Spiritual Blindness

by Mike Ratliff

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV)

I watched a murder mystery on PBS’s Masterpiece Theater the other day. I like to solve whodunits before the detective or the police in these things. The one I watched was situated in Sweden. The story revolved around a murdered police detective who was homosexual. He lived a secret and depraved lifestyle, but the writer of the story and his characters refused to talk about that except when it involved the interview of suspects who were also in that lifestyle. In the end, they show his funeral, which takes place in a Lutheran church. They cover his casket with the blue and gold Swedish flag. The pastor of the church is a woman. They bury the man in the church cemetery, which is full of crosses. It is very interesting to watch these vignettes of what has happened to the morals in Europe as the Church there has lost its way because this very thing is happening in the United States at an accelerating rate. The Church is apostatizing and it seems that many within those who are standing firm against it are some who are attempting to cause division with attacks rooted in self-righteousness fueled by conspiracy theories such as King James Onlyism.

When I am at work attempting to solve a very difficult and serious database problem the last thing I need is someone standing over me pointing out things to me that are non-essentials, trivial things that have little or no impact on the ultimate goal, which is solving the problem. When we fight the good fight, which is standing firm in the middle of God’s truth never swerving left or right from it even in the face of wicked attacks from every direction, we must also beware of the attacks from within that our enemy employs in order to distract and discourage. Those used by our enemy to do this are spiritually blind. Some actually mean well, but they have been deceived by a lie that contains half-truths that are presented to them in such a way that it plays on their emotions, especially fear. What is spiritual blindness?

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. (John 9:1-7 ESV)

Here we read of our Lord healing a man born blind. His blindness was not spiritual, but physical. Why was he born blind? He was born blind that the works of God might be displayed in him. In other words, this man was born blind for God’s glory. Our Lord healed the man on the Sabbath. This was not a sin according to God, but it was a sin according to the Pharisees.

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.” The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out. (John 9:8-34 ESV)

Yes, I know, this is a long discourse. I pray that you did read it all though because here we have the epitome of spiritual blindness being manifest in these men who could not see the truth. Christ’s healing of this man born blind was a miracle that only God could do yet they refused to believe it. They antagonized this poor man and his parents about this and cast the man out of the synagogue, they excommunicated him, based solely on the fact that our Lord healed the man on the Sabbath and that he refused to knuckle under and blaspheme as they were doing.

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.
(John 9:35-41 ESV)

I rejoice every time I read vv 35-39! Why? Who is it that God saves? It is  those who were dead in trespasses and sins in which they walk following the course of this world, but in judgment, God enabled them to see and believe and worship Him. However, this is a two-sided coin. The other side is that this judgment also blinds those who believe they have the corner on the truth in their self-righteousness. They believe they are in with Jesus because of their religiosity or their self-righteous acts, et cetera. Our Lord says that to believe in these things out of ignorance is one thing, but the guilt belongs to those who hold to their own set of self-righteous rules proclaiming that they know the truth, which is that unless ones conforms to their man-made rules then they are not of Christ.

It is one thing to point out to Jehovah Witnesses or Mormans their error of their doctrines because they violate the clear teaching of scripture. We must be discerning and confront those who are teaching things that are false proclaiming that they are truth while they attack the truth proclaiming that it is false. No, we must obey God and confront these by rebuking them with God’s truth. However, it is quite another thing to attack brothers and sisters in Christ using nothing but philosophic arguments or by attempting to silence them because they teach from a Bible other than the King James. In fact, I have learned over the last several years that when I hear a preacher waste the time given him to preach by berating those who do not hold to KJV Onlyism that I need to not waste any of the time given to me listening to him. Why?

The reason is stated firmly here. This is a topic that is designed to waste our time, divide us, and discourage us. I am very much against the use of blasphemous “bibles” such as the TNIV and paraphrases such as The Message in place of good translations such as the ESV, NASB, KJV, and NKJV bibles. I use them all, but when I need to study in depth, I use my Greek and Hebrew tools. Some of my tools are based in the same Greek text used to translate the KJV while others are based in the text used in the more modern translations. It is amazing to me that such a fuss is being made over a supposed “conspiracy” that any Bible that is not a KJV is not a Holy Bible. This is no different than the Pharisees hating Jesus because He healed people on the Sabbath. Why? They used their own set of rules based on the Law. Jesus showed them over and over that their rules were not the Law and if they followed the Law then they wouldn’t need their rules. Instead, their religiosity actually bared people from fellowship and kept many in spiritual darkness.

This KJV Onlyism controversy is just another form of the same self-righteousness. The Pharisees ruled by fear. They demanded that everyone keep their rules or they would be cast of the synagogue. The KJV Onlyism folks say that to have a version of the Bible that is different from the KJV is to corrupt or change God’s Words and that makes one guilty enough to have ones name removed from the book of life. While I agree that we must not change God’s Words at all, the KJV is most certainly not the only version of the Bible that has been decreed by God to be the only standard and source of His Word. To say that it is is flawed logic my brethren. God’s Word was given to us in Greek and Hebrew books and letters. He has preserved them for us. We now have Greek manuscripts that date from early in the 2nd Century. At the time of the building of the King James Bible, the earliest manuscripts were from much later. What have the scholars discovered when comparing these early manuscripts with the later ones used in the KJV? Were any of the passages, which God used to give us the doctrines of the Church, changed in any way? No! The differences were that the later manuscripts had “additions” that were lacking in the earlier ones. Isn’t that adding to God’s Word?

Another saying from the KJV Onlyism folks is, “The original KJV Bible was inspired by the Holy Ghost, and therefore it is perfect!” What? Who says? No, the inspired Word of God is found in the Greek and Hebrew books and letters that were used to translate the scriptures in today’s languages such as English. Also, does this logic mean that Martin Luther’s Bible translated into German is not the inspired Word of God? What about all those Bibles in other languages? Aren’t they the Word of God too?

The reason I have compared the KJV Onlyism folks to the Pharisees is that they exhibit the same spiritual blindness. No matter how often or well we tell them the truth, they ignore it and go right back to the same arguments. Well, my goodness, that is the very same things atheists do. That is the same thing apostates do. Therefore, I plead with any KJV Onlyism folks reading this to consider what you are doing. Examine your arguments. You are using poor logic. I had one fellow tell me that the ESV was a corrupt version of the Bible because the Jehovah Witness version of the bible contains passages that are just like the ones in the ESV. That is extremely poor logic my brethren for the ESV is, in fact, one of the strongest versions of the Bible supporting the Deity of Christ and the Sovereignty of God, even more than the KJV. The JW folks deny that our Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the sense that He is the second person in the Holy Trinity.

Should we examine Bible translations to see if there are issues with these things? Yes we should, but let’s be frank here. The KJV is not the standard, the underlying Greek and Hebrew is. I honestly do not know what is motivating the KJV Onlyism folks to invent this conspiracy theory except that the fear generated by it sure has sold some books and given opportunity for speaking engagements for its proponents.

Spiritual blindness is an ugly thing. It becomes apparent in people when the truth is not believed or is ignored while the false is accepted. It is manifest through self-righteousness. When I refer to judging according to self-righteousness, I am talking about excluding people based upon religious convictions not based on solid Biblical doctrines or by taking these doctrines to higher level than God intended. I pray that all reading this who are mired in it will have their eyes opened by the Holy Spirit so that they may see the truth and live in it to the glory of God.

Soli Deo Gloria!

18 thoughts on “Spiritual Blindness

  1. Mr. Ratliff,

    In regards to the fellow claiming “the ESV was a corrupt version of the Bible because the Jehovah Witness version of the bible contains passages that are just like the ones in the ESV”, he really should look harder into the NWT that the JWs have produced.

    The NWT is a re-write of the KJV (a rather blatant ripoff if you look closely). In fact, the JWs held the KJV in high regard (minus the Johannine Comma and the beginning of the Gospel according to John of course) until 1950 when the NWT was first published. Some JWs still prefer reading the KJV over the NWT due to the NWT’s extraordinarily stilted English.

    Peace be with you brother.

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  2. One thing I have learned is that the NKJV is now owned by liberal activists whose views are against the views of the Bible. Leftist activist Leo Hindrey Jnr owns the NKJV in the US and has publishing rights to it as part of the 2006 purchase of its publisher, Nelson.

    I’ve heard much of the NASB. Is there any good NASB study Bible for use?

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  3. I wouldn’t choose to offend anyone by my choice of translation (no paraphrases) and I am sorry for the division some folks are causing between Christian brothers and sisters, but I have to tell you, when I found out that “sinful nature” is not in the KJV because the word “sarx” means “flesh”, that opened up a whole new understanding for me. I wanted to please God! My sinful FLESH was keeping me from sinning. Now I can remind myself that when I’m tempted to sin, that old man was crucified, and if I DO sin, it’s me choosing to do it. Also, I always believed in an age of accountability (in my heart). When I looked at Psalm 51, one of my favorite passages (!) there was a big difference between the NIV “a sinner when my mother conceived me” and KJV “in sin my mother conceived me”. Even though I felt somehow God would give a “pass” to those who die in infancy (but He can’t really, that would go against His justice?) the translation is what validated it. (I know this is a Calvinist site and our theologies differ, but I just wanted to share my experience.)

    I feel as though the current translations have translated theology (and I don’t believe intentionally) instead of as close to the text as possible.

    I never read the KJV. I thought the language was pretty but too hard to understand. However, I find myself being drawn to it more and more. Although I have always liked RSV, I find myself double checking it with the KJV now. When I read a few people who posted about the KJV and were down right obnoxious about it, I wondered what their problem was, ’cause I fought against reading it. This is answered prayer. I asked the Lord to show me what He wanted me to be reading.

    I’m sorry that it is causing division. What does the Bible actually say, instead of what does it mean? The solution would be to read a couple different translations, that way we will be growing in the “grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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  4. Amy,

    I read many versions as well. I compare them, but most often I go to the source, the Greek or Hebrew. Here is the Greek word translated as “flesh” : σάρξ pronounced sarx. It does mean the flesh of an animal, but by implication it is used in the NT to portray human nature with its frailties both physically or morally as well as its passions. It is also used specifically in reference to a carnal human being. We crucify this flesh when we take up our crosses and follow Christ. Our flesh demands to be fed sinful things, but we are the ones who either feed it or deny it. We sin, not it. Amen Amy. I also read some commentaries, but I never give them the same weight as God’s word.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  5. The “early church” had no Bible. They had letters. Letters written to the church and others about the Gospel and the accounts of lives lived out in faith. I have many translations of those letters that contain the ‘spirit’ of those letters, but none of them are perfect word for word. If the early church could live out their faith by God’s grace and be ‘accepted into the beloved’ without a certain translation as have millions of the few that have lived out their faith by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit then so can we, who have been given everything (by that same Spirit of Truth) live out our faith without being involved in some Bible-ism.
    Read the letters fresh again knowing that the disciples and until only a few centuries ago, never had an almost complete set of letters in their hands at one time. We are blessed to have sets of these letters tossed around our cars and houses but lets not condemn one another with those ‘versions’, because that is all they are, ‘versions’.
    Love one another, not a legal so-called love of the pharisees.
    Like, I love you IF you keep only my Bible by your side. If you don’t, I condemn you and will not fellowship with you because this just has to be God’s Bible version and your’s isn’t, says me.
    I really struggled with the whole transaltion issue until I expressed my concern in great detail to a brother of mine and your’s and he simply stated this to me, “Brent, that is perfectionism, you wanting to have an absolute perfect ‘Bible’.
    There is no such thing.

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  6. Perfectionism is such a trap and leads only to self-righteousness.

    You said a mouth full there Mike. Summed it all up in one sentence.

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  7. Paul and Luann, my SBC background is such a gold mine of these things. Perfectionism is rampant in it. It is all backward. I’m not saying that all SBC folks are this way, but I know plenty who are. They are convinced that they are pleasing God with their own efforts. When I was a Deacon at one church I was considered the black sheep of the bunch by some who judged everyone on how busy they were and how well they conformed to the SBC ideal. What about the Grace of God? What about humbly submitting to the Lordship of Christ and obeying Him? I doubt if He is all that excited to see how religious we are instead of how obedient we are in our helpless humility.

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  8. Hi Mike.

    Re Bible translations (comments were closed, so I’m commenting here)…

    Just a reminder for your readers that we English-speakers have SUCH a luxury of so many translations to choose from. More than 2,000 language groups around the world don’t have a single verse translated into their own language!

    Blessings today.

    -Paul Merrill for Wycliffe’s The Seed Company
    http://www.theseedcompany.org/

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  9. We wonder why these KJVO don’t know or don’t care that KJ got all their writings from the Geneva!! So why aren’t they hollering ‘Geneva Only’! 🙂 It just seems so silly. We agree with what you said about the SBC and their idea of ‘good’, because we saw it where we were going too. Sad.

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  10. Paul and Luann, since that is my background, I do struggle with that mindset even now. I think the Geneva is ignored or suppressed by them because if they didn’t they would have to acknowledge that the 1611 KJV is just one step in the process of English Bible translation. I also agree with Paul of Wycliffe’s The Seed Company. There are millions of people in the world right now who have no Bible in the their own language. Instead of having these silly discussions about KJV Onlyism why not put more effort in giving God’s truth to the world?

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  11. I attended an independent Baptist Church for about a year and the Pastor was a KJV only proponent. Most of his arguments were illogical and I could see through them. After reading and studying from many several translations I am most comfortable with the KJV and feel more edified by it.
    It seems to me that the large amount of translations we have with us today have only contributed to the lazy, casual approach most churches have toward worship and Bible study.
    It may not be necessary to worship on Sunday wearing a shirt and tie, having organ music, and singing traditional hymns but I think most of us would be better off if we did.
    To me, taking the trouble to read and understand the language of the KJV increases my reverence and awe of God’s word.
    It would be interesting to conduct a study to see how many churches still using the KJV (not KJV only) have fallen into emergent of Purpose driven error.
    Please be sympathetic to the KJV only crowd. Their reasoning may be faulty but the apostasy they see is real and massive.
    Thank you Mike, you are in our prayers.

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  12. Bill,

    I understand where you are coming from. I used to be a Southern Baptist and we had several couples in the last SBC church I belonged to who had fled from an independent Baptist Church whose leadership attempted to force these very things onto their congregation. This is legalism sir and forcing people to use nothing but the KJV and to wear white shirts and ties while singing hymns with organ music is an adherence to a form of church that is from the era of Revivalism in this country, is not what is required to have a New Testament Church. I attend a Sovereign Grace church in which we wear nice clothes, but not formal. We sing hymns and some more up-to-date worship songs. We use the ESV bible, at least our leadership does. I do, but my wife doesn’t. Are we part of the emergent or Purpose driven error? No, we are not.

    The reaction of the KJV Only people to attack this ministry because I do not use the KJV exclusively or because I use the ESV in my writings is wrong! Yes, I forgive them, but I will no longer debate them because they do not listen. The focus of these last few articles were in response to these attacks. Have I been teaching error? Have I been leading people to dishonor God and go after idols? Have I been teaching a false gospel? I contend that I have done none of those things so why the attacks? These attacks are born from hearts blinded by self-righteousness. Spiritual blindness comes as God gives people over to the sin of idolatry. KJV Onlyism and those other things you mentioned are all part of a religiosity that is, if one is not very careful, idolatrous.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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