Saturday, August 05, 2023

Semi-Pelagianism in some Theological Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

The following are definitions of Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism from the "Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms" (1996).  Despite the "Westminster" in its name, I'm confident that this work represents the mainstream Presbyterian church, which is not "Reformed" in most rigorous senses of the word, though it is broadly in that tradition, as distinct from Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic.

(p. 205)
(p. 255)

For an even more simplified definition (sorry, they didn't have Semi-Pelagianism) compare:

From "Crazy Talk: A Not-so-stuffy Dictionary of Theological Terms" Jacobson et al. (2017)

At the other end, we have a multi-volume theological encyclopedia, namely the New Schaff Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Dr. Samuel Macauley Jackson, Ed. 13 vols. (1909-1912-1914). Vol. 10, pp. 347-49 (link to starting page)

The section author is, I believe, Friedreich Loofs, a church historian best known for his study of the history of dogma. Loofs is pictured below.

Loofs' article boils down Semi-Pelagianism to synergism: "A synergistic view raised in opposition to Augustine's monergism." (p. 347, left col.)

Loofs' article summarizes a key point of the debate succinctly: "The question was whether the 'grace of creation, remission, and doctrine' were sufficient to attain salvation or whether a 'grace of inspiration' was inwardly essential in addition and for every act...." (347R)

Loofs summarizes Cassian's objection this way: "Man must be saved by grace but conditioned on his consent and 'all who perish do so contrary to the will of God'." (347R)

Loofs indicates that when Possessor (a North African monk) objected to the citation of the authority of Faustus of Riez on the ground of  Pelagianism, "Pope" Hormisdas in 520 "declared that Faustus, like all others not included among the Fathers, was incompetent to judge on dogmatic questions." Loofs continued: "The pope found error in the works of Faustus, but did not pronounce them heretical." (348R)

Loofs notes that the Second Council of Orange failed to address the issue of the irresistibility of grace.  Loofs also suggests that baptism is treated as a "vehicle of grace," which Loofs considers to be a departure from an Augustine disconnection between baptism and the impartation of grace.  Boniface II approved the canons of Orange and they became "the official disposition" of the controversy. (349L)

Loofs summarize the Massilians views this way (349L):

The Massilians held Pelagius to be a heretic and accepted the decision of the Synod of Carthage (418). They concurred in Augustine's doctrine of grace, including the thesis that man requires the inspiration of grace to do good. But they declined the Augustinian monergism; their synergistic view involved the decision on man's part, with reference to eternal life, whether by virtue of his freedom he assented, and therefore submitted to the operation of divine grace, or was indifferent to grace, therefore rejecting it. The Augustinian theses, that faith is purely an effect of grace; that grace is irresistible; that no human act (as meritum) is ever to be considered as a cause of the divine operation of grace; that salvation has its basis only in the divine election-- these were unacceptable.

Loofs continues (349L): 

This view has been designated as Semipelagian on the presupposition of the difference between Augustine referring the salvation of those who are saved to the grace of God alone, and Pelagius referring the same to the possible well-doing of man without the "grace of inspiration." Accordingly, the synergism of the Massilians is correctly presumed to be "half" Pelagian, and the discovery by Augustine and Prosper of the reliquia of Pelagianism is from their point of view well founded.
Loofs, nevertheless, insists that it is "improper to make the doctrine of grace of Augustine ... the standard with which to compare a heresy." (349L)  Loofs argues: "The departures from Augustinian doctrine not censured at Orange should not be designated Semipelagian." (349L)

Loof's' article identifies the "distinctive marks" of the "censured heresy" at the Second Council of Orange as:
1) Denial of Prevenient Grace
2) Refusal to Recognize that "Faith" was a "Gift of God"
3) Refusal to Regard the Natural Man as Totally Incapable of Doing Good, making the spontaneous cooperation of man as a condition to the operation of grace
4) Presuming Grace to be Imparted in Consequence of "Some Merit."

Loofs takes the position that Roman Catholicism, while claiming Augustine as a doctor of the church, has departed from his doctrines.  Loofs suggests that the view of the Hypomnesticon, which apparently advocated for the idea of the resistance of grace, such that election and reprobation is on the basis of foreseen absence of resistance to grace (election) or foreseen resistance to grace (predestination to death), pre-dates Semipelagianism and should be called "crypto-Semi-pelagianism," while the 13th century Franciscan teachings of distinguishing between a general grace and a saving grace and of congruent and condign merit are "the Semipelagian representations ... in new garbs."  Thus, Loofs suggests the latter should be called "Neo-Semipelagianism," and that Roman Catholicism is rightly charged as such. (349R) 

Augustine through the Ages, an Encyclopedia, Allan D. Fitzgerald ed. is one of the go-to resources on Augustine and Augustinianism.  It is, therefore, a logical choice to go to for a discussion of Semi-Pelagianism.  The subject is covered from the right column of p. 761 to the left column of p. 766.  The section author is Conrad Leyser, an associate professor of Medieval History on the faculty of the University of Oxford.  

Leyser notes (761R): 

Modern scholarship now regards this traditional view of "semi-Pelagianism" with grave misgivings: some scholars would refuse the term altogether, and few would use it without qualification. A principle ground of objection to the term is its anachronism. "Semi-Pelagianism" was first put into circulation in the late sixteenth century in debates between Dominicans and the Jesuit L. de Molina; it was the Dominican contention that Molina's doctrine of grace, which looked to safeguard free human cooperation with God's will, was a species of Pelagianism.
Leyser goes on to acknowledge that (762L):

For A. von Harnack, in his Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte (1890), "semi-Pelagian" was an apt description of the medieval Catholic tradition as a whole; only with Luther was the church restored to a proper adherence to Augustine's teachings." The polemical charge carried by "semi-Pelagianism" has made modern scholars suspicious of the term as a descriptive or analytic category.

The remainder of the entry provides an interesting historical discussion of the so-called Semi-Pelagian controversy.


Friday, August 04, 2023

Semi-Pelagianism Defined by the Oxford English Dictionary

One ought not to have to provide such caveats, but this is a reminder that dictionary definitions are descriptive more than they are prescriptive.  In the case of this particular dictionary, the definitions are built on usage over the centuries (but particularly in the period from about 1600 to 1900).  Likewise, this is a reminder that this particular dictionary is not a dictionary that specializes in theological terms.  

The Oxford English Dictionary, vol. 9, p. 444 (1913 edition, 1978 reprinting) defines Semi-Pelagian and Semi-Pelagianism as follows:

The definition is quite broad: "a doctrine intermediate between Augustinianism and Pelagianism, taught by Cassian of Marseilles in the 5th century."

Distilling the elements of this particular dictionary, one will note several uses:

1) As a theology associated with John Cassian of Marseilles.

2) As a polemical term.

3) As an alternative to sublapsarianism and supralapsarianism.

4) As promoting "Liberty of Free Will"

5) As teaching an ineffectual grace prior to faith.

6) As acknowledging original corruption, but limiting it.

7) As saying that, although assisting Grace is necessary, the first turn of the will toward God is the result of a man's own choice.

8) As holding that man (comes to faith?) "Not disposed by preventing grace, without use of subsequent grace, by Antecedent and anticipant, without concomitant and auxiliant grace"

9) As teaching that Jesus Christ died, or shed his Blood, for all Men in general.

10) As teaching that in regeneration the divine and human wills are co-operating (i.e. synergistic) coefficient factors.

UPDATE August 6, 2023.

I tracked down the context to the usage quoted from Donne's sermon in 1640.  It is thus (link):

First then, God proposes to himselfe, (in his Rewards and Retributions) Persons;* Persons disposed and qualified. Not disposed by nature, without use of grace; that is flat and full Pelagianisme; Not disposed by preventing grace, without use of subsequent grace, by Antecedent and anticipant, without concomitant and auxiliant grace; that is Semi-pelagianisme.  But persons obsequious to his grace, when it comes, and persons industrious and ambitious of more and more grace, and husbanding his grace well all the way, such persons God proposes to himselfe. 

The marginal note at Persons is this: "*. 1 Part. Personae qualificatae."

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

Provisionism and the 418 Council of Carthage

The Council of Carthage of 418 opposed errors attributed to Pelagius and Celestius (P&C).  The council defined eight canons, which sometimes serve as a definition of Pelagianism (for another translation including other unrelated canons, see here).  In preparation for an upcoming debate over whether Provisionism (as represented by Leighton Flowers aka LF) is Semi-Pelagian, I thought it may be beneficial to consider the canons of the Council of Carthage of 418.  For the sake of simplicity, I'm taking for granted that P&C held to the views opposed by the Council.  In this case, the canons are expressed first as to positive doctrine and then negatively.  I believe that the negative wording is the actual statement by the council, and the positive is a commentary on the negative.

That Adam was not created by God subject to death. (Canon 1 of 418 Synod)

That whosoever says that Adam, the first man, was created mortal, so that whether he had sinned or not, he would have died in body—that is, he would have gone forth of the body, not because his sin merited this, but by natural necessity, let him be anathema.

I cannot say whether LF agrees or disagrees with P&C as to this canon.  I note that Old Earth creationists (and theistic evolutionists) may easily run afoul of this canon.

That infants are baptized for the remission of sins. (Canon 2 of 418 Synod)

Likewise it seemed good that whosoever denies that infants newly from their mother’s wombs should be baptized, or says that baptism is for remission of sins, but that they derive from Adam no original sin, which needs to be removed by the laver of regeneration, from whence the conclusion follows, that in them the form of baptism for the remission of sins, is to be understood as false and not true, let him be anathema. For no otherwise can be understood what the Apostle says, “By one man sin is come into the world, and death through sin, and so death passed upon all men in that all have sinned,” than the Catholic Church everywhere diffused has always understood it. For on account of this rule of faith even infants, who could have committed as yet no sin themselves, therefore are truly baptized for the remission of sins, in order that what in them is the result of generation may be cleansed by regeneration.

LF agrees with P&C here.  

That the grace of God not only gives remission of sins, but also affords aid that we sin no more. (Canon 3 of 418 Synod)

Likewise it seemed good, that whoever should say that the grace of God, by which a man is justified through Jesus Christ our Lord, avails only for the remission of past sins, and not for assistance against committing sins in the future, let him be anathema.

I think that LF disagrees with P&C here.

That the grace of Christ gives not only the knowledge of our duty, but also inspires us with a desire that we may be able to accomplish what we know. (Canon 4 of 418 Synod)

Also, whoever shall say that the same grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord helps us only in not sinning by revealing to us and opening to our understanding the commandments, so that we may know what to seek, what we ought to avoid, and also that we should love to do so, but that through it we are not helped so that we are able to do what we know we should do, let him be anathema. For when the Apostle says: “Wisdom puffeth up, but charity edifieth” it were truly infamous were we to believe that we have the grace of Christ for that which puffeth us up, but have it not for that which edifieth, since in each case it is the gift of God, both to know what we ought to do, and to love to do it; so that wisdom cannot puff us up while charity is edifying us. For as of God it is written, “Who teacheth man knowledge,” so also it is written, “Love is of God.”

I think that LF agrees with P&C here, at least as it pertains to someone who is presently an unbeliever.

That without the grace of God we can do no good thing. (Canon 5 of 418 Synod)

It seemed good that whosoever should say that the grace of justification was given to us only that we might be able more readily by grace to perform what we were ordered to do through our free will; as if though grace was not given, although not easily, yet nevertheless we could even without grace fulfil the divine commandments, let him be anathema. For the Lord spake concerning the fruits of the commandments, when he said: “Without me ye can do nothing,” and not “Without me ye could do it but with difficulty.”

 I think that LF at least partially agrees with P&C here.

That not only humble but also true is that voice of the Saints: “If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves.” (Canon 6 of 418 Synod)

It also seemed good that as St. John the Apostle says, “If we shall say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us,” whosoever thinks that this should be so understood as to mean that out of humility, we ought to say that we have sin, and not because it is really so, let him be anathema. For the Apostle goes on to add, “But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all iniquity,” where it is sufficiently clear that this is said not only of humility but also truly. For the Apostle might have said, “If we shall say we have no sins we shall extoll ourselves, and humility shall have no place in us;” but when he says, “we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” he sufficiently intimates that he who affirmed that he had no sin would speak not that which is true but that which is false.

I think that LF mostly disagrees with P&C here.

That in the Lord’s Prayer the Saints say for themselves: “Forgive us our trespasses.” (Canon 7 of 418 Synod)

It has seemed good that whoever should say that when in the Lord’s prayer, the saints say, “forgive us our trespasses,” they say this not for themselves, because they have no need of this petition, but for the rest who are sinners of the people; and that therefore no one of the saints can say, “Forgive me my trespasses,” but “Forgive us our trespasses;” so that the just is understood to seek this for others rather than for himself; let him be anathema. For holy and just was the Apostle James, when he said, “For in many things we offend all.” For why was it added “all,” unless that this sentence might agree also with the psalm, where we read, “Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified;” and in the prayer of the most wise Solomon: “There is no man that sinneth not;” and in the book of the holy Job: “He sealeth in the hand of every man, that every man may know his own infirmity;” wherefore even the holy and just Daniel when in prayer said several times: “We have sinned, we have done iniquity,” and other things which there truly and humbly he confessed; nor let it be thought (as some have thought) that this was said not of his own but rather of the people’s sins, for he said further on: “When I shall pray and confess my sins and the sins of my people to the Lord my God;” he did not wish to say our sins, but he said the sins of his people and his own sins, since he as a prophet foresaw that those who were to come would thus misunderstand his words.

I think that LF firmly disagrees with P&C here.

That the Saints say with accuracy, “Forgive us our trespasses.” (Canon 8 of 418 Synod)

Likewise also it seemed good, that whoever wished that these words of the Lord’s prayer, when we say, “Forgive us our trespasses” are said by the saints out of humility and not in truth let them be anathema. For who would make a lying prayer, not to men but to God? Who would say with his lips that he wished his sins forgiven him, but in his heart that he had no sins to be forgiven.

I think that LF firmly disagrees with P&C here.

Defining "Semi-Pelagianism" by Theodore Beza

My debate opponent (in an upcoming debate), Dr. T. Kurt Jaros, has suggested that we should define "Semi-Pelagianism" as Beza did.  For example, in an interview with Warren McGrew, Dr. Jaros stated: "I think that the term should just be wiped from history and -- you know -- the new definition of 'Semi-Pelagianism' should be what Theodore Beza thought about certain Roman Catholics, not what the fifth century Gallic monks believed." (link)

What Beza thought is not always the most readily accessible things.  One of the oft-cited works in the history of the evolution of the term "Semi-Pelagianism," is the work of Backus and Goudriaan: ‘Semipelagianism’: The Origins of the Term and its Passage into the History of Heresy, Backus and Goudriaan, Jnl of Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 65, No. 1, January 2014. doi:10.1017/S0022046912000838 (link)  I'm reliant on their work to summarize the material on Beza, as I have not done my own independent research.  With that caveat, here are their findings:

"[Beza] identifies the Semipelagians as those who think that human nature is prone to sin but not totally dependent on God’s grace for its regeneration." (pp. 35-36)

(p. 36)

(p. 37) 

And from Markus Widler's notes:

(p. 39)

(p. 40)

Based on the above, my own summary is this.  Beza used the term "Semi-Pelagian" to refer to something "infra-Pelagian," something that did not go as far as the Pelagians, but (in Beza's view) in the same direction.  There does not seem to be a rigid standards, but the general errors that Beza identifies as "Semi-Pelagian" seem to include:

  • On the Nature of Man: A denial that man's nature is altogether dead in sin due to Adam, while simultaneously falling short of the fully Pelagian error that man's nature was not affected by Adam's sin.  Thus, it is "Semi-Pelagian" to describe man as merely "half dead," "debilitated," or the like.
  • On the Will: a denial that man's will is evil and contrary to God, while simultaneously acknowledging that it is weak. 
  • On Grace before Faith: A denial that grace does all the preparation for faith, while simultaneously falling short of the fully Pelagian error that man does not require any grace before faith.  Thus, it is "Semi-Pelagian" to suggest that grace merely assists or helps nature or the like. Likewise, it is "Semi-Pelagian" to suggest that faith is "partly a gift of God" but also "partly brought forth by the choice of our will."
  • On Original Sin: an affirmation that baptism removes some of the effect of original sin, but that some concupiscence remains and human effort is needed to overcome it.  Thus, it is "Semi-Pelagian" to suggest that God's grace merely brings man part of the way of toward faith. 
  • On Merit in Salvation: A denial that our justification is entirely by faith, while simultaneously falling short of the fully Pelagian error of suggesting that man is justified solely on the basis of good works.  Thus, it is "Semi-Pelagian" to suggest that good works play any role in meriting salvation.

Beza seems to treat these errors as somewhat independent from another, rather than requiring all three to be present for the label to apply.  B&G note: "Beza’s invention of the term did not imply, however, that its meaning was fixed from the outset. Most likely, different authors devised new uses for it, applying it to a variety of contemporary positions that postulated a greater or lesser degree of human free will in the process of salvation." (p. 45)

B&G conclude that "Semi-Pelagianism" is "a term invented by Theodore Beza to denote the Roman Catholic doctrine of grace and original sin... ." (p. 46)  While a bit compact of a summary, it seems roughly right, with the caveat that it does seem to primarily relate, as B&G previously noted, to the connection between human free will and salvation.

This sense seems to have been picked up by subsequent Reformed authors.  For example, as R. Scott Clark reports (link)(link to Perkins), "William Perkins (1558-1602), in his 1595 Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed, on the question of effectual call, wrote:

Againe, if the Vocation of every man be effectual, then faith must be common to all men either by nature, or by grace, or both: now to say the first, namely, that the power of believing is common to all by nature, is the heresie of the Pelagians, and to say it is common to all by grace, is false. All men have not faith, saith Paul. 2. Thess. 3. 2. nay many to whom the Gospel is preached, doe not so much as understand it and give assent unto it; Satan blinding their minds that the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ should not shine unto them, 2. Cor. 4. 4. And to say that faith is partly by nature and partly by grace, is the condemned heresie of the semi Pelagian: for we cannot so much as thinke a good thought of our selves, 2. Cor. 3. 5."

Notice that "faith is partly by nature and partly by grace" is quite similar to Beza's explanation set forth above.

R. Scott Clark explains (in the same post):

Further, Perkins spoke for the entire Reformation when he distinguished between full-blown Pelagianism and “semi-Pelagianism” which admits the federal relationship and original sin but which tends to downplay the effects of sin. As Perkins observed, semi-Pelagianianism also affirmed the necessity of grace but just as it watered down the effects of sin so it weakened the necessity of and the power of grace. Like Pelagius, for the semi-Pelagians, which included some of Augustine’s opponents in the early 5th century and much of the medieval church, faith is “partly by nature and partly by grace.” The semi-Pelagian view is that grace helps but it is not decisive. The free exercise of the human will, or in some cases, the human intellect or affections is decisive and essential for faith, justification, and salvation. According to semi-Pelagianism, from a Pauline and Protestant point of view justification is no longer by grace alone, through faith (trusting) alone, but now through grace and works (our cooperation with grace).

RSC's summary is, perhaps, even more succinct and to the point than B&G's: "The semi-Pelagian view is that grace helps but it is not decisive."


Monday, July 31, 2023

Regeneration before Faith - Some Scriptural Arguments

The Argument

Jesus asked, “And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?” (John 8:46)

After Jesus explained why, the Jews scoffed at him: “Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?” (John 8:48)

What is the answer, though?  Why do some people not believe the gospel?

Jesus said: “He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.” (John 8:47)

Jesus explains it again in another passage: “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.” (John 10:26)

John tells us not just that they did not believe, but that they could not believe.  (John 12:39)

What is the reason? Listen to John 3:

John 3:18-21

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

This sends us back to John 1, which introduced this important theme:

And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. (John 1:5)

It also sends us forward in John to Jesus’ statement: “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.” (John 12:46)

How does the darkness to light change occur?

The way that John explains it is as being “born of God”.  It’s that terminology that is the basis for the third sense of regeneration, in addition to the Titus 3:5 sense (remission of sins) and the Matthew 19:28 sense (heaven).  Calvinists don’t deny those other two senses, both of which are important, but we also talk about a third sense of regeneration, which is described by John as being “born of God.”  

John explains this first in John 1, where John explains that those who believe “were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:13) Sometimes non-Calvinists will act as though they were born of God because they believe.  That doesn’t fit the context.  The point in the context is to ascribe the beginning of faith to God.

We see this further in John 3, where Jesus says, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3) and again “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

Jesus further explained this process in the following way: “Marvel not that I said unto thee, ‘Ye must be born again.’ The 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.” (John 3:7-8)

The point is that you cannot see the operation of the Spirit, like the way you can’t see the wind, but you can see the effect of the Spirit’s operation, like you can hear the sound of the wind.

There is a great illustration of this principle in John 9, but before we get there, we should look at the other place that John explains the idea of being “born of God.”  That other place is John’s first epistle. 

There, in six verses, John explains the causal relation between born of God and the rest of a person’s life:

“If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.” (1Jo 2:29)

What’s the point? Doing what is right comes from God.  It doesn’t come from ourselves.

“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 3:9)

Again, notice the cause and effect relationship between being born of God and not sinning.

We see the same thing toward the end of the epistle: 

“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.” (1 John 5:18)

But what about a more positive statement:

“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 4:7)

Notice that love is “of God.”  He is the source.   

Remember “We love him, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

Or as Paul explains it: “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:5)

But let’s come back to the specific relationship between this being “born of God” and faith:

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 5:1)

“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:4)

This is the same cause and effect pattern that we saw before.  

Did you know that Jesus is quoted in the book of Acts?  At Acts 26:18, Paul quotes Jesus telling him that he, Paul, is being sent to the Gentiles:

“To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” (Acts 26:18)

Notice two points: (1) open their eyes and (2) turn them from darkness to light.

How does this work? Paul compares this to God’s work of Creation:

2 Corinthians 4:6  “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Colossians 1:13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:

Peter says the same thing:

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:” 1 Peter 2:9

That’s why Zecharias, in his prophecy speaks of Jesus as the dayspring:

“the dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79)

The great prophet similarly prophesied:

“And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16)

We’ve talked about turning them from darkness to light, but what about opening their eyes?  The prophecy that I just read combines both, as you heard, but recall as well Jesus’ response to John the Baptist’s message from prison:

“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.” (Matthew 11:5)

Recall as well that Jesus applied Isaiah’s prophecy at Isaiah 61:1 to himself.  After reading  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,” (Luke 4:18) Jesus declared: “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:21).

But recall that I told you I would bring you back to John 9 and Jesus healing the man born blind.  The passage extends from John 9:1-41.  In John’s narrative, it follows immediately after the Jews scoffed at him, in the passage where we started today, and ultimately tried to stone him.

The story in a nutshell is this:

  • A man was born blind (vs. 1)
  • As an adult (vs. 21) he was healed by Jesus through Jesus making a mud mask of clay and his own spit (vs. 6) and then commanding the man to to wash in the pool of Siloam (vs. 7)
  • Everyone was surprised (vs. 8) and the man gave Jesus credit (vs. 11)
  • The Pharisees considered this a Sabbath violation (vs. 16) and didn’t believe he had been born blind (vs. 18), so they got confirmation from his parents (vs. 20)
  • The Pharisees demanded he claim it was just a direct miracle from God (v. 24)
  • The man insisted that Jesus did the miracle (vs. 33)
  • They kicked the man out of the synagogue (vs. 34)
  • Jesus thereafter found him (v. 35) and revealed himself to the man (v. 37) and the man then believed and worshiped Jesus (v. 38)

But what’s the point of the story? Is it just that Jesus is a wonderworker?  Are we just supposed to see the fireworks? 

Remember that his disciples realized that blindness is a punishment for sin, and consequently asked who sinned, the man or his parents, that the man was born blind.  

John 9:3-5

Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

Notice that Jesus says that the man was born blind so that the works of God should be made manifest in him. Recall from chapter 6, Jesus had said: “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” (John 6:29)

How are the works of God made manifest in this poor, blind man?

Let’s look at the conclusion of the story for the answer:

John 9:35-41


Jesus 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? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.


And 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. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.

In this beautiful illustration, Jesus makes the connection between spiritual blindness and physical blindness.  Notice as well that in this illustration, the blind man first receives his sight and then believes.  

We could make the same point from the illustration of the raising of Lazarus in John 11. Just as the Pharisees kicked the blind man out of the synagogue, they tried to murder Lazarus (John 12:10).  

We could make the same point from the illustration of the man who was unable to walk for 38 years, whom Jesus healed and then was criticized by the Jews, but who Jesus then later found and who believed on him (John 5:1-16), but note Jesus’ response in that case was like the one John 9.  After saying that “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work,” (vs. 17) he goes on to explain:

John 5:20-21

For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.

John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

Additional Arguments

What else does the Scripture say about Man’s Natural State?

He lacks Spiritual Discernment

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.

He is in Darkness

1 John 2:9 He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.

He is Blind

1 John 2:11 But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.

Unable to be Subject to God’s Law

Romans 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

Children of Wrath

Ephesians 2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

Unable to do Good

Jeremiah 13:23 - Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.

Coming to Salvation is Impossible for Man but Possible for God

Matthew 19:23-26 

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

Mark 10:23-27

And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.

Matthew 7:13-14 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. 

Luke 13:22-30

And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.

What else does the Scripture say about how Man escapes the Natural State?

Isaiah 65:1 I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name.

Romans 10:20 But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.

Effectual Calling - The Called

Romans 1:6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Jude 1 - Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called:

Revelation 17:14 - These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.

John 10:3 - To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.

Opening Eyes

Psalm 119:18 Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.

Psalm 146:8 The LORD openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous:

Isaiah 35:5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.

Isaiah 42:7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.

Opening Heart

Acts 16:14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

God’s Role

Acts 11:18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

Hebrews 12:2 - Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Philippians 1:6  Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

Galatians 3:3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?

Galatians 5:5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

1 Peter 1:2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

2 Peter 1:3 - According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

God should get the Credit for our Faith

Ephesians 1:15-16 

Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;

2 Thessalonians 1:11 - Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:

1 Corinthians 3:4-9

For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.

1 Peter 1:20-21 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, who 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.

Anagennao in 1 Peter 

1 Peter 1:3 - Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

1 Peter 1:23 - Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

Parables of the Lost Sheep and Coin

Mat 18:12-14 

How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

Luke 15:3-7 And he spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Psalm 119:176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.

1 Peter 2:25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

Luke 15:8-10 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

The Centrality of Faith to doing Anything Pleasing to God

Hebrews 11:6 - But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Romans 14:23 - And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

How do we get repentance?

2 Timothy 2:24-26 

And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

How do we get Knowledge of God?

John 6:44-45 

No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.

Isaiah 54:13 - And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children.

Jeremiah 31:33-34 

But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

Mark 4:11 - And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:

Matthew 13:11 - He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.

1 Corinthians 2:12 - 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.

1 John 5:20 - And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.

Role of the Word in being Born of God

1 Corinthians 4:14-16

I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.

James 1:16-18 

Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. 

(and compare the other apokyeō verse at James 1:15, right before this)

1 Peter 1:13-25 and 2:1-3

Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: but as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. (Leviticus 20:7 - note to Nick Sayers) And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, who 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. 

Seeing 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: being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

God can control our heart

Proverbs 21:1 - The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.

What Comes After Faith?

The two uses of the word “regeneration” in the KJV. 

1. A Future State

Matthew 19:28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 

2. Forgiveness of Sins

Titus 3:5 Not 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;

Both of these senses of regeneration are after faith.

Being “sealed by the Spirit” is After Faith 

2 Corinthians 1:22 Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.

Ephesians 1:13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

Ephesians 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is After Faith

Romans 8:11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

Galatians 4:6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

The promise of the Spirit is After Faith

Gal 3:14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

The Gift of the Holy Ghost is After Faith

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Acts 8:20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.

Acts 10:45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Acts 11:17 Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?


We are not saying we’re saved first and then believe.

When People Misquote Acts 7:51 "always resist the Holy Spirit"

Acts 6:10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.

Gifts Return to Sender?

Where is that in Scripture?