Retraining the Hair on the Back of the Deacon’s Neck, Part 2

As I concluded my previous post, I could fairly hear the deacons in the audience shouting, “Just because the hair on the back of your neck stands up, how do you know it’s right?”

That’s a good question.  There has to be some norm, some standard by which to measure.

There is.  It’s called the Bible, and one of the things it teaches us is this: who the hearer is will determine what he hears.  If this sounds subjective to you, that’s because in a sense, it is.  But it’s entirely biblical: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” as Jesus often said.  This saying teaches us that there is such a thing as having ears to hear, and such a thing as not having ears to hear.  The person with ears and the person without ears are both standing in front of Jesus, and both hear the same parable…but only the one with ears to hear really hears it, after all. The same propositional content for both, but one understands and the other does not.

Nor is understanding, or failing to, the full range of outcomes.  The same content can convey two opposite messages to two different people, as Paul tells us:

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.  For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.  To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?

We carry the gospel on our lips and in our lives, and this bespeaks death to those who are perishing, but life to those who are being saved.  It’s the same content, but different messages are received because the hearers are different.  This is obvious with a little reflection: “Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion” is gospel to God’s people, but chains and a rod of iron to those who will not kiss the Son.

This is to say that there is no substitute for walking with God and being conformed to the image of His Son.  As we do this, we will find that He makes us able to see and hear what would otherwise be invisible and inaudible to us.  All of which returns us to the question: how will we know when this is happening?

Two blind men are standing on a hill, looking out at a sunset.  Suddenly, one of the blind men is healed entirely, and the sunset bursts in on him.  “I can see!  I can see!” he shouts.

“How do you know?” asks his still blind companion.


4 Responses to Retraining the Hair on the Back of the Deacon’s Neck, Part 2

  1. Sanc says:

    Another excellent concept in this post. The more frequently I re-read it, the more I hear this truth from scripture. You were talking about hearing and justification but I’m wondering about hearing and sanctification. Is there a greater [i]capacity[/i] to hear God the more we press into the presence of Christ? I believe there is.

    Thanks Tim,

  2. Tim Nichols says:

    I was actually talking about both justification and sanctification, and I agree with you. It’s not so much an off/on switch as a dimmer switch kind of thing; the more open your eyes, the more you can see. The blind/sighted man example applies to seeing a specific point or in a specific way, but there are many such points to see, and it’s possible to see one point and be totally blind to another. It’s in the nature of progressive sanctification that acquiring vision is a gradual thing.


  3. Danny says:

    Hi Tim. This is completely unrelated to this post. I wanted your thoughts on 1 Peter 3:21. We know it’s talking about water baptism because Peter draws an analogy between water baptism and the waters that Noah went through. In light of verse 16, the passage in question seems to imply that the appeal to God made at water baptism for a good conscience saves one from a guilty conscience. Just as the ark saved Noah and took him through the waters to the new world, the appeal made at baptism takes us through the water into a good conscience. It’s either that or baptismal regeneration. Or perhaps, since all Christians in the first century were baptized immediately, no one thought of splitting faith from baptism, and Peter could thus make the statement that baptism saves from sin. In Acts 19:2, when Paul asks John’s disciples if they received the Holy Spirit when they believed, they reveal that they were unaware there was a Holy Spirit. Then in verse 3, he asks them what they were baptized into, which seems to imply that there was no delay between faith and baptism. Paul couldn’t envision separating the two because they were conjoined. He couldn’t fathom anyone believing but not being baptized because things weren’t done that way.

    I’m Free Grace, but this passage and Acts 2:38 and 22:16 are hammering me. Glickman and Hodges’ fellowship forgiveness view seems a little desperate. Hodges argues that Acts 2:37 shows that they were already regenerated since they were cut to the heart when they heard Jesus was now Lord and Christ. Zane argued that they would have understood the title of Christ to refer to the giver of eternal life like we find in the Gospel of John (11:25-27, 20:31, etc.) The problem is that Peter’s audience may not have understood the title “Christ” to refer to the giver of eternal life. The Jews already had conflicting views of what the role of the “Christ” would be. We need to be careful about equating Luke and John. We should let John be John and Luke be Luke.

    I need help!

  4. Tim Nichols says:

    I actually just taught a 6-message series on baptism earlier this year, and I’m happy to help. However, that’s a can of worms I’m not going to open in a blog comment thread. Email me through my Contact page, and we’ll discuss it.


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