"One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see."
-- John 9:25
The bestselling and most often recorded song of all time was not written by the Beatles or Bob Dylan. It was written by a reformed pastor by the name of John Newton. In 1790, while carrying out his pastoral practice of writing hymns to accompany his sermons, he penned "Amazing Grace."
The biblical inspiration for the beautiful hymn came from the ninth chapter of the Gospel of John. In the miracle, Jesus heals a young man born blind, whose famous testimony is echoed in Newton's famous first verse. Remember that virtually every miracle performed by Jesus is a parable preached by Jesus. The miracles are parables that proclaim the good news of salvation, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. That Jesus saved this man's sight is grace indeed, but that Jesus saved the man's soul, that's amazing grace.
The predicament in the story is "a man blind from birth" (vs. 1). There was no cure for blindness then, just as there is no complete cure now. No miracle worker, not even Moses nor Elijah, had ever healed blindness, neither have any charlatan televangelists. If blind you are, it is blind you will stay, apart from the miraculous grace of God.
The miracle is obvious, for the only thing that could bring this man out of blindness and into sight, out of darkness and into the light, was the miraculous grace of God, held in the powerful hands of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus took the initiative, as God always does. He was aware of the man's suffering, and allowed it up to this time in his life. The man believed in the word and work of Jesus. He turned from his begging bench toward the Pool of Siloam, the very illustration of Christ's living water. He obeyed the Lord and washed himself in the water. Then, though he was blind, he could now see.
The aftermath sent the legalistic Pharisees into a rage, since the miracle was performed on the Sabbath Day, in violation of their extra-biblical rules. The parents threw their son under the bus. The man, perhaps as young as 13 or as old as 20, stood up to the Pharisees and stood apart from his parents. In the process, he was transformed twice. He received his physical sight. And, He became a believer in Christ, as attested to the change in address from "sir" to "Lord."
The predicament today is that while less than 1% of the population are born blind, 100% of human beings are born spiritually blind. Theologians call this condition total depravity. It is the absolute inability to see God, seek God, or give God the only thing that pleases Him, namely faith, on your own. It is a state of sin and unbelief, to which the vast majority of people become accustomed. Like the man born blind, we are helpless until we are helped by the Lord.
The miracle of salvation is not something you can earn. It is not a cooperative effort between you and God, then you are badly mistaken. If you see salvation as a miracle of divine grace, then you see correctly. Salvation is a gift that makes a blind man see. Salvation is a gift given when the word of God is heard, and the grace-enabled response is faith, repentance, and obedience, just like the man in this story.
The aftermath of amazing grace always includes joy, persecution, and resolution. Joy comes from seeing, walking, and living with the Lord. Persecution comes from within, religious folks like the Pharisees, and persecution comes from without in the world in which we live. But when one really sees the gospel and resolutely follows Jesus, there is a peace that the Apostle Paul says passes all understanding. It is all of grace, it is an ever-deepening faith, and it is all about the Lord Jesus Christ. It makes one want to sing.
Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
-- John Newton
Chuck DeVane is pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs. He is a graduate of Valdosta State University, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He has served churches in Arkansas and Georgia, and preached the gospel across the United States and other countries. Email him at [email protected]