Some weeks past I spoke from my pulpit one Sunday evening on this question: "Is Bodily Healing in the Atonement?" Since then I have had repeated requests to repeat it. I am doing that, not because I love controversy but because earnest seekers after the truth ask me questions about sickness and healing.
Today this question of healing is much discussed pro and con and many claim to duplicate the miracles of Christ in healing. Just a few years ago, A. B. Simpson, a good and godly man, published a book on this subject. His book was the first, and all that have followed since draw upon his writings directly or indirectly. I shall refer to his book once or twice because he makes out the best case for his view of any I have read.
Now Mr. Simpson states the issue clearly. He with some today hold that Christ Jesus our lord made provision in His atoning death so that we may by faith apply to Him for healing of our bodies and be healed as instantly and definitely as one is saved at faith. They hold that every sickness and ailment is the sign of a lack of faith, that the Lord is ready to heal all if they would only believe. Since many are troubled on this question and since it has often troubled me, I ask you to go with me to the Bible itself.
I begin with Isaiah 8:20, "To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." I do not ask you to take anything on my word, but take what God has said. I trust only to stir you to search the Scriptures. In the end all our thoughts must be brought to the straight-edge of the Holy Bible.First, death and sickness are the consequences of sin. Romans 5:12, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men for that all have sinned." Had there been no sin, there would have been no death. Schwab, the great scientist who authored the cellular theory, was asked if he could find any explanation of why the body ages and dies. He said that the body with its power to build up torn tissues ought to go on living forever. Yet he saw something that he could not explain bringing death to one and all. And what is that principle that contradicts what this great scientist said should be? The Bible explanation is the curse on man's sin. Man dies because of sin.The man I have just mentioned did not live up to his theory. He had to put on glasses and had a lingering illness before his death. He saw that his theory did not hold in every case.
Now disease is death in the making; all diseases tend toward death and are the forerunners of death. Diseases are not directly from God; they are His curse on sin, but the devil inflicts them. Two instances: It was Satan that brought affliction to Job's body when God permitted him for wise reasons to do it. Jesus said that Satan had bound the woman who was so bent over that she could not walk upright.
Second, one thing can offset and atone for sin and its effects; that is the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus in His death made provision to undo for His own all the work that sin had wrought.
Look for a moment further at what sin has wrought. Sin corrupts the whole man. His spirit is estranged from God and under the curse; his life and conduct are twisted and warped by sin; his body is diseased and subject to death.
Man is corrupted in a threefold way, and God undertakes in a three-fold way to remove sin from him. 1. When the guilty sinner comes to the Lord Jesus claiming no merit of his own and leaning wholly on the merit of Jesus' death, he is then and there, instantly and miraculously saved. All his guilt is gone. He is saved once for all. He is given eternal life, and that life is unlosable. I give only one passage, and these are the words of Jesus, John 10:27-29, "My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand." Friend, if Jesus has saved you, He is able and has pledged Himself to keep you always. There is no possibility that one truly born again can so fall away as to be eternally lost. Why? Because the double Divine grip of the Father and the Son is unbreakable. O saint of God, rejoice to believe that He has made such provision for us. 2. Now to the second phase of God's rescuing men from the ruin of sin. Sin so warps and twists our lives that we walk in the ways of the devil. The life ruined by sin must be transformed and made like Jesus Christ. God does not do this in a moment. Take Jacob. The grace of God gradually purged the dross out of him until his life was truly saintly or holy. Simon Peter did not get the victory over his rash and impetuous disposition all at once. God has not promised that sinlessness of life could be attained instantly.
It is a question of growth in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Babies do not grow to manhood and womanhood in a minute. Nor do Christians. This will help us a lot if we will always remember that. No Christian should do anything that dishonors his lord Who redeemed him, but Christian growth is a long Process of feeding on the Bible as spiritual food, living in the proper atmosphere of prayer and fellowship with the Lord and His people, and the proper exercise in doing God's will.
This matter of transformed life is gradual and depends on the life the child of God lives. How we live has nothing to do with our being saved from hell and made sure of heaven. How we live gauges the honor we can bring to our Lord, but it has nothing to do with where we will spend eternity.
Now in God's getting our lives straightened out, He often chastens us, and He often uses bodily affliction to do it. I shall return in a moment to this, but it needs to be said emphatically that this idea of instantaneous healing for all the saints of God rules out one of the chief means He uses to purify the lives of His saints and to draw them closer to Him in enriched fellowship,
Third, now how does God repair the damage of sin to our bodies? That is the main point today. Some claim that we can get instant healing the moment we apply to Jesus in simple faith. Is this true?
If faith can apply in any and all diseases, then why not in the crucial hour of death? It is God's will for His saints to sicken and die, then it is not always a lack of faith, then he must never die. Mr. Simpson, mentioned a moment ago, saw this and acknowledged this exception. Friends, I emphasize that if a rule has exceptions, it is not a perfect rule. If there is an exception, how can one know but that my sickness or yours comes within that exception? And for some earnest though misguided one to say that sickness is the result of unbelief, is nothing short of cruelty. I am interested here because many of the best of God's children are charged with unbelief when it is manifestly God's will for them to suffer.
I may be pardoned for mentioning some other exceptions here, acknowledged by this godly man, that destroy the whole contention. He said the healing was not always instantaneous. This admission destroys the parallel with salvation of the soul. When you trust Jesus to save, life does not save by a process. You are lost one second and saved the next. A child of the devil one second and a child of God the next. Now if we would always get bodily healing the moment we apply to Jesus Christ, there would be no cases of gradual improvement of those that pray in faith and do finally recover. Their recovery proves that the Lord healed them, but the slow way of healing disproves the contention I am discussing.
There is no promise in the Bible that at faith He will always heal. If any think they have found such a promise, send it in to me. Some will answer that Jesus said in Mark, "These signs shall follow them that believe." Yes, and the New Testament shows that they did follow those to whom this was given. This was given to the apostles, but the signs did not follow after the apostles. The promise of Jesus failed if He meant for this to apply to this entire age. He did not so intend. We can best interpret a promise or prophecy by its fulfillment.
The purpose of these miracles was to accredit and to establish the work of the gospel. As soon as the gospel was established, these signs passed as a regular thing given to a man to perform.
It will help us just here to note that there are just three great periods of miracles in the Bible. In a day when Egyptian idolatry almost had the Israelites, Moses performed many miracles to establish the Mosiac economy. In the days of Elijah and Elisha when Baal worship had nearly eclipsed the true worship of God in Israel, these two prophets wrought many miracles. Then in the days of Jesus and the apostles in the establishing of the spread of the gospel of Jesus many miracles were performed. These three periods are the only periods of many miracles, and all three were for accrediting and establishing the work of God.
Someone asks, "Is not our day similar? Is not God giving signs today?" No, not as the general thing; here is what Jesus thinks of our day and what lie wants. Jesus said to Thomas, "Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" (John 20:29). Faith without visible signs is the rule for our day. Jesus pronounced His blessing on it. 1t gives more honor to Jesus to believe Him just because He said it without any signs to prove His work than it does to see with the eye and then believe. The best that can be said for this claim of widespread miracles of healing is that it is a lower level of faith than that of trusting where and when we cannot see any outward evidence. I choose the higher level of Jesus.
Yes, signs are promised for the last days. Here it is, 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11, the Man of sin will come "after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved." Paul calls them "lying wonders."
Now for some more facts. Paul left Trophimus at Miletus sick. Shall we charge Paul and Trophimus with unbelief or take the lesson that sickness in the lives of God's servants often works the glory of God?
There are several purposes in sickness. It comes because of sin. It comes to test our faith (Job). It comes for the glory of God (John 9). Jesus said this man was born blind, not because of his sin nor the sin of his parents, but for the glory of God. I never know into which of these classes your sickness may fall. You may learn through prayer.
There is often more glory to God in being patient in suffering than in having the difficulty removed. God had something better for Paul than good health. Paul prayed three times. God refused to remove the thorn in his flesh, some bodily irritant or ailment; but God told him of His all-sufficient grace (2 Corinthians 12:9). Often the worldliest are well, and the saintliest are sick. Why? God is getting glory out of what His saints suffer for Him. There would be no helpful discipline in illness if one could always apply by faith and get it removed. Submission to His will is often a higher degree of grace than faith to have it removed.
Paul told Timothy to "use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities" (1 Timothy 5:23). Paul did not tell Timothy that he ought to have more faith; he told him to use a little wine as medicine. The Bible nowhere favors wine as a beverage, but this does instruct Timothy to use it as a medicine.
Luke the beloved physician traveled with Paul, and it is certainly supposing a lot to say that Luke never used his knowledge of medicine Colossians 4:14). Jesus said they that are sick need a physician. Hezekiah had a carbuncle on his neck; the Prophet Isaiah told him to use a poultice of figs.
Someone told me the Bible said, "There is no healing medicine." I asked for the reference, but they could not give it. Now, if that Scripture can be found, Bible believers must give up. Well, here the passage is. I ask you to note how it has been misquoted and misapplied. Turn to Jeremiah 46:11. Jeremiah pronounced a curse on Egypt; the curse was so severe that nothing could heal. Hear the verse, "Go up into Gilead, and take balm, O virgin, the daughter of Egypt: in vain shalt thou use many medicines; for thou shalt not be cured." One must twist that scripture a lot to use it against a Christian's using medicines.
James gave some practical advice here for us all. I read James 5:14, "Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord." Note three things:First, call your pastor. So many, when they get sick expect their pastor to find it out any way he can, and blame him if he does not come to see them.The principles of James 5:14 justifies calling for your pastor, calling on the Lord and calling for the doctor. We should not put our faith in the doctor, but it is a positive sin not to use the means God has given. God has given our doctors their knowledge and skill, and it is a great sin for parents to let their child die because they will not call in the doctor. It is a sin not to use the means just as it is a sin not to pray. The Scriptures warrant both.
Second, call on the Lord. Many fail to pray when they are sick. Every ailment of the body ought to turn us to the Lord. Sometimes it is His will to heal, sometimes it is not, we must accept His will as final and not complain.
Third, call the doctor. The word here for "anointing with oil" is not the regular word for religious anointing but the one that means rubbing on olive oil as a medicine olive oil being widely used in that land for its soothing arid healing qualities. This is the opinion of Thayer, Trench and Robertson, three of the greatest Greek scholars of all times.
Even Dr. Simpson admitted that means helped somewhat. We do not want anyone to turn to a doctor and trust the doctor. Our trust should be in God that He will use the means if it pleases Him. Sometimes God heals without remedies, sometimes through remedies, and sometimes in spite of remedies. We must not limit our sovereign God to one particular method. Then again, He may not please to heal at all no matter how much we pray nor how much we use remedies.
Here is encouragement for those who suffer, "Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses" (Matthew 8:17). He so bore them for us that they will not be the ruin of the saints but work to their good. I quote here the fine words of Dr. H. Boyce Taylor, one of my teachers, "Jesus bore our sins and our sicknesses. Because of that, sickness may be a blessing instead of a curse. Because of that, sickness may be a purifying agency in our lives. Many are made better by sickness. That would not be true if Jesus had not taken the curse out of it. Because of that, sickness may be an humbling agent in the hands of God. Because of that, sickness may bring us close to God."
Friends, sickness should always call us closer to God whatever the cause and whether it pleases our heavenly Father, Who always knows best, to heal us or not. A man testified to me, "I have preached for many years in many states, but I have learned more about the Lord in my sickness than in all the years of active ministry." There is often more faith in uncomplaining suffering than in seeking healing.
The prayer of faith is more than presumption; faith to be healed is a grace wrought in the heart by the Holy Spirit. I have prayed for some, and God graciously heard and healed; but I have just as fervently prayed for others, and I seemed to get the answer that it was not God's will to heal. My desire for their healing was as great in one case as the other, but my longing that His glorious will be done in each case was greater than the desire for healing. So must it always be when we pray in the Holy Spirit. God does not give that faith for healing every time His saints get sick because He knows that our sickness will work to His glory. And we should gladly suffer for His glory.
Whatever healing of our bodies may be granted here and now is but a foretaste of what awaits us. The provision for our bodies made in the atonement of Jesus will bring glorious resurrection to our bodies one glad day. Friend, look ahead to that day if you know the Savior of sinners. Sinner, trust Him now to save you that you may have that glorious hope in Christ Jesus the Lord.
"With His stripes we are healed." The question is whether this refers to spiritual or bodily healing. Peter (1 Peter 2:24-25) without doubt applies it to spiritual healing.
Christ, "Who His own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls."
Now turn to Isaiah 53:5, "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." The first three statements here refer to the sins of the soul, and so does the fourth from another angle. There is healing for thee in His precious blood; no matter how diseased thy soul is, He is the Great Physician; let Him this moment, before you lay down this article, heal thy soul of its death-dealing disease. He Who has never lost a case can be trusted not to lose yours. Trust your all to Him this moment.
[Roy O. Beaman was a Baptist Pastor, Bible Institute teacher and seminary professor. His wife was a physician. Document is from notes of Dr. Beaman provided by my son, James Kenneth.]
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