Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?Matt. 11:2-3
John the Baptist Doubts
In this study on what the Bible says about doubt, it is most interesting that Matthew records this comment from John the Baptist. After all, it was John the Baptist who came to bear witness to the Light (John 1:6) and the Light being Jesus, the coming Messiah of the Jews. John also knew that Jesus existed before him (John 1:15) and openly confessed that he himself was not the Christ (John 1:20). John also referred to Jesus as the bridegroom (John 3:29) and knew that Jesus came from heaven (John 3:31).
Perhaps John the Baptist is best known for his early pronouncement of the gospel message, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” [John 3:36] This echoed the same message from Jesus as he spoke to Nicodemus the Pharisee in the well known verse, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” [John 3:16]
With all of this in context, it is therefore quite striking that John the Baptist was in a moment of doubt on whether Jesus was the one who should come, or should they look for another. Doubt can be described as uncertainty, hesitancy or being unsure of things and if it can happen to someone like John the Baptist who was sent by God (John 1:6), it can certainly happen to all of us.
Thomas the Apostle Doubts
There is another notable person in the Bible who experienced doubt even after being with Jesus on so many occasions, listening to his preaching, teaching and healing of the multitudes. This was none other than Thomas the apostle of Jesus and yet he refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, “But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” [John 20:24-25]
Jesus described the dilemma of Thomas as one who will not believe without seeing physical evidence of the fact, “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed [are] they that have not seen, and [yet] have believed.” [John 20:29] Interestingly, in contrast to this statement are scriptures that tell us that faith is something that occurs when evidence may not be so present, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” [Heb. 11:1]
Peter the Apostle Doubts
A similar occurrence of doubt took place with Peter as he stepped out of the boat to walk on the water toward Jesus, only to start sinking. But Jesus was quick to respond not only in saving him but admonishing him over his lack of faith, “And immediately Jesus stretched forth [his] hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” [Matt. 14:31] It was noted later on that Peter also doubted a vision he received from God as it was shown to him that the gospel was also for the Gentiles, “Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean.” [Acts. 10:17a]
Jesus Preaches about Doubt
Jesus spoke to his disciples, and sought to highlight the importance of faith in contrast to doubt by illustrating how powerful faith can actually be in a person’s life, “Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this [which is done] to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.” [Matt. 21:21] While this could be considered hyperbole, the message of faith is nevertheless still the same from the Lord Jesus Christ as it relates to doubt.
Scripture does not necessarily describe doubt as a sin but Jesus often sought to emphasize the importance of not doubting, “And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind” [Luke 12:29] . He also frequently phrased this with the word believe or believing, “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” [Matt. 21:22] Similarly, Jesus frequently referred to his disciples of little faith, “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, [shall he] not much more [clothe] you, O ye of little faith?” [Matt. 6:30 The importance of this same message was also repeated in Matt. 8:26, 14:31, 16:8 and Luke 12:28.
Signs of Doubt
Doubt can afflict many people, including those who were closest to Jesus every day during his earthly ministry. Consider this passage, “Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.” [Matt.28:17] It is important to note that this was after they actually saw him standing before them following his death, burial and resurrection. Astonishing as this may have appeared, it is yet again evidence how doubt can affect people even those closest to Jesus in their faith.
This was also evident among many of the Jews who listened to the preaching of Jesus on countless occasions and yet responded to him, “Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.” [John 10:24] Also consider how people reacted following Pentecost when believers were gifted in speaking foreign languages to help spread the message of the gospel, “And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?” [Acts 2:12]
With all these verses referenced on what does the Bible say about doubt, let us close by highlighting an apostle who gave an incredible message of having no doubt in his faith. The apostle Paul described his faith at times as doubtless, meaning without a doubt. He was absolutely certain of what he knew and believed about the Lord Jesus Christ his savior. This was strongly evidenced in his letter to the Philippians church, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things [but] loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them [but] dung, that I may win Christ.” [Phil. 3:8]
Let us think upon this passage of scripture from Paul. His comments present a compelling message of faith. Paul counts all things in his life as completely insignificant versus knowing Jesus Christ as Lord. He considers anything that he has abandoned or lost on account of Jesus as nothing versus having Christ in his life. This is a tremendous illustration of unwavering faith in God and beckons the question for all believers. Is Christ the center of your life, or is he just part of your life?
As this Bible study comes to a close, it is with prayer that all readers be steadfast in their pursuit to be more Christ-like, wavering not, doubting not, being emboldened in their faith. Faith in knowing that Jesus cares for you and that the root of doubt itself originates from darkness, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” [1 Pet. 5:7-9]
Bible Study Questions
- In this study on what does the Bible say about doubt, why do you think John the Baptist doubted whether Jesus was the one who was sent by God?
- Can you list at least three things John the Baptist knew about Jesus that were so remarkable?
- Why do you think Thomas refused to believe that Jesus rose from the dead unless he could physically prove it?
- Putting yourself in Peter’s position, would you have stepped out from the boat and walked on water if Jesus said, “come”?
- While this study notes the apostle Paul’s unwavering faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, at one time, he persecuted the church, true or false? Hint, Acts 22:4.
- As John the apostle wrote, some went out from them because they were not of them. Have you ever found yourself in this situation and if so what could you have done to prevent it?
- Can you identify times in your life when the devil cast doubt on your faith? What can you do the next time this happens?