PARTNERS WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT: PART XLVII
Spiritual blindness results from hatred imposed by an absolute systems, which have no room and no tolerance for anyone else. The religious system of Jesus’ day suffered from such darkness, and it held men like Paul in its clutches. Paul could not stand the light of truth and it blinded him. Jesus sent Ananias to correct his vision (Acts 9:1-9).
Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am,
Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul; for behold, he is praying, and he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hand on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to thy saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon thy name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized, and took food and was strengthened. For several days he was with the disciples at Damascus(Acts 9:10-19).
DID PAUL’S SPIRITUAL SIGHT RESTORE HIS PHYSICAL EYESIGHT? NO! BECAUSE THE NATURAL EYE MISLED HIM!
The blind man was given physical sight to meet and believe in Jesus. Paul, however, required spiritual insight and his physical sight was in the way of what he was chosen to become. Hence, it is not likely that his eyes were completely healed. Paul blamed Satan for the sting in his flesh (II Corinthians 12:7), and the people were willing to give Paul their eyes (Galatians 4:15). In my own life, I lost the use of my hands, and my hands were not restored. Nevertheless, I found out that the Lord had better things for me to do, and He left the care of my hands to physicians and to me. The Lord was more concerned with my spiritual well being than with my physical well being. I had to let go of my physical desires and give the moral more authority to let me become what would benefit my eternal soul and eternal spirit. I had to decide what was best for me and to do so, I needed the Holy Spirit to direct me to Jesus and to Jesus’ teachings. The Apostle Paul had a similar and even more severe change because, in his culture and in his religion, the physical world was believed that it had been designed by God. Now, Paul did not have a New Testament in writing to guide him as I did. Paul depended on the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms:
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I should not have known sin. I should not have known what is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, finding opportunity in the commandment, wrought in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came sin revived and I died; the very commandment which promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, finding opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and by it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good. Did that which is good, then bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin (Romans 7:7-25).
WHAT HAD BLINDED PAUL AND CAUSED HIM TO PERSECUTE CHRISTIANS?
Paul, himself, identified his problem of blindness. It was the tradition of his fathers, who had reinterpreted the Law of Moses. Yet, Jesus had come to fulfill and restore the Law of Moses. And while Jesus tried, Jesus was opposed and Jesus even was crucified:
For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it; and I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the tradition of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned to Damascus (Galatians 1:13-17).
Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:17-20).
Now when the Pharisees gathered together to Jesus, with some of the scribes, who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they wash their hands, observing the tradition of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they purify themselves; and there are many other traditions which they observe, the washing of cups and pots and vessels of bronze). And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with hands defiled?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men. You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men.”
And he (Jesus) said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God, in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said ‘Honor your father and your mother’’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother let him surely die’; but you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his other, What you would have gained from me is Corban’ (that is, given to God) — then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition which you hand on. And many such things you do.”
And he called the people to him again, and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him.” And when he had entered the house, and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him, since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on?” (Thus he declared all food clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornicaition, theft, murder, adultery, coveting wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these things come from within, and they defile a man” (Mark 7:1-23).
CAN GOOD THINGS, LIKE FAITH AND GRACE, CAUSE SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS?
Faith and grace have been turned by interpreters into “acts of redemption.” Men have reduced salvation to two verses from the letter to the Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is a gift of God– not because of works, lest any man should boast.” The source of grace and truth is Jesus Christ the Son of Man; for Jesus was and Jesus is the Man who lived, and who showed what grace and truth were like and did. The most important thing Jesus did was that He revealed the demands of God. John the Baptist was given this insight by the Holy Spirit:
And the Word (Jesus-Emmanuel) became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. (John bore witness to him and cried, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, for He was before me.’”) And from his fulness have we all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only Son who is in the bosom of the Father, has made him known (John 1:14-18).
How then, did Jesus make God known? Jesus explained it to a Samaritan woman and to his disciples. So, what does the “Man of Grace and Truth do?” Jesus brought an “olive leaf from God the Father—a pardon” that forgives sin with a stipulation that his children repent and forgive each other, and that in essence is grace in action.
And Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for such the Father seeks to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” (Jon 4:21-24).
Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father (Spirit) who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves” (John 14:8-11).
And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question thus in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Rise, take up your pallet and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — he said to the paralytic —“I say to you, rise take up your pallet and go home.”And he rose, and immediately took up his pallet and went out before them all; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (Mark 2:5-12).
“For if you forgive me their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).
GRACE IS A PERMIT OF GOD! BUT MAN MUST SERVE GRACE AND USE GRACE
Grace is a gift of God and so is everything that comes down from “the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17). Grace is the God’s Law issued to man and it has to be served and used by man. God is Spirit and man is flesh, that is why God sent Jesus to bridge the gap and demonstrate how the “Law of grace” is applied and used. Jesus lived in grace and walked in grace! And therefore, so must every disciple of Christ live in grace and share grace. Grace is the very nature of the Holy Spirit and the most profound evidence that God lives in his people. And one part of that nature is being merciful and forgiving. The prevailing concept that grace takes care of everything without human input is a deception — because the moment the Holy Spirit partners with a human being that person becomes a living instrument of grace. The only way God has and God continues to dissipate grace is through human beings. Grace, for a disciple of Christ, becomes a “way of life.” It is when a person is “immersed in Grace” that the fruits of the Holy Spirit become visible. When that takes place, Jesus’ followers become “springs of living water.” Let us follow the Words of Jesus our Lord and in James, John, and others:
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (John 7:37-39).
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do, and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father (John 14:12).
‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors; And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil.’
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matthew 6:12-15).