Waiting for the Water to Move

John 5:2-5
      Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. A certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): The impotent man thus desiring to be healed, waited at the pool expecting some sign and wonder. He hoped that an angel would suddenly burst open the golden gates and touch the waters which were now calm and stagnant, and that then he might be healed. This, too, my dear hearers, is the thought of many of those who feel their sins and who desire salvation. They accept that unscriptural and dangerous advice given to them by a certain class of ministers; they wait at the pool of Bethesda; they persevere in the formal use of means and ordinances, and continue in unbelief, expecting some great thing. They abide in a continued refusal to obey the gospel, and yet expect that on a sudden they will experience some strange emotions, singular feelings, or remarkable impressions.

JAMES DURHAM (1622-1658): Some, hearing of the impotency of nature, and of the power and perfection of grace in bringing about its designed effect, are ready to think they need do nothing, alleging, that if grace undertakes the work, it will be wrought; and if not, it will not be wrought.

C. H. SPURGEON: This ungospel-like gospel of waiting is immensely popular. I should not wonder if well nigh half of you are satisfied with it. O my hearers, you do not refuse to fill the seats in our places of worship; you are seldom absent when the doors are open, but there you sit in confirmed unbelief, waiting for windows to be made in heaven, but neglecting the gospel of your salvation. The great command of God, “Believe and live” has no response from you but a deaf ear, and a stony heart, while you quiet your consciences with outward religious observances…“Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth” is God’s gospel. “Wait at the pool” is man’s gospel, and has destroyed its thousands.

JAMES DURHAM: Never a man that has heard this gospel, when he comes to count with God, shall have it to say, that the reason why he did not receive it was his impotency and inability; but the real reason shall be found to be his willing rejecting of it.

C. H. SPURGEON: Sometimes I get, not young converts, but young convicts—those who under conviction of sin; and when I am trying to bring them to this―that if they are but sinners they may believe in Christ—they begin with this knotty point, and that knotty point, and they seem to imagine they cannot be saved till they are thorough theologians. Now, if you expect to understand all theology before you put your faith in Christ, I can only tell you that you never will; for live as long as ever you may, there will be some depths you cannot explore. There are certain unquestionable facts which you must hold; but there will be some difficulties through which you will not be able to see.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): We must always remember that we are not saved by our understanding. This is a most important point. Our danger as evangelicals is to fall into the trap of thinking that we are saved by our understanding; but we are not. Thank God, we are saved in spite of ourselves, in spite of our ignorance and everything else that is true of us.

C. H. SPURGEON: Another wants to know how it is that men are bidden to come and yet we are taught in Scripture that no man can come—and he must have that cleared up; just as if the poor man who had a withered arm, when Christ said, “Stretch out thine arm,” had replied, “Lord, I have got a difficulty in my mind; I want to know how you can tell me to stretch out my arm when it is withered.” Suppose when Christ had said to Lazarus, “Come forth,” Lazarus could have said, “I have a difficulty in my mind; how can a dead man come forth?” Why, know this, vain man! when Christ says “Stretch out thine arm,” He gives you power to stretch out your arm with the command and the difficulty is solved in practice; though I believe it will never be solved in theory.

G. CAMPBELL MORGAN (1863-1945): Unbelief is not a failure in intellectual apprehension. It is disobedience in the presence of the clear commands of God.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): Unbelief is not simply an infirmity of fallen human nature, it is a heinous crime.

C. H. SPURGEON: Did I not hear someone say, “Ah, sir, I have been trying to believe for years.” Terrible words! They make the case still worse. Imagine that after I had made a statement, a man should declare that he did not believe me, in fact, he could not believe me though he would like to do so. I should feel aggrieved certainly; but it would make matters worse if he added, “In fact, I have been for years trying to believe you, and I cannot do it.” What can he mean but that I am so incorrigibly false, and such a confirmed liar, that though he would like to give me some credit, he really cannot do it? With all the effort he can make in my favour, he finds it quite beyond his power to believe me? Now, a man who says, “I have been trying to believe in God,” in reality says just that with regard to the Most High.

JAMES DURHAM: It is not, I cannot, but, I will not. It is a wilful, and in some way deliberate, rejecting of the gospel, that is the ground of folks not believing.

C. H. SPURGEON: How idle is it to talk of trying to believe! If a statement is true, a right judgment believes it, not of choice, but because the evidence commands faith. The trying lies in the other direction: men do not want to believe the truth, therefore they are careless and negligent, they raise quibbles and questions, they demand signs and wonders, and feelings, and impressions; they struggle against the evidence, they shut out the light. In you who believe the Bible to be God’s Word, and yet are unbelievers, it is evidently so―for if Jesus be the Saviour why do you not believe Him?

JAMES DURHAM: What excuse, I pray, can you have?

C. H. SPURGEON: The talk about trying to believe is a mere pretense. But whether pretense or no, let me remind you that there is no text in the Bible which says, “Try and believe,” but it says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.”


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