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The Man Born Blind

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
May 24, 2024 12:01 am

The Man Born Blind

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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May 24, 2024 12:01 am

Sin is the root cause of suffering and death in this world. Does that mean all suffering we experience is God's punishment for a specific sin? Today, R.C. Sproul considers Jesus' interaction with the man born blind.

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R.C. Sproul (1939-2017) was known for his ability to winsomely and clearly communicate deep, practical truths from God's Word. He was founder of Ligonier Ministries, first minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew's Chapel, first president of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine.

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Nathan W. Bingham is vice president of ministry engagement for Ligonier Ministries, executive producer and host of Renewing Your Mind, host of the Ask Ligonier podcast, and a graduate of Presbyterian Theological College in Melbourne, Australia. Nathan joined Ligonier in 2012 and lives in Central Florida with his wife and four children.

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Where there is no sin, there is no suffering. And we look forward to heaven where sin will be erased from the presence of the people of God, and one of the consequences of the erasure and eradication of sin altogether in the glorification of God's people is at the same time the removal of all pain, of all suffering, and death shall be no more. When someone we know falls gravely ill, it can be easy to wonder, what did they do to deserve that? And to question what sin it is that they're being punished for. And then when we suffer, to also question, why?

What sin must I repent of to be relieved of this ailment? But is that how we should view suffering in the Christian life? You're listening to the Friday edition of Renewing Your Mind. I'm your host, Nathan W. Bingham. The question of suffering is a hard question, and it is one that touches us intimately as we or those we care about walk through trials.

And today, R.C. Sproul will help us consider this subject biblically as he looks to the New Testament account of the man born blind. Before we get to that message, I do want to remind you that today is the final day to request the complete hard-saying series from Dr. Sproul and his hardcover companion book at What can we learn from the man who was born blind, and how can this account help us as we navigate suffering?

Here's Dr. Sproul. I remember visiting a woman in the hospital who was dying from uterine cancer. And in the last days of her life, she was greatly distressed, not only from her physical ailment, but from a profound grief in her spirit and in her soul.

And she wanted to talk to me, and here's what she asked me. She explained to me that as a young woman, she had had an abortion, and now she was dying from uterine cancer. And she was convinced that her disease was a direct consequence of her abortion, and she believed that she was suffering this affliction as a direct result of the judgment of God upon her. And so she was afraid of death and afraid of facing her Creator because of this enormous burden of guilt that she had. And she asked me if I agreed with her assessment that God was punishing her for her sin, and you may be surprised at the answer I gave to her. Obviously, the usual pastoral response to such an agonizing question from somebody in the throes of death would be to say, of course not, this is not a judgment of God on your sin.

But I had to be honest with the woman, and so the reply I gave to her was simply, I don't know. It could be. Perhaps it is.

Perhaps it isn't. But you're asking me to fathom the secret counsel of God and to read the invisible hand of His providence, and so I don't know why you are suffering in this manner. I do know, however, that whatever the cause of it ultimately is, that there is an answer for your guilt. And we talked about the mercy of Christ and of the cross and of the assurance that she could have of forgiveness of her sin. And she died in faith, and I remember that very vividly because I was a very young minister at the time. But the question that that woman raised is raised every day by people who are suffering affliction. And it leads me to come now to the way in which that question is addressed in one of the difficult passages we find in the New Testament, one of the hard sayings, which is recorded for us in the ninth chapter of the gospel according to Saint John, which gives us the story of Jesus' healing of the man born blind.

Let's look at this text and see if it sheds light on the question this woman asked me from her deathbed and that question that is repeated by countless others in similar circumstances. In the beginning of chapter 9 of John's gospel, we read these words, Now as Jesus passed by, he saw a man who was blind from birth, and his disciples asked him, saying, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind? And Jesus answered, Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of him who sent me while it is day, for the night is coming when no one can work.

As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. Now we can read over this incident quickly, too quickly, and miss some of the significance of it. We notice that the disciples point to this poor fellow who had been born blind, and they raise this question, whose sin was it, his own or his parents? And Jesus responds by saying, Neither. It was neither this man sinned or his parents. And we could jump to the gratuitous conclusion that Jesus is saying that the man born blind was sinless or that his parents were sinless.

And we would be ill-advised to come to such a conclusion. This man who was born blind was also born a sinner, just like everybody else, and he had parents who also were sinners. But the greatest danger we have in interpreting this passage is rushing to the conclusion that the disciples were completely out of order for asking the question they did. And I want to explore that in a little more detail and ask why would the disciples of Jesus, who were not completely theologically ignorant, ever suppose that the root cause of this man's blindness was related either to the man's sin or to the parents' sin? Had they not read the book of Job, where the book of Job in its entirety addresses the question of a man who is innocent, who is severely afflicted for the glory of God? I mean, you would think that with the outstanding importance of a whole volume of Old Testament literature that no one would ever ask the question, Who's sin is it, as if there had to be somebody's sin that was the root cause of the man's affliction. But as I said, the disciples who asked their teacher this question were not utterly ignorant of the biblical content that relates to the question of suffering. They made an assumption that they shouldn't have made.

Their error was in reducing the options to two when there was another alternative. They posed the question to Jesus as an either-or question and committed the logical fallacy of the false dilemma, assuming that it had to either be the sin of the man or the sin of the man's parents. Now, again, what they were assuming was that somebody's sin was the direct cause of the man's suffering, and I ask you, Why would they make such an assumption? Because the Scriptures from the account of the fall onward make it very clear that the root cause for suffering, for disease, and for death in this world is sin. And so the disciples were correct in assuming that somehow sin was involved in this affliction and this suffering, because where there is no sin, there is no death.

Where there is no sin, there is no suffering, and we look forward to heaven where sin will be erased from the presence of the people of God. And one of the consequences of the erasure and eradication of sin altogether in the glorification of God's people is at the same time the removal of all pain, of all suffering, and death shall be no more. There will be no blindness in heaven, no deafness in heaven, no affliction of any kind in heaven precisely because there will be no sin in heaven. So the plot thickens a little bit when we understand that sin in general is the root cause of suffering in general. And now the general concept of the relationship between sin and suffering is particularized in the disciples' question, and it becomes a specific question of a direct correspondence between an individual's sin and an individual's suffering. Now that is what the book of Job is written to dispel. And the danger that we have is assuming that any person who suffers suffers in direct proportion to the sin that they have committed.

Again, Job stands out as a beacon to gainsay that conclusion because for all intents and purposes, Job was innocent compared with others who were far more wicked than he. And yet the degree of suffering he was called upon to bear was astronomical compared with the suffering and afflictions that others far more guilty than he had to endure. We remember the question that the psalmist raised about the apparent inequities that abound in this world. Why do the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer? That very question should alert us to the reality that in this world there is not a one-to-one correspondence between a person's suffering and their particular sin. For the most part, we suffer far less than our sin would deserve.

We live in the most part under the gracious hand of the mercy of God's providence upon our lives. But then we ask the question, well, does God ever visit people with affliction because of some particular sin? And what does the Bible say about that? Well, we look at the case of Miriam in the Old Testament, whom God afflicted directly with leprosy. And God did that because of Miriam's sin. In that case, there was a direct correspondence between her sin and her affliction. Not only in the case of Miriam, but in the case of the death of David's son, that child was punished not because of anything the child did, but that child was stricken with a fatal disease as a direct result of God's judgment upon David. And we could give countless examples of this sort of thing in the Scriptures where God does send suffering as a punishment for a specific sin. Now as I say, the disciples were not ignorant of the Scriptures. They understood that there were times when God would in fact send illness or disease or affliction as judgment, as punishment for sin. And so they weren't out in left field in assuming that as a possibility for this particular blind man. Nor was this woman, this dear woman that I met with in the hospital who was dying, was she not completely out of bounds for asking the question, is my pain and suffering a result of God's punitive, corrective wrath on my sin? It could have been.

And for me to say, no, that's impossible, would have been to give her false comfort. Now this is difficult for us to look at and to deal with, and I hope that we can see the careful nuances that need to be made. What the Bible teaches is one, there are times when God does send affliction and pain and illness as a judgment upon people. In some cases with the unbeliever, it can be an expression of his punitive wrath. In the case of the believer, it can be a manifestation of his corrective wrath.

It is the rod of God by which he chastens those whom he loves. But we are warned again, not only in the book of Job, but in this ninth chapter of John, never to jump to the conclusion that a particular example or a particular incidence of pain and suffering or illness is a direct response or in a direct correspondence to a person's particular sin. That's the beauty of this text. Again, the disciples made a false assumption. They assumed that it had to be somebody's specific sin that was the root cause of this man's blindness. And our Lord answers the disciples' question by correcting their false assumptions. Again, they said, whose sin was it, this man or his parents? And Jesus said clearly, what?

Neither. The reason why this man was born blind is not because God was punishing the man and not because God was punishing the man's parents. Jesus said there was another reason. And because there's another reason, that should alert us to the possibility that there might always be another reason for the pain that we are called to endure and the afflictions we may have to bear. And Jesus gives that reason as we see here in the text.

Let's look at it again. Look at verse 3 of chapter 9 of John's gospel, Jesus answers the question, who sinned, this man or his parents? He said, neither this man nor his parents, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. Now, what does Jesus mean by that? Well, how was the work of God revealed in this man? What just so happened, this man who had been born blind and lived in darkness from the beginning of his life, and who had parents who were broken hearted that they had a child who lacked vision, who was abnormal, who didn't enjoy the benefit of sight like all the rest of the children growing up. And they must have scratched their head and asked themselves the question a million times, why? Why, God, have you allowed this to happen?

Is it something that we have done? Surely it's not something that the baby did. Maybe it's a reflection of your judgment upon us, and I'm sure that those parents of this blind child wrestled with it. And as the child himself became a man, he wrestled with it. And he was asking, why, why, why? Now, this man and his parents had an enormous advantage over most people who endure this kind of pain and affliction. They were able to have their question answered directly by the Son of God. Where most of us who endure similar problems live throughout our whole lives and never know in this world the answer to the question, why? But what Jesus provides for all of us here is that there is an answer to the question, why? We may not know what it is in every circumstance, but at least in this circumstance, he gives the answer. And he said, the reason for this man's affliction was that the work of God might be made manifest.

How was it? I mean, I wonder what this man is thinking in heaven right now, this minute, as he's hearing his story repeated again for thousands to hear. And he can say to his friends in heaven as he enjoys his perfect eyesight and indeed the vision of God and His loveliness right now. He said, you know how God used me in this world? I lived in darkness all my life wondering why, wondering why, until one day the Son of God came down the road. And before the watching world, He healed me and displayed His identity as the Savior and as the Son of God.

God appointed me from the foundation of the world to be a witness to His majesty, to His grace, and to His saving power. I didn't know it at the time, but had I known that God was going to use me in this way for His glory and for the glorification of His Son, I would have been the first to volunteer to spend my whole life in darkness that the light of God might be made manifest. That's the lesson of this text. And it's a lesson that we need to carry into our own lives when we don't know why we suffer. We must trust from the teaching of Jesus on this occasion that God knows what He is doing and that He works in and through the pain and the afflictions of His people for His glory and for their sanctification.

On the surface it's hard, but the difficulty is greatly alleviated when we hear our Lord explaining the mystery in this one case that God will at times call us into this pain for His glory. I think that we can learn other lessons from the story of the man born blind, how he responded to his healing, and how his parents responded to it as well. The Pharisees were angry that Jesus healed the man because He healed them on the Sabbath day. They had no sense of compassion for the man's suffering.

They were only filled with hostility against the one who redeemed him. And so the Pharisees asked the blind man, the man who had been born blind, how he had received his sight, and he said, he put clay on my eyes and I watched and I see. And they said to the blind man again, what do you say about him because he opened your eyes?

And he said, he's a prophet. But the Jews did not believe concerning him that he had been blind and received his sight until they called his parents of him who had received his sight. And they asked them saying, is this your son who you say was born blind? How then does he now see? His parents answered and said, we know that this is our son and that he was born blind. But by what means he now sees, we do not know. Or who opened his eyes, we do not know. He is of age.

Ask him. And so again they called him and said to him, give God the glory. We know that the man who healed you is a sinner. He answered and said, whether he's a sinner or not, I do not know.

One thing I know. Once I was blind, and now I see. God works in and through the pain and afflictions of His people for His glory and for their sanctification. I hope that's an encouragement for you today if you're walking through a season of suffering.

That was R.C. Sproul on this Friday edition of Renewing Your Mind. As we study the Bible more and more, certain passages raise questions, questions because the text is hard to understand, and sometimes because it may be hard to believe. Dr. Sproul compiled many of these challenging texts and over the course of four teaching series, address them as a theologian, and as you heard today, also with a pastoral heart. Until midnight, you can request access to all four series when you give a donation of any amount by calling us at 800 435 4343, visiting, or clicking the link in the podcast show notes.

In addition to these four series, we'll also send you the hardcover book based on these series, simply titled Hard Sayings. So give your gift while there's still time at Are you a member of a local church? Next week, R.C. Sproul will consider what the Bible says about the role and function of the church. That's beginning Monday here on Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-24 02:40:51 / 2024-05-24 02:48:44 / 8

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