Archive for March, 2019

Do We Need the Holy Spirit in Order to Understand the Bible?

Who can understand the Bible in any real depth? According to Paul, who was writing under inspiration, only a Christian can. Look at what he wrote in his letter to the church at Corinth:

1 Corinthians 2:10-15 (NASB)

“For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one.”

First off, just to be clear, when Paul says “we” here, he means himself and those he is addressing, not just the apostles. Later in the passage he contrasts the “we” with “natural men”, not with everyday Christians.

The natural man here is the lost sinner, left to rely on his physical senses alone. To a lost person, the Bible often makes no sense. Paul doesn’t say it is hard or difficult for someone to understand the Bible without the Spirit. He says it is impossible! They cannot! But the spiritual man, who according to the Greek means a regenerate man who has the indwelling Holy Spirit promised in Acts 2:38 and elsewhere does have the ability to understand the Bible, which was inspired/spoken by the Spirit of God. He doesn’t need some supernatural event to happen anew each time he reads the Bible. The Spirit has been in him or her since salvation.

Romans 8: 7 says,”For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Not might not, or usually won’t, but it cannot!

And earlier in this letter Paul has written that “the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18). The reason a lost person cannot understand the Bible is because they have been blinded by the Devil.

2 Corinthians 4:3-4

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

So do we need the Holy Spirit in order to understand the Bible? The New Testament says an emphatic “yes”. Without the Spirit we cannot understand the deep things of God, our minds are hostile to God, and we are blind. Only the Spirit can set humans free and allow the to see the message God is communicating in the Word, and that Spirit continually indwells believers. So if we have been born again, our lack of biblical understanding is our own fault.

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Free Will? Part 2

So we have seen from the Word that dead people can do nothing to help themselves and need to be brought back to life first. So what does God use to accomplish this task in a person? The Word!

The one essential everyone agrees on is faith. No one can be saved without it. But how does the Lord give that to someone?

Romans 10:17

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

What is is about the Word that can ignite a spiritual flame in someone? One principle in the physical world is the same in the spiritual world – life begets life!

Hebrews 4:12

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Peter says it even more plainly:

1 Peter 1:22-23

‘Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;”

The Word, in particular the Gospel, has within itself the power to accomplish that for which God sent it. Just like the physical world was created by the Word of God (Hebrews 11:3), spiritual creation is generated by reception of the Word. That is why is is critical to preach the Word, rather than self help psychology or worldly philosophy. Only the Word of God has the power to transmit life like a seed does into dead soil (Luke 8:11). That’s why Paul admonished Timothy to preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:1-2). Without it, you will only produce intellectual assent, and not saving faith. For only the Word of God, once planted in a heart, can change someone;s nature and bring them to life in Christ!

Free Will? Part 1

What is free will? Before determining if we have truly free will, we must define our terms. I asked a lawyer once if he had a free will, and he said “no, but I do charge a flat fee for one!” So we aren’t talking about that kind of a free will.

If you are talking about the ability of absolute self determination, then we also don’t have free will. God will determine that at the judgment, no matter what we say we want. He alone gives eternal life to whom He pleases.

How about not being a robot? Well we do have the ability to choose many things. People have always been willful. So yes, to that extent, we have a free will. But the qualifier is that we are still slaves. At best, we are willful slaves. Here’s what I mean.

John 8:34 says, “Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”

So in this slavery, we can be willful, but not exercise fully free will. According to Ephesians 2:3, we are by nature children of wrath. As we grow up we add our actions to that nature and deepen our slavery. In Romans, Paul Romans 3:10-12 wrote:

as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;

no one understands;

no one seeks for God.

All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;

no one does good,

not even one.”

What is needed is for a change in our nature, so that we desire to seek after God and be saved. When that happens, we freely choose to follow after God. According to Ephesians 2:1 we were dead in trespasses and sins. There is nothing a dead person can do to respond to anything spiritual. That’s why it’s called “dead”. We were not sick. We were not deaf. We were dead. So how are we made alive so that we can hear and comprehend the Word of God and have a changed nature?

Ephesians 2:4-5

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved”

God makes us alive. That’s the only cure for dead people! Once we are live, we use our free will to choose God. Not because we are robots, but because we are now spiritually alive and have the desire to seek after God!

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