Natural Man is Blinded to Spiritual Things

 

I found an enlightening article that goes into more detail regarding what Jesus meant, (as well as what the terms commonly meant to first century Jews) when He told Nicodemus in John 3:3 that he must be “born again” in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Christine

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“Born Again”

Though some people regard the phrase, “born again,” as modern lingo denoting enthusiastic Christians, Jesus Himself used the expression to describe those who have experienced genuine salvation. However, the idiom didn’t originate at His encounter with Nicodemus in John 3.

To the first century Jew, “born again” was a commonly understood term for certain rites of passage in a man’s life. Six different events were so labeled in Rabbinic Judaism. The first was the bar mitzvah (literally, “son of the commandment”), a confirmation ritual whereby 13-year-old boys entered manhood and shared the moral and religious responsibilities of the adult community. A man was said to be “born again” a second time when he married, and the expression was also used if he was ordained as a rabbi. Becoming the head of a rabbinic academy—a position open only to rabbis who were married—was a fourth time the term applied. The final two usages of “born again” were a Gentile’s conversion to Judaism and a man being crowned king.

In light of this, the encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus in John 3:1-21 becomes more understandable. Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council known as the Sanhedrin, is identified as a “ruler of the Jews” and “the teacher of Israel” (vv. 1,10). As such, he was obviously considered “born again” in the first four ways listed, namely, he was bar mitzvahed, married, ordained, and a rabbi in leadership.

So when Jesus said to him, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (v. 3), Nicodemus was naturally confused—he had already been “born again” in all of the four ways available to him. Notice his response: “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” (v. 4) He was thinking that the only way to go through any of those rites of passage would be to start physical life over as a baby.

The Lord met Nicodemus where he was and then broadened his understanding to include the spiritual: “…Unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (vv. 5-6). Though his comprehension was incomplete that night, Nicodemus later showed evidence he understood another way to be born again. (John 7:50; 19:39)

This article is based on the manuscript Nicodemus—A Rabbi’s Quest by Arnold Fruchtenbaum. For more information, visit http://www.ariel.org/.

With that in mind, let’s look at reasons why people who do not understand Christian faith often ridicule, denigrate, and even hate Jesus Christ, hate the Word of God – the Bible,  as well as hate those of us who wholeheartedly believe in God’s Living Word – Jesus Christ, and God’s written Word – the Bible.

First of all, it is a fact that natural man is blinded to spiritual things.  How do I know this?  Because I have been there.

Non-believers, skeptics, agnostics and atheists often attempt to use logical reasoning to explain away humanity’s need for redemption. In their prideful hearts and minds, Jesus Christ dying on the cross for man’s sins is a ridiculous notion.

In my discussions with several people who reject Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross and subsequent resurrection to life, I have often found similarity in the reasons they hold for such rejection. When I share, explain and exhort the Gospel message they not only out rightly reject that message, they also cannot comprehend God’s truths as revealed in the Bible.

Why?

The Bible calls such incomprehension as beingspiritually discerned.”

1 Corinthians 2:14 – But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned.

In Pastor Chuck Smith’s commentary, he simply states:

v. 14 The natural man is blinded to spiritual things.

In Pastor Chuck Smith’s sermon notes, he goes into great detail about what is the natural man? He also shares many Scripture links which describe why natural man is indeed “blinded” to spiritual things.

In this post, I’d like to particularly focus on the following sermon notes:

B. What does Paul have to say about the natural man?

1 “He receives not the things of the Spirit of God. They are foolishness unto him.”

a. You try to talk to him about spiritual things and you may as well be talking to a Barbie Doll.

b. There is absolutely no comprehension.

c. Sometimes they will listen patiently if they are cultured, and others will just get angry and scream at you.

Been there; experienced that!

Pastor Smith goes on to explain:

a. They are spiritually discerned.

b. So he lacks the faculties by which they are known and understood, (i.e. the spiritual nature).

c. You might say with equal logic, the blind man cannot appreciate the beauty of a sunset.

d. The deaf man cannot know the glories of the symphony.

e. They lack the faculties by which these things are known.

Many of the people who reject the Gospel of Christ are intelligent; often extremely intelligent.

So what is the problem?

Why can’t they grasp what born-again believers in Christ are sharing?

Perhaps it has a lot to do with the fact that logical reasoning is not an absolute law that governs the universe, nor is it a set of rules that govern behavior.

One must decide whether logic is the right “tool” for the job. There are other ways to communicate, discuss and debate.

Jesus tells us in John 3:3 – Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Just two verses down in John 3:5, Jesus says it again – Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and [of] the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

And then again in John 3:7 – Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

Must be extremely important because Jesus mentions it three times within 5 sentences (verses)!!

What must happen before being born again? One must have faith in who Jesus is!!

Hebrews 11:6 tells us, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”

Faith is daring the soul to believe what the eyes cannot see.

Logical irreverence dictates, “I’ll believe it when I see it,” whereas faithful devotion enables one to “believe it, then I’ll see it.”

Intellectual pride, rationalizations and excuses all keep people from God. The Gospel seems foolish to those who forsake faith and rely on their own understanding.

What happens to those who are not born again in the Spirit through Jesus Christ?

Romans 8:9 – But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

We don’t belong to Christ until we are born again of the Spirit!! All the church going, tithing, chorus singing, good deed doing, works of the flesh etc. will not make you one of His!

When Jesus ask us, “Who do you say that I am?” what is your response??

Matthew 16:16 – And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

John 6:69 – And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.

Jesus emphasizes the importance of faith:

“Because you have seen me, you have believed, blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

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4 Responses to “Natural Man is Blinded to Spiritual Things”

  1. GMpilot Says:

    That’s an interesting explanation of the term “born again”. It must be noted, however, that the Jews and Christians are not the only ones who claim this concept. Still, Pastor Smith, and you, Christine, are not Jewish, and you’re still snuffling around the table, picking the parts that can fit into your theology and ignoring the rest.

    But let’s look into what Pastor Smith claims, shall we?

    In this post, I’d like to particularly focus on the following sermon notes:

    B. What does Paul have to say about the natural man?
    1 “He receives not the things of the Spirit of God. They are foolishness unto him.”

    a. You try to talk to him about spiritual things and you may as well be talking to a Barbie Doll.
    You shouldn’t make allusions to Barbie when you’re attempting to be a Transformer!
    b. There is absolutely no comprehension.
    You’re talking about a god that even you admit is incomprehensible! If you can’t comprehend it, how can you expect the people you’re talking to to do it?
    c. Sometimes they will listen patiently if they are cultured, and others will just get angry and scream at you.
    Yeah, I get the same reaction when trying to explain evolution to unnatural men.

    Paul had a great dislike for ordinary people, and seemed to think his god was obvious to everyone, even the Jews, who knew better.
    Since he saw what so many others didn’t, and damned them for not seeing it, Paul was not a natural man, but a supernatural—or rather, unnatural, man. What have unnatural men have to do with us?

    Pastor Smith goes on to explain:
    a. They are spiritually discerned.
    b. So he lacks the faculties by which they are known and understood, (i.e. the spiritual nature).
    c. You might say with equal logic, the blind man cannot appreciate the beauty of a sunset.
    d. The deaf man cannot know the glories of the symphony.
    e. They lack the faculties by which these things are known.

    No one holds the blind man responsible for his blindness, nor the deaf man for being deaf. Certainly no alleged Christian condemns him for it, especially if he was born that way. Yet that is exactly what Christians have always said about those who do not believe their claims of spirituality. Paul set the standard, there.

    Continuing:

    …Why can’t they grasp what born-again believers in Christ are sharing?
    Perhaps it has a lot to do with the fact that logical reasoning is not an absolute law that governs the universe, nor is it a set of rules that govern behavior.

    No unnatural man has yet shown that belief in otherworldly powers is an ‘absolute law that governs the universe’. We have learned, however, that obeying these powers are ‘a set of rules that govern behavior’. There are records attesting to that over several thousand years. However, those rules vary, often wildly, from place to place and time to time.

    One must decide whether logic is the right “tool” for the job. There are other ways to communicate, discuss and debate.
    But the unnatural man often falls prey to the same things the natural man does; they lack comprehension, so they are unable to describe their point-of-view to others, and often they get angry and scream at the people they’re trying to communicate, discuss and debate with. It is then that they attempt emotional blackmail (“Do you know where you’re going when you die?”) or extortion (“This is all the heaven you’ll get, so you better enjoy it.”) It seems to me that if there IS some benevolent Overmind, it would not want its creatures to treat each other in such a manner.
    If Pastor Smith cannot show that there is such a being, then there is no real reason to believe him, or perhaps believe some other pastor six blocks over.

    Logical irreverence dictates, “I’ll believe it when I see it,” whereas faithful devotion enables one to “believe it, then I’ll see it.”
    Intellectual pride, rationalizations and excuses all keep people from God. The Gospel seems foolish to those who forsake faith and rely on their own understanding.

    Nobody ever applies this “reasoning” to mermaids, or Bigfoot, or little grey men. Only the unnatural man, and children, think that way…and children usually grow out of it. My understanding is far from perfect, but it’s better than the alternative. When someone says, “I have faith,” what I hear is, “I want this to be true so badly that I’m willing to spend my life looking for a reason to believe it.”

    We don’t belong to Christ until we are born again of the Spirit!! All the church going, tithing, chorus singing, good deed doing, works of the flesh etc. will not make you one of His!
    When Jesus ask us, “Who do you say that I am?” what is your response??
    Matthew 16:16 – And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

    Don’t forget the rest, ma’am:

    Matthew 6:20 – Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.

    When he walked among us, Jesus was in stealth mode; hiding his light beneath a bushel, one might say. But when he returns, it will be in full panoply; sword in hand, blood-soaked robes, twelve legions of angels, the works. I’m told it will be a glorious day. Too bad most of humanity will be dead, and unable to see it. That doesn’t concern believers, though. Not me, either.

    ‘Cause I want to be happy and free
    Livin’ and lovin’ for me
    I want to be happy and free
    Livin’ and lovin’ for me
    Just like a natural man

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  2. christinewjc Says:

    So what if Hindus believe a different form of the term “born again?” There are many differences between Christian faith and Hinduism.

    Hinduism is more a philosophy than a theology (a knowledge of God). The Hindus try to make a tremendous case for the “bigness” of their impersonal god – Brahman, the “that” behind and beyond reality. And where does the Hindu seek Brahman? In himself. For the Hindu, man is god.

    [Source: So What’s the Difference? by Fritz Ridenour.]

    The Hindu’s god is too small, but perhaps you might like to embrace it because it is so similar to your secular humanistic beliefs of wanting to be your own god.

    Pastor Smith, nor I, do not need to be Jewish in order to share what is known about Judaism. In fact, studying the Old Testament is just as important as the New Testament for Christians. Jesus taught from the Torah in the Temple…didn’t he? The split came when the Jews which sided with Caiaphas, (the high priest who wanted the “rabble-rouser” Jesus crucified – ignoring the Jewish Law not to crucify anyone before the Sabbath – so they had Pilate do the dirty work); vs. the Jewish disciples (who witnessed the risen Christ and proceeded to spread the message of The Way …for Jesus is the way, the truth and the life…a.k.a. the Gospel) who recognized their true Messiah. All those who opposed Christ thought that his death on the cross would be the end of him. It was only the beginning!

    God has revealed his written word, the Bible, to believers and His Living Word, Jesus Christ. The power of the Holy Spirit helps us understand both. Unregenerate man cannot comprehend what is revealed; thus they are spiritually discerned.

    We do not know everything that God knows, of course, but He has revealed what we need to know in order to answer Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?”

    The Matthew 6:20 verse has been previously explained to you – several times in fact. Go look up a commentary at Blue Letter Bible and you will be reminded of what I have written about that verse in the past.

    There won’t be any “blood-soaked” robes, GM. Jesus will simply speak the word and the enemies will be defeated. The saved of all time will be witnesses of this! That’s why they are dressed in white robes, not battle armor.

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  3. GMpilot Says:

    I merely wished to point out that the concept of ‘born again’ is not just a Judeo-Christian concept. There aren’t many ideas which make any one of them unique from any other.
    The last time I followed your advice about embracing a god, it was one described by a man you now denounce as just short of heresy. Your first god was also a bit small, it seems.
    What does anyone need with a god who’s so tight he won’t allow room for ‘growth’?

    You and Pastor Smith weren’t just sharing what you knew about Judaism. You were appropriating it and claiming it as your own, when you well know that you do not follow the bar mitzvah–‘born again’ in that sense means nothing to you. And you certainly don’t observe a Gentile’s conversion to Judaism! As I’ve said before, if you observed all the Jewish ceremonies and rituals, you’d actually be one. You’re not, but you like to think of yourselves as the new, improved model.

    Christine, the only way anyone in this world will ever see your god is in the actions of his followers. Look back on some of the things you’ve written in the past eight years—even without me needling you. Can you honestly say you’ve been revealing god’s influence in your words? As I recall, Jesus said he’d reserve his harshest judgment on those who invoked his name with their lips but denied him in their hearts. Hate wearing a halo is the worst kind of hatred.

    There won’t be any “blood-soaked” robes, GM. Jesus will simply speak the word and the enemies will be defeated.
    Okay. I guess I got this “out of context” again. After all, you have the Apologetics paper, not me. Curses!

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  4. christinewjc Says:

    A “vesture dipped in blood” does not mean blood-soaked, so you were wrong.

    Rev 19:13

    And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.

    You seem to expect perfection from imperfect believers.

    You seem to think that pointing out the evil, lies, and sin of politicians is something that a Christian should never do.

    You wrote:

    “As I recall, Jesus said he’d reserve his harshest judgment on those who invoked his name with their lips but denied him in their hearts.”

    Describes you perfectly. You have admitted that you were a Christian once, now you are not.

    “What God won’t tolerate is true hypocrisy: when people intentionally try to deceive him or other people so they can receive affirmation for being good.” – David Jeremiah

    Well, go find a blog that agrees with your mindset, GM.

    The goals of this blog are written at the top of the front page:

    Talk Wisdom’s goal is to defend the tenets and values of Biblical Christian faith. We defend our Constitutional Republic and Charters of Freedom, especially when speaking out against destructive social and political issues. As followers of our Savior and Lord, we should boldly stand up for Jesus Christ in our present circumstances. He is our Savior, Lord, and King, and His love needs to be shed abroad in our hearts and in our world – now.

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