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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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    We are a community of confessing believers who love the gospel of Jesus Christ, affirm the Biblical and Christ-exalting truths of the Reformation such as the five solas, the doctrines of grace, monergistic regeneration, and the redemptive historical approach to interpreting the Scriptures.

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  • « Dr. Meredith G. Kline & B.B. Warfield | Main | A Refutation of Roman Catholicism »

    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.)

    Shalom

    Posted by John on July 4, 2006 01:56 PM

    Comments

    This is where I have trouble. I was wondering how it is if every believer has the indwelling Spirit to direct them into truth, how can you be blinded to what His Word is saying? I do understand how you may have sat under wrong teaching for a long time and tradition could cause you to not see it correctly, but once someone shows you scripture as plain as election....we're not talking about some obscure doctrine here...how can they be blinded? I know lay people whoe aren't brilliant scholars, but once they were shown this truth, they started studying and were amazed and yet there are preachers of God's Word out there who, not only refuse to believe it, but hate the very thought of election. Is it not our own pride that blinds us to this? Of course, I guess God could allow this blinding but I guess it's just confusing to me since, as believers, we are now indwelt by the Spirit of truth. Could you help me with understanding this a little better.

    Sometimes I start to believe that those professing believers who discount election and the gift of salvation are not really saved. I am still struggling with this myself. I look at my salvation in 1986 and my lack of understanding this until 2004-2005 as very suspect. However, when God did open my eyes to this truth it was profound indeed. Suddenly, all of scripture was open to me. I saw Reformed Theology all through the Bible whereas I was blind to it before. God became infinitely huge to me. Before that I saw men and women and children having to make the right decision and saying some sinner's prayer before they were saved. Now I see it all as God's gift. Yes, it is a mystery. I feel sorry for the masses of Christians who are still blind to this. I have learned, however, to not get upset when they reject this truth. After all, it's in God's hands. He will open the eyes of His people in His timing according to His sovereign will. However, we must never stop standing for the truth.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

    Mike,

    I, like you, have been wrestling as of late with this notion that those who CONTINUALLY disbelieve the doctrines of grace, might not be regenerate. I don't think Christians will automatically believe them at the MINUTE of their regeneration, but I think true believers will always accept the truths of God's word, and the Spirit will always lead them to that truth in TIME.

    I admit, however, that thinking like this troubles me. I dislike questioning ANYONE'S salvation, for only the Lord knows their heart. But based on the conversations I've had lately with "Arminians" and "Open Theists" (aka Consistent Arminians), I am constantly baffled at their repetitive denial of Biblical truths. I think anyone who desperately clings to secular philosophy (free will) over God's revealed word must take a HARD look at themselves to see if they are truly in the faith or not. Anyway, just my thoughts. Blessings.

    IMHO, to be consistent with the doctrines of grace I believe God often saves us in spite of our bad theology. otherwise we are speaking of salvation by gnosis as opposed to salvation by grace alone. Of course the gospel must be understood at a rudimentary level -- that we justly deserve the wrath of God save in the mercy of Jesus Christ ... but whether someone embraces limited atonement or irresistable grace, which of course are consistent and follows with the gospel, but God still saves persons who are inconsistent. If total consistency were the standard of our entrance into God's presence, then I am afraid none of us would make it.

    John H

    See the quote by Jeremiah Burroughs
    http://www.reformationtheology.com/2006/07/jeremiah_burroughs_on_preachin.php

    Thank you for this post. So true, so true! The Lord have mercy and open eyes.


    I've linked it here.

    Sir,

    that post brought tears to my eyes!

    I am personally more impatient than I should be.

    I believe I have never seen that from you, not once. Not towards me anyway.

    Me, I am a mass of sin.

    love

    God has brought each of us into this world and just as He has orchestrated it so as each of us grow physically, He has done the same for us to grow Spiritually.
    God has a process, you crawl, then stumble as you walk but that doesn't mean you are not alive or at some degree of becoming aware to what is going on around you. You are a babe, then a child, and so forth as you physically and mentally grow. You are the born by God's Spirit and start on the path unto Christlikeness.
    You will stumble and fall and misunderstand but wil eventually come to matureness. All in God's ways and timing.

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