Saturday, February 02, 2008
CANON IV.-If any one saith, that man's free will moved and excited by God, by assenting to God exciting and calling, nowise co-operates towards disposing and preparing itself for obtaining the grace of Justification; that it cannot refuse its consent, if it would, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive; let him be anathema.
Notice the key word there "co-operates." That means man acting with God. It is a denial of monergism and a denial of sola gratia.
And we are not stuck alone with Trent's fourth canon, for the same thought is expressed:
CHAPTER V. On the necessity, in adults, of preparation for Justification, and whence it proceeds. The Synod furthermore declares, that in adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called; that so they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace: in such sort that, while God touches the heart of man by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, neither is man himself utterly without doing anything while he receives that inspiration, forasmuch as he is also able to reject it; yet is he not able, by his own free will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight. Whence, when it is said in the sacred writings: Turn ye to me, and I will turn to you, we are admonished of our liberty; and when we answer; Convert us, O Lord, to thee, and we shall be converted, we confess that we are prevented by the grace of God.
Notice the key words (for our consideration): "they ... may be disposed through ... grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace...."
This is a rather clear denial of salvation by grace alone. Thus, the answer to the title question is a resounding NO!
Trent is not, however, advocating Pelagianism. Trent is not making an assertion that grace is unnecessary. The paragraph insists on the essential presence of grace. That is very good. It is laudable that Trent did not teach Pelagianism.
Nevertheless, Trent does not teach salvation by grace alone. If one recognizes that Scripture teaches salvation by grace alone, one needs to make a decision:
1. Either believe Scripture's testimony, or
2. Believe Trent's testimony.
The former way is the way of the Reformers, and the latter way must be the way of any consistent Catholic. Now, note: I have not, in this post, shown that Scripture teaches that salvation is by grace alone. If I were debating the matter of what Scripture teaches, I would want to address that issue.
Instead, I am simply addressing in this post what Rome teaches. Why would I do that? I would do that because there are certain men out there in the Internet who would like people to believe that Rome teaches salvation by grace alone.
And guess what: you can find statements praising the phrase "sola gratia" from places like the Vatican's official web site. There is a modicum of veracity to such a claim. However, given what Trent dogmatically defines:
1) Either the Vatican's official web site (and the people speaking through it) mean something different by "sola gratia" than monergism (i.e. they are, in effect, equivocating); or
2) Even the pope makes mistakes, and an affirmation of sola gratia (the teaching that men are saved by grace alone, and not at all in any way by human merit) is necessarily a mistake because it conflicts with Trent's teaching on justification.
In other words, Trent as a putatively ecumenical council (though dominated by Italian and Spanish bishops, and devoid of Reformed and Orthodox bishops) has greater ecclesiastical authority than anything one can find in speeches made by modern ecumenical bishops, archbishops, cardinals, or even popes.
If this were a card game, Trent is a trump card, beating out even such "official" documents as the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and - of course - beating out the writings of Internet apologists.
Catholics: you're stuck with Trent. You cannot change it. You cannot ignore it. If you want to be Catholic, you have to agree with Trent.
I'm bound to hear the objection that I simply don't understand Trent. Why am I so sure that I'll hear that objection? Because it is the same tired objection I hear every time a Catholic person disagrees with me about Catholic doctrine, or a Mormon person disagrees with me about Mormon doctrine (though substitute "Book of Abraham" for "Trent"), or an Orthodox person disagrees with me about Orthodox doctrine (though substitute "Chrysostom" for "Trent") etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum. I've already blogged about this syndrome elsewhere (link). It's a self-defeating argument for those that deny sola scriptura on the allegation that scripture is inscrutable.
But, to be clear, let me point out that at least some Catholics agree with me that Catholic doctrine rejects the Reformed doctrine of sola gratia: Prof. Dr. Josef Seifert, Rector of the International Academy of Philosophy in Liechtenstein, internationally acclaimed philosopher, and member of the Pontifical Academy for Life. Dr. William Marshner, chairman of the Theology Department at Christendom College (pointing out that "sola gratia" can only accepted by Catholics with respect to initiation towards justification).
Why then do we also see Catholics, like Mark Brumley (link) suggesting that the Reformation was right about sola gratia? The most charitable answer is that the matter is clear from Scripture, and consequently it is hard to try to continue to deny its truth. Christians realize that Scripture is the ultimate infallible authority we have today, supreme over Trent and over anything anyone's religious leaders may say. If Scripture says it, we must believe it, and if Trent disagrees, the worse for Trent.
And, of course, to reject Trent is to cease to be Catholic.
May God give Christians wisdom to accept the truth of sola gratia,
UPDATE: Apparently at least one thing was not clear from the post above. If one defines "sola gratia" to mean something other than monergism, then of course Trent can be made to accommodate "sola gratia" under that different definition. In fact, one can assert that the RCC teaches "sola scriptura" as well, as long as one is careful to redefine sola scriptura to mean something other than what the Reformers meant by it.
I recently received this peice of fan mail:
You're a sock puppet of Satan. That's why you baptize babies to send them to hell to burn for all eternity. They grow up duped into thinking they're already Christians and already saved just because Satan's minister sprinkled his putrid devil water on them. You're going to burn for your heresy, and I don't mean at the hands of Rome: I mean hell. But its what you want, since Satan is your god.This blasphemy would ordinarily just find its way rapidly to the "deleted" bin, but I thought I'd take the opportunity to distinguish something that this particular blasphemer has asserted.
He suggests that the children we baptize grow up thinking that they are already Christians and already saved because of their baptism. This is not true in Reformed Churches.
Reformed churches do not suggest that baptism saves anyone. Instead, we preach the gospel:
Repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.
We preach it to those outside the church, but we also preach it to the children of the church. We preach it to those who have been baptized as infants, whether they were baptized in our churches, in the churches of Rome or Constantinople, or in any other church that has a formally Christian baptism. Men are justified by faith in Christ, not by the water of baptism.
To those who are not of the household of faith (outwardly speaking, of course), we do not baptize them until they have repented and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. In places like Europe and the Americas, most of the people who are proselytized have already been baptized, and consequently we do not rebaptize them. On the other hand, in places like Asia and Africa most of the people who are proselytized have not been baptized, and consequently are baptized.
As to the mode of baptism, while most Reformed churches sprinkle as a matter of convenience, all Reformed churches are free to adminster the sacrament of baptism by pouring or immersion. Reformed churches view the mode of baptism to be a circumstance rather than an element of the sacrament. Thus, Reformed churches do not insist on one mode or another.
Obviously, it is worth noting that the writer of this comment is in need of prayer. I hope those Christians who stop by this blog will take a second to pray for his soul. God is great, and God loves to demonstrate his power by converting the most blasphemous of men: look at Saul of Tarsus!
And let us not think that we are somehow better than the person who made this comment. We are not saved by merit, or by being washed with water, but by the grace of God. Therefore, with humility, let us:
Praise our Awesome Creator!
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Doug Wilson posts against this anonymous sock-puppet web site in his recent post here (link).
I presume Doug is just unaware that it is Federal Vision folks (possibly just one teenage boy) that are behind the AFVSB.
It will be interesting to see how long it is before the site owner admits to this being simply a sock-puppet of the FV.
UPDATE: It seems that Doug Wilson has realized his mistake and done part of the correct thing, specifically by deleting his post. The next step would be to denounce the AFVSB as the sock-puppet that it is. At any rate, I cannot recall the last time that Doug got as close to admitting he had blundered as to delete a post from his website. Hats off to him for that much progress. Also, it hasn't been off his web site for long, so he may still go further and post something new correcting his previous error.
FURTHER UPDATE: Thanks to Civbert for plugging this post over at PuritanBoard.
ADDITIONAL UPDATE: David Field (an FVist) calls the sock puppet excellent satire (link). That shows a remarkable absence of judgment. One wonders whether it is his own creation. We'll have to wait and see. UPDATE to the update: David field praises the AFVSB some more (link).
NEW UPDATE: John Halton indicates he is "pretty sure" (!) that the site is satirical (link). UPDATE to the UPDATE: (John Halton (remember him?) tries to make his own satirical come back (link). I think it's fairly lame (and ignores the fact that Federal Visionists, both Doug Wilson (above) and Jeff Meyers (below) have responded to it), but judge for yourself.)
Latest Update: FVist Jeff Meyers mocks the sock puppet (link). It's not clear whether he is aware that it is by one of the FV crowd.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Thanks to everyone who followed the debate.
P.S. I do have some thoughts of my own about the debate, but I plan to reserve those thoughts until after the audience questions.
Image provided via scan from Dave Armstrong.
Loose translation, below. I realize Dave has posted a translation on his web site. I'll compare it later and update as may be needed:
Instead, and against your friends, Zwingli and Oecolampadius, he wrote, for the substance and true body and blood of Christ in the Eucharistic sacrament, this he said: "If the world lasts long, it will again be necessary, then, because of the diverse Scriptural interpretations which now are, in order to conserve the unity of the faith, we will receive the decrees of Councils and then flee to them."
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Abortion is wrong. It is a sin, and a violation of the 6th commandment. It is a particularly heinous sin when committed by a child's father or mother. It ought to be crime, and governments who refuse to treat it as a crime risk God's judgment for failing to act justly.
Abortion is properly classifed as murder, because an unborn child is a person. An unborn child is a human being. An unborn child has a separate physical existence from its parents, even though it is totally reliant on its mother for nutrition, support, protection, and so forth.
That the child's father committed rape or incest is not ordinarily a justification for termination of the life of the child, whether or not the child was conceived as a result of that sinful action by the child's father.
That a child's mother committed a capital offense (and rape or incest might qualify as such an offense) may justify the termination of the life of the child, as collateral to the just judgment of death on the mother.
That a child is going to kill its mother may be a justification for terminating the life of the child, under a self-defense principle. That is to say, a mother (or a father acting as head of the family) may be justified in killing her child if the child is going to kill her, and if killing the child is the only way (back to the wall limitation) to stop the child from killing her.
Criminal law is not the sphere of authority of every government. Some politcal structures, like America or the European Union, have many spheres of authority. While it is the duty of the magistrate generally to protect life, it may not be, for example, for either the highest or lowest spheres of government to be enacing criminalization of abortion laws, if such laws do not fall within the proper scope of their authority.
Likewise, it is not the Christian's duty to become abortion vigilantes, hunting down and executing justice on those who commit unjustified abortions.
That a child is very small is not a justification for killing a child.
That a child is not likely to have an enjoyable life is not justification for killing a child.
That a child is very ill is not a justification for killing a child.
That a child might endanger the life of its mother is not a justification for killing a child.
All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. The point of this post is not to judge sinners. Judgment is the responsibility of God and the kings of the earth. Nor is the point of this post to judge kings who are sinners.
Instead, the point of this post is to entreat the kings and rulers of this world to enact just laws that protect the lives of innocent children, and justly punish those who take their lives.
May God bless this world with more nations that protect the lives of the unborn,
Monday, January 28, 2008
See also the recent transcription of the difference between Grace and Works by Transforming Grace.
I suspect that his request to leave will be granted, and that his departure will signal to the other Federal Visionists in the PCA that it is time to conform to Scriptural doctrine or depart out.
I am sorry to see people leaving rather than heeding godly discipline, but what can we do except continue to pray and continue to reach out to them as errant brethren.
2 Timothy 4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
1 Peter 5:4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
In comparison to which, the bishop's crown is just so much dust.
I do genuinely feel sorry for the bishop in question, who says he feels "lost" without his crown. And I exhort him to remember the words of our Lord, who said:
Matthew 6:19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
Note to irascible Orthodox readers: I realize that this crowning with a physical bejeweled crown is a very ancient practice in your sect, and that this bishop saying that he feels "lost" without his crown is presumably not a soteriological reference. Also, I recognize that not everyone who seeks to be an Orthodox bishop does so in order to get decked out in gold, and to obtain the mastery (as per the subject verse). Doubtless there are bishops who despise their gaudy crown, awaiting a crown of righteousness, glory, and eternal life in the life to come. There is great diversity within "Orthodoxy."
UPDATE: Another Orthodox bishop lost his crown, this one the more usual way (link) (and not just any bishop, but an archbishop).
So, I warned the man: "Those donuts have a lot of sugar in them."
The man looked at me and said, "No, donuts are healthy. I love them. I'm going to eat them."
I offered to try to explain to him the nutritional facts about donuts, but he wouldn't listen. In fact, he offered to debate me about the nutritional value of donuts. His proffered resolution was: "Resolved that donuts are properly classifiable as healthy food."
I said, "well, I want to be clear that we are talking about the same thing here:"
- "donuts have tons of saturated fats, right?" His answer surprising answer was a denial.
- "donuts have tons of sugar, right? " Again, he replied in the negative.
- "donuts are a kind of pastry, though, right?" (I asked in wonder) But again he replied in the negative.
He insisted that these "round things with holes" are nutritious, sometimes are made from whole grains, and often include embedded fruit, such as raisins or blueberries.
"Aha," I answered, "what you have there are bagels not donuts. Bagels are (or can be) healthy food, so I won't be able to argue with you that they are not healthy."
"Oh no," insisted the man, "I mean 'donuts.' Don't tell me what I mean. But I can see you are not interested in a debate, since you are trying to impose all these absurd conditions on me."
With that, the man took his bag of donuts and left the grocery store.
I sat in awe. Could anyone be so foolish as to be a severe diabetic eating donuts? Could anyone be so hardened in his sugar-consuming ways that he would deny basic characteristics of his donuts, even to the pointing of treating donuts as though they were bagels?
But that was not the end. The next day one of his friends stopped by and insisted that I was afraid to defend my "crazy" ideas about nutrition, and that I had refused to debate the man in the grocery store! I tried to set him straight, but oddly he too thought that I must accept the man's own description of the contents of the bag, and not a more objective description.
Moral: One might think that the moral is "don't mess with the donut guy. You'll both get powdered sugar all over yourselves, but the donut guy will enjoy it." But, of course, sometimes one has a duty to warn someone else of the dangers that face them. Sometimes the only charitable thing to do is to warn someone that something is unhealthy, for their body or (even more crucially) for their soul. They may deny that it is what it is, until they are blue in the face. You cannot change that. What you can do is give the warning as best you can, and leave it in God's hands to open their eyes to the danger.
The passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea wonderfully agrees with our baptism, and represents the grace it was designed to express. For as, in baptism, when performed in the primitive manner, by immersion and emersion, descending into the water, and again going out of it, of which descent and ascent we have an example in the Eunuch, Acts 8:38, 39: yea, and what is more, as by this rite, when persons are immersed in water, they are overwhelmed, and, as it were, buried, and in a manner 'buried together with Christ;' and again, when they emerge, seem to be raised out of the grave, and are said 'to rise again with Christ;' Rom. 6:4, 5. Col. 2:12; so in the Mosaic baptism we have an immersion and an emersion; that when they - descended into the depth of the sea, this when they went out and came to the opposite shore. The former was an image of death; the latter of a resurrection. For, passing through the bottom of the sea, were they not near to death? and, escaping to the opposite shore, were they not as if revived from the dead? As in former times the persons to be baptized were immersed in the water, continued under the water, and emerged out of it; Matt. 3:16. Acts 8:38; so the old man died in them and was buried, and the new man arose." Rom. 6:4. Col. 2:12. Disp. de Bap. Nubis and Mans, § 24. Inst. Theol., tom. 3, Loc. 19, Quaes. 11, § 14.
(as taken from here)
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Also, find here a brief exerpt from Turretin's Institutes on the Necessity of the Atonement, provided by Leviticus and Stuff (link).
This is the first part of a response to Kangaroo|Dort. It is the positive exposition.
2The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. 3Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
4Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
5Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
9Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
10Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? 11Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. 12If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? 13And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
What is it that Jesus was conveying? Jesus was explaining that it is necessary to be regenerate in order to be saved. What did Jesus mean?
Jesus was challenging Nicodemus' assertion that, "We know that thou art a teacher come from God." Jesus knew well that the Sanhedrin rejected him. Thus, a little later, Jesus points out, "If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?" But before he gets there, he explains to Nicodemus why it is that not everyone believes.
It is necessary to be born of the Spirit in order to understand the things of the Spirit and consequently in order to believe the things of the Spirit. Furthermore, while we can see the effects of regeneration, it's like the wind: we don't see where it came from or where it is going next. The Spirit's action is invisible, and beyond our control.
Someone might object that to "see the kingdom of God" and to "enter into the kingdom of God" is a reference to heaven. This is incorrect for two major reasons:
1) What would be the point in context of telling Nicodemus that one has to be regenerate in order to go to heaven? I suppose one might assert that it is an example of "heavenly things" that Jesus mentions later, but it itself is really something that happens here on earth. Thus, to assert that it means that one must be regenerate to pass through the pearly gates, just does not fit the context.
2) Recall that the "kingdom of God" has a primary reference to salvation of one's soul. Thus:
Luke 17:21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
14Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
In other words, seeing the kingdom of God is appreciation of the gospel message. Entering into the kingdom of God is repenting and believing the gospel. Neither is possible without regeneration.
Why is that? Why is the rebirth necessary?
1 Corinthians 2:14 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.
Paul's explanation is that the rebirth is necessary because man by nature thinks that the things of God are foolishness! It's not because the natural man does not have enough information, or because he needs a better teacher, it is because the natural man cannot understand spiritual things.
Indeed, he is not able to know them. He does not have that ability. This is contrary to the teachings of the Pelagians and similar modernists who assert that all men have the ability to understand spiritual things. After all, their argument goes, if God commands men to believe, he must give them the ability to do so. As can be seen from this verse: that does not follow. Instead, natural men does not receive the things of the Spirit and cannot.
This same principle is confirmed elsewhere in John's gospel:
12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Those who are believing on the name of God are they which were born of God.
But What about Prevenient Grace?
Someone who was willing to be subservient to the Scripture passages above, and yet preserve for all men the ability to believe, might argue that all men receive the new birth, and that not all make proper use of it. In other words, they would seem to say that Paul's comments about the natural man demonstrate that everyone has been given grace by God, so that there are no natural men. Let us, therefore, look at what else Paul says:
28Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. 29But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.
In other words, the natural men (those born after the flesh) continue to persecute the regenerate men (those born after the spirit). Paul knew this from first hand experience: before his eyes were opened he persecuted the church.
Galatians 1:13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:
Thus, we can see that natural men do exist. There are those who are not born again.
5For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 9But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. 10And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
Here again we see the same principle, the natural, carnal mind is God's enemy and not only is rebellious to God but cannot be otherwise. The only solution is for the Spirit of God to dwell in you.
We see the same themes in Peter's writings as well:
1 Peter 4:3-6
3For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: 4Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: 5Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. 6For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
Many men in the flesh think we Christians are strange because we do not live according to the sexual revolution, according to the culture of drugging and excessive drinking, and because we do not worship without even graphical representations of our God. Some even speak evil of Christians for being too austere, too "iconophobic," or even too "puritanical."
Men in the flesh simply cannot understand how we devalue such things.
The reason for the difference is simple:
1 Peter 1:21-23
21Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. 22Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: 23Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
John explains the cause and effect relation in more detail in his first catholic epistle:
1 John 2:29 If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.
1 John 3:9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
1 John 5:1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.
1 John 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
1 John 5:18 We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.
Those are the effects of being born of God:
- doing righteousness;
- avoiding sin;
- loving/knowing God;
- believing that Jesus is the Messiah; and
- overcoming the world / having faith.
5Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
There is the flow: regeneration/renewal, justification (by grace, not works), and finally eternal life.
We can also see the same thing expressed other ways in Scripture:
39And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. 40And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? 41Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.
Blindness is the natural state of man. Like the man in the preceding passage, men are born blind. They cannot see the Lord. They cannot believe on Him. But Jesus opens their eyes and they believe. That's the progression.
32And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him. 33And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; 34And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. 35And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. 36And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; 37And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.
Just as he opens the eyes of the blind, Jesus opens the ears of the mouth and the tongue of the mute.
And the analogies do not stop there:
Matthew 11:5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
Luke 7:22 Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.
Recall that this is what the prophets foretold:
Isaiah 29:18 And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.
Isaiah 42:18 Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see.
3Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. 4Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you. 5Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6hen shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. 7And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes. 8And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. 9No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there: 10And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
You see, there is the picture. God miraculously saves those whom Christ redeemed. That is why it is logically, soteriologically, and rationally necessary that regeneration precede faith. It must be that way, for the deaf cannot hear, the blind cannot see, the lame cannot come, the dead cannot respond. There must be life given and then we can run to Christ, and worship him, like the man born blind:
1And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. 2And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
3Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. 4I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. 6When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, 7And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.
8The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged?
9Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him:
but he said, I am he.
10Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened?
11He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight.
12Then said they unto him, Where is he?
He said, I know not.
13They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. 14And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. 15Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see.
16Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day.
Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.
17They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes?
He said, He is a prophet.
18But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight. 19And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see?
20His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: 21But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. 22These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. 23Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him.
24Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner.
25He 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.
26Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes?
27He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples?
28Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses' disciples. 29We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.
30The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. 31Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. 32Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. 33If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.
34They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.
35Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?
36He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?
37And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.
38And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.
Even so it is with us: we were blind, but now we see. And we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and we trust in Him alone for salvation, worshipping Him.
May Christ be praised!