Blind Until God Opens our Eyes
I recently read a very encouraging book called Flight Path, A Biography of Frank Barker Jr. There are a couple of paragraphs in chapter 17 that I thought appropriate to post here since they relate to important concepts that we speak of often here. The chapter is called "The Gift" and explains Barker's many years (even in seminary) having not understood salvation to be a gracious gift of God until a friend had given him a tract which explained it. What is striking about his experience was his previous inability to to hear that same truth even when plainly put before him.
He writes, "I wondered why no one had told me that salvation was a gift. Then I thought, Isn't it strange that Martin Luther didn't know that. The reason I thought about Martin Luther was that I had just read his commentary on Galatians for a course I was taking. If Luther had not known that salvation is a gift, he would have brought it out in the book! I wanted to see how he had missed it, so I pulled the commentary off the shelf and reread it. To my amazement, it was on every page!.
I thought, I must have been blind when I read this book! It dawned on me that God has to open a persons's spiritual eyes to understand the scripture. I had been trying to do it on my own. Why God used that tract instead of Luther's commentary is a mystery...
Also, I became concerned about other people knowing that salvation was a gift of God. I thought, Do my parents know about this? The next time I went home, I blurted out my question during supper, "Mother and Dad, do you both understand that salvation is a gift, that you don't earn it or deserve it?"
"Yes," they said with big smiles on their faces."
"Why didn't you tell me?" I quizzed.
"We did, Son. But it didn't soak in. God had to open your eyes, and we are so thankful He has."
"Oh," I said. "Alright. Thank you."...
These two short paragraphs really bring to light, I believe, much of what each of us has gone through at one time or another. Even many Christians I have worked with and have exchanged emails at Monergism have, at first, wondered what the big deal is about the five solas, monergistic regeneration, irresistible grace and the like. Initially many persons usually fail to understand the magnitude of these truths and many even brush them off as obscure and unimportant. But later many have come back to me, in awe and wondeer of God, explaining how they now recognize their full significance and begin seeing them on every page of Scripture. Furthermore how these truths now bring such humbling clarity to the gospel. Many believers affirm salvation by grace alone, but give little thought to what grace really means or its extent. That it means salvation is by Christ alone, plus or minus nothing ... That even the desire to believe and follow Christ is due to work of grace the Spirit has worked in those who believe, not our own fallen affections ,,, this did not previously cross their mind even though the Scripture plainly testifies to it everywhere. Like Frank Barker's story above, it would appear that we can read and re-read a Scriptural text many times, but until God the Holy Spirit illumines our mind to the text, until it is the fullness of time for someone to understand, we can be looking right at the plain text and yet fail to see or hear it.
For example, the passages John 6:63-65; 37, 44 plainly state that "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing ... and that no one can come to Me (believe the gospel) unless it has been granted him from the Father" and (v37) that all that the Father gives the Son will come to him (i.e will believe the gospel) and 44 says that no one comes unless God draw him and those same people he will raise up at the last day. To read the passage in context you have to be blinded in some way not to see that it plainly gives a syllogism that teaches the certainty of faith in those God has given the Son from eternity. That God infallibly draws those whom He loves.
YET ... if you show this passage to those who are closed to it, even Christians, they simply cannot see the plain reading of the text. Their hearts are closed to it so they won't hear it. So my admonition and prayer for all of us today is that we need to persevere in showing people these texts and pray the Lord will open their eyes to these and many others like it, that is, in the context of the whole counsel of Scripture. This reveals that persuasion is not merely a matter of presenting facts that are true, but that hearts must be changed to absorb them. So, let us pray for patience for ourselves and our community that we would befriend and cherish those God has put in our lives ... and pray that the Lord will use these weak vessels to open up the truth of Scripture. We have much to learn ourselves and our zealousness may even get in the way if we do not consider that only God sovereignly determines the timing for people. Our attitudes make a huge difference. I am personally more impatient than I should be. Pray that we would develop warmheartedness as a community of believers that hold forth the glorious truths of the gospel. We are assaulted on every side but we must continue to couple our zealousness with knowledge and compassion.
"Indeed the Word of God is like the sun, shining upon all those to whom it is proclaimed, but with no effect among the blind. Now, all of us are blind by nature in this respect... Accordingly, it cannot penetrate into our minds unless the Spirit, as the inner teacher, through his illumination makes entry for it." (Calvin's Institutes 3.2.34.)