Monday, February 19, 2007

Understanding the Things of God

Something unique about the study of the Scriptures is how one’s knowledge and understanding evolves over the years. For instance, one little gem the Spirit showed me came from being puzzled by Matt 13:13

“Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “ ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving....’”

What had confused me about this passage was - how could one see without seeing, or hear without hearing? It didn’t make sense. At least, not until God gave me a better understanding of how discernment and the understanding of spiritual truths works.

What surprised me the most in this is that it’s not an intellectual process, so it’s not a matter of how “smart” one is. Point in fact, people who are “smarter” can have a harder time “getting” scripture compared to those who been gifted with greater faith. I'll explore this in a later blog.

The root problem is that man, by nature, will always be at odds with God on this side of eternity. This is the “old Adam” that lives within us, which gets in the way of our relationship with God, and blinds us to spiritual truths. As 1 Corinthians 2:14 states:

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

The latter part of this sentence is the key here - what it’s saying is that the things of God cannot be comprehended by normal human beings. Going back a little in 1 Corinthians to 2:1, we see this elaborated on -

“ one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual’”

It’s amazing how a short little passage like this can put it all together -

1) Nobody understands the God except the Spirit of God. This means neither the angels of heaven, satan, demons, or any human being can understand God.
2) Only the Spirit of God understands the things of God.
3) Believers have received this Spirit of God within them
4) It is this indwelling Spirit that enables believers to understand the things of God
5) Right instruction in the things of God isn’t a matter of human wisdom or intellect, but of teaching by Spirit.

So then, “getting” the Word of God is not a matter of smarts, but of the working of the Spirit within us to open our eyes to understand the things of God.

One consequence of this is that the Spirit reveals the things of God to the believer at a time of His own choosing. For instance, when Jesus was walking with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, the very fact of who He was was hidden from the disciples until Christ opened their eyes to recognize Him (Luke 24:31). Later on Christ appeared to the disciples, and opened their eyes to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24: 45). When this happen, did their intellectual understanding of Scriptures change? I think not, but that the spiritual dimension of understanding Scriptures was added by that act of God.

This may be why believers can read the same portion of Scripture over and over again, and then one day see something totally new. That’s the working of the Holy Spirit within them to open their eyes at the time of His own choosing.

And so we come full circle to making sense of Matt 13:13. People can “see” without “seeing” because they don’t have the Spirit within them to make the connection between what they’re seeing and the things of God. Ditto for “hearing but not hearing” - as far as the things of God, an unbeliever can listen to and read the Word of God, but without the Spirit of God to interpret for them, it might as well be a totally foreign and un-intelligible language.

1 comment:

L P Cruz said...

Thanks Tim,

This is good, indeed. Believing Scripture Alone becomes a necessary result when the Gospel has been apprehended. The heart of the Solas is indeed the Gospel - the Cross, all make sense only in the Gospel.

Thank God for his gifts!