Just ponder this for a while: a priori
Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock... DING!
WORD OF THE LORD
(what comes before)
Genesis 1:2-3 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
Jeremiah 1:4-5 Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
John 1:1-4 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,
John 8:58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
Ephesians 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.
There it be. Spiritual reality is a priori to material reality, thus saith the LORD. So, what's this a priori ? Glad you asked.
(Oh no, there he goes with that complicated, philosphizing, stuff. YAWN! BOOORRRRINNGGG) No wait! Aw, come on, this one's EASY. And it's really cool. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, has a bunch of preconceived notions about what's what. About what's good, what's bad, what's real and what not. And, this is the important part, everything they experience, do, say, think, feel is interpreted by those notions. That's a priori. Get these guys for instance :
(YAAWWWNNN) HEY WAKE UP! These materialists are ALL OVER THE PLACE. They are the guys who say everything must be "scientific", which really isn't what they mean, because science is just a systematic way of studying something, and what THEY mean is scientific MATERIALISM. Everything that was, is, will be is just matter. You might say, and I think I will say, that to them the only thing that matters is matter. I'm going to call them matterists from now on, just to be rude.
(Sidebar your Honor: I don't see that there is any point in presenting evidence of the existence of God to this jury of matterists, since they have a priori excluded the possibility of spiritual reality. Like, what are we gonna say? God exists because... (because, because, because, because) of the wonderful THINGS He does? They're just gonna come back with, well, you see, your only proof is to point to some material evidence which just reinforces our claim that only matter is real. Then they get real smug and I hate that. Very well, step back.)
So, the matterist has a priori excluded anything that is not matter, like spirit, from being real. Now, I know you, you're gonna say, because you think you're real smart, what about "thought?" Huh? That's not matter and that's real! Except, except, the matterist is gonna say that thought is just the result of some electro-chemical-fancy-shmancy brain-matter and there take that, see its all matter after all. They actually think that they can capture those electrical signals, stuff 'em into some silicon and then "live" (if you want to call it that) forever. Boy, do they have a surprise coming!
So those guys are all over the place and they demand, yes, demand that all public stuff, like school and politics and spending tax money they stole from you, be based SOLELY on a matterist view. It can get pretty frustrating, I gotta tell you. If you don't buy in to their a priori you don't get to play ball, or be an engineer, or get a job teaching, or much of anything else either. And you STILL have to pay taxes anyway.
Then, WONDER OF WONDER, every once in a while, one of these matterists, GETS RELIGION!. Yee-hah! A convert! Well, maybe not. OK. Definitely NOT. 'Cause what I see all the time is these guys drag their sorry-ass self down to Church (let it go, I'm on a roll here) and plop down in a pew and right next to them they got a big bag of matterist a priori there. Everything they experience in their "spiritual" life is automatically interpreted through that matterist filter. Just like this:
Since they still think that what's real is matter and all that spirit stuff is woo-woo, fuzzy-wuzzy, out-there somewhere then if you ask them to DEMONSTRATE why some one should become a Christian, and what's this "faith" thing anyway, all they can do is come back with, Well, you see, you can't really PROOOOVVVE this, you just gotta BUH-LEIVE! That's all they got, because of their a priori , just a bunch of BULL-LEAVINGS (heh, heh, get it: bull-leavings? OK. Never mind.). And, it gets worse from there.
Their whole attitude about getting spiritual reward is to go and do some good things and not do bad things. What they mean is somehow mess around with some matter and make it better. Like, don't smoke, don't drink, don't screw around. And do some good things too while you're not having any fun. You know. Like charity auctions, and stuff, or giving their old underwear to Goodwill, or, if they are really good, they might feed the poor, or something. They conclude that because they didn't do bad things and did good things of their own volition and only got a tax write-off in return, then they just scored some spiritual brownie-points in heaven. Ya know? So, the more good works (messin' with material stuff) they do the more spiritual they think they are.
And just forget about giving anything except for material reasons. Yeah, you can tell them, we gotta enlarge the Church parking lot to handle all our new member's SUV's, and we really need to build a new building, and buy a big bag of cheese sandwiches to feed the homeless, etc., etc., etc. and then they will ask how much you need so that they can give just the minimum amount. Wouldn't want to waste our money you see? Even better, (or worse really) if you can convince them God is the best investment banker in town and for every dime they give they'll get a dollar back, then, boy, oh boy, oh boy you really got 'em. All of those things fit with the matterist a priori . You do something material to get some spiritual benefit. Try to tell them that they should give just to be giving, and ZZZOOOOOMMMMM, right over their heads. The idea that something might be done purely as a spiritual act is outside their a priori presumptions.
And Sin? UNGODLY SIN? They think that's all matter stuff too. If you don't appear sinful in your actions, then you must not be sinful. Right? So the whole thing about sin is cuttin' and moldin' and purifyin' and conformin' the FLESH. Because, from a matterist a priori you get spiritual results by doing something with matter. If you get that flesh-matter in line, then you prove how spiritual you are. And don't be backslidin' either. Because, because, well... just because! These are the "works" folks and I really, really, have to wonder just what Bible they been reading from.
Matthew 23:25-28 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. 26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. 27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. 28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
So, basically, their a priori PREsumptions and ASSumptions are that you prove yourself by outward signs in the FLESH. That's how you prove you are spiritual, they think, and get God to consider you righteous. Jesus calls that hypocrisy. He said you have to clean the inside (spirit heart) first and that will cause the outside to become clean. That's what He whupped on the Pharisees about. Hey, you know, now that I think about it, Apostle Paul had to deal with this too:
Galatians 1:6-7 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
Galatians 3:1-5 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? 2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. 5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith
Bewitched? Perverts? Yeah, PERVERTS! Hey, that's what Paul calls them. They put the stuff in back out front and the stuff out front in back. Kinda like, they got their a priori on BACKWARDS. Later on in Galations Paul really whups on 'em. But I'll let you go read it for yourself. It's pretty funny when you understand what Paul told them to do to themselves. (Gal 5:12 Heh, heh) But the point, THE POINT, is that people with a priori matterist views have been hanging around causing problems for followers of Jesus from the very beginning. They used the wrong set of a priori presumptions when studying the Law and listening to Jesus and reading Paul and got the totally wrong idea as a result. So, Peter, he says, Paul is hard to understand. Naaawww. Paul is EASY if you get the right a priori view.
Paul is saying the change of the spirit comes before the change of the flesh. ( a priori - what comes before) So spirit is a priori. You don't get rid of sin and become righteous by hammering on the flesh. You get rid of sin by getting filled with spirit. Then, and this is what is just waaayyyy cool, the spirit takes over and gets the flesh under control. See, didn't I tell you all this a priori stuff is cool? And, and, and... That means all you need to do is do what you need to increase the spirit in you. And that is that the just shall live by faith.
Aha, I got you. This is the old FAITH-WORKS, GRACE-LAW thang in a nutshell. One side has got a matterist set of a priori assumptions and the other side don't. One side says, you have to do works of the law (by your own will power) IN THE FLESH to become spiritual and demonstrate how good you are. Flesh-matter is a priori. The other side (and that would be the team I'm on) says, you work on the spiritual things and the matter things will be dragged (kicking and screaming usually) right in to line with what God wants. Spirit is a priori. It's -- you are saved by GRACE and live by FAITH.
(Hey, is there an echo in here?)
FAITH, FAITH, FAITH, FAITH, FAITH
GRACE, GRACE, GRACE, GRACE, GRACE
What the Apostle Paul, and me because I like Paul, says is that this "faith" thing is a spiritual act, not a material act. When you faith-act you affect the spiritual reality of yourself and that will ultimately change the flesh to be in conformity to the spirit. You can't do it the other way around. Just won't work.
And grace? Oh, man, the matterists really screw up here. You see if you take a view that says you change the flesh to get spiritual result, then you really got a problem with grace. They KNOW that no matter how hard they try, they're eventually gonna screw up. The flesh is just too powerful and the temptations too big and so the flesh is gonna fail. So, not having any other way out, they think that grace is just forgiveness for sins. OOOOPS. Hey guys. Don't you see? If grace is good and grace is just forgiveness for sin, then why don't you just sin and sin and sin so that you get more grace? (Rom. 6:1) This is what happens when you get you're a priori on backward. It's you matterists who turn grace into license to sin, NOT ME. NO SIR, NO WAY! Better turn around and un-backward your a priori.
Grace, God's unmerited favor, is more than forgiveness of sin by the blood of Jesus. It is also the pouring out of His spirit into our heart. It's a real serious heart attack. You gotta get the heart open first, by faith, and then He can fill it up with His spirit. That's where the spirit that overcomes the temptation to sin comes from. Man, oh, man when that Holy Spirit of the Father pours into you, gets the flesh under control and then starts working it's way out into the world, IT'S JUST AWESOME. HALLELUJAH! It changes the world. Spirit controls matter, not the other way around. Get real! Get spiritual!
So what's the problem? You'd think that everyone would want to do it this way. Why work so hard when God will fill you up and do all the working with His spirit? Well, besides the fact they don't really believe God will do it that way, there's one more a priori they gotta deal with. Self. The a priori presumption that most people have trouble getting rid of is the idea that salvation, and all that, is about ME. If they can't do some "work" then they think they got nothin' to be proud of. (and they would be right for once) No way to pat themselves on the back, puff up with pride, and show off to the world, and God, just how RIGHTEOUS they are. Hey, get over yourself. I SAID, GET OVER YOUR SELF. It's God's show. He's going to do the saving, and the spirit filling, and the working so that HE GETS ALL THE GLORY. We need to get the SELF out of the way. He chose us to be His instrument so that He can show off to all of His creation in eternity just what He can do. Cool. I'm with it. Are you?