By Spencer D Gear
I was at a church recently where a man about my age (in his 60s) said to me: “I find it very difficult to believe in Someone I can’t see.” He was speaking of God.
In October 1997, I drove past Bundaberg Toyota (Qld., Australia) and on the front window was this advertising slogan: “New Camry is here: seeing is believing.”  This was the theme of that Toyota advertising campaign for the Camry: “Seeing is believing.”
If you go to the intersection of Maryborough and Bourbong Streets, Bundaberg, you’ll see a sign on the front of a real estate agent’s business: “Seeing is believing.”
Do you have to see to believe? Or do you need to believe to see?
When I turn to the Bible, I read
I Peter 1:8-9
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls (NIV).
These two verses are dynamic in teaching us that all true Christians MUST LIVE BY A LAW THAT BAFFLES THE WORLD. The world says: seeing is believing. God says: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6).
So is seeing believing? It maybe so for the new Camry or when buying real estate, but in God’s economy, believing is seeing.
Let me tell you where I am going in this sermon. I Peter 1:8-9 teaches us that:
1. Believing what you do not see is something you do all the time. We do it in many practical things every day.
2. This is a very reasonable and necessary position. If you had to see before you believed many things in life, you’d be up the creek.
3. Believing is seeing is the law of faith. You must live by it to be a Christian.
4. These verses and others in the N.T. teach us that even though you can’t see Jesus physically, it’s better that you can’t see him. You have proof of his existence:
a. From the Bible; and
b. The Holy Spirit lives in you and it’s His job to reveal Jesus to you.
5. You have faith in Jesus;
6. You love Him;
7. And you have a joy that you can’t express in words, because of
8. The salvation you are presently receiving–not just the salvation you will receive when you meet Jesus at death or at his second coming. You are receiving that salvation NOW.
Let’s get involved with this magnificent text.
Do you believe in anything you cannot see? Please tell me some of the things you believe in that you can’t see.
! Can you see the wind? You can see what it does. It blows the trees. I was sitting in a fishing boat at the mouth of Oyster Creek when dust settled down on the river. A car travelling along a nearby road made the dust and the wind blew it, but I could not see the wind. I only saw the dust. You believe in something you cannot see—the wind.
! Every boy and girl, Mum and Dad, that I see in this building today is alive. How do I know that you are alive? You are breathing, moving, talking.
What makes you alive? Your heart? Well, that is the physical thing that beats to keep you alive, but what kick started your heart to get it going? You have a principle of life within you that keeps you alive and you can’t see it. The Bible calls it your soul or your spirit. You can’t see it.
! What about your conscience that tells you that you have done wrong. Can you see it? But it’s real. You feel guilty.
! Let’s think about God. Can you see Him? No! Because He is Spirit. How
do you know there is an almighty God? The evidence is all around us.
- Look at the magnificent gum tree! What a beautiful design! I find it impossible to believe in a gum tree without knowing that God, the great designer, designed it that way.
- How can you take one passionfruit seed, plant it in the dirty ground with some mucky cow manure, give it some water and a plant grows that bears fruit. Each passionfruit has dozens of seeds inside it that are so sweet to eat. And when I eat all of those seeds, not one of those seeds grows inside me. God, the great designer, made it that way.
- Take a brand-new baby. Just think of how babies are made. What an incredible way God has planned for it to take a sperm to unite with an ovum.
- Have you stopped to think of how all the cells of your body link with the brain, the central nervous system, the stomach, the bowels, urinary tract, heart and lungs, what it takes for an eye to see, a tongue to talk, feet to walk on, and arms to do lots of things. No wonder the Psalmist in Psalm 139:13-14 could say of God: “for you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
- Some birds are able to navigate by the stars. Even if they are hatched and raised in a building without windows; if they are shown an artificial sky, they immediately are able to orient themselves to the proper place and migrate to it.
- The archer fish is able to fire drops of water with amazing force and accuracy, knocking insects out of the air.
- The bombardier beetle produces two different chemicals. When these chemicals are released and combined, they explode in the face of an enemy. Yet the explosion never happens too early and never harms the beetle itself. No wonder Psalm 62:11 says, “You, O Lord, are strong” (in Macarthur Jr. 1991, p. 79).
- But what about this monstrous world that we live in?
I can see what God does all around us. Yet I cannot see God. But I know what He is like. He is mighty powerful. In fact, the Book of Romans 1:20 reads:
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that [people] are without excuse.
Using the old measurements (non-metric),
The earth is 25,000 miles in circumference, weighs 6 septillion [1 followed by 24 zeros], 588 sextillion [1 followed by 21 zeros] tons, and hangs unsupported in space. It spins at 1,000 miles per hour with absolute precision and careens through space around the sun at the speed of 1,000 miles a minute in an orbit 580 million miles long. . .
To travel at the speed of light (ca. 186,281 miles per second) across the Milky Way, the galaxy in which our solar system is located, would take 125,000 years. And our galaxy is but one of millions” (MacArthur 1991, pp. 80-81).
So, do you have to see to believe? Or do you need to have faith (believe) to see.
If you call yourself a Christian,
A. YOU LIVE BY A LAW THAT BAFFLES THIS WORLD
1. “Though you have not seen him” (v. 8)
This is Peter speaking. The one who was a disciple of Jesus. ! He walked and talked with him.
Jesus took Peter, James and John to the mountain of Transfiguration where Jesus’ face shone like the sun, his clothes became white as light. Moses and Elijah appeared before them, speaking with Jesus. And then there was the voice of God from the cloud saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matt. 17:5).
Yet, when Jesus was arrested before His crucifixion, Peter didn’t want to have anything to do with Jesus. Peter denied he knew Jesus three times (Matt. 26:69f).
He was there for Jesus’ death and resurrection.
After the resurrection, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Do you truly love me?” (John 21:15f). He asked him three times.
Jesus gave Peter and “the apostles… many convincing proofs that he was alive” (Acts 1:3).
Then they (Peter included) saw Jesus taken up into heaven before their eyes (Acts 1:2).
It is this Peter who says to the early Christians scattered throughout the world and experiencing terrible persecution and trials:
“Though you have not seen him” (in the past)–v. 8;
“Even though you do not see him now”–v.9.
What do you do?
- “You love him” (v. 8). Agape is the kind of love that comes from your heart because of “the preciousness of the person loved” (Wuest 1942, p. 28); and
- “You believe in him” (v.9); and
- You “are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (v. 8). The old KJV translation said it beautifully: “Ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
This is crazy thinking by the world’s standard. You can’t see Jesus, but you have
- “a deep unconditional agape love for him;
- you have faith in him;
- and you don’t have ha-ha happiness, but a joy in the Lord that is impossible to express.
Peter must have had in mind what Jesus said in John 20:29: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
How can this possibly make sense?
2. “You love him” (v.8) even though you can’t see him.
I love my wife deeply and celebrated 38 years of marriage in 2006. But I can see her and put my arms around her. You may love your children, your husband or wife, your parents and other people, but you can see them.
How is it possible to love somebody you can’t see?
a. First, He has written us a BIG love letter, called the Bible, that tells us what he is like. In fact, Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me, has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
I loved my wife more and more, the more she wrote me love letters. This showed me her deep love for me.
If you want to know what God the Father is like, take a look at Jesus as he reveals himself in the Bible.
- In this BIG love letter to us, God tells us that Jesus had compassion on people and fed them, healed them, cast out demons that were tormenting them;
- Do you know the reputation of Jesus?
“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, `Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and `sinners’” (Matt. 11:19). Jesus associated with the scum of the earth–the worst possible sinners–and they were changed by him.
Jesus put it this way, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31).
- Of course, Jesus cared for the rich and the religious.
He told Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council, that he needed to be born again (John 3).
- In this BIG love letter, Jesus tells us how to live forever. Atheist philosopher, Bertrand Russell, said, “When you die you rot.” Not so, according to the big love letter. Death is not the end.
Where will you be one minute after you die? My last birthday gift from my mother—three weeks before she died in 1997—was this book, One Minute After You Die: A Preview of Your Final Destination (Lutzer 1997).
When you die physically, you continue to live–either in heaven or hell. If it is to be heaven, this is what Jesus said in the BIG love letter: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
I have read about a cemetery in Kirbyville, East Texas, USA, that has an old tombstone with this message on it:
Pause, stranger, when you pass me by
As you are now, so once was I
As I am now, so you will be
So prepare for death and follow me (Seniors-Cite.com, 1996-1997).
An unknown person who went past that tomb, read the words and underneath scratched this reply:
To follow you, I’m not content
Until I know which way you went (Lutzer 1997, p. 11, but Lutzer cited it in Indiana).
In this BIG love letter, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25).
Erwin Lutzer, the author of One Minute After You Die, puts it this way, and in line with what Jesus said: “One minute after you slip behind the parted curtain, you will either be enjoying a personal welcome from Christ or catching your first glimpse of gloom as you have never known it. Either way, your future will be irrevocably fixed and eternally unchangeable” (Lutzer 1997, p. 9).
Do you realise that the people you work with, joke around with, marry, reject, are not ordinary people. They are people who will live forever and they are what C.S. Lewis described as “immortal horrors or everlasting splendors” (cited in Lutzer 1997, p. 9). 
I picked up the Bundaberg News-Mail on Friday, 15 May 1998, and read the death notices. I learned that my Mum’s first cousin, Harold Lobegeier, had died. Harold was secretary of Bundaberg Baptist Church when I attended there many years ago as a teenager. I know from Harold’s relationship with Jesus and God’s love letter to us that Harold has gone to where my mother is–in heaven. It’s guaranteed because Harold trusted Christ as His Lord and Saviour many years ago and served him faithfully.
How is this possible? In this BIG love letter, we are told why Jesus was put to death by that excruciating form of capital punishment–crucifixion.
In 1 Peter 2:24, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.” You deserve to die for your own sin (“the wages of sin is death”), but Jesus took your place and died for your. He was your substitute for sin.
You ask me why I love Jesus, whom I have never seen physically?
First, He has written us a BIG love letter, called the Bible, that tells us what he is like.
There’s a second reason you can love somebody you can’t see.
b. There is not one Jesus physically on the earth, but Jesus has sent His representative to live in you personally and among the people of God, to make Jesus known to you. Christ lives in every person who believes in Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, and lives in every group of Christians (the church) by His Spirit.
It would be impossible for all people in all of history to have seen the physical Jesus while he was on earth. So this is what Jesus has done for us and it’s far better than his being on earth physically.
“If you love me [Jesus is speaking to the group of disciples], you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever” (NIV).
[This is another of the same kind as Jesus and the Father, i.e. The Holy Spirit/Counselor is God. The word for Counselor–parakletos–is one called alongside to help, but in the sense of a legal friend, an Advocate, a solicitor for the defence. Comforter or Counselor is not a really good word to describe the parakletos. The NRSV’s use of “Advocate” is closer to the real meaning. He’s a legal friend who is] (Morris 1971, pp. 649, 662), John 14 says:
the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (vv. 15-18 NIV) [the “you” right through these verses is plural. He’s speaking to the disciples and to us, the church].
This was Jesus speaking before he was crucified. Jesus is telling his disciples that when He leaves this earth, He is not going to leave us as orphans without a father and mother. The Holy Spirit will come to you and will be live in you.
Now, Jesus again, from the BIG love letter, in John 15:26, “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.”
Let’s get this very clear so that even boys and girls can understand. It is absolutely unnecessary for the physical Jesus to be on earth. Why?
1. Jesus is sending the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, from the Father and where will this legal friend live? Inside every Christian and among the community of believers.
2. When did this Holy Spirit Lawyer become available to Christians? Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans.” So the Holy Spirit came when Jesus went away physically from this earth.
3. What kind of Spirit is he? These verses say He is the Spirit of Truth. The Holy Spirit who lives in you personally and among the church, will never ever tell you a lie or misrepresent you. He can’t. He must always tell the truth. That’s his nature.
4. The Holy Spirit solicitor lives in you. What do these verses say about what his job is. Jesus said in John 15:26: “He will testify about me.” So the Spirit’s job, when he lives in you, is to tell you about and represent Jesus.
“Jesus says, “But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.”
What’s the Holy Spirit’s job in you as believers? John’s gospel (esp. chapters 14-16) tell us:
(He is with Christians continually and is in them (14:16f);
(John 14:26 says He is our teacher and reminds us of all that Jesus has said.
(He testifies about Christ (15:26);
(What’s his work in unbelievers (the world)? To convict of sin, righteousness and judgment (16:8).
(The Spirit can only come when Jesus goes away (16:7). This obviously means that the work of the Spirit in the believer is totally related to the saving work of Christ on the cross (based on Morris 1971, p. 663)
Will you note something with me that’s very special. In John’s Gospel, the functions assigned to the Spirit are given to Jesus.
- Read John 14:20; 15:4-5 (Jesus is in the disciples).
- John 7:14; 13:13 (Jesus is the teacher).
- John 8:14 (Jesus testifies on his own behalf).
But we have already noted that this is the ministry of the Holy Spirit. No wonder John 14:16 calls the Holy Spirit Counsellor another Counsellor (another of the same kind). This is all tied up in the mystery of the Trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–one God, but three Persons–and sometimes with overlapping function.
This has all been to help us understand our text in 1 Peter 1:8-9.
! We haven’t seen Jesus.
! We don’t need to because we know Jesus through the massive love letter that He has written to us–the Bible.
! We know Him through the Holy Spirit who lives inside every believer, and among the gathering of believers.
! And as a result, we love Jesus with an unconditional agape love.
Not only do you love him, but v. 9 says:
3. “You believe in him.”
You have faith in him. Not a leap of faith into the dark, but faith in the one who has revealed himself carefully and accurately in the Bible and through the Holy Spirit who lives in you.
The Bible is under a lot of attack today. This is not a book of fables that credulous Christians believe like a magicians trick.
I want to give just one example of the accuracy of the Bible. You can absolutely depend on the authenticity and credibility of this book.
Sir William Ramsay was regarded as one of the greatest archaeologists of all time. He was so influenced by the theological liberals [of the German historical and critical school] that he did not believe the Book of Acts was written in the first century. Instead, he originally claimed, it was written in the mid-second century after Christ. So, the Book of Acts was not a trustworthy document of the facts of A.D. 50. How could it be when it was written by somebody 100 years later by somebody who did not live at the time of the incidents described in the Book of Acts?
In his archaeological research on the history of Asia Minor (Turkey), Ramsay paid little attention to the N.T. However, being an honest archaeologist, his investigation “eventually compelled him to consider the writings of Luke [the human writer of Luke’s gospel and the Book of Acts].” What did he find? This is what Ramsay (1915, p. 222) concluded:
The meticulous accuracy of the historical details, and gradually his attitude towards the Book of Acts began to change. He was forced to conclude that `Luke is a historian of the first rank… This author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians’ (cited in McDowell 1977, p. 43).
Because of the accuracy of the most minute detail, Ramsay finally conceded that Acts could “not be a second-century document but was rather a mid-first-century account” (cited in McDowell 1977, p. 43).
Take this Bible in one hand and look at the world around you and you have a perfect picture of what’s going on in this world. But it’s historically accurate because the God who gave it to us is the God of truth. Not just truthfulness, but the God whose truth matches reality.
I work in a white hot world where I am trying to help parents whose youth are raging out of control, with hatred that seethes. I’m working with youth whose parents couldn’t give a hoot about them, abuse them, marriages bust apart and people are emotionally splattered in the process.
Sexual abuse, drug abuse, youth suicide, poor parenting skills, youth rebellion. If I didn’t have God’s BIG love letter to us, I would be blaming poor families, selfish and destructive youth. I’d go looking for some medical problem, a dysfunctional family or bad background that makes these people victims. VICTIMS! VICTIMS!
But when I turn to the BIG love letter, I read in Matt. 15:18-19,
“But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man `unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man unclean” (Matt. 15:18-19).
Christian: You are living by a law that baffles the world. Seeing is not believing, but believing God is seeing what is happening in your life and telling you what will happen to this world. Saddam Hussein will not end history. Neither will the new President of Indonesia, or the Indian bomb, or Bill Clinton, or John Howard.
This world is not going around in cycles of capitalism, socialism, mystical New Age karma and reincarnation. This world is heading towards God’s grand conclusion with the second coming of Jesus Christ, new heavens and a new earth. How do we know? Believing God is seeing.
What does all this do for the believer?
4. You “are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (v.9).
You don’t just have some joy. You are filled with it and it boils over so that you find it impossible to express.
This beats the best psychiatric institute in Australia. No matter what trials you go through (and you could be there right now), the Holy Spirit will never leave you or forsake you. Even if your husband or wife leaves you (and that hurts badly); even if your children rebel and cause you heart-break; even if nuclear bombs explode in your back yard–you can have a joy that overflows in your life to the point where you will not be able to express it.
This is real Christianity. Heb. 6:5 says we “have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age.”
Why is it happening?
5. V. 9: You are “receiving the goal of your faith.” What is that? “The salvation of your souls.”
Not that you will receive the goal of your faith only when Jesus comes again. You are receiving some of that goal right now. What is it? The salvation of your souls. This is not the soul as opposed to the body,
as though the soul is finally saved; the word [“soul”] designates the person, the real being that is saved, and not merely a part of it. When the soul is saved, the body, too, is saved and will in due time join the soul (Lenski 1966, pp. 43-44).
This is the Bible’s way of saying that your whole personality is being saved.
I John 5:9 says, “We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater…”
We trust other human beings even though people can be untrustworthy. We trust human beings every day of our lives.
- When we drive across a bridge, we trust that the bridge will hold us up. We trust the engineer who designed it, the people who built it, and the inspectors who guarantee its safety–even though we may never have met them. We have faith.
- I trust that the bus driver will take me from Bundaberg to Brisbane–that’s what the sign on the front says. I trust that the driver is an employee of, say, McCafferty’s; I have faith.
- I buy a ticket to the state of origin match, having faith that the players will show up and the match will be held as advertised, and that the ticket will gain me admission.
We have faith in all these other human beings who are often untrustworthy.
When God calls us to believe in Christ [whom we have never seen], he is calling us to do the most sensible thing we can ever do. He is asking us to believe the word of the only being in the universe who is entirely reliable (Boice 1986, p. 410).
I John 5:9 states “that if we can do this with other human beings who are often untrustworthy, we can do it with God. Indeed, we must. For God commands faith, and the salvation of our souls must express itself through responses to his offer” (Boice 1986, p. 411).
This is what God wants to teach us: 2 Cor. 4:16-18;
2 Cor. 5:7, “We live by faith, not by sight.”
Believing is seeing. Robert Jastrow has extraordinary credentials as an astronomer. He is the former director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies in the USA and wrote a book, God and the Astronomers. He is talking about the Genesis and Science question, but he is addressing this issue of faith that baffles the world. He said:
The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same…
This is an exceedingly strange development, unexpected by all but the theologians. They have always believed the word of God. But we scientists did not expect to find evidence for an abrupt beginning because we have had, until recently, such extraordinary success in tracing the chain of cause and effect backward in time…
At this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries (Jastrow 1978, p. 105, cited in Zacharias 1990, p. 133, emphasis added).
Christian: You live by the law of faith. It makes absolute sense in the everyday world. It will take you to heaven. But it baffles the world.
2. I saw it on 18 October, 1997.
3. The full quote is: “There are no ordinary people. . . It is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors” (Lewis, 1980, pp. 18-19, cited in Lutzer 1997, p. 9).
Boice, J. M. 1986. The Foundations of the Christian Faith, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois.
Jastrow, R. 1978, God and the Astronomers, Warner Books, New York.
Lenski, R. C. H., The Interpretation of The Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Lewis, C. S. 1980 (rev. and exp. ed.), The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, Macmillan, New York.
Lutzer, E. W. 1997, One Minute After You Die: A Preview of Your Final Destination, Moody Press, Chicago.
MacArthur Jr., J. 1991, Romans 1-8 (The John MacArthur New Testament Commentary), Moody Press, Chicago.
McDowell, J. 1977, More Than a Carpenter, Kingsway Publications, Eastbourne.
Morris, L. 1971, The Gospel According to John (The New International Commentary on the New Testament), Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Ramsay, W. 1915, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, Hodder and Stoughton, London.
Seniors-Site.com 1996-1997, ‘Tombstone epitaphs,” Available from: http://seniors-site.com/funstuff/epitaphs.html [9 July 2006].
Wuest, K. S. 1942, First Peter (in the Greek New Testament–Wuest’s Word Studies),Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Zacharias, R. 1990, A Shattered Visage: The Real Face of Atheism, Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, Inc., Brentwood, Tennessee.
Copyright © 2007 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 December 2015.