Pastor Harry Ironside Gets John 2:23-25 Wrong

by David J. Stewart | March 2020

John 2:23-25, “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.”

       One of my favorite theologians is Pastor Harry A. Ironside (1876-1951), who is one of the greatest free grace Gospel preachers that I know. I love his Gospel tract titled: “What Is The Gospel?” Dr. Ironside does an excellent job exegeting the subject of Bible repentance in his book titled: “Except Ye Repent.” Albeit, I finally found something yesterday by Dr. Ironside that I strongly disagree with—his commentary on John 2:23-25 (our text passage).

I went to bed early at 8 pm and it is now 3:30 am, and I am excited to write this article, not to refute Dr. Ironside, but to preach THE TRUTH! At 5:45 am I am going walking for an hour, God willing. I am losing weight again, a constant struggle, but I am motivated. My sugar and blood pressure are still good, and I want to keep them there. I only ate 500 calories yesterday (Saturday) and nothing Friday, because my daughter fed me good for my 53rd birthday on Thursday, March 5th. I walked for 2 hours yesterday. Please pray for me, as I am battling constant depression, and trying to overcome it, by God's grace.

In his commentary titled: “GOSPEL OF JOHN,” page 90, Dr. Ironside states:

The present section begins properly with the last three verses of chapter 2.  We read, “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which He did.” A faith that rests upon miracles is not a saving faith. A faith that rests upon signs and wonders does not bring salvation to anyone. ...Here were people waiting for the Messiah to come and they said, “Well, now, if Messiah came, could He do any more miracles than Jesus did? He must be the One of whom the prophets have spoken.” In that sense they believed that He was the Messiah, but they did not confess that they were guilty souls needing salvation and they did not see in Jesus the Saviour whom they needed. They believed in His name when they saw the miracles; but the rest of the verse says that Jesus did not commit Himself to them. The words “commit” and “believe” are really just the same in the original. We might read it, “Many believe in His name, but Jesus did not believe in them.” He did not trust His interests to them, because He knew they were not genuine. He knew what was in man. He knew the wickedness and unreliability of the human heart.

SOURCE: Pastor Harry Ironside, “GOSPEL OF JOHN,” page 90; published by Loizeaux Brothers Inc., 1942:

Now, I have a few big problems with what Dr. Ironside is teaching:

  1. The Bible says in John 2:23b, “Many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which He did.” Pastor Ironside just said: “A faith that rests upon miracles is not a saving faith.” But the Bible doesn't say the people believed in the miracles, it says they “believed in His name”! So I disagree that they didn't get saved. These lost sinners believed and were saved, just as the Bible promises. There is nothing anywhere in the Bible that teaches a person can “BELIEVE” and still not be saved. In fact, that is very dangerous junk theology, because it opens a Pandora's box of uncertainly, worry and fear of whether or not a person's faith is valid. There is no such thing is invalid faith my friend. Faith is faith! You are either relying upon Christ's sacrifice on the cross as payment for your sins, or you are not! There is nothing in between.

  2. Jesus actually performed miracles to validate that He was the Messiah, so that people would believe in His name. John 6:26, “Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.” Clearly, the Lord was pleased with the idea of people believing in His name because they saw His miracles; but Jesus did not like that they only sought Him to receive a handout of food. Respectfully, Dr. Ironside is very wrong in his interpretation of this passage of Scripture, as is Pastor Andy Bloom. I can further prove with the Scripture, that Jesus intended for His miracles to convince people to believe in His name. John 15:24, “If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.” Jesus performed miracles “which none other man did,” to prove to the Jews that He was in fact the Messiah. So for Dr. Ironside to say that the people who “believed” in John 2:23 weren't really saved, because they only believed in His miracles, is false and bad theology! Jesus did those miracles so that they would believe on Him!

  3. There is nothing in John 2:23-25 to suggest that these people who believed, failed to understand their sinnership. I find no place in the Word of God, not one place, where someone believed but didn't really get saved, because they failed to realize that they were a guilty sinner. You cannot show me any such passage of Scripture! Everyone who believes is saved! That is “the simplicity that is in Christ” (2nd Corinthians 11:2-3). It is so simple to be saved that even a caveman can do Now, I do realize that there are Roman Catholics who falsely profess to be “Christian,” while still maintaining that they are “good” people. Clearly, they are not saved. 1st John 1:10, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” Recognition of sin is paramount to salvation. However, I find no place in the inspired King James Bible where someone “believed” on Christ, but didn't get saved for failing to acknowledge their sinfulness. I do believe that repentance is necessary for salvation, but we are saved by believing, not by repenting. Repentance is simply judging one's self that I am a guilty sinner in the sight of a holy God, which compels me to believe the Gospel to be saved by grace.

  4. Jesus did not commit himself unto them. Dr. Ironside says: “He knew the wickedness and unreliability of the human heart.” Carefully notice that the Bible says Jesus knew “ALL MEN.” Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” The simple truth is that we do not know exactly what this verse teaches. We do not know in what way Jesus did not believe in them. It appears logical to me that Jesus did not trust them enough to go with them. I do know that nothing is said to indicate they didn't get saved. Jesus said in John 6:47, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” I cannot find even one Scripture passage where someone believed, but didn't really believe. Beware of false prophets today who teach that kind of garbage theology. For example: I have heard preachers say that there is 18 inches between Heaven and Hell—the distance between a man's heart and his head. Folks, that is foolishness! It is not even possible to believe the Gospel in your head, but not in your heart! That is stupid and makes no sense, causing confusion.

Please understand that I am not saying Pastor Harry Ironside is a false prophet, I am simply saying that he got this passage horribly wrong. That is made clear from the fact that Jesus said He performed miracles, so that men would believe in His name to be saved. John 14:11, “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.” I hope those observations are helpful to you dear reader. I just want to be a blessing to others for Jesus Christ. God knows my humble heart, that I speak THE TRUTH! God bless you!

“The elect are the ‘whosoever wills’; the non-elect are the ‘whosoever won’ts.'
—Pastor Dwight L. Moody


“Faith is the only righteous thing that I can do!”
—Pastor Jack Hyles, a quote from the MP3 sermon titled: God's Reversal Of Psalm 51

1st Corinthians 16:24, “My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.”

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John 3:16, “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.”

“As a blind man has no idea of colors, so we have no idea of the manner by
which the all-wise God perceives and understands all things.”
—Isaac Newton (1642-1727)

Another Gospel Which Is Not Another (a red-hot MP3 by Dr. Curtis Hutson exposing Lordship Salvation)

Psalm 34:8, “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.”

“If you have to look at your life to prove that you are saved, it proves that you're not!”
—Pastor Ralph Yankee Arnold; an excellent quote from the awesome YouTube sermon titled, “Why Lordship Salvation is WRONG! | MP3.”

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