Summary: There are at least 3 different Greek words translated "doubt" in the New Testament, but the doubt Thomas exhibited was the most dangerous form of doubt in Scripture. What was Thomas doubting, and why was it so dangerous for him to do so?
Does anyone know who Kirsten Powers is? (A few hands went up).
Kirsten is a columnist for USA Today, and Newsweek and a contributor to Fox News. Some time back she told of her transition from being an atheist to believing in Christ. She explained that at one time no one she knew was a Christian - all of her friends were New York liberals and if they ever spoke of Christianity, they spoke with disdain at the ignorance and foolishness of people who wasted their time going to church.
Someone once asked her if there were any deal breakers in dating for her. She had replied: "Just nobody who is religious." But then she began dating a Christian. And somewhere along in their relationship he asked her if she believed that Jesus was her Savior. She was quite blunt: “No.”
Then he asked her: "Do you think you could keep an open mind about it?"
Well, of course. "I'm very open-minded!" Even though I wasn't at all. I derided Christians as anti-intellectual bigots who were too weak to face the reality that there is no rhyme or reason to the world. I had found this man's church attendance an oddity to overlook, not a point in his favor.
As he talked, I grew conflicted. On the one hand, I was creeped out. On the other hand, I had enormous respect for him. He is smart, educated, and intellectually curious. I remember thinking, What if this is true, and I'm not even willing to consider it?
She started going to church with him and found the sermons shook her faith in her atheism. After a while her life went through some rocky times and a friend suggested she go to a specific Bible Study in an apartment in New York. She said “I remember walking into the Bible study. I had a knot in my stomach. In my mind, only weirdoes and zealots went to Bible studies. I don't remember what was said that day. All I know is that when I left, everything had changed. I'll never forget standing outside that apartment … and saying to myself, ‘It's true. It's completely true.’ The world looked entirely different, like a veil had been lifted off it. I had not an iota of doubt. I was filled with indescribable joy. (PAUSE)
The horror of the prospect of being a devout Christian crept back in almost immediately. I spent the next few months doing my best to wrestle away from God. It was pointless. Everywhere I turned, there he was. Slowly there was less fear and more joy. The Hound of Heaven had pursued me and caught me—whether I liked it or not.”
Kirsten was a woman who doubted God.
And we would expect to see doubt in the lives of atheists and agnostics.
We’d expect to see doubt in the lives of people who don’t go to church.
We would EVEN expect to see doubt in the lives of those who just play at being Christians.
But committed followers of Christ?
They’d never doubt would they?
(PAUSE) Yeah, every once in a while, they do too.
Here in our story today we find that one of Jesus’ closest followers… doubted.
In fact, his very name has become a byword for doubt.
When we encounter someone who refuses to believe something that is true we call them a “doubting…. Thomas.”
Thomas will forever be known as the one who doubted.
Now, as I was preparing for the sermon this morning, I thought I’d investigate what Greek words were used for doubt… and I was surprised to discover there are several different Greek words translated “doubt” in the New Testament.
For example: there’s the word “diakrino”. It means to “hesitate.”
That’s the word Jesus used when He said: “if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not DOUBT (hesitate) in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.”
Then there’s the Greek word “distazo” which means “doubt.”
That’s the word used when Peter walked on the water.
Do you remember that story? Jesus came out, walking on the water and Peter asks if could do the same. Sure, says Jesus, come on out. And Peter WALKS on the water.
He’s almost to Jesus, and do you remember what happened? That’s right he begins to feel the wind and sees the waves, and he takes his eyes off Jesus and he begins to sink.
He cries out for help, and Jesus reaches down pulls him out of the water, and when they get into the boat Jesus asks him: “why did you DOUBT?”
And then… the word used here in John 20 about Thomas’ doubt is “Apistos”.
The Greek word “pistos” mean “faith”, and the “a” at the beginning of the word means “no”.