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This page is based upon notes for a sermon in a Methodist church earlier this year. The Bible readings used are at the end of this note.

In case I forget to say it later, the point is this.

There is a season in the way God deals with men when He comes and we should respond.

As it said in Isaiah, Call upon Him while He is near.

For good sermon practice, may I offer 3 points?

1. There is a season when God "passes by" and calls to us.

2. There is a response which we can make, and say "Yes" or "No".

3. When we say, "Yes," there is a life-changing meeting with the Living God.

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Now for the theology.

We have the Arminian and the Calvinist in these two blind men. The one who heard that Jesus was near and cried out to Him. The other who did not make any move, but Jesus came as if to fulfil an appointment with him. His blindness was the occasion of God coming down.

Wesleyan, that is, most Methodist, doctrine is Arminian. (The exception is Welsh Calvinistic Methodism which slightly predates John Wesley).

It will be simpler to explain this with the following extract from Edgar Parkyns, His Waiting Bride, (p. 169-170).

Arminianism versus Calvinism

We’ve just mentioned Arminianism and Calvinism, and we’ll take a moment now to explain these two viewpoints.

Jacobus Arminius (1560 - 1609) was a Protestant Dutch theologian who had been taught Calvinistic views on predestination and man’s free will. He was asked to write in defence of Calvinism but, on studying the Bible himself, concluded that it did not support such views. He felt that Calvinism did not allow man’s freedom of choice to play any part in his salvation. Thus he became the father of the Arminian school of thought, as opposed to the Calvinist school. His views drew him unwillingly into disputation - he was a very gracious man, and this conflict was a great distress to him.

After his death, his followers met in 1610 to draw up a statement to clarify their position. These articles of belief were called Remonstrances, and they were condemned by the Calvinists at the famous Synod of Dort in 1618-19. At this Synod, the representatives of Arminianism were unfortunately treated with great discourtessy and expelled, and many were persecuted. In their ‘Remonstrances’ the Arminians said:

  • God elects those whom He foresees will accept His gracious offer of salvation. In contrast the Calvinists believed that predestination is not conditional on faith, i.e. God predestines to salvation those whom He has decreed shall be saved (the ‘elect’) without any reference to their will.

  • Christ died for all men (though only those who believe actually benefit from it). The Calvinists maintained that Christ died only for the ‘elect’.
  • Man is so spiritually sick that God’s grace is necessary for him to believe and be saved. Later Arminians developed this by saying that man’s depravity was not total, so that unregenerate man can still desire to be saved and willingly receive the gospel (though he still needs God’s grace to believe and be saved). On the other hand, he can use his will to reject the gospel. Calvinists, by contrast, said that unregenerate man is totally depraved, such that his will is in bondage - man is utterly unable even to want to be saved, and incapable of any response to the gospel, without God giving him the desire. According to the Calvinist view, then, man’s will plays no part at all in his salvation.
  • Mna is free to resist God’s grace. The Calvinists believed that God’s grace is irresistable.
  • The Arminians did not say whther it is possible for a Christian so to resist the Holy Spirit that he becomes a ‘castaway’ or ‘reprobate’, and so lose his salvation - they left it as an open question. They thus rejected the clear-cut Calvinist view, which was that it is impossible for a Christian to fall from grace and lose his salvation. Later Arminians did believe that a man could lose his salvation if he persisted in resisting the Holy Spirit.
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Prevenient Grace

The point is this. What is called "prevenient grace" is essential. But God still allows us free will to respond to his call as we will. But He often presses that call insistently. The error attributed to Pelagius was that of denying the sovereignty of God, by saying that we have such free will that we may call upon God without that initial call of God, the gentle wooing of the Holy Spirit.

The Articles of Religion,
   X.  Of Free Will

The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such,
that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works,
to faith, and calling upon God:
Wherefore we have no power
to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God,
without the grace of Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will,
and working with us, when we have that good will.

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The blind man in John had the choice not to go to Siloam. He would not then have been healed. The response of obedience to God is needed.

We may ask, "Is God an Arminian or a Calvinist?" The answer is "Yes." But note that this passage does not support the more extreme Calvinist position which excuses a man of blame for his sin by making him a machine, totally determined. (This is one of the arguments about genetics; is it a form of determinism?) Rather it is a more moderate Calvinism which makes a man responsible for his obedience in response to the call of God. The Bible NEVER excuses sin on the grounds of, "I had no choice; God made me do it."

The manner of the healing interests me. We have in this healing the completion of creation. Blind from birth, his eyes were not fully formed. The Creator God re-enacted the process by which He made Adam, to complete the creation of this man when it had not been completed in his mother’s womb. (By the way, this also speaks to us of the Person of Christ, that He is God who was in the beginning. It is another illustration of what John said in the Prologue, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God.")

Psalm 146 ties God’s moral authority to help those in need with the truth of himself as creator. It is not simply a matter of might, that God has enough muscle. God has a moral right as well. On this topic, it is not a question of "Science versus the Bible" as the popular press tries to deceive us. It is a question of world views which lie outside of science, but about which science has something to say. When it come to the verdict of the hard facts of science, it is evolution rather than creation which is at odds with the facts. But the propaganda machine of this world distorts the truth.

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I like the personal notes in Mark’s account.

The blind man is known by name. (V 46) God knows each one of us individually. I guess that perhaps Timaeus was also well known in the early church.

Then V 49, "Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee." Our Lord dealt with him personally. This man was not a nuisance to Jesus. God loves to do good to his people, especially those in need.

The Psalms are full of God helping the helpless. That is true meekness - great power, under control, to help the weak.

To get back to the point. God comes "passing by" to meet us, and He expects a response from us. Will we respond to Him? Or let him pass by on the other side?

R J Higginson, B.Sc., B.D. March 2000  Copyright

back to quote

Edgar F. Parkyns His Waiting Bride (An outline of Church History in the light of The Book of Revelation), 1996; Wheatcorn Publications, 22, Belfield Road, West Ewell, Surrey, KT19 9SY. Chapter 19, pp169 - 170

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Bible Readings

Isa 55:1-13

6 Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:
7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

Mark 10:46-52
46 And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging.
47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.
48 And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.
49 And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee.
50 And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus.
51 And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight.
52 And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.

Luke 18:35-43
35 And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging:
>36 And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant.
37 And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by.
38 And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.
39 And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.
40 And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him,
41 Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight.
42 And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee.
43 And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.

John 9:1-7
1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,
7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

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R J Higginson, B.Sc., B.D. ;   Copyright