The Twelve Apostles -
Thomas The Doubter
In the four Gospels, we actually only have the accounts of the salvation of six of the twelve apostles: Andrew and John, Peter, Philip, Nathanael, and Matthew. The situations surrounding the other six and how they came to Jesus is not covered therein - however, they were more than likely with Jesus almost since the beginning of His public ministry, after His baptism by John the Baptist and His temptation in the wilderness. (See Acts 1:21-22 and John chapter 1)
Thomas was also known as Didymus - both names mean "The Twin" (Didymus being the Greek equivalent of Thomas). While we know nothing about his twin, whether he ever got saved or not, or how close they might have been in appearance or in their relationship as siblings, this was obviously something that characterized Thomas in some way. Other than the three lists of the twelve apostles given in the Gospels, there are five other times where Thomas is mentioned specifically by name - the Gospel of John giving us the most information, and Acts chapter one giving us the last view of this man.
1) We see Thomas on his way to Lazarus' tomb. (See John 11:1-16)
When Jesus and His disciples heard about the sickness of Lazarus (a close friend of Jesus'), their Master chose to linger where He was for two more days - until Lazarus died. Then He called His disciples to go with Him back into Judea. At once arose thoughts of distress at the potential danger they faced there:
John 11:8 His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?
But Jesus had a purpose for going back, He had a reason - and that reason involved a miracle (raising Lazarus from the dead) that would prove His claims of being the Messiah, that would strengthen their faith in Him, and bring glory to God. The disciples were slow to catch on to what He was saying to them though:
John 11:11-15 These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.
Next we have the first recorded statement of Thomas, a statement that seems to give a gloomy outlook on their situation.
John 11:16 Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.
Was Thomas being pessimistic? At first I thought he was (and this is how I preached it two weeks ago, but today I was meditating more on this chapter as I was writing this out) - but then when you re-examine the context, you realize that Thomas did have more boldness than the other disciples - while they were fearfully finding reasons not to go to Judea, Thomas was expressing his desire to go, even if it meant their deaths! I can imagine Thomas thinking, "They want to kill my Master, Lazarus is already dead - well, let's follow our Master to Judea and into the teeth of death itself! I won't let my fear hold me back from following Jesus!"
How about you? Are you bold in your service for the Lord, willing to go wherever the will of God leads you? Do you love your Saviour enough to lay down your life for Him and His cause? Thomas did!
2) On the way to the Father's House, to Heaven. (John 14:1-9)
In this passage we see Jesus seeking to encourage His brethren by reminding them of where He was soon going to and how to get there:
John 14:1-4 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
He stated that He was going to the Father's house, to heaven, where He would be preparing a place for them, preparing mansions for believers to dwell in for eternity. Then Thomas asks a question to clarify exactly what Jesus meant:
John 14:5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?
Earlier Thomas was willing to risk all to follow his Lord and to be with Him wherever He went. Now he is brought face to face with another place where Jesus was going - and he did not want to be left behind. Lord, where are you going?
John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
I am the way to the Father's house; I am the source of eternal life; salvation is only through Me; it is only through Me and My (soon to be) finished work on the cross that you can be saved and follow Me where I will be going after I arise from the dead.
This is an important theme in Scripture. There is only one Saviour, only one Mediator between God and man; only one way of salvation; only one door to eternal life:
John 10:7-9 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
Only one name by which we can be saved:
Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
The name Jesus means "Saviour", and Jesus came to save us from our sins (Matthew 1:21), from the just condemnation due us because of our sins against God.
There is only one way to be saved - and that is through the Lord Jesus Christ - through repentance of our sins and faith in His finished work of redemption; faith in His death, burial, and resurrection in fulfillment of the Scriptures. By faith in the Saviour, we can KNOW we have eternal life - we can KNOW we are going to the Father's house when we die:
1 John 5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
Thomas had that assurance that he had eternal life, because he trusted in Jesus to save him. Do you have that assurance - do you know that you have eternal life? You can know, if you receive Jesus Christ through faith.
3) In the closed room. (John 20:19-29)
After Jesus arose from the dead, He appeared to 10 of the twelve apostles, and proved to them that He was literally, physically resurrected - He was alive again! After reproving them for their unbelief and hardness of heart (see Mark 16:14), He showed them His hands and side, and even ate with them to prove He was not a spirit or a ghost (Luke 24:36-43). After comforting and assuring His apostles (and other disciples), He left them temporarily. Thomas was not with them, and when he heard the account of Jesus appearing to them, he was hesitant to receive it. He wanted proof first!
John 20:24-25 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.
Thomas is what I like to call an honest doubter. He wasn't a skeptic - someone who was unwilling to believe, but was an honest doubter - someone willing to believe but wanting more proof. He was willing to consider the evidence, but first he needed to see it!
Just like Jesus took the time out to specifically restore Peter into the ministry, here we see Him taking Thomas aside to reassure him personally as well.
John 20:26-27 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
Now you see the evidence before you, Thomas. Now you can actually see the wounds, feel the marks of the cross, touch the hole in My side where the spear pierced. I have resurrected just as I said I would, in fulfillment of all the Scriptures. Now will you believe Me, Thomas?
What was Thomas' response?
John 20:28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
Jesus was alive again - that meant He was exactly who He said He was: God manifest in the flesh! The Messiah, the Son of God, the Saviour. With all the evidence in front of him, all of Thomas' doubts flew away. There was no place left for them!
But then Jesus makes an interesting statement:
John 20:29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
Thomas, I appeared to you personally to strengthen your faith in Me. But now that My Word is written I am not appearing to anyone else today (1 Peter 1:8) - you can only be saved by faith and you must walk by faith and not by sight. Blessed are all those who believe in Me because of receiving the testimony of the Scriptures!
4) In the fishing boat with Peter. (John 21)
John 21:2-3 There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.
In the previous study on Bold And Rash Peter, I mentioned that Peter, out of discouragement, went back to his old fishing career. It is interesting that six of the other apostles also went with him. While we do not know their motivations, perhaps they did not want to break up their years of fellowship and serving together.
Thomas, who would not leave his Master, now chooses not to leave his brethren in Christ. Though uncertain of the future, he knew who he wanted to be around: the men of God he had come to know and trust. What about you? In times of uncertainty, do you still associate with your brethren in the Lord? Do you still faithfully attend the services of your local church? Is your presence still there when it is most needed? Peter was discouraged - and though we don't know all that might have been on their minds and hearts - his brethren stood by him! Sometimes our presence, and sometimes our words, can go a long way towards strengthening a struggling brother or sister (see Proverbs 12:25).
5) In the upper room. (Acts 1)
Acts 1:13-14 And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.
The last place we see Thomas mentioned is in the upper room, where the disciples were gathered together in prayer, awaiting the power of the Holy Ghost to come upon them in their service and witnessing. He was still with his brethren, still persevering in the things of God, still standing by the stuff.
Though we often look at one incident in the life of the apostle Thomas - one moment of doubt - we tend to overlook that in actual fact he was a man of faith! In the long run, that is what counts - not our moments of failure or doubt, but the overall course of our walks with the Lord.
Just as the Lord had compassion and took the opportunity to strengthen the faith of doubting Gideon (see Judges chapters 6 and 7), spent time personally to remove the doubts of "Doubting Thomas", He also with strengthen your faith in Him as you abide in His Word (Romans 10:17) and let the Holy Spirit guide you day by day (Galatians 5:22-23): one of the fruit of the Spirit is faith, after all.
Yes, Thomas had his moment of doubt - but he was an honest doubter. He was willing to deal with his doubts, look at the evidence, and put away those doubts from that point in time on. How about you? Are you an honest doubter? When the devil comes whispering his lies and suggestions in your mind, will you believe his doubts, or will you run to the Word of God, where you have the evidence of faith before you, where you have the shield of faith to quench all the fiery darts of Satan?
In some ways, Thomas (the twin) is also our twin - he is a man of like passions, who can succumb to doubts or resist them by faith. We have the same choice today in our walks with the Lord.
Will you be a Doubting Thomas?
Or will you be full of faith?
Preached on July 21st/06
Written July 31st/06
More studies in this series on The Twelve Apostles:
The Twelve Apostles #1 - Simon The Zealot
The Twelve Apostles #2 - Bold And Rash Peter
The Twelve Apostles #4 - Jesus Loved Them To The End
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