Understanding The Bible
BY THE AUTHOR
Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible
SALUTATION: James, "To the Twelve Tribes scattered
The PROVING of faith 1:2-27
Through patiently enduring TESTINGS 1:2-12
The first twelve verses are not concerned with solicitations to do evil, therefore "temptations" in these verses should be translated "testings." Here we have the Christian viewpoint of testing, trial, affliction. The Christian should count affliction joy, because it "worketh patience." Let patience have her complete work "that ye may be complete, lacking nothing." This viewpoint is expressed in a familiar hymn:
"Let sorrow do its work. Send grief and pain;
Sweet are thy messengers. Sweet their refrain,
When they can sing with me, More love, 0 Christ, to Thee,
More love to Thee, More love to Thee."
There are five(5) reasons why we should "count it all joy":
Trials are the only thing that produce mature growth 3-4
Trials deepen our prayer life. "If any lack wisdom, let him ask of God."
Trials reveal to us whether or not we are really trusting God) 6-8
Trials clarify the real issues of life and give us a proper perspective of the value of things 9-11
Trials give us (joy here and reward late) This is based upon:
the promise of God that He will supply our need
upon the known character of God (He has been faithful in the past)
and upon the power of God 9,12
Through steadfastly withstanding TEMPTATIONS
(solicitations to evil) 1:13-18
v. 13 - where temptation does not come from (contra v. 17, "from above")
v. 14 - where temptation does come from (from within)
v. 15 - frank and brutal statement of the "Genesis and Genealogy of Sin"
There are seven steps in the "Genesis and Genealogy of Sin":
Evil desire (lust) - reaching out (v. 14) - is met by
Enticement - reaching in (v. 14). The union of these two results in
Conception (v. 15) - sin at its fountainhead (in the secret place of the heart). Conception takes place when the will gives in to desire. Sin has no "blighted ova," so inevitably this is expressed outwardly in
Birth - the sinful deed, the outward act (v.l5).
Note the Scripture order:
"out of the heart.. .proceed" (Mark 7:20-23)
"as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he"
"out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh"
Colloquial proverb: "Sin will out!" There follows:
Growth - if the sinful deed is not slain with the Sword of the Spirit (Word of God), and is therefore repeated, the result is
Maturity - full growth ("when it is finished, " v. 15) - it has now become a fixed habit, which if not judged finally leads to
"Death" (v. 15) - which
in the case of an unsaved man means "the second death, " eternal separation from God who is life;
in the case of a saved man, it means the "death"
of his fellowship, testimony, fruitfulness (cp. Galatians 6:7-9
"corruption"; Romans 8:12-13 "ye shall (or, are about to) die") and, if
persisted in, may lead to the discipline of physical death (1
Corinthians 11:30 "many sleep"; 1 John 5:16-17 "there is a sin unto
death"; 1 Corinthians 5:5 ".. .destruction of the flesh that the spirit
may be saved").
This section shows us how to overcome temptation:
We must slay it with the Sword of the Spirit 15
We must avoid putting ourselves in situations that cause it 16
We must remind ourselves who we are--the children of God 18
We must saturate ourselves with the Word of
God. It clarifies our minds as to what sin is and fortifies our hearts
and provides a weapon of God 21
Through consistently practicing TRUE CONDUCT
"Do not deceive yourselves brethren" (You don't deceive others!)
"Do" as well as "hear" 19-25
False and true ritual contrasted (outward religious service) 26-27
False: "seem religious" 26
True: "this is" 27
(1) Visit fatherless and widows 27a
(2) Keep unspotted 27b
The WORKING of faith 2
Avoid invidious distinctions between neighbors 2:1-13
Do not despise the poor 2:1-7
To do so is to break the whole law 2:8-13
Prove the reality of your faith by (faith) works 2:14-26
The worthlessness of an unprofitable faith
(2:14-17) or, The unprofitableness of a dead orthodoxy
"Say": Words that are not backed up by action are useless.
The only faith that is profitable is that which is practical.
Works are the only evidence of faith that men can
see (2:18-20) or, Genuine faith must give evidence of its existence
The proof that a tree is a fruit tree is that it bears fruit.
An orchard is not for ornament but for fruit. The evidence that one has life is that he lives!
Proof that justification is only by the faith that works (2:21-26) or. Scripture evidence that works are a necessary proof and completion of faith
The case of Abraham 21-24
"His faith wrought with his works"
The case of Rahab the harlot 25
The conclusion of the whole matter 26
Special note on the word "Justification" in the New Testament
The unsaved seek to justify themselves to no avail (Luke 16:15). There is no justification possible through man's works because they are sinful works (Galatians 2:16; 3:11).
Believers in Christ are said to be:
"Justified by God (or Christ) - The SOURCE of justification: Acts 13:39; Romans 4:5; 8:30,33
Justified by GRACE - The PRINCIPLE of justification: Romans 3:24; Titus 3:7
Justified by BLOOD - The GROUND or FOUNDATION of justification: Romans 5:9
Justified by (Christ' s) RESURRECTION - The (God's) EVIDENCE or WITNESS of justification, i.e., that the blood was sufficient basis: Romans 4:25
Justified by FAITH - The MEANS or the ONE CONDITION of justification: Romans 3:28; 5:1; Galatians 2:16; 3:8,24
Justified by WORKS - The (Man's) DEMONSTRATION (before men) of one's justification: James 2:21,24
Are PAUL and JAMES IN CONFLICT? (See ISBE article on "James's History")
Luther and many have professed to see a discrepancy, if not a flat contradiction, between Paul's emphasis on faith and James's emphasis on works. This is an unfortunate conclusion, for fundamentally they agree even though superficially they seem to contradict each other. Here is the evidence:
As pointed out above, six different aspects of justification are referred to in the N.T. It would be just as foolish to imagine a contradiction between Nos. 5 and 6 as between Nos. 2 and 3.
James could not be answering Paul's letters to the Romans and Galatians, for James is writing probably 10-20 years before Paul wrote Galatians and Romans!
The solution is to be found in the fact that Paul and James use three key words in two different senses. These words arc: faith, works, justification.
The FAITH James denounces is the faith of a dead orthodoxy." The faith that Paul propounds is not the faith of demons (merely intellectual orthodoxy) but the faith that redeems -- initial saving faith. (However, James believes in true faith (2:5) also, but he emphasizes the faith which is exercised in the Christian life after salvation and which results in good works, 2:22.)
The WORKS Paul denounces are the works of a dead legalism, done under a sense of duty, as a slave not a son. The works James propounds are the works of a believer, the fruit of faith and love born in every believer's heart and manifest in every believer's life. (Paul believes in the necessity of such good works just as surely as James, Ephesians 2:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Titus 3:8. So does John, 1 John 2:36; 3:9-10.)
The JUSTIFICATION meant by Paul is the initial justification of the Christian life, through faith apart from works. It is the gift of God's free grace. The justification meant by James is the justification of any after-moment in the Christian life, and the final justification before the judgment throne. (Paul believes in this proof of after-salvation justification, e.g., 1 Corinthians 10:25-31, and in this final aspect of justification as much as James, as seen in Romans 2:6-10.)
The WISDOM of faith 3 (Note contrasts between earthly and heavenly)
Warnings against the misuse of the TONGUE 3:1-12
The problem of rash reproof of others l-2a
For we all offend--especially with the tongue
The power of the tongue 2b-6
(Not to sin with the tongue requires real spiritual maturity.)
Three graphic illustrations:
The horse bridle by which the whole body (of the horse) is turned about 2b-3
The ship's rudder by which the largest ships are steered on their course, even in the face of storms 4
The spark of fire by which a whole forest or city may be destroyed (e.g., Chicago) 5-6
3. The perverseness of the tongue 7-12
Its ungovernableness--untamable by man 7-8
Its inconsistency--with it we bless and curse
(1) It is illogical and sinful 9-10
(2) Nothing else in nature acts as we do, e.g., fountains, trees 11-12
Wisdom, true and false 3:13-18
The tongue should be a strong witness 13
Hellish wisdom 14-16
Heavenly wisdom 17-18
The WARFARE of faith 4
Conflict -with the flesh 1-3
We win by correcting our motives.
Conflict with the world 4-6
We win by judging ourselves.
Conflict with the devil 7-10
We win by submitting to God.
Conflict with fellow Christians 11-12
We win by leaving judgment to God.
Conflict with unspiritual thinking 13-17
We win by recognizing the transient character of life and ordering our thoughts in tune with eternity.
The TRIUMPH of faith 5
These are present triumphs resulting from trusting the Lord in all circumstances and ultimate triumphs brought about by the Lord's return.
Warnings to the oppressing rich 5:1-6
Their future: The miseries that are coming upon them 1
Their present: Witnessing to the corruption of their ill-gotten gains 2-3
Their past: Which furnishes the occasion for their
The indictment is threefold:
Heartless injustice 4
Lavish luxuriousness 5
Murderous cruelty 6
Exhortation to patient endurance 5:7-11
Examples: The prophets and Job
There is a double necessity for patience
When we are persecuted by the ungodly
When we have a collision of feeling among
Note: There is much to encourage (or demand) patience:
The process of nature 7
The Lord's return 8
The example of the prophets 10
The experience of Job 11
Exhortation to sober and holy living 5:12-16a
Profanity to be shunned 12
Treatment of various experiences 13-16a
Depression (spiritual) 13a
Any afflicted? Pray!
"But I don't feel like it, " one may say. That's the trouble. Keep praying till you do feel like it.
Cheerful? Burst forth into song and praise to God, the giver of real music. But let it be spiritual music! Observe that we do not cure spiritual depression by fleshly methods such as "trying to forget it, " through "having fun, " or "goofing off." Nor do we try to curb cheerfulness with an unnatural ascetic "hair-shirt" act. Both are to be dealt with realistically.
The first thing to do in a case of sickness is to call upon God. James 5:14-16's instructions are for sickness when it is known by the sufferer that his sickness is a chastening of the Lord for disobedience. There is the positive promise of the removal of the sickness in answer to the prayer of faith and confession of the sin. It is a positive promise for such a case, but it is equally clear that it is not given for every case of sickness.
Exhortation to persistent prayer 16b-18
Lit., "he prayed praying. " Too many of us "say our prayers. "
Elijah really prayed. He expected God to work and He did!
Exhortation to reclaiming a brother 19-20
A concluding incentive which may be applied to seeking the lost, but in this context it seems rather to apply more to seeking to "turn around" (old English, convert) a fellow believer who has fallen into sin (lit., "turn around the one sinning") in harmony with Galatians 6:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-7, 14-15.
NOTES ON "DIVINE HEALING"
Growing out of the study of James 5:14-16 by
C. E. Mason, Jr., Th. M., D.D.
Philadelphia College of Bible
POSITIVE TEACHING ON THE SUBJECT
CAN God heal? This has to do with the POSSIBILITY of
it and God's EXISTENCE.
If there be a God, He most certainly can heal, or else He would not be "The Strong One" which His name indicates.
But there are various kinds and ways of God's healing:
Instantaneous and complete
Instantaneous and partial
Healing through granting skill to doctors and nurses
Healing by preventative precaution and/or means
Most people mean only "instantaneous and complete" healing when they speak of Divine Healing." This leads to confusion and is a superficial view of the matter.
WILL God heal? This has to do with the PROBABILITY
of it and God's CHARACTER.
Answer: Because God is merciful and loving, it is reasonable to suppose He will heal.
DOES God heal? This has to do with the "FACTUALITY"
of it and God's ABILITY.
Answer: Are there authentic cases of God healing people in the present day?
There are! It is true that there are many untrue claims to having been healed, but the presence of large numbers of counterfeits argues there must be something genuine to counterfeit. We should not let the presence of fakes prejudice us against the real thing.
WHEN will God heal? This has to do with the
ACTUALITY of it and God's WILL.
Answer: God will answer "the prayer of faith" when:
The healing would be for His highest glory.
The healing would be for the sick one's highest good!
The healing would be for the best spiritual interest of others who are involved
Problem: No human can, in his limited knowledge, be certain when these conditions are fully true. Only God knows enough to know this. Therefore He must reveal it to us as being HIS WILL before we can pray in confident faith that the sick one will be healed. Read 1 John 5:14 - 15.
Prayer is not only answered when God says, "Yes. " He may answer by saying, "No, my child," or He may say, "Wait a while, my beloved." These are just as much answers as "Yes." The hymn-writer who prayed, "Give me the patience of unanswered prayer," might better have said, "Give me the patience of a postponed answer to my prayer, or the grace and wisdom to take 'No' for an answer."
Solution: Basic to all our thinking must be Romans
8:21-23. The body does NOT YET belong to the NEW creation, though the price
was paid at Calvary, and it WILL be redeemed and changed at Christ's Second
It still presently belongs to the OLD creation. We may naturally, therefore, expect the inevitable decay, disease, and death which are part and parcel of the OLD creation, and which belong to a groaning and travailing earth. All created matter is subject to decay and dissolution. God has not promised Christians exemption.
This will vary with heredity and environment. We are not all "born equal" physically and mentally, nor with the same spiritual opportunity . Some are born with physical weaknesses and are thus more likely to have pain. Some have not had a sick day for 50 years; others have not. had a well day! But "the Spirit helpeth our infirmities" (Romans 8:26)!
Our greatest infirmity in this regard is in not knowing "what we should pray for as we ought." We haven't any right to demand God's healing, for our normal expectancy from a body belonging to the old creation is "change and decay (in all around I see)." No one is getting younger. But we can plead His mercy ("supplication," Philippians 4:6), and perhaps it may be His will to heal.
But we should not get stubborn. Remember Psalm 106:15! "He gave them their request; but sent leanness into their souls." There are worse than physical weakness. Remember the case of Hezekiah, who demanded physical healing, only to give birth to Manasseh, who would never have been born if Hezekiah had been willing to die at God's time. It was Manasseh, because of whose sin Judah was specifically said to have been taken into captivity (2 Kings 23:26,37; 24:2-4).
WHAT shall WE do when sick?
Many passages throw indirect light on the subject, but James 5:13-16 gives some positive, specific instruction.
This passage helps us by what it does not say, as well as by what it does say.
Note the following
Our first and greatest need in sickness is
"Let him call for The elders of the church."
If we had written this, we should probably have said: "Is any among you sick? Let him hurry and call the doctor!" or "Let him run to the medicine cabinet!"
No, in sickness one's first need is God. When the body is down, we are most liable to be down in spirit. We are most likely to doubt God's goodness, His wisdom, and His power at such a time and, instead of patient submission and trust, we are more likely to grumble and be rebellious. It hurts our pride of self-sufficiency, and thwarts our plans, to be sick. We resent it, because we are essentially selfish. We must learn to submit gracefully and wholeheartedly to God's providences, even if (as in the James passage) the particular sickness in view seems to be a discipline from God because of unconfessed sin.
Illustration: People come back to church after being away two or three Sundays and the pastor says, "So glad to have you back. We missed you. " The answer is likely to be, "Huh! I was sick for a week! Why didn't you come to see me?" (Of course, the pastor didn't know they were sick, but he is supposed to be a mind-reader. He merely thought this was one of their periodic two weeks' vacations from coming to church!) Now, it will usually be found in such cases (if one feels it worthwhile to ask) that the doctor was called first thing; the relatives were told; the office or shop notified; the neighbors regaled with the details. But "God is not in all their thoughts" at such a time.
The body has a fire alarm system of which they are painfully aware, but the only way one can know his soul need at such a time is through the Word of God. Since daily life has, in most such cases, never been lived by the Word as a guidebook, there is no awareness of spiritual need. So everyone is informed by the sick one except the pastor. He usually hears second or third hand. And even if he is informed, it is usually long after medical aid is sought. And even then, he is requested to pray for the body, rather than the soul.
That is all wrong. Our bodies need God, but our first and greatest need, even in bodily pain and weakness, is our spirit! So many do not feel that need, or do not feel it important, or they would call the pastor, elder, or deacon.
Notice what practices of the modern "healing movement" this passage does away with: "Let him call for the elders of the church."
This rules out Armee Semple MacPherson Hutton, Mary Baker Gordon Glover Eddy, and all other women healers in the movement! The word is "elders" (masculine).
This rules out hiring a hall, building a
tabernacle, pitching a tent, or sneaking into a church and inviting the
sick to come.
The elders go to the sick, not the sick to the elders! Also rules out radio and TV.
This rules out those pious but misguided people
who run around with an olive oil bottle looking for some sick to anoint.
The elder comes only if called by the sick. The elder is not hunting up trade.
Notice it is plural: "elders." One brother may err in judgment, but "in the multitude of counselors there is wisdom."
This rules out the whole idea of public display,
showmanship, dramatics, and hysteria induced by healing campaigns.
The brother is home in bed, and everything is done quietly in private.
There is no mention of the plates being passed at the home. Evidently the audience is too small and perhaps some "elders" might have to give a quarter themselves (for a change)! Leaders in the healing movement miss no opportunity to capitalize on human suffering. You see, people feel their bodily distress and know it is there. (They can only know of soul distress by faith. They can't see their souls.) If someone can give people the idea for two minutes that he can do something to help their bodies, they will pay him well! And they do! There is documented information of reputable men to support the charge that healing has been made a racket by most of those who make that their means of livelihood.
Note: "Call for elders of the church." What church? The sick one's own local church, not visiting racketeers. He calls in elders who know all his meanness and know how to pray intelligently for him!
Notice the (Sick. man makes the move. He is convinced of his spiritual need (as well as 'bodily) and seeks the help of his brethren. (I do not say that we should not pray for, nor visit the sick, except when called, but this is the sick believer's instructions, and this attitude on his part is vitally connected with "the prayer of faith" which raises him up.)
In this particular case, the sickness is no mere
sniffle or toe ache. The patient is really sick and in danger of death
(vv. 15, 20). The pastor's and spiritually-minded peoples' aid should
not be sought for the slightest indisposition. No doubt a prayer request
may be phoned to them, or sent through a friend to the church that
prayer may be made. But this passage is not to be invoked, in its
detail, for every trifling ailment. The principle of seeking God's help
before the doctor's may well be followed, but busy pastors and church
officers are not to be "called" to pray and anoint unless there is grave
illness and it is obvious that only God's intervention can spare the
sick one. (This observation should do away with a great deal of
"nuisance calling" on those who enjoy poor health and want the pastor
and officers simply because they selfishly want attention; it feeds
their vanity and childish desire to be made over. There is too much life
and death calling on unsaved and really sick to warrant this pampering.)
"Let them pray over him."
See comments on prayer under I, D, Problem.
See the emphasis on the kind of praying James means in 5:16b-18. Also see 1:5-8 and observe 5:19-20, where we should read the word "convert" by substituting with the phrase "turn him back, " and "sinner" by "sinning one." Very probably the man of w.19-20 refers to the same man as v. 14.
"Anointing him with oil."
Which is first? The language would seem to show that they "prayed (after) having anointed him with oil." But the order is not the important thing.
What is meant by "anointing him with oil"? Some think a few drops are put on the patient as symbolizing the Holy Spirit, whose power can heal the body. Others feel it was the Oriental custom of a warm oil massage. This would tend to relax the patient and break the fever, inducing sleep. It may have been a combination of the two.
I incline to the latter view, but would not dogmatize. If this is the view, then the use of means is clearly specified, although even if oil is used as a symbolic act, the use of means is not forbidden.
Certainly, the Lord would not have made our bodies a combination of chemicals and the food which sustains us a combination of chemicals, if the use of suitable chemicals as combined in medicine were wrong. There is little chemical difference between avoiding acid-forming foods and taking a little soda or magnesia tablets. The idea in each case is to maintain the proper chemical balance in the body.
Means are not to be used as a substitute for God. They are rather to be gratefully received as God's good gift. Doctors and nurses likewise. We do not look to them to heal us. We gratefully receive them as God's providential provision for our body and ask God to bless them (and the means). We look beyond all men and means to the Lord Himself. God has put processes of healing within my body. The doctor and medicine simply assist them and speed these processes which God has built into our bodies.
"And the prayer of faith shall save (deliver,
heal) the sick and the Lord shall raise him up."
Question: What is mean, by "the prayer of faith"?
Answer: An examination of the doctrine of prayer in the N.T. makes it evident that The will of God" is the crux and pivot of the whole matter. "If we ask anything according to His will. He heareth us, " 1 John 5:13-14. "Not my will but Thine be done! " (See discussion under I, D.)
It seems evident from this context -- and the experience of godly men -- that something more than a general petition for Divine mercy on the afflicted one is involved here. Dr. R. A. Torrey has written a little booklet called "Divine Healing," in which he urges that this phrase should be applied only to a prayer prayed in full confidence of faith when the one praying has received "the inward persuasion of the Holy Spirit" that on this particular occasion and in this particular case it is the will of God to heal the sick one. It is no ordinary plea for God's blessing upon the sufferer. It is an extraordinary burden or urge which the heart, open to God's leading, senses as a challenge to faith's response. It is not always God's will to do the extraordinary thing (i.e., heal one who in this case in James is sick nigh unto death); therefore "the prayer of faith" cannot always be prayed. It is not subject to the will of the one praying nor the result simply of a willingness to believe God. It is a willingness to believe God when it is His will to heal. The same person may at times be able to pray it, and at other times (having no assurance of the Spirit as to God's favorable will) be unable to do more than plead God's mercy. (At this point. Dr. Mason tells of three or four incidents in Dr. Torrey's and his own experiences where "the prayer of faith" was prayed and remarkable healings occurred.)
NEGATIVE TEACHING - ANSWERING THE CLAIMS OF THE FAITH HEALING MOVEMENT
"Did not Christ die for our sicknesses as well as
for our sins?" or "Is not healing for the body as well as healing for the
soul in the atonement?"
Answer: In a general sense any and all blessings, spiritual or material, are due to the atonement. Only because Christ died can God deal in grace with the world at all and not destroy it. But, in the specific sense the healing movement uses it, we deny that healing of the body is included in the work of the cross.
The passage chiefly cited by the healing movement is Isaiah 53:4-5.
We shall examine the context and these verses in particular.
(1) Isaiah 53:2 refers to His Virgin Birth by allusion. Nothing will grow in absolutely dry ground. This refers to supernatural life in the "dry ground" of Mary's virgin womb.
(2) Isaiah 53:3 refers to characteristics of His life ministry.
(3) Isaiah 53:4a refers to His ministry of compassion and healing in His earthly life. (Cp. "infirmities" and "sicknesses" of Matthew 8:17.)
Christ bore physical illnesses during His earthly ministry in the sense that in His compassion He bore the burden of a disease-ridden world (disease being the result of a general condition of sin in the old creation). Matthew 8:17 says He "bore" our sicknesses during His life ministry, fulfilling Isaiah 53:4a.
(4) Isaiah 53:4b-6 plainly refers to the Lord's death on the cross for sins, not for sicknesses. 4b is the Jews' explanation of the cross -- "God is repudiating Him." 5-6 is God's explanation of the cross -- "He is suffering for my sins."
(5) The Holy Spirit's own interpretation of the phrase, "and with His stripes we are healed," is to be found in 1 Peter 2:24-25, where soul-healing from sin is the plain thought, not bodily healing.
Further, the word "healed" is used of healing of the soul in a great many passages, e.g., Palms 41:4; 147:3; 2 Chronicles 30:20.
It is apparent that sickness is used metaphorically and typically in Scripture as a picture of sin and its awful results to the human race; e.g., as leprosy is to the body, so sin is to the soul. But healing of the soul must not be confused with the healing of the body.
"Is it not always God's will to heal those who
will trust Him for healing?" or "Is He not as compassionate today as in
His earthly life? Is He not the 'same yesterday, today, and forever?"
Answer: First, the passage closing the question does not mean what they say it means. The proper interpretation is that Christ's nature does not change. His methods and activities do change. He is not going to come down as a babe to Bethlehem or die on a cross again. Neither is it necessary to say He must heal the sick in large numbers as He did in His earthly ministry.
The approach sounds convincing, but the facts do not sustain their conclusion. Therefore we must answer:
NO! Sometimes it is God's will to heal and sometimes it isn't.
Examples where it was God's will to heal:
(1) At Ephesus many were healed simply by laying napkins on the sick. Acts 19:12.
(2) Eutychus, Acts 20:10, is restored to life.
(3) Paul healed several on the island of Melita (Malta), Acts 28:7-9.
Examples where it was not God's will to heal (or
(1) Paul could not heal himself, nor get healed, though he besought the Lord thrice, 2 Corinthians 12:7-9.
He was told that he should not continue to ask for healing, though he had lived obediently and certainly had sufficient faith.
"Thorn in the flesh" is undoubtedly a figure of speech. Paul did not have a briar in his side! But it is contrary to all language usage to argue that both "thorn" and "flesh" are figurative; e.g., "you have elephant's feet." Both "elephant" and "feet" are not figurative. "Feet" are literal. Whatever the thorn was, it was in the body.
Galatians 4:13-15 plainly implies some eye disease. They would have offered their eyes (had it been possible for him to use them) evidently because he needed eyes, not hands or feet, etc.! (Archaeology makes it clear that it was in spite, rather than because, of his infirmity that people listened to the gospel, as the Gentiles usually scorned any physical deformity.)
Paul was shown that there was something better than healing, i.e., the experience of the sufficiency of the grace of God.
(2) Epaphroditus, Philippians 2:26-27.
Paul had to plead God's mercy in his case, even "as we when praying for the sick. There is no indication of other than gradual recovery in answer to prayer.
(3) Timothy, 1 Timothy 5:23.
Paul couldn't heal his beloved Timothy.
(4) Trophimus, 2 Timothy 4:20.
Paul had to leave him sick at Melitus. Why did he not heal him?
How can we harmonize these healings with the
(1) The gifts of the Spirit are not exercised according to the will of the recipient, but according to the will of the Spirit, 1 Corinthians 12:7,11.
(2) The gift of healing is not the property of every Christian. The gifts are distributed, 1 Corinthians 12:8-11. Note "other" gifts, vv. 27-30.
(3) A Christian may for sometime show no evidence of a_ gift, then suddenly exercise one or more gifts. Later, the gift may lapse. Continuity of exercise of gift is not taught. It is exercised as "HE (the Holy Spirit) wills."
"Does not the Scripture say, 'Who healeth all thy diseases'?" Psalms 103:3
This passage is not necessarily speaking of physical blessings. It may be a metaphor of soul-healing. The context is mainly concerned with spiritual blessings.
If it be insisted the body is intended, then we
ask to whom is he speaking?
Obviously to Israel. (All Scripture is for us of the Church, but not all to us.)
(1) The entire 0. T. economy was based upon earthly blessing promised to an obedient Israel, or upon earthly affliction consequent to disobedience. Even these blessings of a physical nature were dependent upon strict adherence to laws of diet and sanitation far beyond that day and approved by modern medical practice. Protection from disease was not promised in defiance of sanitary measures. Hence there was medical precaution, not blind and precautionless immunity.
(2) The Church is a different people, a heavenly people, whose blessings are spiritual (Ephesians 1:3) in consequence of spiritual obedience, and spiritual leanness for spiritual disobedience. No guarantee of earthly blessing or immunity from disease is given us.
(3) God may use sickness, even death, as a chastisement, 1 Corinthians 5:5; 11:30;
1 John 5:16. However, to look on all sickness as chastisement is wrong, John 9:1-3. Physical sickness and weakness are often a natural result of a natural cause. (See l, D.)
(4) Sickness, like every testing experience of life, should be an occasion for prayer, heart-searching, and a closer relationship with God.
Is not healing in the New Testament as well as
in the Old Testament?"
or "Did not Christ and His apostles heal?" Yes, but we ask, "Why did they heal?"
Because the Jews require a sign, 1 Corinthians
1:22, and Christ, the Power of God, was that sign. His miracles,
including healing, were His credentials to show that He was the Messiah,
John 20:30-31. They were God's sample kit of the Millennial Age. There
is no other reason for wholesale healings in the New Testament. If they
were only a demonstration of God's mercy, why were they not prominent
before and after Christ's ministry and in early Christian times?
Certainly no one would hold that God was merciful only during that brief
period, of time. Yet that period was unique in the history of God's
dealings with the human race in the matter of healing bodily diseases
Of the thousands of years of world history, before and after Christ's ministry, why have there been multiple (wholesale) healings at that time only in human history? There are five notable eras of miracles in Israel's history, all at great national crises of danger and apostasy, namely,
(1) at the time of the Exodus,
(2) the period of Elijah-Elisha,
(3) Christ's earthly ministry,
(4) the early church period, and
(5) the period of the 70th Week. Yet wholesale bodily healing is mainly prominent during eras (3) and (4).
Was Christ interested in the sick only in those
3 1/2 years of His ministry and the few years in which the Church was
(1) We believe the answer is: These signs were looking forward to the Kingdom Age, Heb. 6:5; 2:3-4. In writing to the Hebrew Christians, Paul spoke of "those who tasted of the powers of the world (age) to come," Heb. 6:5. The Millennium was the age Christ offered to bring in. His teaching was concerning it, and the "signs" were object lessons or samples of what the coming age would be like. There will ''be no sickness in the Kingdom Age. Both Christ (Matthew 4:17) and John "The Baptize r (Matthew 3:2) offered the Kingdom, which was rejected by the responsible leaders of the Jewish people in their blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12). Then, in Matthew 13, Christ began revealing the hitherto hidden ("mystery"=secret) aspect of the Kingdom, which would run its course during the period of His rejection.
(2) On the cross, Christ prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." This was not prayed for the Roman executioners or for the few Jews who plotted His death, but it was a prayer for the forgiveness of the nation of Israel for having murdered Him, its Messiah. THIS PRAYER PROVIDED A MORAL BASIS FOR PETER'S SERMONS in Acts 2 at Pentecost and in the temple in Acts 3 (cp. v. 17 and 1 Corinthians 2:8).' (It would have been unrighteous for God to have forgiven unrepentant sinners -- the soldiers -- and He had already said the leaders of Israel could not be forgiven, Matthew 12:31-32.)
(3) In Acts 2 and 3, Peter called on them to repent NATIONALLY. He did not proclaim, "Believe, " but "Repent." This was evidently a re-offer of the Kingdom, authenticated by signs. WHY? Peter declared that the nation acted in ignorance, and God was giving them another opportunity to accept the Kingdom (by accepting the King). The signs of Pentecost and the healing which followed were proofs that the King was actually what He claimed to be. Acts 3:18-20 was a tacit offer that Christ would return immediately, if they repented in substantial enough numbers to be counted as national repentance.
(4) The stoning of Stephen found Christ STANDING at the right hand of God. WHY? Every other reference to His post-ascension position finds Him seated. (There was no chair in the Tabernacle, thus showing that the earthly priest's task was never finished; but Jesus sat down, showing that His sacrifice in behalf of sinners was a completed work.) Calvary being completed, why was not Christ seated when Stephen was stoned? It has been suggested that Christ was standing when Stephen saw Him because He had not yet sat down. He did not sit down until all hope for the repentance of national Israel was gone. He was ready to step out of heaven and return if Israel repented. By this climax of rejecting the re-offer of the Kingdom through the stoning of Stephen, the Kingdom was indefinitely postponed (Romans 11:25); there is no national hope for Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. Jesus sat down, withdrew the offer of the Kingdom, and the quantity of miracles diminished, as they were no longer necessary for authentication of the Kingdom message. The gospel then went forth to the Gentiles to take out of all nations a people for His name. Miracles accompanied the gospel as the Holy Spirit saw fit, but the Scriptures are sufficient evidence to the Gentiles of the supernatural in this age (cp. Acts 16:31),
(5) Wherever apostolic conditions are present. God may sometimes duplicate apostolic signs and wonders today (e.g., Hans Egede in Greenland's smallpox plague)! But all such occasions are in His sovereign will, not ours.
(6) Summary of preceding (1) through (5):
We should not limit miracles, to the immediate N. T. period. But the emphasis upon miracles was made because the Kingdom was being offered by Christ and re-offered by the apostles. The Day of Mighty Works is over, because the effusion of miraculous healings is no longer necessary; now we have the completed record of the New Testament. BUT the Holy Spirit can continue the exercise of His gifts when and as He wills. It is not the demand of our faith, but the will of God which is the deciding factor in the exercise of gifts. It is as He sees fit that He gives the gifts.
(7) There was a threefold rejection of God's rule by Israel:
(a) In the days of Samuel, when Israel demanded a king. This was a rejection of God the FATHER, 1 Samuel 8:7-8.
(b) They rejected the SON when He offered Himself in the days of His flesh, Luke 19:11-14.
(c) They rejected the HOLY SPIRIT as He re-offered the Kingdom when He spoke through the Church in the days of the early Church, climaxed by the stoning of Stephen, Acts 7:51.
SOME PROBLEMS PRESENTED BY THE HEALING QUESTION
If it is ALWAYS God's will to heal, then
Why should any believer die?
Psalm 90:10 is no answer. The psalmist is not saying God's allotted span of life is 70 years. He is just giving his own age. There is no allotted, assigned age given to all men; each has his own time. The human race has had vastly different average age periods. Men used to live hundreds of years in early times. This was cut way down as time went on. The expectancy of life duration is now steadily rising, due to medical advances. The "healing men" must admit that eventually all men must die, Heb. 9:27. But, for the sake of discussion, if this false emphasis on "three score and ten" were true...
Why should anyone, saved and in fellowship with
God, die before 70?
Some of God's greatest saints died relatively young, long before 70, e.g., David Brainerd, Henry Martyn, Borden of Yale '09.
This is a scandalous insult to multitudes of God's choicest servants, particularly missionaries to inhospitable climates, who died young. And, we say it reverently, even the Lord Jesus died at age 33!
A tragic true story
A godly mission society of a religious group which once universally taught that Christ was our Healer, and believed that healing was "in the atonement, " had this experience. During its early years in the West Africa field (the white man's graveyard), this mission would not allow its missionaries to take quinine. Consequently a distressing number of them died of dread malaria. The situation got so bad that (it was reported to me by Dr. Robert H. Glover) the Home Board sent instructions to the field that quinine was to be taken with meals as a food (not medicine!), and lives ceased to be lost. This is strange conduct.
What is the difference between taking a precaution (such as putting on one's overcoat before going out in winter) and taking quinine in a place where malaria is inevitable without it (or its modern substitutes)? Both are simply cooperating with nature in heading off danger to the body. Why _ should not a missionary take every precaution possible?
THINGS TO GUIDE OUR THINKING
Personal sin is not always the cause of illness or deformity, John 9:1-3, although sometimes it may be, 1 Corinthians 11:29-30.
God may see fit to graciously heal a sincere and believing heart despite a setting of bad theology.
It should not be overlooked that Satan can and does imitate God's work in all areas, including the realm of healing. He does this to confuse and mislead.
We should be careful not to confuse mental
healing with .Divine healing. The Orient has long known of the power of
the mind over the body, e.g., the amazing things which can be done by
Indian fakirs, such as the piercing of the cheek without spilling a drop
of blood. Mrs. Eddy found a gold mine in the mind. There are undoubtedly
healings accomplished by powers of the mind among Christian Scientists.
Then, too, what of healings at Roman Catholic shrines? Dr. Alexis Carrel (who with Charles Lindberg developed the first heart machine) wrote a book about the powers of the mind over the body in which he admitted, though a Romanist, that this was the probable explanation of occasional healings at shrines.
Likewise, mass-hysteria and the driving desire to be well undoubtedly are major contributions in large healing meetings of our times. When the Bosworth brothers were holding healing meetings in Philadelphia a number of years ago, one of the Mrs. Bosworths died. Yet the meeting went on. One of the competitors of Oral Roberts died of polio while holding meetings in Florida a few years ago. Documented cases of "healings" shown on film by Roberts have turned out to be the opposite. I talked with a pastor who had been asked to meet another pastor at the station because he had been delayed in getting to a conference due to having to remain to preside at the funeral of a Harrisburg woman, whose "healing" appeared on Roberts's national TV in the very week she was buried! Roberts had pushed a goiter loose into the chest cavity. On film it looked like the goiter had disappeared. It had!! But it was not healed. Film can be edited and only that which "shows up" as favorable to the healer is retained.
A clarification of terminology may be helpful
here. Many people confuse healing BY the mind (the use of the powers of
the mind over the body) with healing OF the mind. The former (use of
mental powers to heal the body) is called psychosomatic healing. The
latter, the healing OF the mind is brought about by what is called
psychotherapy. By the term "mental healing" we are referring to healing
OF THE BODY by the use of the mind -- a type of psychosomatica in which
techniques (such as deliberately refusing to recognize pain) are used.
Further, the mind can influence the body unfavorably. There are often
psychosomatic illnesses, i.e., where a person has, by powers of the
mind, made himself ill. Sometimes all the tests point to a certain
illness and exploratory operations have been made, only to find
absolutely nothing wrong with the organ which gave every clinical
evidence of being diseased. Some of these cases are found to have no
physical cause, the parallel physical result being produced by
Also, all of us have experienced the power of the mind over the body. If one walks through the dorm in the morning and three or four people ask us what is wrong and tell us we look sick, we may well begin feeling bad. On the contrary, if we do not feel well, but get up and get to work and fill our thoughts with things we have to do, we may become fully relieved of the "sick" feeling.
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