John 12:43: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

This statement resonates with me, when I look at my own conduct. I question my authenticity of whether I'm truly seeking the truth or the vindication that I know a truth determined by the praises of Man. Is it because of the gain of reputation that reflects the "I'm right and your wrong or vice versa" or the genuine seeking of an answer. How is this different to John 12:43?

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    Your question should be answered by yourself. It is the same to ask: “When I go to the concert of J.H.Bach’s music, do I go there to please my soul’s highest esthetic needs, or to show to my acquaintances how cultured and refined I am? Who but yourself can answer this question inside your own self and if the second is the case, to get rid of this snobbism?! Oct 2, 2021 at 6:08
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    Hmmm, the Pharisees were very interested in high scores - Jesus, not so much.
    – Steve
    Oct 4, 2021 at 10:49
  • Good point. I deleted the offending sentence: I try not to have a fixed position in any issue but to follow the logic objectively without positive or negative emotions :)
    – user35953
    Oct 4, 2021 at 15:22
  • In Jn 12:37-43, there were two groups - those who could not believe and those who believed but could not confess their faith. The words “for they loved the approval of people rather than the approval of God” is applicable to both. Preoccupied with their own image, the 1st group could not see the truth. The 2nd group saw the truth but could not stand up for it for fear of how they would be judged and treated. Neither group could grow/mature in faith. There is a lesson here for each of us, I think.
    – Nhi
    Oct 5, 2021 at 14:26

5 Answers 5


Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory [τὴν δόξαν] that comes from man more than the glory [τὴν δόξαν] that comes from God. (John 12:42-43, ESV)

Senses of δόξα (Logos Bible Software)

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This versus specifically mention people believing Jesus but not confessing it because they didn't want to get thrown out of the synagogue. Thus, caring more about what people thought than God.

However, what is primary in considering this in a more general sense to apply it today is the verse.

 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart [לֵבָב].” (1 Sam. 16:7, ESV)

לֵבָב ... n.m. ψ 104:15 inner man, mind, will, heart;... -- Brown, F., Driver, S. R., & Briggs, C. A. (1977). Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (p. 523). Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Thus, the idea is worrying about the outward appearance of what people see instead of the inner self that God sees. The Pharisees were the most righteous that the world had to offer as far as keeping the Law. Yet, they struggled with hypocrisy.

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matt. 23:25–28, ESV)

This is a common human struggle (Rom. 7) that we only overcome through God's Spirit.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 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. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Rom. 8:1–11, ESV)


It usually takes a certain maturity of years to become unaffected by what other people think about you. When you attain equilibrium between paying attention to valid comments and those merely designed to inflate ego, you can relax a lot more, and you certainly don't waste even a second on 'likes' (on social media). Sadly, young people today are being brainwashed with social approval, social image, popularity and suchlike damaging manipulation. Now, I don't know what age you are, but I'd be surprised if you were on State Pension.

That is my introduction to the question you ask, and now I will address the biblical point, for even though there was no social media as we know it back then, there was just the same sinful human desire to be pleasing to other people (in appearance and social status) and to receive praise (i.e. 'likes'). Back then, as today, young people could feel insecure as they matured, without verbal affirmation that they were approved, either by their peers, or their elders.

The biblical verse in question was John explaining why, when Jesus cried out, "Father, glorify thy name", a voice came from heaven saying, "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again" (12:28). Jesus had to hide himself from the people. Then John quoted the prophet Isaiah who said people could not believe due to their hardened hearts - "These things said Isaiah when he saw his glory, and spake of him" (12:37-41).

Now come the critically important verses - that many Pharisees who believed Jesus did not confess Christ "lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God" (vss. 42-43). They set more store by the praise (acceptance) of their religious peers than of God's praise for having believed in the one he had sent (vss. 44-45). They were prepared to risk losing God's acceptance of them rather than risk losing their standing amongst their peers in the synagogue.

So, we all have to ask ourselves (in light of this), what's more important to me? Being thought well of by people around me, or accepting criticism, ridicule and rejection by people so as to be thought well of by God? If you want (desire, crave) praises of man, you will idolise that desire and that temporary 'reward'. If you want (desire, crave) the praise of God, you will be prepared to forego everything rather than lose God's everlasting smile of approval.


What does it mean to want praises of man?

Answer: It means we are consumed by our stature before others as a direct result of pride.

This question should resonate with us all because it represents the great human dilemma since the Garden of Eden. After Adam and Eve ate of the Tree, it seems their prior, undifferentiated perfection was shattered as they at once became disassociated with one another into self-identities. Our original parents were no longer at one with God, at one with each other, or at one with their environment. They became separate and distinct — spiritually and intellectually detached.

Their disobedience deprived them of their blessed, shared consciousness replacing it with selfish, personal identities. And, with an intense recognition of self, there is an awareness of what one does, of what can be done to them, and of what one can do to others. There is a profound vulnerability associated with individuality. It is the instant recognition that a person is alone in their thoughts about themselves and their surroundings. The “self” presents great restrictions because an acute sense of responsibility arises with such awareness: we are capable either of acting in accordance with God’s wishes or of behaving contrary to His expectations and thus committing sinful acts.

Through this individual identity, we entertain evil thoughts and intentions, theft, coveting, lust, cheating, envy, murder, strife, and so on (Mk. 7:21-23). All that defiles us as human beings originates from our sense of self – our Pride – a soul spiritually adrift from all others. Author C.S. Lewis once wrote something poignant about this:

The natural life in each of us is something self-centered, something that wants to be petted and admired, to take advantage of other lives, to exploit the whole universe. And especially it wants to be left to itself: to keep well away from anything better or stronger or higher than it, anything that might make it feel small. It is afraid of the light and air of the spiritual world, just as people who have been brought up to be dirty are afraid of a bath. And in a sense, it is quite right. It knows that if the spiritual life gets hold of it, all its self-centeredness and self-will are going to be killed and it is ready to fight tooth and nail to avoid that. (Mere Christianity, "The Obstinate Toy Soldiers.")

Our consuming sense of self is the very foundation upon which we become our own god, blinded by our narcissistic ambitions. Everything else becomes incidental as a means of gratifying our insatiable psyche. When we reflect on our very early years as children around the age of four, we had not yet formed any defining sense of personhood. We were largely unaware of the world and of all that it represents, often oblivious to our surroundings; we might easily step directly in front of oncoming traffic. Generally speaking, we lived a quasi-heavenly existence, at relative peace with God and ourselves. We had not yet eaten of the Tree of Knowledge. Since that blessed time, we have metaphorically done so and now demand the praises of all whom we encounter, just as the Pharisees recorded in John 12:42-43.

There seems to be a distinct parallel between the effects of consuming the forbidden fruit (disobedience) and our own awareness at a very tender age. Prior to that, we really have little consciousness of our vulnerabilities. By five years or so, we too begin to understand the difference between right and wrong. We start to recognize that we have disobeyed our parents and are conscious of our guilt — just as if we too had partaken of the same deadly fruit. Once we become fully aware of ourselves as uniquely separate individuals, we have become thoroughly unrighteous beings.

Note what Christ has to say, and think for a moment why He said it:

Matthew 18:1-4: At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

Christ has just proclaimed that humility, the absence of pride, is what exalts us. If that is true, then the opposite must also be true: Pride is that which demeans and diminishes us, and it always has since the Garden.

Personal identity is not a blessing; it is a curse. It is being consumed by an intimate recognition of the evils with which one is capable, in stark contrast to the harmony one experiences before this individuation occurs. This may be precisely what happened to Adam and Eve. Although they formerly possessed a conscious awareness, they did not possess a self-conscious distinctiveness, one overwhelmed by feelings of detachment and isolation.

Adam and Eve's child-like innocence was that which obscured their nakedness. Once we too lose that purity, our nakedness is instantly revealed — along with all the ills that plague humanity.


The fact that you looked upon the verse and were challenged to consider your own heart-motivation (going so far as to add a reputation bounty) implies the word of God is doing the exact function it claims to do, namely ...discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Heb. 4:12 (ESV)

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

The response now becomes acknowledging what is being revealed as the truth and applying it to one's life.

Jas. 1:23-25 (ESV)

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

How do we become not a "...hearer who forgets but a doer who acts..."? The answer is true repentance from the sin.

But wait, is overvaluing the opinion of man truly sin? According to Prov. 29:25:

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.

It is fear of man. Scripture commands the believer to "Be bold/Fear not" on many occasions, one being Josh. 1:9 (ESV):

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Finally, repentance can be defined as a 2-step process:

  1. Confess
  2. Forsake

Prov. 28:13 (ESV)

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

If you acknowledge that the word has revealed sin, such as valuing the opinions of men above the opinion of God, then the Scriptural battle plan is as follows:

  1. Formally acknowledge it as sin
  2. Purpose in your heart to change
  3. Ask God for His help in the changing

According to His word, you will obtain mercy in this godly endeavor.

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    Im not awarding you the bounty because of your answer but because you have the least amount of reputation, which should actually be renamed to ‘site experience’ as thats what it is. It doesn't mean someone is knowledgeable as the title implies. The question is an allusion. Praises of man is likened to the up-votes we strive for, to vindicate our answer over others verifying its truth through praises of man (votes) There was some nice comments, some of you picked up on the self reflection, someone was even justifying themselves, which is proof the question did what i hoped it would do. : )
    – 0000
    Oct 10, 2021 at 10:15

“What does it mean to want the praises of man?” is a valid hermeneutical question which can be answered in context but I suspect you might be asking other questions as well such as, “Am I seeking the approval of man more than the approval of God?” and “What might the consequences of that be?”

The verse that you cite comes from a passage where Jesus is foretelling his death. That lends a sense of urgency and gravity to what Jesus is saying. He was troubled because he understood the awful reality of what lay ahead for him. Let’s look at the different uses of “glory” in this passage. Strong’s concordance lists the following words as translations for “doxa”: dignity, glory, honor, praise, worship. A form of the word occurs 7 times in this passage.

Jesus first used the word “glorified” here in connection with his impending fate because he focused on the glory that he would receive from the Father by being obedient to him even unto death.

Jn 12 23 And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. 26 “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

This is the glory and honor that we should be seeking, that which comes from the Father for serving Jesus. It is not easy, however. It certainly wasn’t easy even for Jesus, the perfect man. In the second use of “glory”. Jesus gives glory to the Father even the midst of his anxiety about the future.

28 “Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, “An angel has spoken to Him.” 30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes.

God responded to Jesus’ praise of his Father both to validate the worship offered and the importance of what Jesus was saying. Notice that some people were incapable of hearing and understanding that God had spoken. They attributed it to thunder. Jesus then warned the crowd of the judgment that was coming upon the world, explaining again that he would have to die even as the Son of Man. He encouraged the people to walk in the light so that they would not be overtaken by darkness. Even though he had done so many signs, many people still didn’t believe, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah who saw the glory of the Messiah.


God, wants people to have faith, and to overcome their doubts, temptations and other obstacles to serve him. He wants people who are willing to trust and love him even when they have no scientific evidence or hard proof that he even exists. We are all given enough ability and evidence to believe, but if our hearts are hard and we prefer to do things our own way rather than God’s, then eventually that ability to seek and know God may be taken away. Here is the NASB translation of the verse you reference.

42 Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.

Thayer’s Lexicon gives a good definition of δόξα ( glory) for this verse as “good opinion concerning one, and as resulting from that, praise, honor, glory:”

Those who fear men and seek their good opinion rather than that of God are not worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. We must not only believe in him but also take up our cross daily and follow him. Jesus quoted the same passage from Isaiah before he explained the parable of the sower in Luke 8. The seed falls on different types of ground and in most types, they sprout up and then die out. It is bewildering to see how many Christians will trade the insignificant and insincere praises of men for the eternal life-giving praises of God.

You do well to ask the questions you are asking and you have read this passage right it seems. Continually examine your heart and your motives. Jesus tells us that few will enter into the Kingdom. In fact, few understand how few. I sense that you have a heart for God and are willing to pay any price necessary. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” Mt 5:6

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