If you continue in unbelief – if you continue in hesitating unbelief, if you are a Christian and your life is limited because it is not surrendered, because you are afraid to trust CHRIST, if you are a sinner and have not come to the Fountain of Life, you are wicked because you are sinning against love. Love is to be trusted or it isn’t love.
If I were to ask you to place your hand on a Bible and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and then if I were to ask you, “Do you love GOD?” you would say “Yes.” If I were to ask you, “Do you believe that GOD loves you?” you would again say “Yes.” Yet many of you, the majority of you, I fear, are living as though you did not love GOD, as though you did not believe that GOD loves you.
You know that that is so. You do not trust Him with your money. You do not trust Him with your time. You do not trust Him with your talents. You do not trust Him with your church membership. You have all sorts of alibis and excuses standing between you and a surrendered life. Unbelief is sin, not only against light, not only against love, but against life, against the life of the Son of GOD and against your own life. What am I talking about? Simply this. All around you are men and women who have dared GOD, who have stepped out on His promises, who are doing exploits for GOD. Oh, the memories that come flocking to our minds of folks whom we know who are doing just that. We know that GOD can do for us, in us, through us, just exactly what He has done for these others; yet we hesitate, we hold back.
I was in a hotel room in the Cactus Hotel, San Angelo, Texas, with one of our great denominational leaders, at that time my superior when I was a state evangelist under the Texas Baptist Convention. He went the limit complimenting me on my humble work, on the successes that GOD had given me. He finished by saying:
“Hyman, you cannot expect to have as great meetings as Moody had, as great meetings as Charles Finney had, as some of the rest of them had.”
“There are too many magazines, too many radios, too many books, too many banquets, too many attractions, too many distractions, too many detractions.” That got me. I began to cry and could not stop. The tears came hot and fast. Finally I quieted down and apologized for my show of emotion.
“Why are you crying? What did I say that made you cry?”
“Doctor, if I thought that the moving picture shows, that the radios, that the magazines, that the attractions and the distractions, the subtractions and the detractions could stop GOD, you could have Him. I could not want that kind of a GOD. I could not want a GOD that could be stopped by the alibis of this day and time.”
Do you know what made Billy Sunday great? GOD! It was not the fact that he was raised out yonder in Iowa somewhere, part of the time in an orphanage. It was not the fact that GOD gave him a great woman for a wife. It was not that he had such extraordinary ability, such personality, such education. No! GOD had more of Billy Sunday than He has of Hyman Appelman, than He has of you, perhaps. Pray for me and I shall pray for you.
We are definitely sinning against life when we continue in unbelief. We Christians are doing just that. You who are unsaved are sinning against life, visible, evident, definite life. GOD has given you the warnings, the promises, the appeals in His Holy Word. GOD has given you the illustrations and demonstrations of people all around you. You are sinning flatly against life that cannot be denied.
Let us consider now the last point, THE WARNING OF SCRIPTURE “And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” Note this carefully. It is so true that it ought to be in the Bible. The great author, Robert Louis Stevenson, made this statement: “The Bible says it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living GOD, but I know something worse than that, and that is to fall out of the hands of the living GOD.”
When GOD lets you go, turns His back on you; you are through. You are finished. Christian, your power will be stripped from you, your position will be taken from you, your personality will be cast on a dung heap. Unsaved friend, if GOD were to let you go today, not all the preaching, not all the pleading, not all the sacrificing in the world would do you a bit of good. I go on to say, then, that unbelief rejects the Saviour.
You say, “Preacher, that does not apply to saved people, to Christians.” Oh, it doesn’t! That is your opinion.
What are you doing when JESUS asks you to do something and you refuse His behest because of your unbelief? Are you not rejecting CHRIST as your Lord and Master, even though as a Christian you may not be rejecting Him as your Saviour? Did not the Lord JESUS CHRIST say, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46)
– Unbelief rejects the Saviour.
– Unbelief crucifies CHRIST afresh.
– Unbelief denies Him before men.
– Unbelief delivers a testimony against Him.
We all agree that unbelief is the seed that rejects the Saviour in the heart of the unsaved. Unbelief ruins the soul. It ruins the soul here and it ruins the soul in the hereafter. It ruins the soul here in the sense that GOD has no place in your life, that your loved ones, your friends, your business associates, your schoolmates, all with whom you gather and forgather, are penalized by the fact that you are not a child of GOD.
If you are a child of GOD and continue in unbelieving refusal to surrender to the whole will of GOD, people round about you, brother Christian, sister Christian, are led by Satan to say, “There is nothing to it. It is a testimony without any truth. It is a tree without any fruit. There is nothing to it.”
Oh! One backslidden, indifferent, unconcerned, disobedient child of GOD can do more harm than a thousand unsaved people. The unsaved people are not Christians and folks know it. They do not expect Christian works out of them. Those who are the children of GOD, consciously or unconsciously have an area of influence which they affect with every breath that they draw, with every move that they make.
Again, my friends, I warn you, unbelief rejects the Saviour, ruins the soul. Unbelief wrecks your service. It is written that whatsoever is not of faith is sin, that without faith it is impossible to please GOD.
Many of you remember the story of Moody and his son-in-law. Moody was in England while his son-in-law was in America. There came an offer to his son-in-law to go out in great evangelistic meetings, in great revivals, in great campaigns. His faith failed him. He was in unbelief when he wired to Moody, “What shall I do? I am afraid. I do not have faith enough.” Back came the wire from Moody, “Go out on my faith.” What an answer! How it drove me to my knees! But I know a better faith than Moody’s and that is the faith of the Son of GOD, the faith that Paul the apostle speaks about in Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of GOD, who loved me, and
gave himself far me.” It is written of Him, “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself” (II Timothy 2:13).
There is no reason for unbelief. It is insensitive, ignorant, indolent, and worst of all, iniquitous. There is no good reason for unbelief. There is no good reason for lack of faith. Here is the Word. Here is the Cross of the Lord JESUS CHRIST. Here are millions of Christians praising the Son of GOD because of their salvation. Will you come over? Come with us because we definitely will do you good. Will you come and step out on what little faith you have, saying to GOD, “All there is of me belongs to CHRIST because He bought and paid for it with His Blood.” Some time ago in one of the back-state mining towns in Colorado, there came an infidel lecturer to town. Calling the people together in the only hall, the civic hall, he lectured to them five nights an atheism, on infidelity.
He brought to bear upon them all the devilish, all the satanic, all the hellish arguments that are at the beck and call of these lecturers. He tore the Bible, as he thought, to shreds. He denied GOD, denied CHRIST, mocked the Church, ridiculed preachers, laughed at Christians. On the last night, having finished, he stood before the crowd and cried out: “I have knocked off your shackles. I have knocked off your fetters. You are free. There is no GOD. Go ahead and do as you please. Christianity is a myth.” When he finished shouting about the myth, there stood up in that congregation a heavy-handed, heavy-faced mining man.
He said: “Mister, will you let me say a word?”
“All right, brother, fire away!”
“Mister, I haven’t got your education. I can’t use your language. I don’t know some of the words you used, but I have heard you every night and you sure are a good talker. I want to tell you something. Five years ago I was a drunkard, a gambler, and worse than that, I beat my wife. I abused my children. I couldn’t hold a job for a month straight. Nobody had any confidence in me.
There came to this town a youngish fellow. He made mistakes in his grammar. He wasn’t nearly as handsome as you are. He stood up there on the platform and he told us, told me about JESUS. I accepted JESUS CHRIST as my Saviour. I am saved. I have a good job. My wife and children are well dressed. I have the respect of this town. Brother, what you mean by that word ‘myth’ I do not know, but I am going to take my chance with JESUS.”
So am I! Do you know what I found out? It isn’t a chance. It is a certainty, thank GOD! It isn’t a chance here and it certainly will not be a chance hereafter. Friends, turn your back on unbelief. If GOD is calling you to some special task, if GOD is imposing upon you some special duty, dismiss unbelief and go out to do exploits for
If you are unsaved, unbelief will drag you down to hell. The slightest faith that you have in GOD, the faith that will bring you to CHRIST is enough to block hell and open Heaven forever. GOD give you the grace today to step out of unbelief into full belief, for JESUS’ sake. Amen.