Yesterday I recounted the story of a man who refused to accept Scripture as the authoritative word of God. The reason I tell that story is this: Some six years after receiving that letter, I did a men’s luncheon series on Scripture: what it is, how we received it, how we understand it, and such questions. In one of the sessions I was to give an address on dealing with Bible difficulties. One of the illustrations I prepared for this question about Bible difficulties quoted this man from western Canada. I made the point that it is not really a question of overwhelming difficulties; it is a question of how you approach the Word of God. Will you give it the benefit of the doubt? Will you try to understand it? Or will you come to it first of all with the question, Are there difficulties?
I was to give that particular address, beginning with that particular illustration at 12 o’clock noon. Just before I went, I looked in my mailbox to find what mail had arrived that morning. When I looked through, lo and behold, there was a letter from this man in western Canada. I recognized his writing. I would recognize it anywhere. I thought, isn’t this interesting? I am going to talk about this man and here is a letter from him. I wonder what he’s said. It would make a good illustration if the man has been converted in this time. So, I opened the letter. To my surprise what I found in that letter was an objection to the doctrine of divine inspiration, raising precisely the same questions, in the same words, that I had answered six years before. I was very tempted to take the two letters, and put them over one another, hold them up to the light to see if the man had traced them. He had forgotten that he even asked me the questions those years before because the answers made so little impression on him. They simply drifted in and drifted out.
So, we have a doctrine of general revelation, which no one sees. We have a doctrine of special revelation, which no ear hears or mind conceives. What is the problem? The problem is we lack the Holy Spirit, by which such things are understood. When you begin to talk about God’s process of revelation, what you come to next is regeneration, the step by which God takes one who is spiritually dead and, by means of the Holy Spirit, makes him spiritually alive. On this basis, when the Word is preached, he now hears and understands, and when the revelation of God is spread out in nature, he now sees and comprehends that God is the author of it all.
You would say at that point, “Well, perhaps regeneration is what we need.” And, of course, it is a very important thing. When Nicodemus came to Jesus by night and wanted to discuss things, beginning with an analysis of who he perceived Christ to be in his miracles and the fact that that authenticated Jesus as a Teacher come from God, the first thing Jesus said to him was not as we might imagine, “Well, Nicodemus, that’s pretty good. You’ve come a long way. You certainly have a keen mind. That’s a good point at which we will begin our conversation. Let’s start there and go on.” Jesus said nothing of the sort.
He said, “Look, you don’t understand anything. You must be born again.” All of the wisdom and knowledge that Nicodemus had – for he was undoubtedly a very wise man, humanly speaking, and a very knowledgeable man who certainly knew the Scriptures – all of that was of no avail unless he was born again. When we are born again, the Spirit, who originally inspired the Word, now speaks to us personally as we study the Word and gives us “illumination.” We begin to see the great things that God has prepared for those who love him.