John 2:23-25 - The Heart and Mind of Belief

John 2:23–25 (ESV) — 23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

Some very interesting questions are raised in these verses.
(1) What does it mean they “believed in his name”?
• (2) Why did Jesus “not entrust himself to them”?
• (3) What does it mean that “he himself knew what was in man”?

The answers to these questions will teach us about the very composition and nature of belief.
• And will serve as an introduction to our text next week dealing with being born again.

We will deal with the 3rd question first.


John 2:25 (ESV) — 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

Given the context of belief and the coming discussion on the need to be born again, John is undoubtedly referring to the immaterial aspect of man’s nature and not his liver or femur bone (the material).

And when we speak of the immaterial part of man we are talking about:
• The “seat and center of human life” – Zodhiates.
• The “seat of feelings, desires and passions” – TDNT.
• The “seat of thought and understanding” – TDNT.
• The “seat of the will” – TDNT.

So what was it that Jesus knew was “in” man?
What was in the seat?

As usual, there is no need for speculation because Scripture makes it clear:
• Mark 7:21–23 (ESV) — 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
• Psalm 53:1–3 (ESV) — 1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good. 2 God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. 3 They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.
• Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV) — 9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

What Jesus saw in man was total depravity.
• From the heart to the mind to the body there is nothing but deceit, corruption and no understanding.
• And these things “come from within” to defile the person in which they reside.
• There was not even an island of righteousness somewhere in the midst of the depravity.
• In other words, the seat was occupied with sin and all its fruit (sinful actions).

POI – The fact that Jesus can see what is “in” man is one more indicator that He is God.
Remember, in John 1:48, Jesus demonstrated His divinity to Nathanael by telling Nathanael what was “in” him.

Now, from these verses, we also get an important picture of how the “in” of man works.
• This is important because we need to get a handle on the “inner” workings of man to answer our 1st and 2nd questions above.
    o (1) What does it mean they “believed in his name”?
    o (2) Why did Jesus “not entrust himself to them”?
• In other words, we need to, in effect, understand of what the seat is made.

The “in” of man – a seat of heart and mind:
POI - I think it would only confuse the issue of the heart and mind to debate whether they reside in a soul which is different from the spirit (trichotomous view) or whether they reside in the soul which is the same as the spirit (dichotomous view).
• “In fact, we should not slip into the mistake of thinking that certain activities (such as thinking, feeling, or deciding things) are done by only one part of us. Rather these activities are done by the whole person” – Wayne Grudem.

What is the seat?

We will refer back to our text from Mark and Psalms above.
• (1) Jesus’ own words confirm that the “within” of a man (man’s seat), is the heart and “evil thoughts” (Mark 7:21-23).
    o And since thoughts are “a design of the mind”, we can conclude that out of the heart also come the evil “designs of the mind” (Zodhiates).
    o Therefore the “within” (the seat) is at least the heart and mind.
    o This also shows us the close relationship of the corrupt heart of a man, and his mind – they are parts of the same seat.
        * Therefore if the heart is deceitful, the mind is deceitful.
        * And a corrupt heart leads to a mind that has an understanding deficit (Psalm 53:1-3).
• (2) The body of man participates or bears the fruit of the “evil things” that “come from within” (Mark 7:21-23) the heart and mind (the seat).
    o Remember what Grudem says, the evil things are “done by the whole person”.

So the immaterial seat of man is made up essentially of (2) things; his heart and mind.
THE HEART - Matthew 13:15 (ESV) — 15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’
THE MIND - Romans 8:5–7 (ESV) — 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.

So now we are equipped to answer our first two questions.
• (1) What does it mean they “believed in his name”?
• (2) Why did Jesus “not entrust himself to them”?

The hover of the hummingbird:
• A hummingbird was designed to retrieve its food by hovering.
    o A man was designed to find salvation in Jesus by believing.
• A hummingbird requires two motions to hover (see video); the wings must flap up and down (the heart motion) and back and forth (the mind motion).
    o A man is required to trust Christ with the two things in order to believe in Jesus - his heart and mind.
• If a hummingbird doesn’t fly with both motions, he doesn’t hover.
    o If a man doesn’t believe with both the heart and mind, he doesn’t have saving belief.

This analogy provides us the answers to the first (2) questions.

So when John tells us in verse 24 that “Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them”:
• He is literally telling us that Jesus did not believe (pisteuo) in them.
    o This raises a very interesting take on the Gospel…does Jesus believe in you?
• And we learned that He didn’t believe in them because he knew they were still wicked.
    o Jesus could see their hearts (seats) were still occupied by themselves, not Him.

So when John tells us in verse 23 that “many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing”:
• We now understand that they were like a hummingbird trying to hover by flying with only one motion.
    o This is impossible.
• They certainly believed in their minds that Jesus was who he said he was, but they had not believed in their hearts.
• They had not “entrusted” Jesus to their heart (seat).
    o This is why D.A. Carson paraphrases John 2:23-24, “the people trusted in his name, but he did not entrust himself to them.
• So a belief based only in knowledge is not saving belief at all, just like the hummingbird can’t hover with only one motion.
    o James 2:19 (ESV) — 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

Paul describes this “unbelieving belief” as follows:
• Romans 1:21 (ESV) — 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
    o Notice that what they knew with respect to God (no matter how right) ultimately becomes corrupt (as we also learned from above) by a foolish heart.

The above heart/mind dynamic is why Wayne Grudem makes the following observations about salvation:
• For clarity’s sake, Grudem argues that the mind’s relationship with belief is both an intellectual assent and an emotional approval.
• And he says of this assent and approval:
    o “The approval of the facts of the Gospel…does not add up to true saving faith. That comes when I make a decision of my will to depend on, or put my trust in, Christ as my Savior. This personal decision to place my trust in Christ is something done with my heart, the central faculty of my entire being that makes commitments for me as a whole person.
    o So the people in our text today only gave Jesus their intellectual assent and emotional approval not their hearts.
    o BTW - an implication of this dynamic is that there can be a counterfeit repentance fueled by assent and emotional approval not by the heart.

This heart/mind dynamic sheds light on the following observations of Paul:
• Romans 10:9 (ESV) — 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
• Romans 10:10 (ESV) — 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
    o Notice that here we have further confirmation of what we learned earlier.
    o We learned that a deceitful heart produces like thoughts and actions, well here we conversely see that from a saved heart come saved actions and “designs of the mind”!
    o In other words, REPENTANCE (confession) comes from a saved, believing heart.
    o 1 John 2:29 (ESV) — 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
    o 1 John 3:9 (ESV) — 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.

Lesson For Us:
We have seen that it takes two “flying motions” to have saving faith.
• A trusting of the heart AND of the mind (intellect and emotions).

But the heart is the “central faculty” of belief.
• And as the heart goes, so goes the mind – but not the other way around.
    o The flow of saving belief is “heart to mind” not “mind to heart”.
• This is very important because it explains why there can both be:
    o An unbelieving belief
    o And a saved heart with a doubting mind.

An “unbelieving belief” describes the men in our verses today.
• They believed in Christ’s signs and wonders but did not having saving belief.
• John 12:37 (ESV) — 37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him,

And, “a saved heart with a doubting mind” can be demonstrated in the following examples:
• John 1:50 (ESV) — 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”
• Mark 16:14 (ESV) — 14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.
• John 20:8 (ESV) — 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;
• John 20:29 (ESV) — 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
    o It must be said that the doubt of a believer does not prevent him from “flying (being saved)”, but it prevents him from “hovering” and so impacts the quality of his or her spiritual life.

And finally, how does a depraved heart get off the seat, make way for Jesus, and hover in the first place?
• How does belief/trust in Christ originate in the heart?
• Jesus puts it like this:
    o John 10:25–27 (ESV) — 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
    o It appears that being part of the flock is necessitated before saving belief is even possible.
    o Luke puts it like this, Acts 13:48 (ESV) — 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

This is what we will deal with next week.