Once upon a time, Jesus met a guy who had lived his whole life in darkness–literally. The man had been born blind. The disciples speculated that it was some kind of curse on his sin, or maybe his parents sin, but no. Not at all. He was put there, Jesus said, so that the works of God could be revealed in him. Jesus went on to say, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Then Jesus did the craziest thing — He spat on the ground and made mud, and put it on the guy’s eyes. He told the guy to go away–go wash in the pool of Siloam.
So the guy met Jesus, and Jesus didn’t tell him anything about eternal life or Messiah or dying for his sins or anything even remotely evangelistic, and then He just lets him walk away, just like that.
Jesus didn’t get His evangelism training the same places I did, that’s for sure….
But wait, it gets better. The guy goes and washes, and suddenly he can see, for the first time in his whole life. This was a miracle, and once the facts of the case were established for sure, everybody knew it.
They didn’t know how much of a miracle until recently. Just within the last couple of decades, our doctors have developed the ability to heal certain maladies so that a person born blind might have a chance of recovering sight. But they’ve run into a problem. Seeing, it turns out, isn’t just about having functional eyes. It’s also about your brain learning to perceive the input correctly. The case I read about was an adult man who had functional eyes for the first time in his life. Thing is, he couldn’t tell a dark stripe on the ground from the shadow of a curb — and that’s a big deal when you’re crossing the street. All kinds of little details like that. There wasn’t anything wrong with his eyes anymore, but apparently it takes the human brain years to learn to see well.
No such problems for this guy who met Jesus. He washed the mud off his eyes, and it was suddenly like he’d been seeing all his life. So naturally, they asked him who it was that healed him, and he told them. Then they asked him to give God the glory and say what a sinner Jesus was, but he just wouldn’t play along. “Since the world began,” he said to them, “it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.” They couldn’t discredit him, and they couldn’t shut him up, so of course, they cast him out. What else could they do (other than repent)?
Later, Jesus goes and finds him. Now, if ever a man was ripe for the gospel message….
All Jesus says to him is this: “Do you believe in the Son of God?”
“Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”
“You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking to you.”
Talk about seeing the Light….
Another man had the opposite experience. He was able to see from birth. But on his way to Damascus, light shines from heaven and knocks him clean off the donkey he’s riding.
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” he said.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
“Lord, what do you want me to do?”
“Get up and go into the city, and you’ll be told what to do.”
So he gets up, but meeting the Light of the World has made him blind, and they lead him by the hand into the city, where he waits three days. Meanwhile, God calls Ananias to go and heal him, which he does. When Ananias lays hands on him, scales fall from Saul’s eyes, and he receives the Holy Spirit.
On second thought, was he really blind for those three days? Or was that the first time in his whole life that he could really see?
Consider these two men. How did they come to be believers? What happened?
If you’re on any side of the COSF debate: how much of your favored content is missing from these evangelistic encounters? Why do you think that is?
But also think about this: Is there any fuzziness here? Any ground for a lack of assurance, in either man?
(John 4:39) From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all the things that I have done.”
So one can have a simple, brief even, and direct encounter with the person Jesus, and simply believe in him, huh? without the necessary proposition(s)?
I guess one could argue only that the blind man or Paul (or the Samaritans in John 4) knew (all) the necessary content of saving faith (COSF) prior and only needed the person as the object. And surely they knew something of the Son of God from the Scriptures directly or indirectly.
Your point is more that the thrust of the text is focused on the encounter with the person of the Christ, yes?
But you will still have arguments wedged in against your point here.
Another of your points in your posts is that the folly of such sinful attitudes in the Free Grace Food Fight says much to the fact that they must be missing the point. Folly can only come from a foolish place, yes?
Happy to have you in the discussion. You nailed it with this: “Your point is more that the thrust of the text is focused on the encounter with the person of the Christ, yes?”
Yes. Of course one could argue that the man born blind and Saul of Tarsus already expected to live forever, and only needed to understand that Jesus was the source of that life, and not law-keeping or Abrahamic ancestry. Those are interesting arguments, but that’s not really my point.
My point is that when we begin to make arguments of that type, we have left behind the point that the author of the text is making, and are beginning to mine the text for what interests us. Nothing wrong with that, in particular — you can productively read Hamlet for insight into Renaissance theater, even though that’s not what it’s about — but it’s worth noticing that we’ve made a serious shift in our reading strategy.
When we insist that GJohn’s big point is only to present the promise of eternal life to the lost, we encounter a series of anomalies. We have to ask what a story like John 9 is doing there. It seems clearly to be an example of Jesus evangelizing someone, but where is the promise of life articulated? Same types of questions for John 8: if she’s lost, why doesn’t He tell her about the promise? If she’s saved, why doesn’t it say so, to avoid confusion?
Understand these same situations to be about the personal interaction between the individual and Jesus, and all the anomalies dissolve. Same with Saul.
“Another of your points in your posts is that the folly of such sinful attitudes in the Free Grace Food Fight says much to the fact that they must be missing the point. Folly can only come from a foolish place, yes?”
Something like that. The gospel is a cardinal doctrine. So is the unity of the saints — in fact, the unity of the saints is (for Paul, in Gal. 1) a necessary part of being straightforward about the gospel. So when the “purity of the gospel” goes to war with the unity of the saints, I think we can safely conclude that we got something wrong, somewhere.
Amen & amen bro. Tim. Well-said. I really appreciate your statement “Understand these same situations to be about the personal interaction between the individual and Jesus, and all the anomalies dissolve. Same with Saul.”
“when the “purity of the gospel” goes to war with the unity of the saints, I think we can safely conclude that we got something wrong, somewhere”
Please consider this one permanently borrowed. 😉
Welcome to it, brother.
Great post. The next post I am writing begins with an observation:
“Salvation of any kind is not for any one who does not personally interact inwardly with scripture. Every other gospel is bent to either a universalist or theologically front-loaded gospel.”
Looking forward to it, sister.