Open letter to followers of Jesus regarding divine healing as their birthright.
Since we are both followers of Jesus, let me ask you – did Jesus ever make anyone sick? Name one such case from the Gospels. That’s right, there aren’t any. On the other hand, EVERY sick person who specifically came to Jesus for healing went away healed. Not one went away sick.
One passage that’s commonly quoted in defense of “God makes people sick for greater good” is 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (aka “satan’s thorn in Paul’s flesh”). The passage in question clearly names the source as “the messenger of SATAN”. That’s as clear as it gets. It doesn’t say “the messenger of God”. This has nothing to do with God “allowing” or “not allowing things”. God will allow what you will allow. God gave dominion over this planet to human beings, and he still works through human beings. That hasn’t changed. That’s why Jesus Christ had to come as a man.
Now, going back to the “thorn” passage. God told Paul that the way to deal with the issue was through grace. GRACE = God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense – i.e., that’s something that was already done and made available to Paul, as opposed to God having to do a new thing for Paul individually. That’s a very important idea to grasp. Notice how God didn’t say “my grace is NOT sufficient to you”, which is how most people understand it. But the “not” is not there in the text. So if “my grace is sufficient for you” means “just stay in the despicable condition that you are in”, why should we stop applying this equation only to bodily sickness? Isn’t God the creator of human beings in their entirety? That’s a very shaky and dangerous theological ground to tread on.
God’s grace is something people grow into. Grace is what’s already given; what you do with it is your choice.
Let’s not read into the passage all the stuff that’s not there at all. The passage says NOTHING about God being the source – on the contrary, it says that the source is Satan. It says NOTHING about God saying “No” – on the contrary, God pointed Paul to his grace, where the answer is always “yes” through Christ, and all we have to do is agree and say “amen / so be it” (2 Cor 1:20).
Now, satan doesn’t need to ask God for permission. Satan is a thief. Thieves don’t need ask for permission. If a legal permission could be legimately obtained – sure, he would go for it, like he did in Job. After all, satan is the “accuser of brethren”, and before Jesus became our divine advocate, satan held a certain legal power. But satan isn’t God-obedient. I hope that’s quite obvious. And if satan could only do God’s bidding, then why did Jesus say he came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8)? Wouldn’t that also mean destroying the works of God who bid satan to do his works? This simply doesn’t compute.
Plus, satan’s obedience to God would make him God’s minister. Are you sure you want to pray to God for help now? God might send THAT specific ministering spirit to minister to your need, after all.
I think it’s healthy to check our theology in the light in the revelation of the finished work and the character of Jesus.
I understand religious people may guilt-trip others over sensitive issues, and blame you for “lack of faith”, “hidden sins”, etc. But insensitive people abusing the truth doesn’t mean we should run to the opposite extreme. In doing so, you are putting a ceiling over your own head, and next time someone is sick in your circle of loved ones, the thought “maybe it’s God’s method of loving me and perfecting my character” simply won’t let you stand in faith, as you should being a Christian.
Sickness is never of God, and is to be resisted, without any hesitation or equivocation.
God has unequivocally stated in 1 Peter 2:24, Matthew 8:16-17, Mark 16:17-18, etc. that it’s we ARE healed, and that if you are believing, you will lay hands on the sick, and they SHALL recover (which might be instant, or it might be a process). That’s God’s word, unqualified. Let’s settle that part first. That’s all the theology that we need, really.
Now, let’s look at three other cases from the ministry of Paul that are commonly quoted to support “God wants some of you sick” theology. Those cases involve three of the Paul’s companions and fellow ministers: Epaphroditus, Trophimus, and Timothy.
Epaphroditus was simply overexhausted at one point, and he needed time to recover. Does that prove that God didn’t want him well? It doesn’t. Did he recover? He obviously did, as per the text. So, no proof text here.
Paul worked to exhaustion more so that Epaphroditus (“I labored more abundantly that they all” (1 Cor 15:10) , but he obviously had learned to lean on the grace of God by then (God’s grace was not void in Paul – same verse), so it didn’t affect him to near death exhaustion.
Trophimus was left in Miletus sick. The text doesn’t say that he stayed sick. A similar example – the 10 lepers went away from Jesus sick, but they recovered on the way. You have the word of God saying that believers shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover, and you don’t have absolutely anything anywhere in the Scriptures showing that Trophimus didn’t recover. So, no proof text there either.
Timothy was clearly developing in the area divine health (for instance, it’s quite clear that “if they shall drink any deadly thing, it shall not harm them” wasn’t a reality that he walked in at that point). So Paul simply recommended him to use wine as a natural means (possibly as a water disinfectant) for that time. Notice how the text doesn’t say that he wasn’t getting healed each time. If he didn’t get better each time, one way or another, he would have been dead by then. All that the text says is that Timothy had infirmity re-occur. For all we know, the water source near him could have been contaminated. So, no proof text there either.
All of those stories aren’t static timeless pictures, they are dynamic snapshots of what was happening at the time with these four individuals. You can’t immortalize and set in stone those snapshots. Paul was a violent blasphemer at one time, but he didn’t stay that way. Jesus died, but he didn’t stay dead. Same with these pictures.
Either way, Jesus never had a case when someone didn’t get healed. ALL that came to him got healed. No exception. Not one. And we still have Jesus! And he is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, forever. So, however much we are indebted to Paul, why take our sight off of Jesus? And if you insist on pointing to Paul, why not mention that he got up and went preaching after getting his chest and face broken up by stones and left for dead, or that he raised Eutychus from the dead, or that he healed people indirectly, through handkerchiefs and aprons? Why not follow Paul’s successes, as opposed to looking for seeming failures and justifying our lacks by those?
God’s grace really does work, but you have to stick with it. You have to have faith in God’s good intentions toward you every time. If you are a Dad, would you want your child sick to teach him or her a lesson? Well, why would you think you are a better Daddy than God?! “If you being evil, know to give good gifts to your children, how much more your heavenly father …”. I’m afraid some of out theologized ourselves out of our Father’s good gifts. Remember, the only two things that render the word of God ineffective in your life are: unbelief, and traditions of men.
So, dear friend, be encouraged about God’s divine provision of healing for any and every sickness that you might be dealing with, and learn to stand in that simple childlike faith in the face of trials.