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July 9, 2011
I Can See Clearly Now – Part 3
Pastor Philip De Courcy
1 Corinthians 2:6-16

Purchase the CD of this sermon.


In this series of sermons, Philip De Courcy warns the church not to settle for two-thirds of God. Christians often fail to grasp that through faith in Christ, they were not only given the gift of eternal life, but they were also given the giver of eternal life—the Holy Spirit—as a further gift. That puts the Christian at a great advantage because the Holy Spirit lives to bring God, vast as He is, within the narrow circumference of our lives.

More From This Series


… God’s word. We come in for a final look at I Corinthians chapter 2 and verse 6 through to verse 16. As we wrap up this sermon regarding the illumination of the Holy Spirit, a sermon we have called I Can See Clearly Now, it’s part of a wider series we’ve been doing on the Holy Spirit, which will end next month when we take a look at the issue of spiritual gifts in the life of the body of Christ. One of the many ministries of the Holy Spirit is to indeed gift us and employ us in the kingdom of God. And that will wrap up our series entitled You Have The Advantage as It Relates to God in Us Through the Indwelling Spirit.

I Corinthians 2:6, “However we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age nor of the rulers of this age who are coming to nothing. But we speak of the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew. For had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, eye has not seen nor ear heard nor entered into the heart of a man the things which God has prepared for those who love him. But God has revealed them to us through his spirit, for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of a man which is in him? Even so, no one knows the things 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 know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ,” and so reads God’s word.

Some years back at a Promise Keepers event in Detroit, an African American minister by the name of Raleigh Washington said this, “When I was born, I was Black. When I grew up, I was still Black. When I went out into the cold, I remained Black. When I went out into the sun, I got blacker. When I’m sick, I’m Black. When I die, I’m sure I will still be Black. But what about white people? White people are born pink. When they grew up, they become white. When they go out into the cold, they become blue. When they stay out in the sun, they become red. When they become sick, they turn green. When they die, they become purple. Now what I want to know is why do they call Black people colored?”

It’s a good question, isn’t it? And the story illustrates our perspectives on life, and people can be skewed and limited by our own prejudices and particular cultural conditioning. We tend to see the world through a rather narrow lens. Sometimes we see what we want to see or what our biases and predispositions and bents allow us to see. And what is true physically and culturally is also true spiritually. According to the Bible, the man without Jesus Christ described here in I Corinthians 2:14 as the natural man, that man has a hard time seeing life God’s way. His mind is darkened and his understanding closed to the things of God. Therefore, if he’s to know God and see life clearly, God must open his eyes through a supernatural operation under the Holy Spirit. This is what we call the Doctrine of the Spirit’s Illumination, and it has occupied our thinking for some months now, and I want to come back to wrap it up this morning.

We’ve been working our way through I Corinthians chapter 2 verses 6 through 16. Paul is continuing on and drawing a contrast between the world and the church, the natural man and the spiritual man, the man without Christ and the man with Christ. The man without Christ understands the gospel to be foolishness. Those who have had their eyes opened and their heart pried opened have come to understand it is the power of God. And Paul continues that argument here in I Corinthians 2:6. And he reminds us that the natural man does not receive the things of God. They don’t get it.

They’re not on the inside when it comes to truth and real reality. Their eye hasn’t seen, nor their ear hasn’t heard, nor their mind hasn’t comprehended what God is doing in this world. But our eyes have been opened, our mind has been illuminated, our comprehension has been made clear as to the things that truly matter. And we see that God’s focal point in history is his son and the work promised in the Old Testament and performed in the New Testament. And Paul picks up those themes here. And we have come to look at this passage and see that the spirit of God is at work in a number of ways. Last time we were together, we saw the Spirit’s investigation. The Spirit searches the things of God. The Spirit of God is ever-active in following the depths of God. The only person that truly knows God is God himself. The Holy Spirit is God. Therefore, the Holy Spirit knows God and searches and investigates the deep things of God.

We saw the Spirit’s investigation, then we saw the Spirit’s impartation. “But God has revealed them to us through his spirit. For the spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world,” verse 12, “but the Spirit who is from God that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” The Spirit of God has a unique understanding of God, but the question is, what does he do with all that knowledge. Does he keep it to himself? Is it locked away in the vaults of heaven? No, according to Paul, God has freely revealed those things to us who have put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And although that is not a full knowledge, it is a sufficient knowledge, and we went over that the last time we were together.

So let’s pick up where we left off. There’s two more thoughts we need to quickly cover this morning. I want to look thirdly at the Spirit’s inspiration. This goes to verse 13, “These things we also speak not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches comes pairing spiritual things with spiritual.” There’s an argument that’s been building up within the text, and it goes something like this: just as the spirit of God did not keep that which he knows of God to himself, but revealed it to the apostles. So the apostles have not kept to themselves what the spirit of God has taught them, but has imparted that divine wisdom to others. That’s the message of verses 12 and 13. And according to this text, verse 13 especially, the apostles teaching about Christ is itself revealed truth. God taught words. Paul tells us here that the words that they have taught has been taught to them, and the source is not the world. The Genesis is not human wisdom. The source is God. The Genesis is the Holy Spirit. And what we have in verse 13 is an unequivocal statement as to the doctrine of verbal inspiration. Paul’s acknowledging that the apostles were chosen channels through which God imparted his word through their words and their writings by means of the inspiring work of the Holy Spirit.

We read about that in Ephesians chapter 3. in Ephesians chapter 3:1, “For this reason, I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles, if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God, which was given to me for you, how that by revelation he made known to me the mystery, as I have briefly written already, by which when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known to the sons of man as it is now revealed by the spirit to his holy apostles and prophets, that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs of the same body and partakers of his promise in Christ through the gospel of which I’ve become a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of his power.”

Note those words. As Paul explains and elucidates the gospel, Paul says this, “Look, this has been revealed to us. This is God’s grace giving to us,” and the agent of that is the Holy Spirit. “Revealed by the spirit to his holy apostles and prophets.” So, so far in this text, Paul has talked about the spirit searching, the spirit revealing, the spirit inspiring. But what I want to get to this morning especially is verses 14 through 16, what we might call the Spirit’s illumination. The Spirit’s illumination, we’ve looked at it as investigation, impartation, inspiration. Now in verse 14 to the end of this section, Paul talks about the Spirit’s illumination. “But the natural man does not receive the things of the spirit of God for they are foolishness to him, nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual…” Who’s the spiritual man? It’s the man who’s indwelled by the spirit. It’s the man who’s been baptized by the spirit into the one body. Paul will talk about that later on in this letter in I Corinthians chapter 12.

The spiritual man in the letter to the Corinthians is not some special category of super saint. It’s the Christian who’s been regenerated now baptized into the body of Christ upon profession of faith, and who is indwelt by that spirit, who is then taught and guided by the spirit. That’s the spiritual man. So Paul talks about that. It’s the spirit of God who turns the light on in the Christian’s life, so to speak. The unregenerate mind doesn’t comprehend what God is up to. Both now and across the expanse of history, hasn’t entered into their mind. Their eye doesn’t see it. But the spiritual man, the man indwelled by the spirit of God, the man who has come to faith in Jesus Christ, who’s been born again, they see it. They comprehend it because they have the mind of Christ according to verse 16. He, the Holy Spirit, is the one who provides a skylight into true spiritual knowledge.

Now, one would think that Paul has been beating this drum long enough, but it seems not. There’s a critical distinction that must be underlined again and again. And so Paul drills home this truth. He wants to leave his readers in utter dependence upon the Holy Spirit. That’s the whole point of this section. As D.A. Carson says, in a helpful exposition of this passage, one might be forgiven for thinking that Paul has dealt with these fundamental contrasts long enough. He has contrasted those who receive God’s wisdom with those who do not. He has contrasted the spirit of God with the spirit of the world. Why this further step? Might it not be a bit redundant? But Paul wants to make sure that his readers fully grasp their utter dependence upon the Holy Spirit.

You cannot reason your way to faith in Jesus Christ. You cannot come understand the deep things of God by yourself. You must depend upon the Holy Spirit. You must come in humble dependence and prayer to the word praying that you might indeed be given eyes to understand all that God wants you to see and know and do. The person without the Holy Spirit cannot access or assess what goes on in the spiritual realm. So don’t be surprised when the world doesn’t get it. I’m surprised that Christians are surprised that the world doesn’t get it. They don’t. Don’t have your expectations too high. The godless politician doesn’t get it. The godless professor doesn’t get it. That doesn’t mean that we can’t wish for something better, doesn’t mean we can’t work for something better, but it just grounds us in reality that the natural man does not understand the things of God. They are spiritually known through the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit. They cannot comprehend spiritual matters any more than a person who is colorblind is qualified to make distinctions about the eye-popping hues of a rainbow, any more than a person who is born stone deaf is qualified to comment on the voice and technique of Pavarotti.

The blind don’t see and the deaf don’t hear, but we see and we hear because of the grace of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. I think it’s worth pausing here and just making a distinction between revelation, inspiration, and illumination. You see, the same spirit who was active in the apostles inspiring them to write scripture, which is an objective work of the Holy Spirit that’s passed and complete, the same spirit who is active in the apostles, inspiring them to write the scripture is also at work in those who receive and read those scriptures.

The work of revelation and inspiration is past its objective; it’s complete. The work of illumination is subjective, continuing and incomplete. And you and I need to be aware of that. The spirit of God works in both ends of the communication process. He helps the writers of the scripture, and he helps the readers and hearers of the scripture, like what John Stott says here. It will be helpful if we distinguish between these words. Revelation and inspiration describe the unique objective process by which the Holy Spirit taught the biblical authors. Illumination, however, describes the Holy Spirit’s subjective work of illuminating and enlightening our minds to grasp what they wrote. Supposing you were to bring a blindfolded friend to an unveiling ceremony, two actions would be necessary. Before your friend could read the words on the plaque, first, the plaque would have to be unveiled, which is revelation. Second, your friend’s blindfold would need to be removed, which is illumination. I think that’s helpful.

On the one hand, if we’re to know God, God has to reveal himself to us; that’s revelation. That’s the imparting of scripture by means of inspiration. Done deal. But even as when God has revealed himself to us, the blindfold still needs to be taken off the blindfold that we’re born with because our sin, because of our separation from God through our lineage with Adam, so that’s the Spirit’s illumination. Let’s drill down a bit. Let’s look at the meaning of it and the means, the meaning and the means. Let me just summarize our thinking and theology here. I was going to say more on this point, but I’m just going to leave it here. What we’re talking about when we’re talking about the illuminating and enlightening work of the Holy Spirit is this, and I’m going to quote Roy Zuck whose writings I’ve appreciated for many years. He taught for quite a number of years at Dallas Seminary.

Here’s what he says in his book, Spirit-Filled Teaching, it’s part of the Swindoll Leadership Library. Facts show that illumination is clearly that spiritual work of the Holy Spirit whereby he enables individuals to apprehend the already revealed truth of God. That’s a good summary. And in some of those statements, he’s reminding of some critical facts. The fact that he says that it’s a supernatural work of the Spirit reminds us that spiritual knowledge is a work of God and grace. Our faith’s assurance does not proceed from our natural powers, but from the Holy Spirit. Our knowledge of God begins with God. He’s the one who opens our thoughts to his thoughts. We’re told here that the illumination is a supernatural work of the spirit that enables individuals to apprehend the already revealed truth of God. I think that’s an important statement at the end. The Spirit’s illumination is always related to the word of God. This is clear from a verse like Psalm 119:18 where the psalmists praise, “Lord, open my eyes, and I may behold wondrous things from out of your law.”

The spirit of God is the author of Scripture and he’s passionate about this book getting into the cracks and crevices of our mind and heart. We’re not talking here about some inner light. We’re not talking here about some inner voice apart from the word of God. There’s no new truth to be revealed. There’s simply a new understanding to be got from that which has already being revealed. I think that’s an important fact that you and I need to grasp. That’s the meaning, but here’s the means. And this is the practical side of this message. There are certain things that are part and parcel of this process, of coming to see what God wants us to see and hear what he wants us to hear, number of things if you’re taking notes, it begins with the new birth. It begins with the new birth. An experience of rebirth is essential to grasping heavenly truth.

What does Jesus say in John 3:3? “Except the man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven.” You see, the natural man apart from faith in Jesus Christ, apart from the regenerating, awakening, enlivening work of the Holy Spirit remains in darkness, doesn’t have a clue as to what ends up theologically and eternally speaking. God must set him right side up. God must remove the scales from off his eyes. So in a sense, the renewal of the heart, the act of regeneration in conviction and faith and clinching the deal with Jesus Christ is the most radical form of illumination. Conversion is described in the Bible often as a coming out of the darkness and a stepping into the light. And so you and I must be converted. You and I must come to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. As with physical life, so with spiritual life. Birth is the prerequisite to understanding.

We’re aware that a child in its mother’s womb has some cognition of what’s going on, and today mothers play music, they talk to their child. And there’s some evidence that it resonates, but we haven’t gone as far right of setting a host of pregnant women in a university classroom and bringing in the best brains in the country to lecture their kids on mathematics or science or English grammar. Why? Because birth is a prerequisite to knowledge. And what’s true in the physical realm is true in the spiritual realm.

Secondly, it not only begins with the new birth, it continues with humble dependence and prayer. You want to know the mind of God? Then you have to first fall in love with the heart of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and then you need to meet God on your knees. You get this. Talking to the author for insights into the book he has written is a must, and that’s our privilege. Some of us would love to have the author of some book we have read sitting by us, having a fireside chat over coffee with the author of some biography so you can get a fuller understanding what was in his mind that sometimes is limited or maybe put obscurely in his writings. That’s our privilege, and that’s a necessity. We have the author indwelling us, and we can talk to him, commune with him, fellowship with him, and we can pray that indeed he would remove the blinkers so that indeed Christ may be unveiled to us.

We’ve already quoted Psalm 119:18. Lord, open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things from out of your law. That’s a repeated prayer. Read Psalm 119 some time today or the next day or two, and watch how many times the psalmist pleads that God would draw back the curtains and help him see the truth of his word.

First, Ephesians chapter 1:17 would be another example of what I’m talking about here. This is Paul’s prayer. We’ll back up into verse 15. “Therefore, also after I’d heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, did not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of glory may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him and that the eyes of your understanding being enlightened through the spirit of wisdom, that you and I might be able to know the hope that is our calling, the riches of his glory.”

Listen, here’s something, very simple statement, but it really caught me off guard yesterday when I was preparing this message. And I was humbled by it to a point of repentance. In a real sense, there’s no point opening your Bible until you’ve prayed. It’s just a fact. I’ve done it too many times. Not that spirit of God hasn’t been gracious and met me at the point of my need, but there’s an assumption on my part. There’s a presumption on my part that I think’s belittling of the gracious Holy Spirit. The author’s in the room; he’s ready for questions, and he’s willing to speak. Invite him to be part of your study of the word of God. Listen to the words of the great English evangelist to his party, to a time of awakening here in the United States. George Whitefield after his conversion at Pembroke College in Oxford, he wrote this in his journal, “I began to read the holy scriptures upon my knees laying aside all other books and praying over, if possible, every line and word. This proves meat indeed and drink indeed to my soul. I daily receive fresh light, fresh life, and fresh power from above.”

That statement, “I began to read the holy scriptures upon my knees,” literally. What about us doing a Bible study on our knees both as enacting a symbol of our hearts condition on as something that encourages our heart to show humility and need before the Lord himself? It begins with the new birth. It continues with humble dependence and prayer, and it requires diligent study. While we have the promise of the Holy Spirit as our teacher, we are not passive in the process of discovering the truth of God’s word. If you go to II Timothy 2:7, Paul says this, “And here we see that indeed we have an active role in the process of coming to understand the scriptures. Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.”

What does Paul say? He’s writing Scripture here. “Consider all that I say. Reflect, dig down into it, and I’ll pray as you pray that the Holy Spirit will give you understanding and that God will indeed open the aperture of your perspective and understanding.” You see, the illumination of the Spirit of God does not rule out exegetical sweat. Those are not odds with each other. We do not honor the author of the text of scripture by ignoring the very text that he has written through indolence or ignorance. Listen, it’s foolish, although popular in some circles even in our general community, it’s foolish to say, “I do not need this study. I just need the spirit.” The spirit of God and the study of the text he authored, they are not at odds with each other. They are complementary. What does Paul say in the second letter in chapter 2 and verse 15? That you and I ought to be workmen of the word, diligent in our study of it so that we’re not ashamed. What does he mean by not ashamed? So that you’re not caught out mangling the text and speaking nonsense.

Theologically speaking, we’ve got to cut the text straight. We’ve got to rightly divide the word. That’s an image of a farmer plowing a field in a straight line. It’s the image of a stonemason cutting his bricks very neatly and very accurately. That’s what God expects of us, and the spirit of God will bless that exegetical sweat that’s done in humble dependence upon him. As we take the tools of biblical interpretation, we get our grammars out, we get our history books out, we get our commentaries alongside us, and in a devotional act towards Christ, we come to try and understand the message of the text, which is life to our souls.

The spirit of God does not work through us osmosis. He doesn’t bring to your mind a scripture you’ve never learned in the first place. He doesn’t guide you into all truth unless you have studied hard and put time and energy into your pursuit of truth. I’m working my way through a book about the life of John Stott, a very influential evangelical leader in Britain and actually globally. Some of you might have his commentaries. I commend them to you on different books in the Bible, Romans and the I and II Timothy. Probably his greatest work was his book, The Cross of Christ. In this book, some of his friends tell of their reflections as John Stott has passed away.

One chapter is given to his secretary for many years, Frances Whitehead, and she says this, “John had amazing powers of concentration and once absorbed in a writing project where an issue required careful consideration. He was totally oblivious to what was going on around him. Many is the time that I’ve gone into the room needing to speak to him and waited for him to realize that I was even there. But it would not be until I’d made enough noise to attract his attention that he would look up from his desk in surprise. Then he would hold his head in his hands for about 30 seconds murmuring, ‘You don’t know how painful it is. You don’t know how painful it is.'” What’s he talking about? He’s talking, wrestling with the scriptures. He’s like, “I’m not going to be satisfied with my first reading. I got to get beneath this. I got to go deep into the word of God. My brain’s tired. It’s stretching me. It’s burning up my energy.”

Study is exhausting, guys, but it’s also holy work, and the spirit of God blesses it. Have you gone through any pains recently trying to wrestle with the scripture? Or have you fallen prey to this idea, I don’t really need to study; the spirit of God will show me? That there’s means of grace. There’s disciplined actions that God blesses. Brings me to a fourth thought. It not only begins with new birth and not only continues with humble dependence and prayer, it requires diligent study. It also involves teachers. This is piggybacking off the last thought. Our own study will involve the study of others’ study. The teaching ministry of the blessed Holy Spirit incorporates at least pastoral teachers in our lives. We won’t have time to turn to it, but if you go to Ephesians 4:11 through 12, we’re told that there risen Lord is gifted to his church. At least in those early stages, the foundational work of the gospel, it was apostles and prophets. They’re no longer in operation today. That was a unique temporary gift. But they have been supplemented by evangelists and pastors and teachers. I think the Greek Construction would make an argument, pastor/teachers.

So we can clearly see in the New Testament that while you and I are individually indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we don’t believe that biblical knowledge is the preserve of some elite group of scholars, certainly not locked up in the magisterium of the Catholic Church or the pronouncements of the Pope. Thankfully, our forefathers and our protestant fathers taught us, the priesthood of all believers taught us in indeed that according to I John 2, we’re all anointed by the spirit, and we can come to see truth in and of itself by ourself. But that’s not a trap in itself. It’s not to say we don’t need others. And Paul makes it clear there are those who are pastor/teachers that God will use in our lives to make sure that we’re not blown about by every wind of doctrine, to make sure that we grow up in the full stature in Jesus Christ. While we acknowledge the interpretation of scripture does not lie with an elite few, that does not rule out the benefit we find from the diligent scholarship of others.

I love this quote by C. H. Spurgeon. He was speaking to his students on the benefits of reading commentaries. “It seems odd that certain man who talks so much of what the spirit reveals to them should think so little of what he has revealed to others.” A good quote. You and I can learn from others, and they can be a means of grace ministering to us, helping us to grasp the great truths of the Gospel, the great expanse of God’s work in Jesus Christ before and after the cross. Finally, it demands obedience. Obedience is the accelerant in you and I coming to a clear and comprehensive understanding of scripture. Truth must be known for it to be lived, but it more importantly must be lived to be truly known.

Listen to this, these are the words of John Stott. The degree of our responsiveness, of our willingness to hear and obey will, to a large extent, determine the depth and width of our spiritual understanding. Thus, Jesus promised to those who have a mind to do God’s will would know whether his teaching is true, John 7:17, and that he would reveal himself personally to those who proved their love for him by their obedience, John 14:21. You have to want to know the will of God to know the will of God. We need to know the truth so we can live it, but only in living it will we truly know it and experience it. Gypsy Smith, the British evangelist of a former day told of a man who said that he’d received no inspiration from the Bible, although he had gone through it several times, to which Smith replied, “Let the Bible go through you once, and you’ll be telling a different story.”

Now, time’s up, and I’m going to steal five minutes because if you’re thinking about what I’m talking about as I have for going on now two, three months, my thinking turned right at the end here as I thought about the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. And a question bubbled to the surface, if we are all indwelt by the spirit of God… We are, yes? And He’s equally the teacher of us all, he’s not the preserve of pastors or scholars. He’s available to all believers, bringing them to understand the whole council of God. Everybody on board so far? We’re all indwelt by the spirit of God. He’s equally accessible to all of us, and he means for each of us to grow in our understanding of Jesus Christ. Then a question is raised, why are there so many differences among the people of God? Why are there so many differences doctrinally? Why many so views when it comes to biblical theology? We differ over eschatology, we differ over church government, baptism, the free will versus sovereignty argument.

I mean John Wesley and Charles Wesley and George Whitfield went hammer and tongs on that issue alone. In fact, Charles Wesley called John Calvin, the very son of the devil himself. There’s been differences among the people of God. How do we explain that since the one spirit of God who is the illuminating force and figure in the church, how come all these differences? Speaking of differences, my own Baptist background reminds me that where you have two Baptists, you’ve got three opinions. That’s just always been the case. The only thing the two Baptists can agree on is what the others should give. There was a great story that used to kind of circulate among GRBC Baptists who I was among for a number of years about pastor who had been marooned on an island. But eventually, he was rescued. And as the helicopter swooped down, the rescuers were winching the pastor up into the helicopter, and they saw three buildings on the skyline. And they thought to themselves, “Man, three buildings, one man.” And so when he got on board, they said, “Is there anybody else?” He said, “No, just me.” And they said, “Well, how do you explain all those buildings?” He says, “The building on the left, that’s my home. The building in the middle, that’s the church I go to, and the building on the right, that’s the church I used to go to.”

Only a Baptist can split from himself, but why is that? Because of time, I’m going to do bullet points. I could go probably 20 minutes in this, but this is something you and I need to think through. We need to think this through because you’re going to get this question from your children. You’re going to wrestle with this question yourself. You’re in a company of good and godly people, and there’s some differences among us. We’re often all left scratching our head. How come? Here’s a couple of things that I got. Our own immaturity in sin, it’s the first issue, our own immaturity in sin. One example would be I Corinthians 3: 1 to 3. Paul says, “I’d like to give you strong meat, but you cried. You’re still on the bottle, you’re still on the breast. You’re immature.” When you get into Hebrews chapter 5 verses 11 through 14, the Hebrew author chastises Christians who have a lack of discernment. They haven’t honed their skills.

You see, the Holy Spirit is perfect. The issue’s not in his end. The Holy Spirit is perfect, but we are imperfect and finite. And even after years of growing in Christ, we’re all at different levels of imperfection and immaturity, which produces static and interference in the transmission of truth into our lives. If I may put it like this, even though we’re equipped to understand the scripture with the author of the scripture abiding in us, we have put a shade over his illuminating ministry through our disobedience or our dullness. He’s ready to go. There’s nothing wrong with his broadcasts. There’s just something wrong with the receiver, you and me. We allow laziness, immaturity, carnality to get in the way of the transmissions of truth. And depending on the different levels of immaturity and where we’re at in our Christian walk, you’re going to get different levels of perception and spiritual understanding. And in that case, some will miss it or some won’t be there yet. That’s why you’ve got differences.

If you think about, I love this, the only time we speak infallibly is when we simply and slowly read the scripture and close the Bible. The rest of the time, we’re wrestling with infallibility, our fallibility and frailness and finiteness. Secondly, some doctrines are hard to understand. If that’s the case, then you can understand the wrestling that will go on in trying all to get on the same page on some things. I Peter 3:16, Peter says that some of the things that Paul wrote, hard to understand. Now, we believe in the perspicuity of scripture, clear and plain. The Bible isn’t the code book. It isn’t garbled, it’s not obscure; it’s history, it’s literature. You can take the rules of grammatical, historical, literal interpretation and yield a meaning. So generally speaking, the Bible is perpusqueous. It’s clear, it’s plain, but there are some doctrines that are tough.

Some truths are like apples hanging from a branch easy to pick. Other truths are more like diamonds that will have to be dug for and mined. I think that plays into it, doesn’t it? And some people just don’t want to do the work and therefore they’re limited in their understanding, and it leads to misunderstanding. Thirdly, sloppy acts of Jesus. We must rightly divide the word of truth, II Timothy 2:15. And according to I Peter 3:16, some, Peter says, distort the scriptures, I love the Old King James, twist the scriptures to their own destruction. You and I can twist the scriptures. We can distort the understanding of the text through sloppy acts of Jesus. What I mean by acts of Jesus? The development of the meaning of the text.

When it comes to understanding the Bible, you just don’t roll the dice. There are rules of interpretation to keep. You’ve got to be literal. That doesn’t mean you ignore the fact that you’re dealing sometimes with poetry or prophecy, and you try and get behind the symbolism, but there’s a concrete, literal objective meaning to the text, that the symbolism and the metaphor the assembly makes clear to us. You’ve got to understand the history. You’ve got to read the Bible organically. You’ve got to understand the relationship between Genesis and Revelation. They are bookends in the Bible. There are themes, there are threads that are picked up in Genesis that are all sewn together into knots right at the end of the Bible. A text taken out of its context becomes a pretext. The pretext for what? For error and misguided living.

Fourthly and one more to go, false teaching and false teachers. We’re warned, aren’t we? Constantly. Matthew 24:24, I Corinthians 11:13, 1 Corinthians 11:26, Paul talks about false prophets, apostles, and false brethren. In Acts chapter 20, Paul warns the Ephesian elders of wolves that will come in who will distort the scriptures and try and draw away disciples after themselves. Why do we have differences among us? Immaturity and sin. Some of us haven’t done the hard work of getting to the hard doctrines. Some of us are sloppy in the way we handle the word of God, and some of us can be affected by false teachers, things that poison our understanding. And finally, man’s traditions. Matthew 15:6, Mark 7:13. Sorry, this is so rapid, but Jesus talks about how the traditions of man may void the word of God. Traditions can get in the way. Cultural biases can get in the way. Our church upbringing can get in the way, and we must be ready for God to break our cultural defenses. We cannot come to the word of God with our mind made up, or we will never hear the thunderclap of scripture. All we will hear is the soothing yet empty echo of our own biases.

Fascinating story is to do with missionaries that went out to India to do a work for God. The Judsons, Adoniram and Ann Judson, they went out as congregationalists. But it was 114 days on a ship. And as Adoniram Judson read his New Testament on with his wife, he came to say, “You know what? All that I’ve been taught is wrong about baptism. I don’t see anything in the Bible about infant baptism. I don’t see any covenant made in the Bible between parents and children and God.” He came to a view of believer’s baptism in time he got off that boat. Then he went and spent some time with William Carey, the Baptist missionary in India and was totally convinced. That was going to shake his world. He would lose all his support. He might lose some friends.

Listen to Ann Judson as she reflects, “I must acknowledge that the face of Scripture does favor to the Baptist sentiment. I intend to persevere in examining the subject. And I hope that I shall be disposed to embrace the truth, whatever it may be. It is painfully mortifying to my natural feelings.” What she’s saying there, “This goes against everything I’m taught, everything I’ve been brought up to believe. To think seriously of renouncing a system which I’ve been taught from infancy to believe and respect and embrace one which I’ve been taught to despise, oh, that the spirit of God may enlighten and direct my mind, nay prevent my retaining of an old error and the embracing of a new one.” The prayer of a godly woman who’s wrestling with the scripture and realizing, “You know what? My traditions, my upbringing is getting in the way of my true understanding of the word of God.” Sometimes it works that way, guys. We’ve been brought up in different traditions, different backgrounds, different churches. That’s all good and dandy, and God will use many aspects of that in all of our lives. But every time, we must come to the word of God, not stand over it in judgment, but to stand under its judgment, its scrutiny, its authority, and pray, “Oh God, prevent me from embracing and keeping hold of an old error or a new one.” Let’s pray.

Lord, as man of the book and those who profess a love of scripture, we thank you for these extended studies on the illuminating, enlightening work of the Holy Spirit. Lord, we realize that we can read the Bible apart from the Holy Spirit, but we cannot understand the Bible apart from the Holy Spirit. We thank you for him who has been bequeathed to us by our risen Lord, who has come to lead us into all truth, who has inspired the apostles to write the scripture, who has given us the mind of Christ and his gospel, which [inaudible 00:50:00] completed the whole testament of God, both old and new. But God, make us man diligent to study, man who are every day in humble dependence through prayer upon the Holy Spirit. Lord, help us to take of all that’s available to us in terms of scholarship and the writings of your saints across the years.

Help us Lord to benefit from their teaching, but be mastered by no man, sayeth the Holy Spirit. Lord, there’s some things some of us will need to give up in thinking. Some of us will have to repent. Some of us will have to leave behind some cherished views and traditions that have been part of our faith in our family for many years. Give us the grace to do it. Lord, help us all to strive together for a greater unity around the clear, plain teaching of the word of God. For we ask and pray these things in His name, amen.