The Significance of Grumbling

I was listening to someone discuss the book of Jude, and something interesting passed by my ears. Speaking regarding apostates, Jude says:

Behold the Lord comes with ten thousand of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.

Now, if we stop here we could think to ourselves, “wow, these ungodly people doing their ungodly deeds in their ungodly way must be the most horrible of the horrible – so ungodly!” But if we simply continue reading, Jude says:

These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage.

How many of us are grumbler or complainers? How many of us because of our own lust and desire to gain advantage use great swelling words, flattering people? How many of us engage in gossip about coworkers? How many of us complain about the president, our boss, our spouses, our pastors, or that guy speeding ahead of us who just cut us off? Even the best of us complain and grumble, myself included. We need to realize the seriousness nature of this sin. It is the sin of the ungodly, which is committed in an ungodly way. I believe that if we complain about anything or anyone, we are often complaining against the Lord, for it is God who orders our steps (see Psalm 37:23) and it is God who sets up the world’s powers (see 1 Timothy 2:1-2) and it is God who says, even as a slave, to work upright before the master as unto the Lord (see Colossians 3:23 and Ephesians 6:5-7). A tough stance.

So this got me thinking… what else does the Bible say about grumbling and complaining?

Philippians 2:14-15 (NKJV) says “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” Not complaining will help us to become blameless and harmless children of God who stand as lights in the midst of a crooked people. It is a part of our witness!

When the Israelites complained against Moses the Bible is clear in saying that they were really complaining against the LORD (See Exodus 16:7-8 and Numbers 14:27). Even when we think we are only complaining in our homes and with our family, and not publically, God still hears (See Psalm 106, especially vs. 25 – “but complained in their tents,” see also Deuteronomy 1:27). When we are murmuring among ourselves, which shows our lack of belief in God’s goodness, we must remember that Jesus said “Do not murmur among yourselves.” (See John 6:42-43). Complaining displeases the Lord (See Numbers 11:1-2).

Not necessarily  for, but in everything, we should give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (See 1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Complaining brings anxiety to the heart, which leads to depression (see Proverbs 12:25 NKJV). Complaining is caused by foolishness (See Proverbs 19:3).

We are to be patient. If we complain against one another, we risk condemnation! (see James 5:9 NKJV). Complaining against God brings destruction (see 1 Corinthians 10:9-10). If we need to complain, we need to complain to the Lord (not about the Lord) in a prayerful attitude. David gives good examples of pouring out his heart to the Lord and encouraging himself to be happy in God (See Psalm 42, 102 and  142, for example). See also Psalm 62:8 and Romans 8:26.

Proverbs 18:21 NKJV says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.” Our words of complaint, even if just mumbled to ourselves, have power – the power of death. One of the enemy’s great deceptions has been convincing people that their words and gripings don’t matter. They do. Complaining is the ungodly sin of an ungodly people, and we ought to guard our hearts and minds against this. But this is not something we can accomplish on our own. We will need the Lord’s help. We should pray as David prayed, “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3)

We should ask God to help us follow the words of Paul in Ephesians 4:29-31:

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.

The Power of Acknowledged Weakness (Our Confessions of Faith)

First, credit to Jack Hayford‘s podcast entitled “The Power of Acknowledged Weakness” for inspiring this writing.

As I think about the various posts I’ve made on my metanoia, it is clear that I have been working through the process of undoing some of the “faith based” one-sidedness I see so much in this world. While I believe we are to stand in faith, I am often put off by the excessiveness this can take in some people. At times, it seems preachers tell us to only confess the positive when the reality of the situation isn’t so positive, or conversely to avoid saying anything negative because that shows a lack of faith and gives place to the enemy. While it is easy to pull out a scripture here or there to support such claims, I find that when you look at the whole of the Bible, you see a more complicated (and honest) story.

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (NKJV) says “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Paul’s words are interesting here. He came in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. I can almost hear some preachers today:

“Paul, where was your faith? Don’t you know that fear is the opposite of faith? Don’t you know that perfect love casts out all fear? If you have fear it must be a deficiency of love or of the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Get refilled and you won’t have fear!”

Yes, this is the formula taught today, and the formula is scriptural. But just because we’ve learned a formula doesn’t mean our hearts are right with God and that we are trusting in anything more than the formula itself. Even when we think we are right, we are wise to remember that there is a greater fulness to God, and even in our most perfect state on earth, we do see but dimly.

1 Peter 2:18-24 (NKJV) says “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, ​​Nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.”

We love to claim the promise at the end of this passage. Jesus died for our sins and died so that we might have power over sin in our body. He died so that we can have healing from the presence of sin’s attack on our body. But he did these things by what would be considered weakness in our carnal minds. When Jesus was reviled, he did not revile in return. When he was threatened, he did not threaten, but simply trusted in God who judges righteously. If we are misunderstood or mistreated and take it well, then this is a sacrifice to God, and it is to this that we are called. We need to understand that the wonderful glory we have in Christ we have because Jesus didn’t retaliate but surrendered to what was apparent weakness, trusting in God. We are called to a similar surrender. Are we standing on the final promise alone (are we standing on confession of the words alone and having memorized certain scriptures) or are we standing on our weakness compared to Christ’s glory and in our willingness to walk as He walked, even if He doesn’t take us on the easy path?

In the podcast referenced above, Jack Hayford points out for common types of believers in relation to the promises of God’s word:

  1. Strategist: This the the person who likes to find a way to make things work. To appear strong, this person has to work out a program. I think my issues with the Ministry of Strengths course was that this was a very strategist modality. But Paul said in the Corinthians passage above that his preaching and his teaching were not with enticing words of man’s wisdom. The strategist works out his own way, and then prays the Lord to bless it. The Lord would say to the strategist, “get out of my way and I’ll work.”
  2. Defeatist: This person simply accepts that what is what is what. Displaying even an appearance of spiritual humility, this person simply “praises God anyway, whatever the will of God.” This person may speak to past prayer that didn’t work and assume a sickness or failing must simply be the will of God. The defeatist’s defense is no defence. Defeatists don’t defend themselves, but they don’t let the Lord be their defence either. The defeatist presumes a negative situation is simply a mandate of God he must suffer, but he never invites God into the situation. The Lord would say to the defeatist, “if you’ll stop sulking and denying that I may want to do something positive and let me in, I will work.”
  3. Positivist: Every faith seems to have their positivist – from those in the occult to those in the Charismatic Christian movement. The very idea that the ideology is so widespread gives hint to the notion that there may be a truth within it, but the ideology itself doesn’t cut it. Positivism, like many other isms, is a thing that often becomes substantial for its own sake alone – I am positive because I’m positive, vs. I’m positive because Jesus is truly making me that way through the inner working of His Spirit. The Lord may say to the positivist, “stop trusting in your positiveness, for it has become a separate idol to you before me.”
  4. Religionist:  The religionist loves theology. He can point to the Word and often point out where others are wrong. I struggle with this myself, especially when confronting the extreme ideals of strategists, defeatists, and positivists. We see ourselves as right, and therefore as strong. While it is good to have correct doctrine, the religionist has faith in his knowledge of the Word rather than the Word Himself. We lose sight of the Savior forest due to the theology trees. To the religionist the Lord will say “your theology does not impress Me, for I am the embodiment of it all.” We must remember, we see but dimly, and we only know in part.

The Lord though, is looking for people who say “I don’t have it, but I’m in touch with the One who does.” People who will come and acknowledge their own weakness: the weakness of their own plans, their own slogans, their own passiveness and apparent spirituality, and even their own knowledge of the Word.

We need to come to the place of the apostle Paul where we come in weakness and in fear, not trusting in anything within ourselves, but simply leaning on God, trusting that God will support His word, not through us, but through His Spirit and Power.

What Happened Between Crucifixion and Resurrection?

The purpose of this post is to quantify some things that likely did not happen between Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection. Having grown up in the ’80s and as a young adult in the ’90s with pentecostal teachings common around me, I often heard the teaching that Jesus went to hell after he died and was “beaten up on” by Satan until the time of his resurrection and ultimate conquering of hell. The argument goes that Jesus not only took our punishment by dying in the flesh, but he took our punishment by experiencing hell as well. Once he had had “enough” then God turned the tables and brought him back in power. This has a logical sound to it, so I never thought too much about the correctness of it for the longest time.

Before I go too far, I want to review what I have decided likely happened. I acknowledge it is rather difficult to determine exactly what happened, but the vagueness of the question does not leave open unending possibilities, either.

I think John Piper’s church has a pretty good view regarding what transpired. As noted in their article found here, we must first realize that previous to Jesus’ death on the cross, the heathen who died and those who died in (the future) Christ (i.e., the old testament righteous) went to Sheol. In the Old Testament, Sheol is the place of the dead, both for the righteous (like Jacob, Genesis 37:35, and Samuel, 1 Samuel 28:13–14) and the wicked (Psalm 31:17). Sheol is under the earth (Numbers 16:30–33), is equated to a city with gates and bars (Isaiah 38:10)(Job 17:16) and is a land of darkness, a place where the shadowy souls of men dwell (Isaiah 14:9; 26:14). It is the land of forgetfulness (Psalm 88:12), where no work is done and no wisdom exists (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Most significantly, Sheol is a place where no one praises God (Psalm 6:5; 88:10–11; 115:17; Isaiah 38:18). From those scriptural hints, it really does sound like a “waiting area.”

The new testament sheds further light on Sheol (known as Hades in the new testament). The story of the rich man and Lazarus lets us know that those who were righteous and had the hope of the future Christ went to “Abraham’s side” or Abraham’s bosom where they were comforted. But those who did not have that future hope were indeed in torment and in flames. There was a chasm between the two, but it appears that the two sides were in view of each other and communication could be made across the chasm. Journeying across, though, was not possible (see Luke 16:19-31).

So this tells us what existed as far as where dead people were at the time of Jesus’ arrival on the scene – either in torment and fire (but not the final hell, as judgment has not yet come) or in comfort at Abraham’s side (and similarly, not in heaven). These two places seem to be two halves to a whole with a chasm between the two. Per the words of Jesus to the thief next to him, Abraham’s side may also be called “Paradise.” (See Luke 23:43).

As the author at Piper’s site continues, “Following his death for sin, then, Jesus journeys to Hades, to the City of Death, and rips its gates off the hinges. He liberates Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, John the Baptist, and the rest of the Old Testament faithful, ransoming them from the power of Sheol (Psalm 49:15; 86:13; 89:48). They had waited there for so long, not having received what was promised, so that their spirits would be made perfect along with the saints of the new covenant (Hebrews 11:39–40; 12:23).”

Jesus leads the righteous out of that place so it is assumed that the former and current dead (since the time of Jesus) are no longer within sight and hearing of the place of torment. “Paradise” (after Jesus ascended) is also referred to as the “third heaven” in 2 Corinthians 12:2. Now, Christians who die are immediately in the presence of the Lord in Paradise (see Philippians 1:23). Eventually, those still in torment in Hades will be given up for the final judgement where they will ultimately be cast into the lake of fire. This is known as the “second death” (see Revelation 20:13-15). Those in Paradise with Jesus will ultimately be judged and taken to heaven.

It is reasonable to assume that while dead in his fleshly body, Jesus was working in Hades to set the captives free. Matthew 12:40 says that while Jesus’ body was in the tomb, He was in the “heart of the earth.” The old testament descriptions of Sheol would suggest that the “heart of the earth” was indeed Sheol/Hades. 1 Peter 3:19-22 (KJV) says that Jesus “went and preached unto the spirits in prison” which would make sense considering all of the above.* It is also important to note that 1 Peter 3:18 specifies that he suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,” (italics mine). This does not say he suffered further after his death in the flesh – or that he suffered torment in hell.

*it is noted that some believe that the “spirits in prison” were the demons in chains referenced in Jude 6, but I disagree with this “na na na na na na” sounding proposition. Since we all have spirits who will live eternally, it makes more sense that Jesus preached to those at Abraham’s bosom so that they could be officially born again into the new covenant brought forth by Jesus’ crucifixion.

What’s interesting to me is the extra belief that I mentioned at the onset of this article, that Jesus was “beaten up on” by Satan and his demons for some time. As the study outlined above doesn’t really seem to allow for this post death suffering, I want to look to see if the more common prosperity teachers (to lump some of the more common televangelists into one grouping) in fact do teach this ideology. My memory tells me they do, and if they do, what biblical evidence do they use to support the notion. Below, I will look at the teachings of a few ministries I know personally (I’m not searching the internet for the whacko I’ve never heard of). These are ministries I have on occasion or in the past studied from and/or are ministries actively followed by people I know and respect. I will not be naming all the ministries discussed, as that is not the purpose of this article – google is the friend to those who want to search these things out on their own. I want to further say that just because I find a ministry teaches this (I now believe) incorrect doctrine does not mean I am otherwise speaking bad of the ministry – that too is not the purpose of this article. Some of the ministries I researched are ministries I do believe to be deceivers in our time, but others are likely God-fearing ministries who have been incorrect on this one point. Haven’t we all be incorrect at times? We all see as in a mirror, dimly, remember. As I’ve stated before, the purpose of this site is my metanoia – the clearing out, specifying, and scripturally proving of what I believe to be correct. This article is simply a part of that process.

The first popular multi-billion dollar ministry I looked at states the following on its website, in response to the question, “did Jesus go to hell?” (as of 12/30/2016):

After the crucifixion, Jesus’ body was placed in a tomb, and His Spirit went to hell. There Jesus suffered all the torments of hell that we would have suffered. Jesus’ submission to death was complete. He experienced it to the ultimate degree so mankind would never have to be punished (2 Corinthians 5:21).

I have to note that 2 Corinthians 5:21 says “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – this ministry, which I heard often while growing up, really stretches this verse into something it simply does not say. The Amplified Bible says for this verse:

He made Christ who knew no sin to [judicially] be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we would become the righteousness of God [that is, we would be made acceptable to Him and placed in a right relationship with Him by His gracious lovingkindness].

The ministry gives no other scripture evidence to support its claim.

The second ministry I looked at tells/told a similar story. From a book written by the head of this ministry in 1993:

“Jesus paid on the cross and went to hell in my place. Then as God had promised, on the third day Jesus rose from the dead. The scene in the spirit realm went something like this: God rose up from his throne and said to demon powers tormenting the sinless son of God, ‘let him go.’ Then the resurrection power of Almighty God went through hell and filled Jesus. On earth his grave where they had buried him was filled with light as the power of God filled his body. He was resurrected from the dead — the first born again man.”

A 1996 version of the same book took out the wording: The scene in the spirit realm went something like this: God rose up from his throne and said to demon powers tormenting the sinless son of God, ‘let him go.’;  but the updated version of the book still said “Jesus paid for our sins on the cross and went to hell in our place”… “His spirit went to hell because that is where we deserved to go”…”He became your substitute and took all the punishment you deserve.” and “He was alone for three days satisfying the courts of justice and conquering the hosts of hell” (italics mine). While this wording is less severe, the implication is still there that Jesus suffered in hell (rather than went to Hades to set the captives free) as part of the redemption process. The only verse used in the book to support this is Acts 2:31, which says “he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.” – Again, a far stretch for the verse to suggest hellish punishment.

For this minister, it is easy to find audible lessons expressing the horrors Jesus endured in hell, but these, like the books quoted above, are old. I believe in this case, the minister has backed away from the teaching. Searching the current site for this ministry does not reveal such content. Hopefully this popular minister no longer believes the concept to be true and didn’t remove it simply to avoid known controversy.

A third popular ministry also has proposed this same doctrine. From the ministry’s magazine in 2003:

(Jesus) suffered everything He suffered when He was here on this planet. Whipped with the cat of nine tails. Crucified on the cross at calvary. Somebody says ‘Oh that’s suffering’ But He not only suffered when He was in a physical body, His spirit stepped off the cross, went to HELL. The Bible says in the book of acts the pains of hell. Suffered everything that a man could ever suffer. Somebody say ‘What?’ Yep. You better hope He went through everything that you could ever go through, because whatever Jesus did not take on, you and I would have to take on.

While I don’t have the original of this magazine as proof, I believe the words are accurate, as I’ve heard this minister say nearly the exact same thing on television in the past couple of years. This same minister’s current website has the following (as of 12/30/2016):

Jesus took back the authority that Adam turned over to Satan.

  1. When Jesus died on the cross, His spirit went to hell.
  2. Jesus looked like sin when He entered hell, and Satan thought that he had the victory over Him.
  3. After three days, Jesus’ spirit was quickened by God and He revealed His identity to the enemy.
    1. Jesus took back the keys of death, hell and the grave, and released those saints in hell who had died before they had a chance to become born again.
  4. Jesus gained the victory over Satan forever and restored authority to mankind.
  5. You have a right to every promise in the Bible because of what Jesus did on the cross.

While the wording is less obstinate, point number 3 shows that this minister believes that until Jesus’ spirit was quickened by God, Jesus was under submission to Satan, because Jesus looked like sin and Satan thought he had the victory – for a full three days! Jesus did submit to the sin of man, but nowhere in the bible does it say he was ever under Satan’s power or in submission to Satan, as clearly suggested by the first two points above. No scripture references are given to support the false points. This one was hard to search out on the minister’s site as the very popular minister offers no statement of faith that I could find.

In continuing research, there are many others who have expressed this belief. There are some who say that Jesus was the son of God on the cross, but was the son of man in hell, being tormented by Satan for those three days – that there was a separation so that it was fair that Jesus, as man, went to hell as a sinner and suffered under the devil’s thumb (It would not have been fair to the devil if the son of God went to hell – so it had to be the separated from himself son of man) – until God revealed the fullness of who he was and pulled him out. The logic always sounds good when people preach their version of this ideology, but no one seems able to offer sound biblical (or often any biblical) proof to the theology. This belief seems quite popular with many popular tv preachers today, though I have noticed that some, who clearly have video of themselves teaching this theology in the past posted online, have pulled back in their current websites, using more vague wording as to what they believe (in some cases, possibly due to the backlash they’ve received online?).

It is further clear that many of the better known “founding fathers” of the prosperity/faith/health movement clearly taught this ideology. It is easy to search online and find original video of the “Jesus suffered in hell” theology, by numerous “founding fathers” of the faith movement and even by the owners and heads of multi-national christian television ministries. These were the teachings I heard as a child, and having done this research, it is clear why I remember the teachings as being so common. It’s clear this incorrect belief was commonly present.

I’m not sure it is as much today, though, at least with some (but clearly not all) popular ministries. It does seem that a few ministries have backed off on this teaching, or are at least more vague about it, not directly describing the tortures Jesus received by the demons he submitted to. Hopefully this reflects a disbandment of the theology in the hearts of today’s better known tv preachers.

Final thoughts:

At first, this teaching does seem rather altruistic. Jesus took on everything for us (but many turn further and say this was so we could have everything because of Jesus). But to me, this incorrect teaching has much greater implications. It implies that Jesus subjugated himself to Satan, and Jesus never did that, no matter how tantalizing Satan’s temptations were or how dead Jesus was in the flesh. Jesus took on himself our sin, but he did this while being righteous. That was the false accusation leading to crucifixion – that Jesus had blasphemed when in fact his words were true. That was the reason God backed off and let the crucifixion happen (because Jesus was carrying our sins). That was why once he died, he still had the right to go and set the captives free. It was finished on the cross – there was no need of further punishment under Satan’s charge. 1 Peter 2:24 makes it clear: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (italics mine).

The case for: Healing? Not Always.

In my last post, I spoke a bit about the case for healing. In reading over that post, I affirm and agree with what I have written… but…

…But.

In my younger days I would alway use Romans 3:4 as a fall back position when people did not receive healing. God’s word says in Isaiah that salvation covers our sins, our minds, and our bodies (Isaiah 53:5). If we are not seeing that active in the lives of people around us, it is not because God’s word isn’t true – so it must be something within us…

…But.

Having grown up in a pentecostal/charismatic environment, I was indubitably indoctrinated into their way of thinking. Every denomination has their particular slant, and I’m not knocking that, but none of us are perfect and none of us see perfectly clearly (see Romans 3 and 1 Corinthians 3:12). I was taught that healing, as man sees it and defines it, is an absolute truth we can see and have now.

…But.

As I have grown to consider the message of some preachers in the prosperity/health/wealth movement, I’ve become bothered by common points made by (again, some) of the common preachers. In a nutshell, since God can’t be a liar and they claim his word demonstrates absolute healing no matter what, then it must be our fault if we are not healed. By default, that also implies that it’s our doing if we are healed. We had the faith or we didn’t. What bothers me here is the principal antecedent of the pronouns in these sentences – man. Is God not sovereign? Does everything really rest on our shoulders? For the poor soul who doesn’t get healed, this message tells them to act in more faith – that they must do something better, and if they do things right, their healing will come to pass. Sadly, with some of the preachers, giving more money to their ministry will be the seed that increases faith. Think about what is happening and being said here. Our healing is up to us, and if we don’t get it, then something is wrong with us. That is neither a yolk that is easy nor a burden that is light! (See Matthew 11:28-30)

…But.

The movement teaches that healing is absolute. There is no instance of Jesus not healing someone, except when it was due to the people’s unbelief (see Mark 6:5 – And in this instance, I feel I must point out the unbelief was regarding who Jesus was – not an unbelief in his ability/willingness to heal despite knowing and accepting that he was the Savior of the world). All through the new testament, it is said by most people in the faith movement, people were always completely physically healed.

…But.

Is this really true? Are there really no instances of people not getting healed in the new testament that we have to deal with? I have previously spoken regarding Paul’s thorn. The thorn itself wasn’t sickness. The bible clearly states that the thorn was “a messenger of Satan sent to buffet him” (2 Corinthians 12:7 – 10), but as I write this, I think, “could the messenger of Satan sent to harass Paul have harassed him by inflicting physical pain on him?” Maybe? Isn’t that what Satan did to Job – harassed him by bringing destruction, loss and sickness – all under the watchful and permissible eye of God?

But what about other instances beyond Paul’s thorn. What about those who are not in danger of becoming “conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations” given to them, as was the purpose of Paul’s thorn. What about the masses?

Mark 1:32-38 tells of Jesus healing the sick in the evening while staying at Simon and Andrew’s house. The text is clear in saying that they brought all who were sick and Jesus healed many of them. The text goes on to say that the next morning, the people were back, looking for Jesus who had gone off to pray. When Simon and others found Jesus and told him that there were people looking for him, Jesus said “let’s go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” Jesus did not go back and offer healing to the many that came out that morning – instead, he left town and moved on to another. He knew his primary purpose, and that was to spread the gospel everywhere, so knowing that this town realized that someone special named Jesus had come, he moved on to the next.

A similar happening occurred at the pool of Bethesda (See John 5). Here, the Bible says that there was a “great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting…” Jesus healed one man who had been there for 38 years, and that single healing caused a controversy with the Jews as it was the Sabbath and Jesus had told the man to take up his bed and walk – which he did. There is no evidence to suggest that Jesus hung around to heal the others. I’m sure the story of the Jews being singularly mad at the single man who was healed would have played out quite differently if Jesus were still there healing everyone in their midst. The Bible clearly says that Jesus had “withdrawn” after the singular healing.

Then there are the small lines here and there throughout the new testament that have always bothered me. One of the more famous ones is where Paul tells Timothy to “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” (see 1 Peter 5:23).  I’ve heard numerous preachers speak on this and say that the water was bad so Timothy had to drink wine as it purified the water, but with a little research and logic, this argument falls apart. Others simply blame Timothy as not having faith enough for healing. If this is the case, why was he allowed to be so involved in the initial spread of the gospel? Why did Paul not give Timothy better instruction on faith? Maybe Timothy needed to give Paul some money as seed for faith. This argument falls apart too. While Timothy was obviously well enough to work for the gospel, it can not be denied that while doing so he had stomach issues and frequent ailments.

Another one liner comes in second Timothy during the final greetings. In 2 Timothy 4:20 the word says “Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus. (emphasis mine)” Here, Paul is speaking and he says he simply left Trophimus behind because he was sick. If anyone should have known about the gospel of perfect health, it would have been Paul, who wrote most of the new testament. Why would Paul leave Trophimus behind if he could have simply prayed for his healing. Why did Paul not say “and I left Trophimus behind because he did not have enough faith to receive his healing” as some preachers today would make people believe. Paul also did not say that he left Trophimus behind because he was weak and ill because of his sin. The word is telling in its simplicity. Paul left Trophimus behind because he was ill. If there had been better options, there is no reason to think Paul would not have used them. Paul is still sending greeting on behalf of Trophimus; he is still included with the faithful.

While Epaphroditus was ultimately healed, it is apparent in Philippians 2:25-30 that he suffered with a lengthy sickness that nearly took his life before he was healed. It is further pointed out that he was sick because of his work for Christ – the opposite of faithlessness or sin. This too, would not fit the pattern laid out by modern faith preachers. One could go a bit far and teach that if you are a lazy Christian, others may get sick because of your lacking, but that would not be a fair use of scripture either (Philippians 2:30 – “…for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.”). Finally, it says he was healed by the mercy of God, and not because of God’s obligation to heal or because Epaphroditus had finally mustered enough faith before the sickness took him.

These verses speak specifically to healing and sickness. These do not speak to suffering, which while denied by many faith preachers, is something to which we are called (John 16:33, Romans 8:17, 2 Corinthians 1:5, 2 Corinthians 4:8–10, Philippians 1:29, James 5:10). But that’s another entry.

And then there’s 1 Peter 4:1-2 (NKJV). These verses read: Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.

While the word translated as “suffer” in the verses above can refer to persecutions, it can also refer to sickness (compare Matthew 17:12 with and Matthew 17:15). When seeking the Lord, suffering in the flesh (no matter the form/source) can be used by God to remove us from sin. We know this speaks to us, and isn’t referencing Christ who suffered in the flesh, because it says that “he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men…” Jesus never spent any of this time in the flesh for the lusts of men. This is clearly a message to us. If we are suffering, no matter the cause, let us be sure we are allowing God to use that suffering to purify our lives. Even if for a season, the suffering can hang around and do us a world of good. Remember the point of Paul’s thorn, though – we should know what improvements are being made in us due to the suffering or the reason for it – if we do not, we are either wasting an opportunity God is trying to take to cleanse us from some sin, or we are allowing an unpermitted illness to wreck havoc in our lives for no purpose but the enemy’s.

I must reiterate this final point. I have not stated the above in an effort to disprove healing. My previous entry should speak to that. I fully believe Jesus is our healer. But I can’t say I believe we can always claim instant healing in this lifetime. Yes… we should pray. Yes… we should expect to see people healed…

…But.

Sometimes God has other plans and purposes in mind. As Romans 8 makes clear, all of creation is groaning and waiting for the final redemption, and this includes the redemption of our bodies.

As a final thought on Biblical healing, I encourage you to watch the following video with Joni Eareckson Tada. She speaks to a greater healing that we all need. Be encouraged.

Please note that the above video is from John MacArthur’s/Grace to You’s Strange Fire conference. While the conference (and book) give needed rebuke to some of the more outlandish in the charismatic movement, inclusion of this valuable and worthwhile video from that conference does not imply that I agree with the biblically unsound cessationist theology.

Healing? Yes!

I went to a prayer seminar on healing today. Luther J. Oconer was the speaker; he was quite good. Dr. Oconer cleary has knowledge and history in the Pentecostal traditions. I imagine portions of his teachings were new material for some of the more traditional Methodist attendees.

During the course of the day, Paul’s thorn was brought up by a member commenting on not knowing if God would heal, because God never healed Paul, despite repeated requests. As interaction with this same gentleman continued, it became apparent he was not convinced of God’s desire to always heal – maybe there was a purpose in his physical pain. He was willing to receive prayer, but spoke of being a “hard case” who had been prayed for many times before without success.

This well-meaning gentleman’s story is not atypical. Many don’t know or believe, or know they can believe, or believe they can know God’s position on healing. The typical person from American society would not postulate that God is the healer of our illnesses… that’s what doctors and hospitals are for (I have no issues with doctors or hospitals – they are ministers of grace and necessary for many people. There is no sin in attempting to bring wellness to another.).

I spoke up and addressed Paul’s thorn to the group. Typically when Paul’s thorn is discussed, it is to discuss not knowing whether or not God will heal, because he didn’t in Paul’s case. Paul’s thorn is often said to be an illness or sickness that Paul was told he had to endure – to keep him humble. However, the Bible is clear in showing that this is not accurately the case. What does the Bible say?

2 Corinthians 12:7 – 10: So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (italics mine)

While we can not know the exact nature of the thorn, we do know the “what” of what it was – it was “a messenger of Satan.” In his writing, Paul gives the figure of speech (thorn in the flesh) and immediately defines what this means (a messenger of Satan). He does not say, “a thorn was given me in the flesh, a deep aching in my right side” or “a thorn was given me in the flesh, and I have endured migraines because of it.” Paul was very clear – a messenger of Satan. When we look at Paul’s life as a whole, there was plenty he had done which would give Satan fodder with which to buffet him. Paul was complicit in the death of Christians before his salvation. It is perfectly logical that the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10) would regularly remind Paul of his past. Paul was keenly aware of who he was in the flesh and what he had done (I Timothy 1:15). We may be buffeted, accused, insulted, receive persecution and survive calamities – but none of these things is sickness. You simply can not find Biblical evidence to support that Paul’s thorn was sickness. (Please see my next post for some updated thoughts on this topic).

Additionally, it has to be noted in the case of Paul’s thorn, that while God did not remove the thorn, Paul was made aware of why he had it (to keep him from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations). So for those who say that “maybe” God is causing a sickness for some reason or to teach them something, but they don’t know the reason… well, then God is not doing a very good job at teaching them anything via their sickness – just something to consider.

But showing that Paul’s thorn is not described in the Bible as sickness also does not show that God is our healer. The argument for this is simple, though. Consider the following:

Exodus 15:26: “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, your healer.”

The Hebrew here shows that God is our Jehovah-Rapha (The Lord that Heals). It is one of His names given in the Old Testament.

Further, Malachi 3:6 adds, “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”

God is the God that heals, and God does not change. He also does not discriminate or show partiality (Acts 10:34).

We all take for granted that salvation from the consequences of sin is provided for all who receive the gift given by what Jesus suffered at the cross, but the cross covers all aspects of our lives: spirit, soul (mind) and body.

Isaiah 53:5, speaking of Christ: But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.

Consider it. He was pierced and crushed for our sins (spiritual healing/salvation). The chastisement of our peace was upon him (this brings mental/emotional healing – and is why we can say we have the spirit of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7)). And with his wounds we are healed (physical healing). The word for “wounds” in the ESV is translated “stripes” in the King James. You may have heard the phrase “by his stripes we are healed.” The word for “healed” here comes from the Hebrew (Strongs H7503) râphâʼ, raw-faw’; or רָפָה râphâh; a primitive root; properly, to mend (by stitching), i.e. (figuratively) to cure:—cure, (cause to) heal, physician, repair, × thoroughly, make whole. (from Strong’s Concordance).

Christ’s sacrifice provided all healing – spirit, soul (mind) and body. Just because we don’t always see this manifest does not mean it’s not true. There are many truths of God found in scripture that are not lived out in the lives of believers. But does this mean God is not willing? No… in all these cases “Let God be true though every one were a liar” (see Romans 3:4). Also remember, we are not yet perfected. Jesus died for our sins, but we still sin. Jesus died for our peace, but we still have times of fear. Jesus died for our healing, but we still struggle with sickness as well. All of creation is eagerly awaiting the coming perfection (see Romans 8:19).

Jesus did not even distinguish between healing physically and the forgiving of sin. In Mark 2:9 he says “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?” Jesus considered the two (healing and forgiving of sin) to be two sides to the same coin… if only we could do the same! (See Mark 2:1-12)

The Bible says that as a man believes in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7). Our society, even if based our our real and personal experience, has taught us that salvation is limited to the “by and by.” That healing is for some, but not all. By the very traditions and teachings of men, we have put God in a small, limited box. Mark 7:13 clarifies that the traditions we hand down can nullify the Word of God in our lives, making the word of God of no effect. We must be careful… do we believe what we believe because it is our experience and what we have been taught, or do we believe what we believe because it is what the scripture says? What must adhere to what scripture says – it is the only truth, no matter what we experience that seems to contradict. We must believe the Word of God!

Does this mean that everyone will always be healed every time they are prayed for? Sadly, no. There will always be those who are convinced they are the “hard case” who won’t be healed. There are always things we don’t know or see that may be blocking the path to healing. But that doesn’t make God a liar. We should always seek God as if his word is 100% true, because it is 100% true. Whether it takes a minute or a lifetime, we will ultimately see his truth and we must not give up or lose faith on that journey. We may also be surprised at what God does in our life as we take that journey.