Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Whereas I was blind, now I see

To the natural man reading the Bible, it can sometimes seem to be a mysterious and a confusing book, which to his mind appears to contain certain conflicts and contradictions. Such criticism is often made against the scriptures by those who approach it with simply their own, natural, intellect and understanding. Why, some may ask, are there two accounts of the creation in Genesis, and why are there differences between the accounts? Why also, do the four Gospels in the New Testament differ from one another? Why do some contain genealogies and others don’t? Why are events recorded in different orders? Why does one Gospel writer include things which the others omit?

Having once been blind to the truth in God’s word, stumbling about around in it, confused by what I read, I can understand how such questions may be asked and how some passages can appear to be conflicting…. But when God opened my eyes and the Spirit of God became my teacher, what was once confused and contradictory to me began to make sense and become clear, and what I once may have considered to be merely historical accounts, I came to understand were actually presenting truth and were worded and arranged in such a manner as to specifically set forth that truth, and the One who is truth – Jesus Christ.The whole Bible is a book about Christ. It presents the truth about Christ, and for that reason it simply doesn’t fit into our ‘ideas’ of how things should be written. For example, we read the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and think that here are simply four different records by four writers of the same narratives. We treat them as four historical accounts, and as such can’t understand why there are differences between them, in terms of chronology etc. Any conflicts appear to be evidence of a lack of unity between the writers or perhaps failed memory on their part…… but when we come to see that the PURPOSE of these four Gospels, and the reason why God included four different Gospels in the Bible, is not to simply provide four historical accounts of the same things, with four accounts providing extra weight of evidence, but is in fact to present four different views of the same Person, to present Christ in four different aspects, THEN all the apparent differences begin to make sense. John’s Gospel for example is entirely different to the other three, in form, structure, content and presentation….. why? Because John presents Christ clearly as being the Son of God, and the whole Gospel is arranged and worded to present selected historical narrative in such a manner as to show Christ in that light. Likewise Matthew’s purpose is to present Christ as the Messiah, and is thus arranged to that end, beginning with a genealogy and so on (which John lacks). The genealogy in Luke differs from Matthew’s because of the very different presentation of Christ in Luke …. And so on, and so forth.

Now… I state all this because we’ll never understand the Bible until we recognise these things – that it is essentially presenting truth, the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, and is worded and arranged to that end. All the apparent differences we may discern between, for example, the four Gospels, are because of this purpose. The Bible is not a history book (but it does contain history). The Bible is not an ‘ethics’ book (but it does contain ethics). The Bible is not a ‘guide book’ (but it does contain guidance). No…. the Bible is a book about Christ, about truth. It is a spiritual book, and it is spiritually discerned. Its message, is essentially a ‘secret’, a ‘mystery’ which must be revealed. This is plainly stated in various places in the Bible. For example 1 Corinthians states:

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” 1 Corinthians 1:18-21


“…My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:4-16

So the Bible itself makes it clear that we can’t understand its message unless the Spirit of God teaches us it, and that its message is ‘hidden wisdom’ in a mystery. It was hidden from me once, and a complete mystery to me… but when the Spirit of God opened it up I saw its meaning in Christ.

Even Jesus Himself stated that He spoke in parables, not in order to make the truth simple to understand, but to keep the truth from those whom God was not pleased to show it unto. We read elsewhere, that “At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes” – so unless God reveals these things to us, they will simply remain as confused, contradictory, mysteries. It is interesting that Jesus does not only say that these truths must be revealed but he actually thanks God that He has not revealed them unto the wise and prudent. God actively hides the truth from some and reveals it to others. Some have their eyes opened, and some remain blind.

We can’t expect to convince anyone of the truth of the scriptures through natural reason. It can’t be done. We are born blind to the truth, and the Bible remains an incomprehensible jumble of words to us until someone takes our blindness away. Why? Because “the world by wisdom knew not God”, as quoted above. Some may reject the word of God, and cite the apparent mystery and confusion as their reason for unbelief, seeking to follow, perhaps the evidence of science, in which they vainly seek for truth. But the reality is that it isn’t their confusion which leads them to unbelief – the fact is they began in unbelief! It is man’s unbelief and spiritual blindness which prevents him from understanding the Bible aright. Man starts off not seeing the truth, being blind to it, and the more he studies the Bible, in his wisdom, the less it makes sense and the more he rejects it. We’re all the same – we just can’t comprehend it by our own wisdom – the Bible makes that very point! I was no different.

We all begin blind….. but I thank God that he took my blindness away, and for that reason I am compelled, at the very least, to declare plainly to others that the Bible IS TRUE, that what it says of Christ is TRUE, and that the things it speaks of are realities. How do I know? Because God took my blindness away and made me see!

Now, my reader, I can’t take your blindness away. I can’t. I could try to answer any objection you might raise against the scriptures, but even if I presented rock-tight, sound, convincing arguments and reasons for the apparent ‘conflicts’ or mysteries which you may list, it wouldn't convince you or anyone else of the truth, unless God the Spirit took the truth and opened your eyes to see it. Just like talking to a blind man about the colours of the trees… you can talk all you like, but nothing makes sense. But give him sight and show him the trees however…. And he knows in an instant.

However… I expect some reading this may well have heard all these things before, all this about blindness and the need of the Spirit to reveal truth….. and you probably will find it very frustrating and annoying, because it leaves us entirely dependant upon God taking our blindness away. If naturally we are blind to the truth, and we just can’t see it…. Then what can we do?

Well… nothing. Nothing but ask God to give us sight! To give us understanding.But what if He doesn’t? What if God leaves us like Esau who sought for repentance but never found it? Repentance, metanoia, is really to do with a change of thinking, or understanding of the truth. Esau sought it but never found it. He was “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” 2 Timothy 3:7. What if God leaves us like that? Blind…. Always studying, reading the Bible, reading books about religion…. But never seeing it as anything but confused, conflicting history, or fables?Is that fair…? Well… why not? What does God owe us? Why should he open our eyes? What have we ever done for Him? He gives us health, food, water… life itself, and what do we do with it? Indulge it upon our own desires, lusts, greed, ambition and selfish gain. At times we ask a few questions, at times we wonder if there is a God (as if creation itself doesn’t tell us that fact every day! Romans 1:20), and at times we wonder about religion…. But what is that in return to a God who has given us everything? We give Him nothing, yet seem to expect Him to give us everything.

But thank God that He DOES give sight to the blind. Despite their rebellion and selfishness. Despite their pride in their own intellect and ability to search out the truth….. nevertheless…. Despite that He DOES heal the blind and give them sight. He did it for me… and all I can say, is like the blind man in John 9….

“Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner. He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.”

Will any of this convince others who are blind? No… not unless God the Spirit takes the truth of what is said and opens the eyes to see. But He has, and He does….

Now consider a question we raised at the start. Why are the two accounts of Creation in Genesis different? Well, they are intentionally different. One is entirely figurative of Christ, the Second Man, the Last Adam, and as such contains no record of the fall of man. The second is the narrative in which man’s fall into sin is described. The differences are quite intentional and bring out many deep truths regarding Jesus Christ and His salvation of sinners. Given time one could expand much further, but would the answer alone convince a blind man? Only if the Spirit opened the eyes to see... For ultimately only the Spirit can open the eyes, and He does that through the preaching of the Gospel.

What Gospel is that? ... Have a listen to How shall man be just with God?

“Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance. For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” 2 Peter 1:15-17

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