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Bible verses about Spiritual Blindness
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Could our judgment of people in whom Christ lives also be somewhat distorted because of carnality still active within us? This is part of the equation. We may be ill-equipped to make a sound judgment because we are unable to recognize godly qualities or to understand the factors involved in another's conduct.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Judgment, Tolerance, and Correction


 

Exodus 32:25

"Naked" does not mean that they were without clothing, but rather that their spiritual condition had been exposed. It is similar to "naked" as it is used in Revelation 3:17 in reference to the "wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked" Laodicean. God's righteousness was not clothing them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Nature of God: Elohim


 

Numbers 22:26-27

Again, the donkey proves herself wiser than Balaam.

God frequently does this: First, He gets us in a wide place and allows us to make our decisions. It soon becomes apparent which direction we are going, which path we are taking. Then God begins to narrow the way, especially if He sees us going in the wrong direction. He catches us in a place where we can turn around and gives us an opportunity to make a right decision. If we do not do what He wants us to do, He will go a little further down the path—a little bit later in our life—to catch us in a place where the answer is obvious, and we can do nothing except stop, and say, "God help me! I've gone the wrong way, and I need You to open the path for me."

He does this to Balaam. He gets him to the point where there is only plunging on to destruction on one hand, and on the other, stopping and retracing his steps to where he can head in the right direction.

This is the point where Balaam is in these two verses. The donkey simply lies down, as that is all she can do. Proverbs 22:3 says, "A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished." The donkey is the "prudent man" here, and blind Balaam is "the simple." He is so without any spiritual acumen that he is just like a foolish simpleton. He cannot see wisdom; he cannot make a wise choice. However, the dumb donkey can!

As a last resort, God takes matters one more step. He is always full of mercy, willing to give us that one more chance to make the right choice. But now He has to do something drastic!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Balaam and the End-Time Church (Part 2)


 

Numbers 22:28-30

It is incredible that Balaam even replies to the donkey. If an animal spoke to one of us, would we respond? Perhaps he thought, "Well, I've talked to her enough. She was bound to answer me sometime." This is obviously a miracle—there is only one other place in the Bible (Genesis 3, the serpent to Eve) where an animal speaks—yet Balaam acts as if it happens to him every day! The donkey asks him questions, and he answers!

Balaam is totally, spiritually out of it. He has no thought for God or for spiritual things. He is so self-possessed, so full of self-interest that he cannot think beyond the end of his nose! All he is thinking about is, "What am I going to do when I get to Balak? He's going to pile all this money on me! How am I going to set up the sacrifices? What am I going to do? How am I going to say this? I know God will let me do it because I'm just a wonderful negotiator, and that's just the way it is. All the other gods have done exactly as I've bargained, so I think. . . ." As he travels, he talks to himself like this, thinking only about the wonderful job and the wealth he has ahead of him. He is heedless to anything else.

When these amazing things happen, they fail to faze him. They fail to make him wonder what is going on. He does not even ask why the donkey was treating him in a way she had never had before. She was totally out of character! She speaks, and he answers! It illustrates the depth of his spiritual blindness. He could not see God if He had bit him!

In today's lingo, we would call Balaam totally materialistic. Everything was based on what he could see, feel, hear, smell, and taste. He could not understand beyond that.

He was involved in spiritism, with augury, enchanting, and such, but there is nothing spiritual about him. He had no depth. And this made him thoroughly evil. He bore a nice façade that made him look spiritual, but in reality, there was nothing there. The donkey was more truly spiritual than he was!

He may have had some spiritual knowledge, but it did not work in him properly because he never put it into practice. He may have known about Israel, about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, perhaps even of some of God's instructions to Israel. He certainly knew God was, in all His power and sovereignty, working for them. But none of this knowledge that he may have had did him any good. He even talked to God, and God talked back to him! God was doing all these things in his life, and he was thoroughly blind to all of it.

The incredible thing here is that Balaam acted as if these things happened to him every day. But they did not! These were once-in-a-lifetime events, but he was so self-centered that he shrugged them off, ignoring them as if they did not matter. Here was the great sovereign God saying, "Wake up, Balaam! I'm here! Can't you see Me? Can't you see Me working?" But Balaam is blind to the true reality of Him. The "seer" can see nothing because he is so stuck on the here and now, on what he has in his hand and in his pocket.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Balaam and the End-Time Church (Part 2)


 

1 Kings 3:5-10

Did anyone ever have such a good start as Solomon? Perhaps the outstanding thing was his attitude when he asked this of God. Commentators feel that he was somewhere around twenty years old when this occurred. His youthfulness shows in what he felt about himself in relation to what had become his responsibility. He says, "I am a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in." In other words, "I don't know how to conduct the affairs of office. I feel that I am not adequate to do the job that has been given to me."

He began with such promise, and maybe most of all was that wonderful attitude. It was childlike. He was humble, willing to listen, willing to be admonished and commanded by God. This is why God responded as He did.

Jesus Christ said, "To whom much is given, from him much will be required." Very few have ever been given as much as Solomon had. So, he is an excellent study case of one who neglected his gifts in favor of something of lesser value. The cause of his fall is here summarized in I Kings 11:1-10.

Solomon had very special evidence of God's love. There are four examples of this:

  1. He was chosen king contrary to the normal custom. He was hand-picked to do the job. Had the normal custom been followed, Adonijah would have been made king, but it fell to Solomon instead. Of course, God is the one who sets kings up and puts them down, and He chose Solomon to succeed David.
  2. He was given a change of name. Just like Abram's name was changed to Abraham, Jacob's name was changed to Israel, and Saul's name was changed to Paul, people who went through unusual experiences sometimes receive a name change to reflect the change that had occurred in their lives. Solomon's name was "Jedidiah," which means "beloved of the LORD." His name was a special assignment to him—someone that God really smiled upon.
  3. He received every benefit imaginable: understanding, wisdom, wealth, and power. Of course, the Bible indicates that these things flowed from God—for his benefit and the nation's.
  4. Twice he was visited by God—for encouragement and admonishment.

In addition, he had clear evidence of God's power working directly for him. Solomon was put on the throne in the face of the entrenched political power of the day, represented by Adonijah and particularly Joab. When David died, the most influential person in the nation was not a member of David's immediate family. It was Joab. In the face of Joab's support of Adonijah, however, Solomon still became king. Obviously, God manipulated things to put him on the throne.

He was also granted unparalleled, unchallenged power and prestige as a king. People came from all the nations to admire Solomon, his wisdom, his building projects, and his wealth. All these visitors gave all the credit to Solomon. In reality, the Bible shows that God's power was working on Solomon's behalf to produce these things.

He was given success in all of his endeavors beyond what anyone could normally expect. Whether it was in botany, biology, building projects, wine, women, and song, Solomon hit the top of the charts in everything he did.

But Solomon also had a problem. He was distracted by his interest in women. He was a great man, but he had feet of clay and succumbed to idolatry. Now, this did not happen overnight but by degrees. He never openly renounced God, but neither was he ever very devoted either.

It is reminiscent of II Thessalonians 2 and the man of sin. Apostasy is taking place, and God says that He was going to allow delusion to come upon people, a "blindness" to occur. A similar thing happened to Solomon. When we add what is taught in II Thessalonians, we find that the blindness is, in reality, self-imposed.

God did not make Solomon blind, and He will not make the people spoken of in II Thessalonians 2 blind either. But, because of their behavior, neither will He stop their progression towards it. It is not that the people utterly refuse to accept truth—just as Solomon never renounced God. The problem is that they do not love it!

The problem is one of dedication. What was Solomon dedicated to? He was not dedicated to God for very long after his good beginning. He was dedicated to his projects—to building Jerusalem, the Temple, his home, botanical gardens—things that only expanded his overwhelming vanity.

He ignored the laws God gave for kings (Deuteronomy 17:14-20), and that was sin. Unfortunately, unlike David, Solomon did not have the spiritual resources to recover from what he did. David recovered when he sinned because he had a relationship with God. Even though he sinned, he would bounce back from it in repentance.

I Kings 11:4 says that Solomon "clung to" his wives. Normally, that would be good. A man should cling or cleave to his wife. Solomon, though, cleaved to the wrong women, and his attachment to them led him astray. As he tolerated their worship of other gods right in his home, his resistance wore down, and he became increasingly vulnerable. Before long, he was participating in the worship of their gods. Once he was accustomed to it, it wore away his loyalty as each compromise made the next step easier. His vanity deceived him into feeling that his strength and resolve were so great that he would not fall. But he did, and he paid a bitter price.

One of the deceptive aspects to what Solomon did is something that any of us could fall prey to. It does not have to be foreign women or something like an all-consuming hobby. Religion, however, especially entrapped him through his wives.

Virtually every religion uses similar terminology. Every Christian sect uses the terms "born again," "salvation," "saved," and "redemption." We could add "justification," "mercy," "kindness," "forgiveness," and "grace." All Western religions (and maybe now even some of these New Age religions) share some of the same terminology, but the theology behind the terms is radically different.

In Solomon's day, the religions of Ashtoreth, Molech, Baal, Chemosh, and the other false gods used terminology very similar to what was being used in Israel, but the theology was vastly different. This is what trapped Solomon. Once a comfortable syncretism is accepted, God is gradually neglected and idolatry is adopted. Thomas Jefferson is credited with saying, "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance." This is just as true in regard to religion as it is to civil liberty under a government.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 5)


 

2 Kings 4:31

The biblical writer uses an interesting clause to relate the child's continued state of death: "there was neither voice nor hearing." Today, we would say, "There was neither pulse nor breathing," but the Hebrew author highlights speaking and hearing as signs of life. Why?

Obviously, the Israelites knew that "the life of the flesh is in the blood" (Leviticus 17:11; see Genesis 9:4), and that God "breathed into [Adam's] nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being" (Genesis 2:7). The writer of II Kings, then, is not giving medical or clinical proof of the child's death but commenting on the state of death. When someone is dead, they can no longer speak or hear; communication is impossible.

What makes this especially interesting is that God frequently speaks of spiritual enlightenment as "life" and spiritual darkness or degeneracy as "death." Speaking of the uncalled, Jesus tells a potential disciple, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead" (Matthew 8:22). He tells the church in Sardis, "I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead" (Revelation 3:1). Paul writes, "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). In Ephesians 5:14, he says, "Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light."

The child typifies the individual Christian. He is dead and can neither speak nor hear. What happens to the Christian who dies spiritually? No longer does he communicate God's way in any fashion—by deed or speech; he cannot "talk the talk" or "walk the walk"! Nor are his ears open and attentive to God's Word. As Jesus says in Matthew 13:15:

For the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their heart and turn, so that I should heal them.

A biblical euphemism for death is sleep. For instance, in I Corinthians 11:30, Paul explains that many had died for taking the Passover unworthily: "For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep." He uses this euphemism similarly in Acts 13:36: "For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption" (see also Daniel 12:2; I Corinthians 15:20, 51; I Thessalonians 4:14).

Because the Bible connects death and sleep so closely, it also uses the metaphor of sleep for spiritual decline. The best known example of this is the Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25:1-13. The lesson is that we must stay spiritually alert, especially as Christ's return nears, but Jesus prophesies that all of God's people will fall asleep on their watch! On this point, Paul advises us:

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:11-12)

In II Kings 4:31, Gehazi reports to Elisha and the Shunammite woman, "The child has not awakened." Like the individual Christian at the end time, this child is "dead"—he "sleeps" because of overlong exposure to the "fiery darts of the wicked one" (Ephesians 6:16), from which he had no protection. His only hope of revival lies in the mercy and power of God and the faithfulness of His true minister.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Elisha and the Shunammite Woman, Part II: Serving God's Children


 

2 Kings 4:32-35

When Elisha arrives at the Shunammite's home, the situation has not changed: The boy lies dead on the prophet's bed (II Kings 4:32). Even this fact is significant in that, though the boy is "with" the prophet and even has close contact with the prophet's possessions, it does him no good—he is still dead. How many Christians are in the church, hearing the truth every week, fellowshipping with God's people, yet remain asleep to their perilous spiritual condition?

Unlike Gehazi, Elisha throws himself into the work of reviving this child. First, he closes the door to his room, shutting everyone else out (verse 33). This kind of work is private, not public. Next, he invites God in through prayer. Elisha knows that he is only a vessel through whom God would work, so he immediately seeks the only true help for the situation. He understands that his relationship with God is the basis for any resuscitation of the boy.

These two points are appropriate spiritually as well. Awakening sleepy Christians is a private affair; it would be shameful and unloving to blare the individual church member's spiritual weakness to the world! What a horrible witness for God this would be! Paul excoriates the lawbreaking Romans: "For 'The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,' as it is written" (Romans 2:24). It is far better for the church to reduce its public exposure during its revival until it can again represent God properly. Once God is satisfied with the church's spiritual state, He will open doors to proclaim the gospel publicly again.

It is also true that spiritual revival rests on the relationship between God and His true ministers, for the latter are the individuals through whom He works to effect the waking up of others. The preachers drive the revival! If the ministry is not close to God, they will not preach the truth, and revival will never make much headway. However, if the ministry's relationship with God is solid and growing, God will inspire them to preach His Word powerfully, and "those who have ears to hear" will listen and respond.

Notice the effort Elisha makes to heal this child. He stretches himself out on the child, eye to eye, mouth to mouth, hand to hand (II Kings 4:34), picturing total identification between the prophet and the child: They see eye to eye, speak mouth to mouth, act hand in hand. This is a metaphor for unity in understanding, teaching, and works. The ministry and the membership must be unified and work together to cause revival.

But this is still not enough. The flesh of the child warms up, but he is not yet truly alive, awake, and active. He hovers, coma-like, between death and life. Seeing this, Elisha gathers himself and plunges back into his work (verse 35). His walking "back and forth in the house" describes his efforts to restore his warmth after giving all of his to the child. Spiritually, this equates to the ministry preparing themselves for even more intensive work as they "try, try again" to effect revival. A true minister, through all the setbacks and discouragements, never gives up the fight to bring God's people "back to life."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Elisha and the Shunammite Woman, Part II: Serving God's Children


 

Psalm 19:12-14

David showed no hostility toward God, and he tried hard to change whenever he could see that he was wrong. However, he could not always see it. For instance, David stole Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, and she became pregnant. After conniving and cheating in an attempt to avoid the consequences, David intentionally arranged for Uriah to be killed in battle.

Incredible as it may seem, David did not see how terribly wrong his sexual immorality in both his thoughts and actions was. He broke both the spirit and letter of the law. Not until the prophet Nathan brought him to his senses did spiritually blind David realize his sinful behavior.

Nevertheless, we cannot judge David too harshly, since our vision is likewise clouded regarding many of our problems. It is hard enough to recognize and admit the problems we can see, much less the ones we cannot. Rather than judge him, we can actually identify with David.

Martin G. Collins
The Law's Purpose and Intent


 

Psalm 119:165

Human nature is enmity against God, and it rejects God's law (Romans 8:7). The result is continual warfare with God and between men. No one who breaks God's law as a way of life can have peace, at least not the kind of peace God gives. Jesus says in John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you."

The world can produce a level of tranquility from time to time, but it is not the peace of God. When a person sins, it seems as though there is a feeling, a natural fear, that wells up. Even before the sin occurs, one invariably seeks to make sure no one else sees it happen. This does not display a mind at peace. Immediately following a sin, the fear of exposure arises, and the sinner begins justifying, at least to himself, why he has done such a thing. If caught, he justifies himself as Adam and Eve did before God.

In simple terms, God is showing us the consequences of breaking His laws. If one were at peace with God, he would have no need to hide himself. With a clear conscience, he need not lie, justifying and shifting the blame on to others. No one who breaks God's laws can have peace. However, one who loves God's law will not only keep the peace he already has but will add to it as its fruit and reward.

Psalm 119:165 promises another wonderful benefit: Nothing causes those who love God's law to stumble. "To stumble" indicates faltering along the path to the Kingdom of God or even to fall completely away from God. This provides great encouragement and assurance regarding security with God, meaning that we will not be turned aside by the difficulties along the way.

Instead of fear of exposure and a guilty conscience, we will be assured because God's Word says so, as I John 3:18-19 confirms: "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him." What a confident life we can live by following God's way!

Another New Testament passage, I John 2:8-11, parallels the psalmist's thought:

Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Consider these verses in relation to the meal offering, representing the devoted keeping of the last six commandments. Hating a brother would be breaking those commandments in relation to him. It might involve murdering him, breaking the marriage bond through adultery, stealing from him, lying to or about him, or lusting after him or his possessions.

Verse 10 parallels Psalm 119:165 exactly when it says, "But he who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him." I John 5:3 defines love: "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome." The New Testament strongly affirms that loving one's brother is keeping God's commandments in relation to him, and this provides us strong assurance and stability along the way.

I John 2:11 then shows that the blindness of darkness envelops the eyes of one who hates his brother, that is, breaks God's commandments in relation to him. This blindness produces stumbling and fighting, and thus he has no peace.

It is particularly disturbing if the brother spoken of in these verses also happens to be one's spouse, father, or mother. Old people today stand a high chance of being shunted off into a convalescent or old-age home, if only for the convenience of the adult children. Is that honoring a parent, or is it in some way contemptuous? Are the children unwilling to make sacrifices even for those who brought them into the world? Will this course of action produce peace? Will it produce a sense of well-being in either party?

John says, "He who loves his brother abides in the light" (verse 10), implying that love produces its own illumination. Illumination is what enables a person to see in the dark. Light contrasts to the darkness, blindness, and ignorance of verse 11, which result in stumbling. Illumination indicates understanding and the ability to produce solutions to relationship problems. The difficult part is laying ourselves out in sacrifice to express love. If we fail to do this, we may never see solutions to our relationship problems.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Five): The Peace Offering, Sacrifice, and Love


 

Proverbs 11:2

The proud hypocrite deceives himself into ignoring realities in the conduct of his life that the meek and humble person quickly recognizes and takes into account. The proud person's vanity pushes him into conduct that will end in shame. The humble person's attitude, on the other hand, is a vivid contrast, for his wisdom prevents him from pursuing the same conduct. This in turn produces even more wisdom when good fruit is produced because it reinforces his right decision.

This pride seen in Proverbs 11:2 literally means "boiling up," or we might say, "puffed up." It can mean "to overstep the boundaries." The proud person has an inflated opinion of himself and/or his possessions, abilities, powers, and accomplishments. This exists because pride has deceived him about his importance. He is the center of the world! The day is coming soon when everyone's proud ego will be deflated, and man's haughty self-regard will be stripped away.

This is exactly what happened to Satan. He got so full of himself that his pride tricked him into believing he could defeat His Creator in battle and take His place! He ignored the reality that he was the creation of God, and that God was thus superior to His creation in every way. His pride deceived him into underestimating the awesome power of God that he had seen demonstrated in the creation! It made him disregard the limited nature of his own power in comparison, making him think he was stronger than was true. It actually made him think he could be God!

This attitude is also at the foundation of Laodiceanism. Of what does God accuse the Laodiceans? "[Y]ou say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'" (Revelation 3:17). Their pride deceives them into believing they are self-sufficient. They have it all! They do not need anything! We should consider that in all probability the Laodicean does not say any such thing with his tongue. In fact, he is probably able to "talk the talk" very well and hypocritically put on a good show of righteousness. But God looks on the heart, seeing not only his public conduct but also his motivations and private conduct. The Laodicean is of the class that professes to know God but denies Him in works. God's judgment—the correct judgment—is that they are "wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Humility, and the Day of Atonement


 

Proverbs 20:20

This verse ought to give any person who has some measure of respect for God's seriousness about a child's responsibility toward his parents pause to think about things. Modern translations often choose to render "obscure" as pitch or complete. "His lamp shall be put out in pitch darkness (or in complete darkness)." It means in an area where there is no possibility of seeing anything, utter blindness. God's warning indicates utterly dark. If a lamp is snuffed out, extinguished in the darkness, how will a person see where he is going?

A lamp puts forth light, and light is a biblical symbol of truth. Therefore, God is in reality speaking of having correct guidance and direction. He is saying that if children curse their parents, the death penalty may not be not executed, but following right on the heels of this, God says He will remove the guidance that He would ordinarily make available.

This proverb, then, is saying that God will not necessarily put one to death. Instead, the penalty for cursing parents is that one will receive no guidance from Him. This imagery comes close to the punishment that is reserved for demons—to be able to see and desire greatly but to be able to do nothing about it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sanctification and the Teens


 

Jeremiah 9:5-6

Self-deceit is an inherent part of man's emotional, mental, and spiritual makeup. We have a hard time seeing it in ourselves because we are experts in hiding reality from ourselves and trying to hide it from others. However, we fool ourselves if we think we can hide our true nature from God.

Staff
Overcoming (Part 1): Self-Deception


 

Jeremiah 48:11

Connect the thought in these two verses (Jeremiah 48:11; Zephaniah 1:12) with the Laodicean's evaluation of himself and what we know about his relationship with God. He says he needs nothing, and he has settled on his lees. We also see Christ's reaction: It angered Him greatly.

The lees are the sediment that forms during the fermentation of grapes. They eventually sink to the bottom where they harden. Metaphorically, "settled on their lees" indicates floating, taking it easy, and having a very leisurely, casual approach to life. In the actual wine vat, the lees harden in due course, and they then picture an unacceptable, "hardened" lifestyle. A person who is "settled on his lees" is one who, through spiritual idleness and ease, has gradually become morally indifferent, tolerant of his lack of spiritual drive, and ultimately hardened to God and sin. In the process, he becomes blind to his spiritual state.

Zephaniah 1:12 goes on to say that one who is settled on his lees has reasoned himself into what amounts to practical atheism. He is saying by his conduct that God is not really governing or judging and that there will be neither reward for obedience nor punishment from sin. How far from God this person is! Thus, he gives himself over to his pleasures.

A Laodicean is a person straddling the proverbial fence. He has saving knowledge of God, but he is attached to the world and afraid to let go. He has deceived himself into thinking that he has found the perfect balance. He is convinced that he has the best of both worlds.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Laodiceanism and Being There Next Year


 

Amos 5:4-7

The word "justice" used in verse 7 is associated with end-time circumstances in nearly every prophecy where social conditions are described in a nation on the verge of collapse. The Hebrew word is mishpat, translated justice, judgment, or ordinance. Because he is spiritually blind, the Laodicean, too, has lost his ability to judge between right and wrong. He can no longer discern, as the Bible phrases it, "between the clean and the unclean."

God speaks of this lack of judgment in terms of their courtship, their relationship, with Him. Similar to the situation today in the church, Christians need discernment, the ability to distinguish right from wrong, to make true judgments. The Laodicean lacks this ability and it shows in the decisions he makes.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Amos 6:4-6

What a picture of excess and uselessness! Like Babylon, these people live in indolent luxury, surrounding themselves with the latest creature comforts, overindulging in rich and expensive food and drink. A glass or a cup is not enough for them—they must drink wine from bowls to satisfy their addictions! They sing songs that mean nothing, but in their hearts they think their songs and music equal to David's! Life is a party! And all they have to show for their lives is a lack of judgment.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Amos 8:3

Now that He has announced Israel's imminent calamity, God begins to show how His punishment would alter the lives of the people. Notice the dramatic change of attitude in the people. The songs of His Temple would ordinarily be happy and joyous songs of praise to God, but He will turn the songs of their temple—sung to Baal in the name of the Lord—to wailing, for the numbers of the dead will be unimaginable.

Because of their self-absorption, God's "sudden" punishment will stun the people of the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, and the other nations of modern Israel, including some members of the true church. In their spiritually unaware state, they will be incredulous at God's punishment for "such a little bit of sin." But God has a different perspective; He says they are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked (Revelation 3:17).

Because of their self-procured wealth and affluence, they think they are being blessed with material things. They see themselves as following the way of God, but their religion has deceived them by failing to teach them His truth. They think that what they are doing is right, but they are deceived. However, God still holds them responsible because the truth is available. He views them as personally rejecting Him and His Word.

Today, some evangelicals attempt to prepare the people for what is to come, but their teaching is a mixture of right and wrong. Jesus says, "They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch" (Matthew 15:14). In their ignorance, the people do not realize the terrible calamity that is coming soon upon modern Israel. It will be far more terrible than anything ever seen on this earth!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

Amos 8:11-12

God says that He will soon send a peculiar famine—not a typical famine of food or water, but a far more destructive one. It strikes at the heart of His people, causing the very fabric of society to unravel.

Notice first that it does not say that it will be a famine of the word of the Lord, but a famine of hearing. God's words will still be available, but it will be rare that those words will be heard. The truth will still be obtainable; His inspired messages will still be accessible. However, as a curse on the land, God will cause truth not to be heard.

This "hearing" is far more than just being aware of words or concepts. It is a hearing that includes focused, careful attention that, taken to its logical conclusion, ends in obedience. The kind of hearing that will be in such short supply is one that causes right action—in fact, the Hebrew word is often translated as "obey." This famine causes God's words not to be heard, and the result is that sin and disobedience flourish—which are a reproach to any nation (Proverbs 14:34). It is a tremendous curse, because without having God's words as guidance—without the light of truth—the nation will be like a blind man, stumbling around and not comprehending why he keeps falling (cf. Deuteronomy 28:29; Isaiah 29:9-10).

This is an unusual curse. It is not like a physical famine, which everyone recognizes as a tragedy. Most of those who are struck by this famine will probably not recognize that it is a true calamity. A famine of hearing the truth will seem like a relief to many, because no voice is calling them into account or prompting them to think about eternity.

However, even though this famine may give the impression that a burden has been lifted, the reality is that without divine instruction, the nation can only stagger toward eventual destruction. Truth is a blessing, but God has every right to withhold it, just as He withholds rain when His people turn from Him. People may be vaguely aware that things are breaking down, that life seems to have a lot more tragedies, and that nothing seems to work as it once did, but they will not make the connection between their hardships and their spiritual deafness.

David C. Grabbe
A Subtle Yet Devastating Curse


 

Amos 8:11-14

The New Testament contains echoes of the curse found in Amos 8—a famine, not of the word, but of hearing it. Romans 1:18-32 tells of unrighteous men who suppress the truth. Because they are not thankful for what the creation reveals of the Creator, their foolish hearts become darkened. They lose what light, what truth, they have.

God's response to this is similar to His response to Israel. He does not contend with them or force His truth on them. Instead, Paul writes, God gave them up to uncleanness. He gave them up to vile passions. He gave them over to a debased mind. It is as if God gives them exactly what they seek, and they do not realize that it is a curse.

A second example of this principle appears in II Thessalonians 2:9-12, where Paul warns of a future Man of Sin who deceives the spiritually weak:

The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Those who perish do so because they do not receive—in the sense of "welcome"—the love of the truth. Because they do not, God will send them strong delusion, so that they will believe the lie and be condemned. In reality, God is just giving them what they desire anyway. They prefer carnal delusion to spiritual reality, so God obliges them. The unrighteous in Romans 1 desire a worldview without a Creator so they can be sexually liberated. God gives them over to it and lets them reap the awful consequences. The Israelites in the time of Amos did not value God's truth, so He removed it, letting them experience how miserably they fare without it. If they were anything like modern Israelites, they thought of themselves as enlightened and progressive even as their blindness became more complete.

David C. Grabbe
A Subtle Yet Devastating Curse


 

Matthew 9:27-30

In this healing miracle, Jesus Christ heals two blind men in Capernaum, probably in Peter's house (Matthew 9:27-31). Peter saw Jesus work several miracles in his house: the healing of his mother-in-law, the healing of the paralytic who was let down through the roof to come before Him, and this restoration of sight to the blind men.

Blindness seems to have been a more common problem in biblical times than today. Afflictions in those times were worse because people lived under poorer conditions and had limited access to medical care, if any was available at all. Nevertheless, these people had hope, for Isaiah 35:5 prophesies of the Messiah and His work: "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped." This prophecy has a physical and a spiritual fulfillment. When Christ came to earth in the flesh, He healed many physically blind people. More importantly, though, He brought spiritual healing to many by opening their minds to see principles that lead to spiritual life.

Blindness is an appropriate description of sin's effect. For example, a prophecy in Zephaniah 1:17 says, "I will bring distress upon men, and they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD." Sin causes people to grope spiritually at noon just as the blind grope in darkness (Deuteronomy 28:29). Sin puts us in darkness as blindness does, but spiritual darkness is a far worse darkness than its physical counterpart.

Spiritual blindness has only one remedy: Jesus Christ dwelling in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. In this healing of the two blind men, Jesus was physically before them, but for Christians, He is spiritually and personally available to us through the indwelling of His Spirit (John 14:20-23).

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing Two Blind Men (Part One)


 

Matthew 9:27-30

As Christ passes by, the two blind men have the ultimate opportunity, and they take advantage of it. He did not pass by every day. If the two men had not pursued Him for healing at once, they may never have had another opportunity to be healed. Spiritually, the same is true for everyone. God opens doors of opportunity for salvation and service, but very few take Him up on it: "For many are called but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14). A person must pass through those doors quickly, or they will close and the opportunity will be forever squandered (Matthew 25:6-12; Revelation 3:20). A Christian may also miss rendering service to others because he fails to take advantage of opportunities. With opportunities come blessings, and if an opportunity is missed, so are the blessings.

If we want blessings from Christ, we must follow Him. The blind men desired physical sight and so followed Him. Those who are indifferent in their faithfulness to Christ will have trouble receiving any blessing from Him, for He treats His followers differently from those who do not follow Him. At times, even a church member will complain of a lack of God's blessings in his life, but it may be that he has not followed Christ diligently and recognized the abundance of spiritual blessings he has received. God even goes so far as to warn His ministers that, if we fail to take to heart His warning about due diligence in serving Him with integrity, He will curse us (Malachi 2:1-2).

Christ calls, "Follow Me!" (Matthew 4:19; 8:22; Luke 18:22), but following is not easy because, "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Mark 8:34).

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing Two Blind Men (Part One)


 

Matthew 9:29

Jesus says, "According to your faith let it be to you," similar to His words to the centurion whose servant was dying in Matthew 8:13. In both cases, the condition for the miraculous cure is faith. Faith opens the door for divine blessing; its lack closes the door. Christ could do few mighty works in Nazareth due to the people's lack of faith (Matthew 13:57-58). Similarly, salvation is a great work, but unbelief prevents it. It is important to study the Word of God to increase faith, as it comes by hearing or reading God's Word (Romans 10:17).

"Their eyes were opened" is more than a description of a literal action; it is also a Hebrew figure of speech. The Jews thought of blind eyes as "shut," and seeing eyes as "open." Jesus removes two men's blindness—they can now see and comprehend what was once closed to them. Thus, the opening of the eyes also suggests spiritual understanding.

Most people do not grasp the value or the meaning of Scripture, but Christ can open a person's eyes to enable him to understand His Word just as He did for His disciples after His resurrection (Luke 24:16-31, 45). The psalmist prays, "Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law" (Psalm 119:18).

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing Two Blind Men (Part Two)


 

Matthew 13:10-16

Jesus clearly declares that the Israelites have closed their own eyes and ears (verse 15) - they made a conscious decision to do so. This can be done by simply choosing to ignore what God says or neglecting what has been given to them. They have ignored the works of His hands - the Creation - by which it is clearly shown that He is (Romans 1:20)! Because the carnal mind is enmity against God (Romans 8:7) and does not want to be tied down to a relationship with God, it prefers to do something else.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 11)


 

Matthew 20:16

In a sense, everybody is called to recognize God through the natural world, but the word "chosen" shows that God must personally rescue us from our self-centered blindness. Using the term "elect," Titus 1:1 reinforces the idea that God separates some few from the many who are called: "Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect. . . ."

Romans 9:11, 14-16 confirms God's active participation in this process of separation:

. . . (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls). . . . What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion." So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.

Satan has done his work so well that even God declares that he "deceives the whole world" (Revelation 12:9). Thus, God mercifully separates some away from their blindness. He directly and personally favors a small number for His purposes. Jesus tells us in John 6:44 that no one can come to Him unless the Father draws him. Many other scriptures show that God personally separates a few from the masses of humanity for His purposes.

"Election" is the noun form of the verb "to elect." To elect means "to select, pick, choose, determine, or separate." Romans 9:11 tells us that God personally determines whom He will favor for His purposes. In the example Paul uses, He favored Jacob, but the same is true of all whom God calls.

Such people are named the "elect" in the Bible. Romans 11:5, 7, 28 clarifies this term further by revealing that "elect" becomes the title of a distinct people.

Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. . . . What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. . . . Concerning the gospel [Israelites] are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.

The "chosen" and "elect" are synonymous terms designating the group with whom God is personally working through Jesus Christ. In Matthew 24:24, the term "elect" appears, as it almost always does, as a favorable reference. However, we need to realize that elect does not mean "better than others," though it certainly implies one more blessed because of something for which God is completely responsible.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Six)


 

Matthew 23:1-39

In one chapter, Matthew 23, Jesus Christ rips the scribes and Pharisees to shreds. Eight times He pronounces on them woe—defined by Webster's Dictionary as "deep suffering, grief, affliction, ruinous trouble." He dubs them "hypocrites" seven times, "blind guides" twice, "fools and blind" twice, "blind" once, "whitewashed tombs" once, and finishes His name-calling tirade by designating them "brood of vipers"!

He then accuses them of being the children of those who had killed the prophets—a heavy-duty insult considering how proud they were of their ancestry. He predicts they would do the same themselves and declares that He would have nothing to do with them until they accept and bless the ones He sends.

Jesus was really worked up over this! Why? These people were extremely careful in keeping every minor article of the law. They even added many precise rules themselves to ensure they did not overlook the law's details.

Their lives, and the lives of those under their jurisdiction, consisted of endless, mindless details. Endless, for they continued to break branches of the law down to twigs down to leaves. Mindless, because this focus hampered their ability to think and properly weigh what was most important. They became so involved in making sure everyone else obeyed their demands that they no longer remembered the fundamental purpose of the law or kept it properly themselves. Even worse, they used the law against others and took advantage even to the point of "devouring widows' houses" (verse 14). Hence Christ's remonstrance: Hypocrites!

Yet they LOOKED good, publicly counting their mint, cummin and anise. It is not wrong or unlawful to count each seed; tithing should be done, as Christ pointed out (verse 23). But there are far more important issues of the law to consider than counting individual seeds—namely, JUDGMENT, MERCY AND FAITH.

Notice Christ's scathing indictment of the Pharisees' religion and it's effects:

♦ They set a horrid example by not following their own teaching (verse 3).
♦ They abused their office by burdening others with strict requirements while not requiring the same of themselves (verse 4).
♦ What they did do was only for vanity and show (verse 5).
♦ They were social climbers (verse 6).
♦ Their teaching had negative results, driving people farther from the Kingdom rather than closer to it (verse 13).
♦ Their twisted reasoning led them to steal even from the weak (verse 14).
♦ Their misguided zeal made their proselytes twice as bad as they were before they were even "converted" to Pharisaism (verse 16).
♦ Gold, money, and greed became their main focus and god (verses 16-18).
♦ Their perspective was so perverted that they would pay more attention to keep from swallowing a gnat than they would a camel (verses 23-24).
♦ How others saw them was far more important than moral values (verses 27-28).
♦ While they extolled the virtues of past men of God, they were so deeply hateful and murderous that they would kill Christ and any of His followers that they could (verses 29-37).
♦ Their religious house was utterly worthless and desolate, bereft of any contact with or influence of God, though they thought they were perfectly righteous. In a word, they were self-righteous.

We could easily break these attitudes down into many more categories of sin, but the point is obvious: The total of all their religious efforts was zero. Actually, Pharisaism had negative value, for the scribes and Pharisees took what people already had and made them even worse off than before!

Staff
The Weightier Matters (Part 1): Introduction


 

Matthew 24:37-39

Noah's pre-Flood contemporaries were ignorant of their spiritual wretchedness. Revelation 3 makes it plain that we can be in the same boat. Thinking we are "rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing" (verse 17), we are blind to our true spiritual state.

Charles Whitaker
A Basket of Summer Fruit


 

Mark 8:24-25

Jesus touches the man's eyes again, and this time his vision becomes completely clear. When ophthalmologists restore vision surgically today, they allow their patients only a glimmer of light at first so that the optic nerve can grow accustomed to it before being exposed to the full light of day.

Christ's significant double laying on of hands shows that His disciples, though mostly still blind (Mark 8:16-18), have begun to see. He would touch them again after His resurrection (Luke 24:44-49), opening their eyes fully to His truth. The fully restored sight proves that Jesus never leaves His work unfinished and that He performs it with excellence, the sterling attitude that should be present in all our actions and service (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

The fact of healing is seen in the simple but strong declaration, "He was restored." The wording verifies that the man was not born blind. The first exercise of his restored sight was likely to look into Jesus' face. Thus, spiritually, Christ is to be a person's initial focus when God gives understanding.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing the Blind Man from Bethsaida


 

Mark 8:26

He says, "Neither go into the town, nor tell anyone in the town," another command to keep quiet about the miracle. This was not a universal prohibition but was limited to Bethsaida. Why? Christ had done many mighty works there, but the townspeople had rejected them in unbelief. As a result, He had pronounced a woe upon them (Matthew 11:21). In Jesus' command to the healed man, Bethsaida received a mild but significant judgment for not responding to His works.

Rejection of spiritual blessing causes loss of spiritual privilege. If we do not want God in our lives, He will let us follow our free will, and He will leave. Today, the descendants of the ancient Israelites, who should know better, should beware as their legislators and courts ban God from their nations. If they continue to reject God, He will surely respond with a stern rebuke. If that happens, woe to Jacob's descendants!

We must all contemplate this judgment on Bethsaida and on all those who fail to honor their spiritual privileges. It is never too late to turn to God in repentance, even for apostate Israel. Paul writes encouragingly:

For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob." (Romans 11:25-26)

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing the Blind Man from Bethsaida


 

Luke 11:33-36

If we indeed allow God's light (John 8:12) to be placed within the lamp, us, and then do nothing with it, it is like hiding it in a secret place. This is true in our everyday experiences and within the church. This hiding of God's light is another form of spiritual myopia, and perhaps surprisingly, it concerns our relationships with and how we view others. If we become shortsighted in our relations with other people—seeing only what we want to see and not all that we should see—we can become judgmental and critical or patronizing and denigrating to others. In effect, we become the standard, the barometer, that only we know and by which we judge all others.

A common problem with the church today is this lack of light and focus on truly godly issues rather than trivial ones. Seeing only one's personal point of view has caused a general blindness within the church, spawning many of the current issues and problems. Too many members can focus only on their ideas and viewpoints, lacking the insight to see beyond the comfort of their own secret places. Even when the points such people espouse are true, their demeanor toward their brethren is often hostile and their efforts to overcome are lackluster or not based on godly principles.

We can also see elements of spiritual myopia in the independent mindset that many within the church embrace today. Looking exclusively inward, some see themselves as the only viable holders and/or purveyors of God's truth. Though they may attend with a larger group, they see themselves as independent thinkers or needing only themselves and God. Some have taken this independent spirit to the extreme of forsaking others in service and church attendance (Hebrews 10:25). They can even become quite comfortable in their own shortsighted way, wanting little or no interaction with any others who might not see things exactly as they do.

One interesting facet of Luke 11:33-36 is that Jesus alludes to the fact that not everything is distinctly black or white. Verse 35 implies that there are varying degrees of light: "Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness." All light we see is not at the same level of brightness, so some may see part of the truth but not its fullness. It can also suggest that each person may be "in the dark" on any given matter at any point in their relationship with God and others, while being "in the light" on other matters. Similarly, this can illustrate our relative levels of conversion as well.

Since we know that the true light comes only from God, any variance in intensity must come from how we see or not see something. While verse 34 treats the extremes of how we view things, whether optimistically or pessimistically, many of God's people are somewhere in the middle, like the Laodiceans "neither cold nor hot" (Revelation 3:15). Christ's wish is that we are one or the other!

Of course, the most obvious lesson of these verses is that we should desire Christ's light as our light, seeing and doing things as He would. When we fail in this, Satan's influence and dark ways can become our ways over time. We can totally lose the proper vision and allow his deceptions to blind us. We are all part way down this path; we all have our spiritual blind spots, seeing life and the church through unfocused eyes. Unfortunately, too many of us are not using the aids that would remedy our myopia and put us back on track.

Staff
Christian Myopia


 

Luke 14:18

This excuse raises some questions: Would a Jew buy land sight-unseen? If he had, how could he see what it was like in the dark? Could he not wait until morning to inspect it? Most likely, the man had seen it before buying it, but he was more concerned about his investment than in an invitation to supper. He represents those whose possessions require all their attention. He allows his physical wealth to rob him of spiritual wealth (James 5:1-3; Matthew 6:19-21). People sometimes plead that they must neglect obedience to God, justifying themselves as so pressed by the affairs of the world that they cannot find time to pray, read the Scriptures, or worship God (Matthew 13:22). This kind of thinking reveals spiritual blindness. God does not allow any excuse for neglecting His way of life, commanding us to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Great Supper


 

Luke 14:25-30

In the warnings of possible costs in Luke 9:57-62; 14:25-30, He says we must expect the loss of the respect and association with those we feel the most affection for, family members. They are not going to appreciate the changes we have made in our lives. They are yet blinded because God has not removed the veil covering their spiritual perceptions. This happens to many of us. It occurred in my relationship with my parents.

Jesus warns that our lives may become seriously unstable, as outsiders might judge it. He suggests that the convert may become somewhat itinerant, seeming to have an unsettled existence. He also suggests that following Him would put demands on our lives and time that might cut close family members to the quick, perhaps even turning them into enemies. Christ makes plain that, despite God's well-known mercy, He wants our wholehearted, unreserved loyalty with no yearning ever to turn back to our former lives. It is in meeting challenges like these that the potential costs become realities.

Though not mentioned directly here, Hebrews 11 reminds us of those who were tortured by mocking and scourging, by imprisonment, by stoning, and even by being sawn in two. Others were forced to flee for their lives, wandering destitute and tormented, barely able to clothe themselves. This may not happen to many of us now, but as matters intensify, Jesus warns that people will eventually kill Christians, thinking that they are glorifying God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Love


 

Luke 24:13-21

Luke 24 contains a noteworthy episode that occurred immediately after Christ's resurrection. It becomes even more interesting in light of a Christian living after his own symbolic resurrection, baptism. Once we commit our lives to God, we are supposed to "walk the walk." We are supposed to "walk with God" and "walk with Jesus Christ." The two men described in Luke 24 literally do this just hours after the resurrection.

Luke emphasizes the fact that movement was taking place. Reading this centuries later, we can apply it to life itself. Our life is not a static process; our lives "move" from the moment of birth to the time God calls us and we are converted and then to our last breath. When we die, we stop "walking." However, from the time of our calling, we do not walk alone—God is with us. He leads and guides us by His Spirit. He convicts us of things that will be important for His spiritual creation and for our salvation. Once this process of conviction begins, we repent and are converted. God comes to live in us by means of His Spirit—then we really are "walking with Christ." We have Christ in us!

Are we walking with Him or not?

In Luke 24, He was literally with them, walking right beside them. And they did not recognize Him (verses 15-16)! Luke specifically says "their eyes were restrained."

Even someone who had associated with Christ for a fairly long period of time, possibly even the full length of His ministry, could fail to see. We have to realize that they did not expect to see. Humans see what they expect to see. People see what they want to see and are educated to see. Unless a person makes the effort to be discerning, to think consciously about other aspects of what he is looking at, it is likely that he will not see.

Christians must consciously process the truths that they receive from God as they are involved in the circumstances of their walk with Christ. We might be walking with Christ, and He is there walking beside us, but we do not see Him. This can happen if we fail to identify the circumstances that we are experiencing in our lives with Him. The spiritual, not perceived with the five senses, is often overlooked!

So, were these disciples "blinded"? One might think so but for what Jesus Himself says in verse 25: "Then He said to them, 'O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!'"

The Greek word rendered "fool," anoeetos, means "inconsiderate" in its original sense: They failed to consider or think! Another definition is "to reason improperly." It is very similar to the Hebrew nabal of the Old Testament. Jesus is telling them that they are not properly applying their minds. His rebuke also carries with it a moral reproach, describing "one who does not govern his mind."

When we read Christ's next rebuke, it becomes crystal clear that they simply did not believe! Even though they had been taught, they did not believe the things that appeared in the Old Testament describing the Messiah and His resurrection. They did not see the Christ, who stood right next to them, because they did not expect to see Him! Thus, Christ not only calls them "fools," suggesting that He expected them to be able to identify Him, but He also calls them "slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken," which intensifies His judgment that they were not spiritually alert. Thus, He feels it necessary to teach them the basics once again (verses 26-27).

In verse 21, the two men are in the midst of giving their explanation of the events of the preceding week to Christ. They say, "But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel." Their hope was really nothing more than a wish. It is significant that their response mentions nothing about having their trust in Him. The reason for this is that they were not using their faith or belief. A wide gulf separates "hoping" and "trusting." While hoping may consist of just a desire for something, trusting requires a person to believe confidently, make choices, and patiently endure.

When these two disciples finally saw Jesus, when they perceived who was with them, everything that they had experienced—including the crucifixion and resurrection—made sense (verses 31-32). The point is this: If we see God working in our lives, then everything God is doing with us will begin to "come together." It may not happen all at once as with these men, but if we can see God involved in the circumstances of our lives as we walk with Jesus Christ, then it will give shape and form to our lives in a way that we would never have otherwise! Things will make sense, and we will see them in their proper perspective.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Do You See God? (Part Two)


 

Luke 24:28-30

The scripture does not indicate that God in any way forcefully closed their eyes. Yet, something occurred—maybe it was the way that He did a particular act, something with which they were familiar, say, an idiosyncrasy in the way He broke bread. Nevertheless, they were eating, and He took a loaf of bread and broke it in such a way that the lights went on in their minds! They recognized who they were talking to.

John W. Ritenbaugh
We Are Unique!


 

John 8:42-43

They had no ear for Christ's word. Why? Because their disobedience had blinded and deafened them to the truth (Psalm 111:10). Right and wrong had become so blurred in their minds they could hardly tell the difference.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 2)


 

John 8:43-47

They had literal ears, of course, but that is not what He meant. They heard the sounds, and the sounds formed into words, and words were comprehended to some degree, but they did not really relate to what He was saying. His words just did not hit the right chords so that they could make the right use of them. Jesus says in some exasperation, "Why do you not understand?" Then He goes on to explain why.

He explains, "You are unable to hear what I say." He is implying that the problem is inherent. It was as if He were speaking in one language, and they were hearing in another, so that what He said was totally incomprehensible to them.

John 8 deals with freedom or liberty. These people were in bondage, a kind of slavery, and they did not even know it. They said, "We have never been in bondage." They had a measure of political liberty, but even then, they were under the heel of the Romans. They had a certain amount of freedom, which they apparently considered enough for what they needed for their lives. Ordinarily, the Roman way was, once a nation was crushed, to give the people certain liberties, as long they behaved themselves.

We can see that Jesus was speaking of one thing, yet they understood it in an entirely different way. He was speaking within spiritual parameters concerning the Kingdom of God. They were hearing within political parameters, and thinking about the here and now. It just did not jive.

They became this way just as we do: They lived and operated in a world of lies. This is why Jesus mentions Satan, that he was a murderer and a liar from the very beginning. All the ways of this world - which seem to be so right carnally - are really nothing but behaviors founded upon deceptions, distortions, and falsehoods. To somebody reared in such a deceived environment, the truth of God comes out as so much gibberish. The mind simply does not relate.

John W. Ritenbaugh
We Are Unique!


 

John 9:1-38

As his gospel begins, the apostle John writes that Jesus Christ "came to His own, and His own did not receive Him" (John 1:11). That He "came to His own" describes the content of John 9, where we find Him healing a man born blind (John 9:1-38). Chapters 9-12 emphasize Jesus' calling out a people of His own in the midst of, and in spite of, growing hostility from Jewish authorities. As His own people are rejecting him, Christ begins to call out a new people, first exemplified by the story of His calling of the blind man.

This miracle, which John alone relates, occurs in a conspicuous setting. The sixth of eight miracles recorded in his gospel, it is an illustration of the previous day's significant affirmation of Jesus as "the Light of the world" (John 8:12). He is the Light of divine salvation that overcomes the darkness of man's moral and physical blindness. Thus, as the Light, He gave sight to a blind man.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Man Born Blind (Part One)


 

John 9:1-5

The first lesson to be learned from this miracle is that sinful man cannot frustrate God. Rather, God accomplishes His purposes sovereignly, saving by grace those whom He chooses to call to Himself. Even man's hatred cannot frustrate God, seen clearly in this miracle story. Jesus seems undisturbed by the religious leaders' attempt to stone Him, an action that would have created great turmoil in the Temple precincts. Yet, a moment later, after Jesus had removed Himself, we find Him stopping beside a blind beggar sitting near the Temple gate. In a similar situation, most of us would scarcely have seen the beggar, being more concerned with being pursued and distancing ourselves from the enemy. Not Jesus!

He had God's perspective and acted accordingly. Therefore, instead of complying with the prohibitions of sinful men, Christ simply perseveres in His task and begins to elect some to salvation. As Paul writes of God in Romans 9:15, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."

The poor blind man symbolizes the state of the lost apart from the creative and transforming power of Christ. On the one hand, the rulers of the people, the Pharisees, can see physically but are spiritually blind. On the other, the blind man cannot see physically, but Christ makes him see both physically and spiritually. By the end of the story, we find him worshipping Jesus as the Son of God.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Man Born Blind (Part One)


 

John 9:1-41

The miracle of healing displays Jesus Christ giving sight to the blind. Healing is a work of the God of the Old Testament, as seen in Psalm 146:8, "The LORD opens the eyes of the blind . . ." (see also Exodus 4:10-12). Giving sight to the blind is also a work of the Messiah, as prophesied in Isaiah 35:4-5, "He will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened. . . ." Jesus' healing of the man born blind, then, is another testimony of His Deity and of the fact that He is the Messiah.

In spite of this great testimony, most of the witnesses missed the miracle's message, and the religious leaders persecuted the newly healed man. Moreover, they condemned the Healer, Jesus Christ, calling Him a sinner. Greater blindness existed in their lives than in the man Christ healed; he was only physically blind but their blindness was spiritual, of the heart and mind.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Man Born Blind (Part Two)


 

John 9:25-29

The healed man readily acknowledges his ignorance but then adds, “One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25). Despite not knowing of Jesus, he is certain that He had changed him. In this, he becomes a type of genuine Christians. They do not know everything, but what they know they truly know because they have met and accepted Jesus personally as Lord and Savior.

Unlike the others, the man humbly begins with his limitations in knowledge. Both the parents and Pharisees say “we know” first and only after they declare what they do not know (see verses 20-21, 24-29), revealing their cowardice or ignorance. The man first admits his ignorance but then affirms what he knows as the result of God's revelation.

In his humble state, he easily recognizes the lack of knowledge in others, in this case, the greater ignorance of the “educated” leaders of the people. Having eliminated false self-confidence as well as any unjustified confidence in the Pharisees, all that remains is what he truly knows: He could now see. Thus, he takes his stand on the certainties.

As Christians, beginning in ignorance and sin, we confess both our spiritual dependence and our failings. We realize that, unless God chooses to reveal Himself—which He does in His Word and in Christ—we can know nothing. No one can know God by means of human reasoning or by any other human instrument (Job 11:7; I Corinthians 2:14). Spiritual knowledge is not revealed even through religious tradition, but it comes through the intervention of God in history, in His written Word, and the opening of the mind by the Holy Spirit—and only to those whom God calls.

Jesus says to the once-blind man, “Do you believe in the Son of God?” Having been blind, do we now entrust our spiritual well-being to Jesus Christ?

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Man Born Blind (Part Three)


 

Acts 9:5

Before conversion, the apostle Paul was certainly well-schooled in the Scriptures, as far as the Jews could teach him. The Bible says he studied at the feet of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). He was very intelligent and incisive of mind, a man of conviction and determination. Yet, this same man God had to physically blind and thoroughly humble before he could see Him. Even though Paul had a command of the Scriptures that few people have ever had at their calling, he could not see God working in the infant Christian church.

Christ, in a mild rebuke, says to Paul on the way to Damascus, "It is hard for you to kick against the goads." We should take this reproach to heart as well because it teaches us that the carnal mind will reject the evidence that God gives, even though it is suffering and in pain. Thus, God's calling and His predisposing us to see spiritually and to identify with His Son are of no avail unless His Word becomes integrated within us.

How are we hearing God's Word? Disinterestedly? Skeptically? Cynically? Critically? Indifferently? Eagerly? Remember, "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). Hearing starts the processing of the revelation of God, and we must consciously work at it. It includes what we are "hearing" this moment, as well as what we have heard over the last six months, the past year, the past decade, and the whole time of our conversion! How are we listening? Do we follow through on the things that we hear? Unless we do, we are not hearing - and we will not truly see God!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Do You See God? (Part One)


 

Romans 2:1-3

We can often see our faults more clearly in other people, yet we usually fail to apply them to ourselves. Because our reaction is so often to criticize negatively, we usually do not see that we are guilty of the same things. If we find a certain type of behavior especially irritating in others, we may have the same problem!

To illustrate this blindness to our own sins, recall David's sin, recorded for all the world to see in II Samuel 12:1-5, when God sent Nathan to show David his sin with Bathsheba. Nathan told of a case in which a rich man who owned many sheep had stolen a poor man's pet lamb and killed it to eat for dinner. King David was outraged that anyone would be so greedy and selfish, so he pronounced the death penalty on this man. Then Nathan quietly pointed out that David had done the exact same thing when he stole Uriah's wife and sent Uriah to his death.

David was a man who, when he recognized his sin, would deeply repent. So how far his heart fell at that time, we can only imagine. He must have been devastated.

What angers us about others in God's church? Consider this carefully, since in the answer may be a clue to our secret sins. "For you who judge practice the same things."

Martin G. Collins
The Law's Purpose and Intent


 

Romans 11:2-3

God Himself has kept Israel from seeing and hearing (understanding and applying) His truth, giving Israel a spirit of slumber to make possible the salvation of the Gentiles. He has determined to call and choose only a limited number from Israel in this age, allowing the rest to remain blinded. With the rest of humanity, they will rise in the second resurrection and have the opportunity for salvation.

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: The Second Resurrection


 

1 Corinthians 2:6-9

If mankind had seen Christ, if they had clearly identified with Him, the history of the world would be exceedingly different. They did not see because, as Paul writes here, they were not mature. Mature, in this context, means "converted." He contrasts those who are able to see and those who are not able to see. Those who are able to see are those who are spiritually mature.

Even though Christ quoted—and lived—the scriptures with which most of His audience were familiar, the people did not see God working through Him. So it has always been with God's servants. Christ was not the only one. Jesus Himself testifies that these people also "kill[ed] the prophets" (Matthew 23:34-37). It is unlikely that they would have killed the prophets if they clearly saw them as God's messengers. If they believed in God and were fearful of His authority and sovereignty over His creation, they would not have dared to do it! Nevertheless, it has always been this way: Some see and some do not see.

Paul says in I Corinthians 2:7 that God's ministers "speak the wisdom of God in a mystery." This mystery is not a puzzle that is difficult to solve but "a secret impossible to penetrate." As the apostle goes on to say in succeeding verses, the world is not "all there" upstairs because they do not have God's Spirit to help them penetrate the secret. Without this vital ingredient, it is no wonder that it accepts its own and rejects the truths of God.

Paul writes in verse 9, "But as it is written: 'Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.'" Many in the world believe that the things of God are "too great" for mere humans to comprehend. We really cannot "get it" or see it. Yet, the truth is so simple to those whose eyes are open that a child can understand. The carnal mind, however, is so blinded by traditions and habits of thinking that even Christians tend to reject the things of God—even though God has converted us.

The effect of this is something like the story about the three blind Indians who were led up to an elephant. Each man touched a different part of the great beast. One held the elephant's trunk, and when asked what it was, he said, "This is a snake." The second man, holding the elephant's tail, said, "This is a rope." The third man, feeling the elephant's leg, said, "This is a tree."

This is analogous to what happens in the world. The world can perceive bits and pieces of the truth, but they cannot put it all together and see the glory of God in its whole. They cannot see God as an intrinsic—absolutely necessary—part of a person's life. They cannot see how necessary the spiritual is!

If it is seen and if it is understood, then life begins to make sense. We begin to be able to see ourselves—a single, unique individual—as a part of the whole, the awesome plan and purpose that God is working out! Then, being able to see God gives direction to our life. So our eyes have seen and our ears have heard, and "the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" has entered into our hearts.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Do You See God? (Part Two)


 

2 Corinthians 3:12-16

The veil Paul speaks of is the carnality of a deceived mind formed and shaped in the world's Satan-manipulated cultures. It is so antagonistic to the true God and His Word (Romans 8:7) that it fights the very approach of God to heal them through a great, freely given gift, just as the first-century Jews opposed and rejected Christ.

However, be aware that the miraculous removal of this veil of blindness by God, through the wonderful gifts of His Spirit and of a great hope, also places an obligation on us. With the blindness gone, we are granted the ability to choose between God's way and the world's way for the first time in our lives. Choosing to submit to God provides our witness of God, as well as being the means of building the character God greatly desires to create within us.

However, the effects of the self-centered way of life we have absorbed through the course of this world remain in our attitudes and characters, becoming what must be overcome. It will dog us all our converted lives as a means of testing our determination to be in God's Kingdom, as well as our love and loyalty to our God and Savior.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Communication and Leaving Babylon (Part Three)


 

2 Corinthians 4:4

By blinding the minds of men to the true gospel of God, Satan has set himself up as a counterfeit of the Creator God. As the prince of the power of the air, he broadcasts his evil, rebellious attitudes to all humanity, and except for a few whom God has called out of his deceptions, the whole world lives under his sway (Ephesians 2:1-3; I John 5:19; Revelation 12:9).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Basic Doctrines: Satan's Origin and Destiny


 

1 Thessalonians 5:6

The advice given to the Christian is to watch. While asleep, one cannot watch. The Greek word for "watch" can be better translated "alert," and the word for "sober" is more correctly "self-controlled." So Paul advises, "Let us be alert and self-controlled." In other words, while all of the distractions of this world spin dizzyingly around us, we have to be alert to their appeal and controlled enough to discipline ourselves to prioritize in the right way.

Though such a task is not easy, we must forcibly set our wills to pay attention to those eternal things that are more important. If we fail in this task, we may begin conducting our lives in darkness, and living in darkness leads eventually to spiritual blindness. It is vital to our spiritual health to remain alert and self-controlled!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

2 Thessalonians 2:10-12

These people will perish because of a self-imposed delusion, a blindness that strikes those who refuse to love the truth. They may not refuse to accept truth, but they do not love it—they are not dedicated to it.

A dedicated person gives himself to the object of his love just as two people in love dedicate themselves to each other until they are one. The people described in these verses are perishing because, though they have been given truth, they do not love it enough to give themselves to it. For whatever their personal reasons, they prefer to tolerate lies, following their leaders to destruction.

Without sufficient dedication to truth to obey except haphazardly or lethargically, understanding begins to wane. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments" (Psalm 111:10).

John W. Ritenbaugh
'I'll Never Follow Another Man!'


 

2 Timothy 2:26

It is important to realize who the apostle Paul is writing about in this verse. The antecedent of "they" appears in the previous verse: "those who are in opposition." The entire epistle is instruction for the evangelist Timothy, and in this passage in particular, Paul is giving the younger man advice on how to handle those who dispute the gospel message he taught.

He instructs Timothy, as "a servant of the Lord," to correct his opponents with humility and in the hope of two positive outcomes should God grant repentance to them. First, his correct explanation of the matter in contention would bring them out of their ignorance, liberating them from the bondage of error (John 8:32) and opening the potentialities of the truth to them. Paul was very aware that false teachers and anti-Christian foes functioned with a veil over their minds (see, for instance, how he explains it regarding the Jews in II Corinthians 3:14-16; Matthew 15:14), a blindness that could only be lifted by the direct intervention of God revealing Himself and His truth by the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 2:10-14; John 6:44). A minister of God should always answer naysayers plainly with the revealed truth of God to give them the knowledge that may lead to their repentance.

The second positive outcome is the subject of II Timothy 2:26. He hopes that exposure to the truth will bring opponents "to their senses" and free them from their captivity to Satan. The apostle realizes that even the most cunning argument of one of God's servants is not enough to accomplish this; a person's repentance and acceptance of the truth will happen only if God "flips a switch" in his mind by the Holy Spirit to become receptive to Him. So a minister must present the truth in the event that God will use his explanation to call him into a relationship with Him. It is only at this point that an individual truly comes to his senses (see Luke 15:17; Acts 9:3-20). Only then does he begin to see without the blinders (or in Paul's own case, when the scales fell from his eyes).

Once one accepts the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and acknowledges Him as personal Savior and Lord, the walls of Satan's prison fall away and crumble to dust (see Romans 6:16-22). His power over us disappears because his claim on us has been removed; our sins have been forgiven and we are no longer in rebellion against God. We have gone over to the other side in the great spiritual war that the Devil has always been destined to lose. The Captain of our salvation has already crushed the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15), and all that remains is the perfection of the saints for their roles in the Kingdom of God.

However, there are yet billions of people who are still "captive . . . to do his will." Revelation 12:9 states that the great dragon, who is the Devil and Satan, has deceived the whole world. Despite his ignominious defeat at Calvary, Satan is determined to turn it into victory. In his pride, he still thinks he can win! So he will continue to oppose God and His people wherever and whenever he can, using his captives all over the world to trouble, persecute, and kill God's saints. This reality means that Christians must remain on their guard at all times, prepared to "fight the good fight" (II Timothy 4:7) to wear the crown of victory in the Kingdom.

Finally, we must remember that our fight is really not against the men and women still enslaved to Satan, although they are the faces and voices that oppose us. Paul writes:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Ephesians 6:12-13)

We need to look beyond our physical opponents to the evil spirits behind them, realizing that our human foes have not yet come to their senses and seen the light of the truth that only God can reveal. Thus, we can contend with them in humility and gentleness, grateful for the grace God has extended to us.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh


 

James 3:2-10

For years, I read these scriptures, and I always thought, "I'm not starting forest fires with my words. I'm not viciously devouring people like a roaring beast. I can take this in stride and not worry so much about examining this. After all, these examples are for the extremes: the Adolf Hitlers, the serial criminal minds, the hardened and bitter sinners who retreat from humanity. This isn't me!"

God sometimes focuses our minds on the things we are guilty of by allowing us to experience the same behaviors from others. David did not see himself as he was behaving and affecting others until Nathan described to him another man's behavior (II Samuel 12:1-4). David was so outraged by the man's gross actions and attitude that he, as king, declared the death penalty on him (verses 5-6). Had this been an actual individual, chances are David would have pursued the matter to see the man brought to justice! However, the man he judged as worthy of death was none other than himself (verse 7).

We experience similar lessons. We are at times brought into the company of people who are offensive to us, whose behavior hurts us, and whose words can cut us and wound us, because something in the experience will teach us what we need to learn. God is allowing us to experience ourselves.

We chuckle at times, observing how someone known for gossiping will howl in dismay when he is gossiped about, or how a person often critical of others is intolerant of criticism directed toward himself. We say about teasing, "Don't give it unless you can take it!" Similarly, we enjoy people who are warm and friendly, and we feel warm and friendly when we are around them. Happy people tend to attract other happy people, while bitter or angry people often find another unhappy person with whom they can share their complaints.

A deeper principle can be employed here: If we look at others' behaviors, we can learn to see ourselves. Job's friends had this opportunity. They saw Job going through his calamities, how miserable he was, and in their care for him, they did their best to find his fault and help him solve his dilemma. In the end, God simply dismissed these three friends and all their long-winded speeches because they failed to recognize the very thing God gave them opportunity to see: They failed to see themselves in Job.

Job was not singled out for this experience because he was Job. He represents mankind, blinded by himself and unable to see the reality of God. Even today, many centuries later, we examine the life and thoughts of Job in an effort to see ourselves in his shoes; we try to learn from his experience by exposing the same faults within us. This aids us by allowing us both to see what we might miss and to change what is incompatible with our Creator.

How often do these opportunities emerge for us to see ourselves in the actions of others? In the past decade, we have had many opportunities to witness the effects of deceitful men upon trusting and unsuspecting people. We have seen people shift allegiances and loyalties but deny doing so by their words. We have seen couples speak words of lifelong devotion only to cast them aside for a new attraction. We have seen friends and family who expressed the deepest of commitments to one another both deny those relationships and turn against one another. We have seen hearts broken by sarcasm and neglect. We have seen the crushing effects of criticism upon those needing reassurance and encouragement.

Most of us do not escape life without being deeply touched by such actions from others. But how incredibly sobering it is to see ourselves in these actions of others, to realize that we are guilty of the very things that may have hurt us deeply! We, too, are responsible for spreading the flames of a fire that devours and destroys all in its path. The evil of our tongues is as limitless as the evil James describes.

A sharp tongue is a weapon, no less as effective as a pointed spear or a sword honed to a razor's edge. A sharp tongue has no place among the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). It does not express love, spread joy or promote peace. It shows no patience, kindness or goodness in its words. It betrays faithfulness and gentleness, and most of all, it shows no measure of self-control.

My sharp tongue has been a contradiction to the convictions I have expressed nearly all my life. I never saw it until I had to come face to face with the jabs, slices, and pricks of other sharp tongues, and to feel the fires they started within me. I would beg the Father for understanding, of why such communication should exist and why I should receive it with such bitterness—until I finally saw, as David did, that I am the guilty one.

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part One)


 

1 John 2:8-11

Life without love is death because it is a life of selfishness, the opposite of what God is. John says it is like being blindfolded and having blurred judgment besides. Yet we have the love of God; He has shed it abroad in our hearts by His Spirit (Romans 5:5). This is not an abstract love for people in distant lands but is toward and for those with whom we have daily contact. God's love not only enables us to make progress in His way, it is the solution to the murder problem.

Hatred, the spirit of murder, destroys fellowship with God and man. If one has hatred toward another, it proves he does not love God. God is love. No one with the spirit of murder within him is in the image of God. Such an attitude must be overcome, for no murderer will enter His Kingdom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part One) (1997)


 

1 John 2:10-17

Remember that John's epistle is written to church members. Therefore, he frames matters in absolute terms, offering no middle ground regarding sin and one's relationships with God and fellow man. It must be this way because this is our one and only opportunity for salvation, and sin was what cut us off from God in the first place, causing us to need salvation. We do not want to fall into that position again. Sin is serious business!

Regarding our moral and spiritual conduct, we must recognize that there is no twilight zone, especially in our relationship with God. A Christian cannot muddle around morally or spiritually, thinking that sin is a rather minor affair. It cost Jesus His life! In this relationship, which is in reality preparation for a marriage, love and loyalty are extremely important.

John spells matters out as either light or darkness, love or hatred, all absolutes. Where love is absent, hatred rules in darkness. Where love prevails, there is light. Through the word "darkness," John is disclosing that, because of the sin or hatred, a lack of love for a brother, the relationship with God declines. Notice in verse 11 that the sin John mentions is against a brother, meaning a fellow church member. Hatred is not a trifling matter! Later, in I John 3:15, John says that one who hates his brother is a murderer. What is the result? A relationship is broken, and communication with the brother ends.

Even more serious, we find that the sin also involves one's relationship with God because the effect of that sin is a measure of spiritual blindness. The hater grows insensitive to or hardened against spiritual truth.

Paul reinforces what John teaches, writing in Hebrews 3:12-13, "Beware brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called 'Today,' lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." He warns that sin has a deceptive quality. It promises so much even before it actually becomes an act of conduct, but it delivers far short of its promise. Its truly sneaky aspect is its powerful tendency to lure us into further sin, enslaving us and hardening our minds against righteousness. In other words, it shares characteristics with drugs in that it is addictive or enslaving, destroying one's well-being.

Herein lies the cause of the apostle John's concern in I John 2. God is the source of spiritual truth (light), and we are sanctified as His children and to His service by it because we believe it. However, under the sin of hating, communication with God begins to break down, and consequently, the sinner puts himself in peril of falling completely away. Notice in I John 2:13-14, John mentions that the fathers - those in the congregation older in the faith - have known the Father. He appeals to them to exercise their longstanding, mature leadership within the congregation in a right manner.

The word "known" ties John's thoughts directly with Jesus' words in John 17:3. Knowing God, having an intimate relationship with Him, is the key to living a life - called "eternal life" - which will be acceptable for living in the Kingdom of God. Hating a brother actually cuts the sinner off from the Source of the gifts and strengths necessary to live that quality of life. In other words, the sinner is not properly using what God has already given him and is showing disloyalty both to God and to another member of the Family.

Beginning in verse 15, John pens three of the more notable verses in his writings. When considered in context, they should be scary stuff for a Christian. Why does he command us not to love the world? Because the sinner's conduct exhibited in his hatred of his brother reveals the source of communication prompting his sin! John exposes the communication to which the hater is responding.

Under no circumstance would God ever communicate the sin of hatred toward a brother. Besides, James confirms that God tempts no one (James 1:13). John is warning that the person's affections are drawing him away from God and toward the world, and he had better do something about it before he slips completely back into the world.

This also connects to John 1:5. "And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." Darkness symbolizes the spiritual blindness of Satan's unconverted world. In the book of Revelation, this blindness is represented by Babylon the Great. Satan's world simply does not get it, that is, spiritual truth. Because it cannot grasp God's truths, the only spirituality the world can ultimately communicate is inducement to sin, which it does insistently and attractively.

This leads us back to God's illustration regarding Adam, Eve, and Satan. Satan is the god of this world (II Corinthians 4:4), and thus its spiritual leader and governing principle. He persuaded Adam and Eve to sin. So the only way we can come out of the world is to reverse the process that placed us in the world in the first place: to stop sinning. One can phrase it more positively as to yield to God's will rather than Satan's or to God's communication rather than this world's.

We could never leave the world on our own. God must mercifully deliver us by calling us. We do not understand the mechanics of what He actually does in our minds, but in calling us, He miraculously does something to begin leading us to think of matters in relation to God with a clarity of understanding and intensity that we never before experienced. It is almost as if we suddenly understood a foreign language.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Communication and Leaving Babylon (Part Three)


 

Jude 1:13

Jude continues the nautical theme begun in verse 12 by calling the false ministers "raging waves of the sea." He describes them as storms in the church, causing trouble and turbulence wherever they go. James describes the doubting person in a similar way (James 1:6-8), as wind-tossed waves, double-minded, and unstable in everything. Such people will end up causing problems. Such waves toss people into hidden rocks, or as his brother Jude puts it, hidden reefs. Naive members can become caught in the turbulence and eventually be turned from the truth.

He then describes them as "foaming up their own shame." It is quite a picturesque phrase. He alludes to the foam on the beach after a storm. The strand is littered with all kinds of driftwood and other debris a storm can dredge up. They brag about their past feats as great accomplishments, but a godly eye sees them for what they are: shameful deeds.

He also calls them "wandering stars," another nautical allusion, this time to the movement of the planets. Mariners used the fixed stars - not the planets - to guide their ships over the trackless sea. They would align themselves toward a certain star to reach their destination. These teachers are supposed to be leaders, guides for those who are not as experienced on the road of life, but as we would say, they are all over the map! They go here and there, this way and that. It is the blind leading the blind, and anyone following them will fall into a ditch (Matthew 15:14). They are unreliable guides. They give horrible advice. They are not worth even talking to about one's problems because they will lead a person astray.

Jude foretells their fate at the end of the verse: "for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever." The literal translation of this is really dark: "Their fate is the utter darkness of darkness for eternity." Lights out forever! James 3:1 says that those who are teachers will receive the stricter judgment, and this is an example of it: the utter darkness of darkness forever. God takes the deception of His people personally.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

Revelation 3:14-22

The seventh and last of the attitudes within the church, Laodiceanism is the attitude that dominates the era of the end time. It seems more natural to think that this attitude would be the least likely to dominate in such terrible times—that it ought to be obvious that the return of Christ is near. Though it seems contradictory for the church to become lukewarm during such a stimulating period, Christ prophesies that it will occur. It indicates the power of Babylon! Spiritually, she is so very alluring. To our eyes, the world may look ugly, but its spiritual charm distracts us from more important things. Why does Babylon dominate the church in the end time? It dominates the world, and the Christian permits it to dominate him!

In August 1987, a well-known evangelist in the church of God said, "You would be surprised how often the Work internally mirrors the world externally. I don't think we realize how often this is true." Why? Church members bring the world's ways into the body. Laodiceanism is so subtle that those who seemingly are best-equipped to detect it are blind to it! This is Christ's major concern for these people. It is not only that they are Laodicean, but also that they are blind to their own state!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 3:14-22

Laodicea is spiritually blind and filled with self-righteousness, things that are revealed primarily in their attitudes and actions. They say they "have need of nothing." The relationship, for all intent and purposes, seems to be forgotten. If any person has no need of God or Christ or of anything, it is because they really think highly of themselves.

They are not saying this verbally; Christ is reading their actions. Notice that He does not even tell them to "hold fast." Maybe there is nothing left to hold fast to. He simply exhorts them to repent because they have so little remaining of what they received and heard in the past. There is apparently virtually nothing to hold on to?almost nothing to be faithful to.

The name Laodicea means "people ruling." If we take this name to be indicative of their condition, then the name clearly indicates that God is no longer running their lives. They are simply doing their own thing while still professing to believe.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 3:15-19

Obviously, these people are not meeting the conditions of their relationship with God even though they are His children. Their lackadaisical, wishy-washy, self-righteous attitudes and self-absorbed, self-satisfied lives are totally unacceptable to Him. He casts them from His presence and commands them to change their ways. There is no covering for the conduct of their lives here.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Two): The Burnt Offering


 

Revelation 3:15-17

They did not even see their need because, in their pride, they were far from poor in spirit. They felt secure in what they were. They were not asking God to fill them with love, goodness, generosity, kindness, wisdom, and faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Fervency


 

Revelation 3:15-17

Sadly, this is the direction that the church is prophesied to move as the end approaches. A fairly close parallel exists between the Laodicean and Ephesian conditions. Laodiceans are essentially without a proper feeling for God and His truths, and it has reached the point where they feel as though they no longer need them.

None of this means, though, that Laodiceans are lazy people. They are rich and increased with goods, and people do not become wealthy by sitting on their duffs. Revelation 3 suggests that their strong feelings and vigor are for the wrong things, and certainly not godly things. Therefore, they are without proper convictions concerning the things of God. They are apathetic, drifting, and spiritually blind. How difficult is it for a blind person to navigate through a world loaded with obstacles of all kinds? They must step very gingerly for fear of running into things, and undoubtedly, they would run into things.

The Laodicean is not making progress toward the Kingdom of God. He has stopped and in many cases—just like the Ephesians—he is sliding backwards. He must overcome his apathy for the things of God and begin to care deeply for the things he claims to believe.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Hebrews: A Message for Today


 

Revelation 3:17

The Laodicean may not necessarily say these things consciously, but he broadcasts it for all to see by his works and way of life! He thinks he lives in his "golden years." Being blind to his own spiritual poverty, however, is the real tragedy of his situation. He thinks he is in good standing with God. Christ judges differently, very concerned that the Laodicean cannot see his spiritual condition. He is spiritually bereft.

Christ describes the Laodicean as "poor." Biblically, "poor" does not mean the same as our normal English usage of the word. It indicates someone who is weak, with no consideration of how wealthy he may be. To God, the Laodicean is spiritually weak, when he thinks he is strong.

Next, he is "blind." Of course, this is not physical blindness but a lack of spiritual comprehension or judgment. Just as a blind person cannot use his eyes to judge a circumstance, the Laodicean is unaware, unknowing, unobservant, uncomprehending, and heedless.

Christ also judges him as "naked." Clothing—or its lack—illustrates a person's state of righteousness, and here it shows converted people who are still carnal, as Paul called the Corinthians (I Corinthians 3:3). The Laodicean is dominated by his fleshly attitudes. Physically oriented, he is governed by human nature, rather than by God.

"Wretched and miserable" together provide further descriptions of "poor, blind, and naked." Because they are poor, blind, and naked, they are wretched and miserable, even though they have not realized it. Miserable has been translated elsewhere as "pitiful" or "pitiable." Wretched is especially interesting. In other places in the New Testament, it indicates destitution because of war. God means that while they may be wealthy, they are losing the spiritual war against Satan and their carnal nature.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 3:17

How close this is in principle to what the Pharisee says in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:9-14)! Oblivious to his spiritual poverty, the Pharisee chooses to compare himself to humans he can see rather than the holy God to whom he supposedly prays in faith. Notice also his conceit in listing his wonderful works of tithing and fasting!

Though the Laodicean is indifferent, lackadaisical, and inconsistent in his devotion to God, his ignorance of his spiritual condition reveals a fundamental flaw that undergirds his lukewarm condition and paralyzes his spiritual life. The Laodicean says he is rich, but Christ's revelation shatters that delusion. He completely misreads his spiritual condition! He thinks he is already complete, thus he is indifferent to growing and changing. So great is his conceit that it blinds him into saying he needs nothing!

This self-deception results in inconsistency in prayer and Bible Study and nonchalance in overcoming. Why do those exercises when he has no need? His relationship to Jesus Christ is distant and insipid. Would we want to be married to a person who could take us or leave us depending upon his momentary mood? No wonder Christ reacts so severely! The Laodicean's self-perceived "wealth" is a barrier to any meaningful relationship with Him (Proverbs 18:11).

A Laodicean is poor—really and truly poor—yet all the while thinking himself to be rich. He is unwilling to jettison anything, let alone everything in a whole-hearted search for God. Undoubtedly, he has knowledge about God and thinks this is the true religion, but it is plain that he does not know God. If he did, he would not be so blind to his poverty because he could compare himself to God's holiness, and his shortcomings would be exposed. He is intelligent, but he mistakes his intelligence for true wisdom. Christ may even have given him gifts for ministering to the church in some way, but he mistakenly judges them as grace toward salvation. He is blind yet has the light of God's truth in him—remember, this is written to converted people—but the light is turning to darkness. How great that darkness must be!

To be wretched describes life when everything one owns has been destroyed or plundered by war. Here it describes the Laodicean's spiritual destitution and pitiableness before God. He is being devastated in the spiritual war against Satan, even though to all outward appearances he may look well-clothed, well-fed, and vigorous in carrying out his daily, secular responsibilities.

How careful Christians must be in this time when the world and Satan are pressing their distractions upon us as never before! We cannot allow ourselves to be deluded into negligently or carelessly cheating ourselves out of so great salvation (Hebrews 2:1-3).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Two: Poor in Spirit


 

Revelation 3:17-19

The Laodicean's problem is that he does not even grasp that he is one, nor does he seriously consider the possibility. He really believes he is Philadelphian. He is blind to his nakedness and instructed to salve his eyes so he might see. This should cause anyone who considers himself a Philadelphian to take a long, hard look at himself in the light of Scripture. Could we be deceiving ourselves about our true state? Jesus Christ says so. It is somewhat paradoxical, but in this day of scattering and chastening, if we think we are of Philadelphia, we are probably Laodicean. If we think we are Laodicean, we may be waking up and beginning to see our faults. If we do something about them, we will be donning garments of true righteousness.

Staff
The Seven Churches: Laodicea


 

Revelation 3:17-19

God is willing to go to great lengths to get our attention and get us to turn so that we will buy gold refined in the fire, get proper white garments, and anoint our eyes with eye salve. He is trying to get us to repent, which is what chastening is all about.

The Laodicean has the same problem. He is blind to God at work in his life and in the lives of others. Why? Because he is busy doing something else. The Laodicean is not lazy; he is instead distracted with busyness, with this world, with getting ahead in life, with everything else rather than what he should be involved in—the things of God.

God wants him to be zealous, but not at making money, not at building his house, not at flitting off to various vacations, not at filling his social calendar. No, God wants him to be zealous for Him!

However, a Laodicean pretends to be righteous. Like Balaam, he has built a façade. Externally, he looks like a good guy, and righteous too, but all the while, inside he is something else: He is totally hypocritical. This is one of the Laodicean's problems. He is so focused on other things—usually his own well-being—that he cannot see God. Since he has everything all figured out, and all his needs and many of his desires are met, he in his heart of hearts believes that he really does not need God!

Christ's advice to the Laodicean is to get eye salve so he can see. It is not so that he can see other people or other things, but so he can specifically see God! He also wants him to produce righteousness, so he can put on that white clothing representing pure character—so he can "purchase" the spiritual riches that actually mean something, the heavenly treasure Jesus speaks about in Matthew 6:20.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Balaam and the End-Time Church (Part 2)


 

Revelation 3:17

This verse reveals an additional problem that magnifies the Laodiceans' dangerous condition due to their indifference. They are ignorant of their real spiritual condition.

We are given two opposing evaluations in verses 14-17. One is from the all-wise, all-seeing God, while the other is from material and spiritually weak men. Laodicea means "judgment of the people," which could apply to either the people's judgment of themselves or of God's judgment of them. The Laodicean saw what he amassed materially and saw much. God saw what was amassed spiritually and saw little. Each judge looked for what was most important to him and thus made contrasting judgments.

This should tell us a great deal about the Laodicean. His heart is focused on material things, even though he had been given the most precious spiritual knowledge that could be given to a human being.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 3:18

Gold, clothing, and eye salve represent the three major industries of Laodicea: banking, textiles, and medicines.

Gold, spiritual riches (I Peter 1:7), contrasts with the word "poor," and fire symbolizes trial. God advises them to obtain spiritual riches produced through trials, which the self-sufficient Laodicean avoids by compromising.

"White garments" contrast with their nakedness. Clothing helps us to distinguish people and groups. Because of the differences between men and women's clothing, sexual distinctions can be made. Clothes reveal status: A man in a well-tailored suit falls into a different category than a beggar in rags. Clothing provides a measure of comfort and protection from the elements. It hides shame and deformity. Biblically, God uses it to symbolize righteousness (Revelation 19:8). He instructs the Laodicean to dress himself in the holiness of God to cover his spiritual nakedness, self-righteousness.

Their need of eye salve contrasts with their blindness. Commentators understand it to represent God's Spirit coupled with obedience. The combination of the two gives a Christian the ability to see - to understand spiritual things. "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 the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God" (I Corinthians 2:10-11). "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments" (Psalms 111:10).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 3:20

The illustration at the end of the letter to Laodicea is striking. Our Lord stands at the door knocking. Christ then says, "If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." But what does the passage indicate about the Laodicean at this point? Since he cannot hear His Savior's voice, his mind must be focused on something else!

This is a common occurrence in our lives today. Concentrating deeply on a job or a project, our minds can block out sounds and movement around us. Some people never seem to hear someone calling them when their noses are stuck between the pages of a book!

Just describing this ability another way, Jesus judges the Laodicean to be blind. Paul uses a different metaphor in I Thessalonians 5:4-8, saying that he is in the dark. Spiritually, blindness and living in darkness are much the same. How good is one's judgment when he cannot see? Living in darkness is the equivalent of being morally insensitive or unstable, that is, not knowing right from wrong.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 3:20

Laodiceanism is not the end of the world. It can be overcome. Those who wake up to what Christ is saying here, who really hear Him, will overcome this spiritual blindness, nakedness, and self-deception and sit with Him on His throne in His glorious Kingdom!

Staff
The Seven Churches: Laodicea


 

Find more Bible verses about Spiritual blindness:
Spiritual blindness {Nave's}
 




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