The Gift of Spiritual Understanding

But the disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said. (Luke 18:34)

Just what was it that Jesus said to his disciples that they did not understand?  It was his declaration of the suffering and death he was about to undergo.  

These words of Jesus, and his disciples' inability to comprehend them, bring up a very important question:

Why is it that some people have spiritual understanding and others do not?  

Is spiritual understanding merely an element of intelligence?  Apparently not; consider these words of Jesus, spoken to God the Father:

At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants." (Matthew 11:25)

Why do people who have not yet believed in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, have little to no capability for understanding the things of God?

A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

Why does God hide spiritual understanding from some people and reveal it to others?  Is it a matter of the sincerity of the seeker?  In other words, does God make known spiritual truths only to those who are genuinely looking for it?

Well, yes, it seems rather obvious that the skeptic and the mocker will not understand spiritual truth.  Conversely, those who don't think they are the fountainhead of knowledge and have all the answers, but rather are humble seekers, eager to learn — these are the ones to whom God chooses to reveal his wisdom.

Now there are some who misinterpret the scriptures and believe that God independently chooses those to whom he reveals truth, on the basis of reasons that are unaffected by, and unknown to, humankind.  They use texts such as the following to defend their position:

The disciples came and said to him, "Why do you speak to them in parables?" Jesus answered them, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted." (Matthew 13:10-11)

Yes, spiritual understanding is a grace gift that is given to some and not to others.  This does not necessarily mean that the condition for receiving the gift is wholly outside of the influence of the one receiving it.  Each individual has a free will that will ultimately determine whether or not he or she receives the gift.

"But," you say, "if is a grace gift, then it cannot be earned, for then it can only be a reward."  Here is the answer to the dilemma: humility is the necessary requirement to receive the gift, and humility is not a work; it is a frame of mind that simply acknowledges one's inability and state of need.  

Now, just because a person has humbly received the gift of spiritual knowledge leading to faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, does not mean that he or she will necessarily continue to receive the gift of spiritual understanding.  Each Christian needs to continue to walk before the Lord in humility in order to continue to receive God's gift of spiritual understanding.  

This is the very point of this warning in the book of Hebrews:

Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that stands off from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12-13)

The Israelites in the wilderness did not humbly walk with God, they criticized his chosen leader and complained against God himself.  Humility begins with an acknowledgement that we possess no rights, and then declares that, apart from Christ, we are nobody, we know nothing, we have nothing, and we can do nothing.  Do you see why humility can never be construed as a work of the flesh?  It is simply acknowledging "I can't," and "I need."

In order to continue to receive God's gift of spiritual understanding, Christians must:

1) continue to walk humbly with God,

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

2) set their minds on spiritual things, and

Those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:5-6)

3) put into practice the things God has already taught them.

Everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (Hebrews 5:13-14)

Now, it must be added that even for the Christian who daily lives by the above standard, there will still be certain things that God will not reveal to him or her.  God hid spiritual understanding even from godly men like the prophet Daniel and the apostle John.  God knows that some things are just not good for us to know, and so he graciously hides those things from us for now.

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