Spiritual Blindness: It's not just for Atheists anymore
Many good Christians define ‘spiritual blindness’ as an inability to see God. They believe that it mainly applies to atheists who reject a Creator God who sent his only Son to die for the sins of the world.
This is certainly true, but Scripture teaches that it is possible for Christians to be spiritually blind as well.
Those who call themselves Christians are simply people who testify that Jesus died for their sins. That is all that is required to receive the gift of eternal life. Once a man confesses this one simple, historical fact, he is no longer an enemy of God, and he has passed from death to life.
This is why Paul stated that the Gospel was of “first importance.” Everything else is secondary to this one awesome fact. Paul writes:
15 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve (I Corinthians 15:1-5).
Everything else that is conceivable is secondary to this one eternal fact. There is no doctrine or ideology that is superior to the Gospel or one that can supplant it. It is the underlying theme of the entire Old Testament and it is the primary theme of the New Testament.
If you are reading Scripture through a different lens than the Gospel, then you are doing it wrong.
Even if you are a Christian, it is possible to allow yourself to be blinded to what the Lord is saying through his word. The apostles of Christ provided us with an excellent example of how easy it is to follow our own understanding in opposition to the plain word of God.
When the disciples were unable to heal the boy who was possessed by an evil spirit, Jesus rebuked them by proclaiming “O unbelieving and perverse generation…how long shall I stay and put up with you (Luke 9:41)?” It seemed that their faith was weak, due to poor doctrine, which rendered them incapable of comprehending why they had failed to heal the boy.
According to their theology Jesus did not come to save the unbelievers, he came to dominate them and force everyone into compliance with his law.
Their false theology was that God was would never submit himself to the foolish judgment of men. There was simply no way that Jesus had come to earth to die for the sins of mankind. He came to rule with a rod of iron and appoint his loyal subjects to high positions in this government.
It was ‘unbelievable’ that Jesus was going to let us put our grimy hands on him, humiliate him and then nail him to a cross.
They were completely devoted to this theology and even the word of God was not going to change their minds.
Jesus tried repeatedly to explain to his disciples his true mission but they could not comprehend what he was saying. What Jesus was saying ran contrary to their theology and their theology took precedence over the word of God itself.
But while they were all marveling at his authority over evil spirits, Jesus said to his disciples, 44 “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” 45 But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying (Luke 9:43-45).
Due to the weakness of their faith, caused by their poor theology, they were incapable of understanding Christ’s true mission. Even when God himself told them what was going to happen, they had no understanding of what he meant. Because they held to bad theology, they did not believe God, so God hid an incredible truth from them.
Despite the weakness of their faith, Jesus decided to take another crack at it.
31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.”
34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said (Luke 18:31-34).
Jesus would try to tell his disciples several times that he would be killed in Jerusalem before he finally gave up. If they had allowed God’s Word to speak for itself, they would have been able to comprehend the true nature of the Gospel that he was proclaiming. God hid this truth from them because their focus was on themselves, and the authority that they would receive, rather than on what God was saying to them.
This is the danger of holding to false theology. God will conceal his word from those who prefer their doctrine to God’s Word.
Our faith is based on what we believe Scripture is all about.
If we believe that our faith is based on finding our purpose, then we will read the Scripture through that lens. Instead of repenting of our sins and trusting in Christ, every verse of the Bible will encourage us to develop new ways of finding meaning in life. Our faith will then devolve into ‘good works’ until we abandon the faith in favor of seeking personal fulfillment.
If this is your theology, you can count on God concealing the truth of Scripture from you.
If our faith is based on having our best life now, then we will read the Scripture through that lens. Instead of repenting of our sins and trusting in Christ, every verse of the Bible will teach us how to better handle our finances, improve our relationships or maintain good health. Jesus will be reduced to a poor man’s ‘Tony Robbins’ who leads us on a voyage of self-discovery.
If this is your theology, you can count on God concealing the truth of Scripture from you.
If you are a Calvinist and you view the Scripture through the lens of ‘no free will predestination,’ you will deemphasize the proclamation of the Gospel. Whether people hear or believe the word is irrelevant. Instead, you will sit idly by while expecting those who God has ‘predestined’ to receive the God zap of salvation. This theology renders the Gospel obsolete.
There is no need for you to obey the Gospel and call sinners to repent and be forgiven in the name of Jesus. If someone does not get the God zap of salvation, it was just bad luck. Every verse that you read will confirm that we worship a Sovereign and capricious God who doles out salvation with no regard to the hearing, believing or repentance of its recipients.
He does not offer his gift of faith in love; he shoves it down your throat whether you wanted it or not.
If this is your theology, you can count on God concealing the truth of the Scripture from you.
If you are a Roman Catholic, you will be unable to verbalize a clear proclamation of the Gospel. Instead, you will overintellectualize it to the point where you will create your own gospel in opposition to the Gospel that Paul preached. When you try to make disciples, you will muddle around in confusion until you fully transform the faith that is in Christ into following the law.
If you make up your own gospel, God will conceal the truth of the Scriptures from you.
Even if you testify that Christ died for your sins, any one of these false ideologies has the potential to shipwreck your faith. It is crucial that all Christians be catechized properly in the faith. It is a product of our sinful nature that very few of our teachers seem to be able to do this properly.
However, it really is not that difficult. Just like the disciples of Christ, all you have to do is listen to what Jesus said and believe it.
Jesus gave two extremely important directives before his ascension. The first was the Great Commission.
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20).”
The most important part of the Great Commission is to make disciples of all nations. In order to make disciples, the teacher needs to understand what the Bible is all about. The teacher needs to be able to explain the Bible, which is the word of God, in the simplest terms possible.
Fortunately, we do not have to try to invent a new way to do this. Jesus already did it for us.
44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem (Luke 24:44-47).
In this passage Jesus completely summarizes what the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is all about. To understand the Scriptures, it must be read through the lens of God’s law and his Gospel. All one has to do is read this passage, and believe it, and God will then open that person’s eyes to understand the Scripture.
Do you see anything in this passage about having your best life now or finding your purpose? Does the ‘God zap of salvation’ hold any water when compared to the proclamation of the Gospel? Is this in any way a law-based faith?
If you gloss over this passage in favor of another doctrine, your mind will remain closed to the Scripture. It will seem disjointed and incomprehensible and then you will make a huge mistake. You will then turn to the ‘intellectuals’ of the faith, or even worse, a pope, and completely subject yourself to their particular ‘systematic theology.’
Instead of relying on Scripture, your faith will be in your new ‘guru.’
If you find yourself in a Biblical debate, words cannot express how much time you are wasting if your opponent does not understand Luke 24:47. You will find yourself in endless dispute and will be awed by his inability to read Scripture like a normal human being.
In any debate, never stop asking yourself what this conversation has to do with the fact that Jesus died for our sins. If you cannot link what you are discussing to the Gospel, withdraw as quickly as possible.
You are wasting your time.
Those who do not understand that Luke 24:47 is the very heart of all Scripture are going to have the true meaning of Scripture concealed from them. This verse is the Cartesian “I think, therefor I am” Scripture that serves as the foundation of all Biblical knowledge. In any debate, your opponent must understand this or there is no sense in debating him.
When you try to share this fact with them, you will only be met with a blank stare.
When people understand that this is the foundation of all Scripture, they usually find themselves enlightening one another rather than debating with each other.
We cannot make disciples of anyone if we teach them the purpose driven life, best life now theology, no free will predestination or any other alien theology. There is no point in baptizing anyone if they do not understand what they are being baptized into. If the person who is being baptized does not understand who Jesus is or what he did for humanity, he has not been made a disciple.
We cannot teach all that Christ has commanded until the new Christian understands what the faith is all about.
It is these kinds of alien doctrines that cause divisions in the church and hamper the proclamation of the Gospel. Those who adopt any other doctrine than the Gospel to base their theology upon are mere infants in the faith. It is what causes jealousy and quarreling in the church and reveals that we are still worldly.
Paul admonishes us that if we claim to follow a particular religious leader then we are acting like mere men. When we say, “I follow Paul” or “I follow Apollos,” this is no different than saying “I follow Luther” or “I follow Calvin.” It is these confessions that cause divisions in the church and lead to discord.
It is the job of the preacher and the evangelist to share the Gospel as this is the foundation of our faith. When we come to believe that Christ died for our sins, it may fall upon other preachers and evangelists to water this seed. They water this seed by showing the new Christian how the Gospel relates to all Scripture.
Paul instructs his pastors:
10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 3:10-11).
Paul would later inform us in his letter to the Corinthians that the ‘foundation that he laid’ was the Gospel (I Corinthians 15:1-8). It was then incumbent upon other pastors to build upon this understanding of Scripture. If the pastor builds upon this foundation, his work will be shown to be of great value.
12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has ‘built on the foundation survives,’ he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire (I Corinthians 3:12-15).
If you build on the Gospel and proclaim repentance for the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus, then you are building with gold, silver and precious stones. If you are building on the Gospel with a man-made ideology, then you are building with wood, hay and straw.
If a pastor stands on the Gospel but then begins to preach self-centered tripe or creates a theology using his own reason and logic, his works will be burned up. He will suffer loss, but since he believed the Gospel, he will be saved, but only as through fire.
False doctrine is extremely destructive and no pastor should pollute his own heart or the hearts of his flock with it. We are God’s temple and whoever destroys it with false doctrine, devoid of the Gospel, will be destroyed by God.
Paul ends his discourse by advising the ‘intellectuals’ of the faith.
18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”
21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's (I Corinthians 3:18-23).
We should all beware the ‘intellectuals’ and the ‘contemplators’ of the faith. These are the people who take positions of authority and lead people away from the foundation that has been laid.
Paul issues this final warning:
…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed (II Thessalonians 1:7-10).
Any church or pastor that does not proclaim repentance for the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus is not obeying the Gospel. If his congregation does not understand that this is the heart of Scripture, it will not be much longer before they lose interest in the fact that Christ died for their sins. That pastor will have to answer to the Lord when he stands before him to give his accounting.
We also see this same type of misunderstanding of Scripture over the issue of eschatology. Those who take an allegorical view of Scripture seem to possess a complete inability to understand the last days and end times events. This is because their theology possesses one very serious error.
They reject the idea that God has a plan for the Jews and the nation of Israel in opposition to the Word of God.
Paul was very clear that there were important distinctions between the church and the Israel/the Jews. Here is how Paul settled this matter (using the exegetical method of ‘Allowing God’s Word to Speak for Itself):’
11 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people (Israel) whom he foreknew.
Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4 But what is God's reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace (Romans 11: 1-6).
11 So I ask, did they (Israel) stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles (through the church), so as to make Israel jealous.
12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their (Israel’s) full inclusion mean (Romans 11: 11-12)!
17 But if some of the branches were broken off (Israel/the Jews), and you (the church), although a wild olive shoot (gentiles), were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree (Christ), 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches (the people of Israel/the Jews). If you are, remember it is not you (the church) who support the root, but the root (Christ) that supports you.
19 Then you will say, “Branches (Israel) were broken off so that I (The Church/Gentiles) might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear.
21 For if God did not spare the natural branches (Israel/the Jews), neither will he spare you (the Gentiles). 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen (Israel), but God's kindness to you (the Church), provided you continue in his kindness (Remain in the faith). Otherwise you too will be cut off.
23 And even they (Israel/the Jews), if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again (God can restore them).
24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches (Israel/the Jews), be grafted back into their own olive tree (separate from the church) (Romans 11: 17-24).
If you begin with the misguided theology that God is done with the Jews, then you have a limited ability to understand what God is saying clearly to you. God has spiritually blinded you so that you are literally incapable of understanding what God is saying about the distinction between the church and the nation of Israel.
You also will lack the ability to understand eschatology.
We dispensationalists have a difficult time understanding why we view eschatology so differently than the ‘intellectual’ class of the faith. The problem is not that their reading literacy is worse than ours, some are quite well-read. It is that they have adopted a misguided theology and God himself has blinded them.
It is not fruitful to engage in a debate with those who do not understand Luke 24:47 is the heart of all Scripture. It is also not fruitful to engage in debate, about eschatology, with people who have rejected the idea that God has a plan for his people the Jews. All that you will accomplish is becoming offended at each other and probably losing your friendship.
They say when you go to a party, never discuss politics or religion. We do not know who ‘They’ are, but ‘They’ are clearly experts at having a good time.
We Christians, on the other hand, are compelled to share the Gospel with others. Due to this compulsion, we should test other professed Christians to see where they stand on the foundations of the faith before we engage them in conversation. If a conversation turns into a heated debate, assuming you are standing on the Gospel, the person is likely spiritually blind and no amount of reason is going to change that.
Debating any subject with an infant is an exercise in futility.
If you are debating someone who does not understand the foundation of the faith or the role of the Jews in eschatology, it is time to change the topic.